Basic Flavouring Agent of Japanese Cooking

What are the basic taste of Japanese cuisine?

The basis of all Japanese cooking is dashi and fermented products of soybean and rice.
Dashi is stock made with sea tangle "kombu" and dried bonito shavings "katsuo-bushi".
Representative products of soy bean is soy sauce and miso.
On the traditional Japanese cuisine strong spices such as pepper are avoided. Japanese typical herbs are aromatic sprigs of tree "sansho", citron "yuzu", horseradish "wasabi", a kind of ginger "myoga" and seeds.

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Soy Sauce しょうゆ

Soy Sauce しょうゆ

In Asian cuisine soy sauce is used almost in every dishes.
Shoyu which is made by yeast of soybean and wheat has different taste and quality according to the ingredients used and the length of fermentation. 
Please please don't pour much soy sauce in your plate and dip sushi or sashimi totally in soy sauce. Of course it's purely matter of the taste, but it spoils the real taste and much salt harm your health.

Miso 味噌

Miso 味噌

Miso - soy bean paste
Shoyu and Miso are the most essential flavouring agent and make particular taste of the Japanese cooking. You would say, why is it particular? Chinese, Korean and other Asian use soy sauce as well. However exactly that is why it makes clear different taste from other Asian cusine.
I like to recommend you buying the Japanese soy sauce for Japanese cuisine, Korean soy sauce for Korean cuisine and Chinese for Chinese.

Dashino-Moto だしの素

Dashino-Moto だしの素

Dashino-Moto - fish bouillon, usually bonito
I don't like to advertise products of particular company, but dahino-moto is allround taste maker. It includes certainly chemical stuff, but not so harmful, I believe, I hope.... I am not sure.
Anyway it is not expensive as you need only a litte for meals.
For example, you can make sauce or soup for noodles with mixing little dashino-moto and soy sauce. It is much cheaper than the bottle of the sauce. Or you can add just a little for Miso-Soup.

Mirin みりん

Mirin みりん

Mirin - sweet sake (rice wine)
You may think that the Japanese cuisine contains mainly sauce as flavour. But the most of the Japanese traditional cuisine, soup and sauce contain mirin (sweet sake) and yonezu (rice vinegar) as well.

Wasabi わさび

Wasabi わさび

Wasabi - Japanese horseradish
When it is first time to eat sashimi or sushi, many foreigners get surprised not only the raw fishes but also this hot stuff. It is extraordinary hot, but not like the south Asians piment, the pungency stays on the tongue only for a short time.
In Japan usually the prepared Nigiri-Zushi already contains wasabi between topping and rice, so that you do not need the extra wasabi.
Even when you want to eat sashimi or sushi with wasabi, put just a little bit on the ingredients or mix on the say sauce plate.
wasabi tube 1Fresh wasabi has fresh flavour and mild taste, but it is rare in Europe.
When you buy for home cooking, it is recommended to buy a wasabi-tube.
Powder is suitable when you need much of it.

Yonezu 米酢

Yonezu 米酢

Yonezu/Komezu - rice vinegar
This fermented vinegar by rice is the most important main flavour for sushi-rice. You may believe that there are sushi vinegar and sushi rice. Sushi vinegar and sushi rice which we sometimes see at the Japanese grocery are the rather instant products for the family needs. 
Sushi vinegar or even sushi vinegar powder taste quite good, but you can try mixing mirin "sweet sake", yonezu "rice wine" and sugar to make your favourite sushi taste. Another advantage is lower price if you fix youself.