The Flavours of Japan: Essential Japanese Ingredients & Recipes To Try

Click or tap to find out how to make Japanese curry udon noodles
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Japan is a culinary wonderland, boasting a rich tapestry of flavours that have captivated foodies like us around the world. At the heart of this cuisine lie a handful of unique ingredients – all of which we proudly stock online and in-store – that lend their distinctive tastes and aromas to a range of traditional and modern dishes. To inspire your tastebuds, let’s dive into the delicious world of Japanese essential ingredients, with a focus on Miso, Yuzu, Wasabi, Soy, Matcha, and Shichimi.

1. Miso: The Savoury Fermented Elixir

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Miso is a fundamental ingredient in Japanese cooking, cherished for its depth of umami flavour – the fifth basic taste, which can be described as a savoury or meaty flavour. Made from fermented soybeans, rice or barley, this versatile paste can range in colour and taste, from the milder white miso to the heartier red miso. The intricate fermentation process lends a unique depth to miso, making it a key component in soups, marinades, dressings, and glazes. Its umami-packed essence adds a soulful dimension to dishes, and its nutritional benefits make it a prized addition to any meal.

Try: Creamy Garlic Miso Noodles Recipe

Miso Noodles
Nothing screams comfort food like a big bowl of noodles. And when you mix in a creamy, miso sauce with tons of garlic… they are seriously good. Try this easy and delicious Creamy Garlic Miso Noodles recipe from Brand New Vegan.

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2. Yuzu: The Citrus Jewel of Japan

Lots of whole yellow yuzu citrus fruits with a slice revealing the flesh on top.
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Yuzu is a small, aromatic citrus fruit that resembles a tangerine and packs a powerful punch of flavour. Its zesty, tangy taste carries both sweet and sour notes, making it a wonderful addition to your kitchen. From enhancing sauces and marinades to infusing desserts and teas, yuzu's distinctive fragrance and taste make it a sought-after ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Even just a hint of yuzu can elevate a dish, adding an essence of Japan's rich natural beauty.

Try: Yuzu Whisky Sour Recipe

Christmas drinks
Ease yourself into the weekend with this wonderfully refreshing cocktail recipe from Delicious.Com.

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3. Wasabi: The Fiery Green Energiser

Maki rolls with Wasabi on wooden background
Image credit: Taste of Home

Known for its intense heat, Wasabi is a pungent green paste made from the Wasabia japonica plant. This spicy condiment is commonly paired with sushi and sashimi, bringing an invigorating kick to each bite. Its sharp, tingling flavour leaves as quickly as it arrives, leaving behind a subtle sweetness. What you most likely didn’t already know is that wasabi is also recognised for its antimicrobial properties and digestive benefits, making it a true superfood of the Japanese pantry. We can find wasabi salt, oil and fresh grated making it easy to incorporate into your favourite Japanese dishes.

Try: Wasabi Ice Cream Recipe

wasabi ice cream (wasabi aisu)
Cool and ‘hot’ at the same time, this deliciously creamy Wasabi Ice Cream recipe from Anncoo Journal is a real treat.

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4. Soy: The Umami Infusion

soy products
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Soy sauce, or shoyu, is perhaps one of the most well-known Japanese ingredients worldwide. Made from fermented soybeans, wheat, salt, and water, soy sauce embodies the essence of umami. We love it in a variety of dishes such as stir-fries, marinades, and dipping sauces, as it lends a perfect balance of saltiness and richness, enhancing the flavours of ingredients without overpowering them.

Try: Peanut Butter Chicken Skewers Recipe

Peanut Butter Chicken Skewers
Peanut butter and soy sauce combine to form a rich, mouthwatering sauce for chicken. Best of all, it’s quick and easy to whip up. Try this simple recipe from Taste of Home.

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5. Matcha: The Serene Green Tea

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Matcha, finely ground green tea powder, has gained immense popularity for its distinctive flavour and vibrant green hue. Beyond its ceremonial significance, matcha has become a beloved ingredient in modern Japanese cooking. From lattes and desserts to savoury dishes and even cocktails, matcha infuses dishes with a subtle earthy flavour and a gentle bitterness that balances perfectly with sweetness. Its antioxidant properties and energising effects have also earned it a reputation as a healthy indulgence.

Try: Spinach and Matcha Pancakes Recipe

Spinach & matcha pancakes
Take pancake day to the next level by adding in an extra boost with matcha. This Spinach & Matcha Pancake Recipe from BBC Good Food is deliciously served with fresh fruit or yogurt.

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6. Shichimi: The Seven-Spice Symphony

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Shichimi togarashi, commonly known as simply shichimi, is a traditional Japanese spice blend that adds a fiery kick to dishes. It typically consists of seven ingredients, including chilli pepper, Sichuan pepper, sesame seeds, orange peel, and more, to deliver a combination of heat and aroma. This spice blend is often sprinkled on noodle dishes, grilled meats, or even popcorn, offering an explosion of flavours.

Try: Spicy Sweet Shichimi Popcorn Recipe

Spicy-Sweet Shichimi Togarashi Popcorn
Popcorn with Shichimi Togarashi and honey is a perfect pair if you are craving a touch of sweetness, with a nice kick of heat. Try this Spicy Sweet Shichimi Popcorn Recipe from Yummly.

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Let’s cook

Exploring the world of Japanese ingredients is like taking your taste buds on an exciting adventure! From the mouthwatering umami of miso to the zesty kick of yuzu and the fiery rush of wasabi and shichimi, each ingredient reveals a different piece of Japan's amazing culinary story.