Friday, September 14, 2007

Introduction of basic Japanese Ingredients - Part I

Sorry no bento today. The girls stayed back to study for exams. Actually #2 is having a bad sinus attack and #1 is sprouting pimples all over, so yeah, an excuse to "ponteng"!

After Judy asked about mirin in my Dorayaki post, I decided to do an introduction of some basic Japanese ingredients for the benefit of those who are interested in Japanese food but may not have had any experience or exposure to the raw ingredients.

On top is "Katsaobushi" a.k.a bonito flakes. This is used to make "dashi", a Japanese soup stock similar to what the Chinese use "ikan billis" to make soup stock, only that "dashi" doesn't have the very strong fishy smell that the "ikan billis" has.

"Dashi" is the base stock for Miso soup. Without dashi, there is no authentic miso soup. Dashi is also used for "Cawan Mushi", the egg custard. The quality of Katsaobushi in the dashi and the amount of dashi used for its recipe is critical to the flavour and texture of a good "Cawan Mushi".

Dashi is also used to make "Tamagoyaki". The rolled egg omelet. In fact, dashi is used for many purposes and in many soup based recipes like Yosenabe (a one pot dish, like our Malaysian steamboat), broth for Udon, dipping sauces for Tempura, the list is endless.

In my kitchen, I make dashi three times a week. It is very easy to make dashi and each time I make a large pot full to fill three containers which I keep in the fridge for convenience purpose.

On the right, is a bottle of cooking "Sake". It is basically brewed rice "wine" and has a 1.9-2.1% alcohol content. It's flavour is slightly salted.

Sake is normally used in recipes like "teriyaki", soups, marinades, simmered dishes and the whole works.
I normally marinate all the meats (chicken, pork, prawns) that I use for cooking in Sake.

On the left is "Mirin". It's a type of sweet cooking sauce made from fermented glutinous rice which has a higher alcohol content of than "Sake".

There are many qualities of "Mirin". Look for "Hon Mirin" which can be bought at any good Japanese supermarket.

Finally the most important of all, the Japanese Shoyu. There are two types used in Japanese cooking. One the dark shoyu and the other the light shoyu.

This should be most familiar to Malaysians as we use this in our cooking too. My mum swears by the local brewers of shoyu but I only use Kikkoman and Top Value from Jusco for my Japanese cooking. The Kikkoman shoyu is the dark shoyu and the Top Value one with the orange cap is the light shoyu. I haven't found the light shoyu in the Kikkoman range yet.

Japanese shoyu is used in most of the recipes for flavouring.

I hope this has enlightened some of you on the type of ingredients used for Japanese cooking. There are lots and lots of ingredients used in Japanese cooking and I will continue to post on the raw ingredients and it's uses if there is interest generated.

18 comments:

Judy said...

Wow, thank you. This is sure a way of making me understand about Japanese cooking and its ingredients.
I look forward to part 2.

You say that you can't find the light shoyu but over here, they sell kikkoman in a small bottle with the red cap but it is light and quite watery compared to the dark soy sauce we get from Malaysia.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to explain. Very helpful indeed.

CarolinaDreamz said...

Great post. I really hadn't realized that I have these typically in my kitchen. I don't use sake. I don't exactly have a reason other than I didn't learn to cook with it..

I look forward to the raw ingredients...

Bento Pet said...

Judy: Glad you like this post. Will work on part 2 soon.

Actually the red cap Kikkoman is also dark in color. Some recipes call for 'light colored' shoyu. It's not the 'thick' (hak yau) that we use in Chinese cooking. In Japanese cooking, they never use 'hak yau'.

Bento Pet said...

carolinadreamz: Heidi, glad you came by again! Will do a second post soon.

I haven't tried cooking without sake if a recipe calls for it so I'm not sure if the taste would vary. I guess if the quantity of sake is not much in the recipes, it really doesn't matter.

ling239 said...

this is so informative ~ tks ^_^

Bento Pet said...

ling239: Preparing part 2 for posting soon. Glad it was of help.

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

i've always thought d kikkoman (red cap) soy sauce is what we call light soy sauce?

Bento Pet said...

terri: Yes, so did I. Until I made Oden and the color was so dark. I thought that it was supposed to be like that too.

Another Japanese friend had made this for me before and it was much lighter. She had mentioned that she added fish sauce to the Oden so I thought that that was the difference.

My friend who is married to a Japanese and visits Japan several times a year read my blog and told me that my Oden was way too dark. But..but..?

I remembered the orange cap shoyu (lighter in color but stronger in flavor) which I learnt to use under the tutelage of another Japanese Homestyle instructor.

I used it for a new batch of Oden and it was much, much nicer in flavor and lighter in color.

There's really so much to learn about Japanese ingredients.

Just like the Mitarashi Dango you made. There are two types of Japanese rice flour. i.e. Jo Shin Ko and Shiratama-ko. One is like 'Loh mai fun' and the other like 'Tong yuen' texture. I'm really excited with your Mitarashi Dango recipe because I've been wanting to make it and have not had the time to try. Sooon!

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

oh! tq 4 info. my sweet soy sauce (its actually teriyaki sauce isn't it)still looks lighter than those i c in some pics, or is it cos they touched u their pics?

Bento Pet said...

terri: here we're talking about Japanese shoyu which is the same except that one adds a darker color to the food and the light colored one which is several shades lighter on the food. The flavor is basically shoyu in a different grade of saltiness.

Teriyaki sauce is completely different. It's made up of basically Japanese shoyu, sake, mirin and sugar. The sugar causes the teriyaki sauce to thicken when it caramelizes. Teriyaki sauce is a sweet sauce usually used to flavor chicken or salmon.

whiskyrs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bento Pet said...

whiskyrs: Thank you too!! Glad you found it useful.

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

:)i meant d sweet soy sauce in my dango recipe is basically teriyaki sauce...u know what, i took a short cut n made thick red bean soup to get d bean paste for d dori pancakes in my pressure cooker n it got burnt!

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

'dora' not 'dori'...

Bento Pet said...

terri: oops!! Good thing you pointed that out about the teriyaki sauce.

The red bean paste is the most tedious and it kind of stains the pot too. *heartsick* It can be bought but from the can it's too, too sweet...aghhh....!!! *grits the teeth*

allthingspurple said...

thanks for the link, Bento Pet.But if the aisle dont have the exact one in your picture, how do i tell which is mirin and which is sake? also , is the light shoyu the sweet one? i love the sweet one but dont know how to buy them.

Bento Pet said...

allthingspurple: Check the back of the bottle where they have a sticker which has the ingredients printed in English. Normally, they will print the name on the sticker.

There are two types of Japanese shoyu. I normally buy Kikkoman. The one with the red cap is the regular one used, the one with the orange cap by Top Value is also shoyu but lighter in color - used for certain dishes like Oden.

Emile Zola@life said...

I'm a bit late to this, but appreciate so much for you to sharing this, now I learn a lot from this post. As for Teriyaki sauce, usually I buy the ready madeone, I think is Kikomon brand, but it taste slightly difference from what I took in outside Japanese restaurant. I will try to mix myself my own Terikayi sauce by using your suggestion And the shoyu in orange cap, I think I bought it once, it is concentrated light shoyu, but I can't find it in Jusco anymore..

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