Monday, April 28, 2008

Introduction of basic Japanese Ingredients - Part II

Further to my previous post "Introduction of basic Japanese Ingredients Part I", this is the long overdue Part II!

This post introduces you to two types of common seaweed. In fact, these two are the necessary and are basic ingredients for Miso soup.

Below is the hard, bark like looking seaweed called 'Kombu'. See the white stuff on the kombu? It's supposed to be glutamic acid (a.k.a. ajinomoto). Kombu is one of two ingredients in basic Dashi, the other being katsobushi.

There are various types of dashi. Ichiban dashi (first dashi) - used for soup bases, tamagoyaki or cawan mushi. Niban dashi (second time dashi) used in simmering dishes. Others include kombu dashi, shitake dashi and as gourmet as you can get by including more exotic anchovies and sardines in it for specific dishes.

Personally, I only use Ichiban dashi and Niban dashi. I don't like to use the instant granules because it's so salty and I don't like the flavour.

When making dashi, you do not wash kombu before use. You are supposed to use a wet towel to wipe it and then leave it in a pot of water to sit for a while - until it softens and open up.

The picture below shows you "Wakame". It's the 'slimy' green seaweed you get with your miso soup. It's tiny and dry and need to be soaked before use. There is also the salted 'fresh wakame' which you can purchase if you use a lot of it, otherwise you need to freeze it. It's more convenient to use the dried wakame because when you need it, you just soak some in water and it's ready.

Whilst most of the time wakame is used for miso soup, it can also be added to cucumber pickles. You can see the picture on the packet.


Unknown said...

I found your blog through links from a few other blogs and your's is a heaven sent blog to me...i simply love how you present your blog. thank you so much for making it simpler for people like me.

A Mature Student said...

You are brilliant. I don't know how you remember all the names of the Japanese ingredients and how foods are prepared.

I still think Chinese cooking and Chinese ingredients are easier to remember. :)

sting said...

I seldom use kombu but we love wakame and I usually have a packet at home :-) very convenient. how's your daughter? hope she's fully recovered

Anonymous said...

yozo:TQ! I have some pictures I took of other ingredients which I will post again. Perhaps if you want to know more about a particular Japanese ingredient - I can try to explain if I know.

Clockwise: Japanese cooking is like second nature, Chinese is a little tricky!!

Sting: Kombu gives an added flavour. Some Japanese chefs even add kombu to sushi rice.
#2 is much better, tq!

Unknown said...

thank you very much Bento Pet. I will be coming back very often to your blog as there is so much that i can learn from you. i have linked you plus also subscribed to your blog via Google Reader..:)

Anonymous said...

hi! i enjoy reading your blog. love those bento you prepared for your daughters. hm..looking forward to reading more about japanese ingredients.

Can you suggest some "instant" Japanese soup which i can prepare easily in a hostel?(I'm a student living in hostel with only an electric kettle =.=)


Bento Pet said...

denise: Thanks for your kind compliments.

Instant packages of Miso soup are available from most supermarkets if you are limited to only a kettle.

If you have access to a fridge, you could check out this link:
and there are great ideas for 'Miso balls' for soups.

You don't try, you don't know! Cheers!

allthingspurple said...

I finished court at 4pm and ran over to Isetan to get those shoyu,mirin etc that was sold out in Jaya Jusco and guees what? there were so many brands compared to Jaya Jusco I got confused again. Ha ha. Now I am back in the office prnting out a picture of those bottles from your post for tommorrow when I go after court again. ha ha

Bento Pet said...

allthingspurple: Isetan is 'the' place to shop for Japanese ingredients! They have authentic and freshest stuff! I love browsing there whenever I can, which is quite a luxury.

Most of the brands they carry are premium brands so it's fine to buy other brands.

While you're shopping for Japanese ingredients, I assume you plan to start cooking Japanese food, please get a bag of Katsuobushi to make Dashi. Check out my latest post @

Ask for assistance from the people behind the food counters, they are very helpful.

I'm planning to make more slide shows to showcase some Japanese food like Tamagoyaki, Miso soup etc.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for making japanese cooking so comprehensive and I love your photo illustrations they are very well taken and self explanatory and so tempting. You make us feel making bento is an act of mothers' love to our children and it is not as difficult as what we thought it might be. Keep up your good work. God bless !


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