Japanese Pantry


Here, the ultimate guide that is essential for Japanese recipes, from staples to intensely flavourful condiments and hot chillies.

Japanese Pantry

Adzuki (Azuki) Beans (Red)

This type of legume has a rich, chestnut-like flavour. The beans are often used in desserts in Japan, frequently cooked down with sugar to make red bean paste. They are often paired with glutinous rice in sweet and savoury recipes. You may be able to replace with longer grain red bean in our supermarket however the taste is a bit different.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are traditionally cultivated in many Asian countries, both fresh and dried. Drying shiitake makes the flavour more intense, earthy, woody and brings out umami. They also help create a savoury note to broths and sauces. You can make vegetarian dashi broth using dried mushrooms like shiitake. High quality dried shiitake is labelled as tenshiro donko, however our dried shiitakes in Australian supermarkets may come from China. 

Noodles (Soba, Somen, Udon)

Udon and soba noodles are the most popular in Japanese cooking. Udon is long, plump noodles made from wheat flour to use in soup or stir-fried. Soba is thinner noodles made from buckwheat flour. They can be used in broth (soup) or chilled with a dipping sauce. Somen are thin, refined wheat-based noodles with a more delicate flavour. They are used in soup or chilled with a sauce. You can get these in any supermarkets.


Nori is a type of eatable seaweed used in Japanese food. There are three types. Yaki nori is dry roasted, a popular garnish for colour and flavour. Nori is seasoned and roasted - most commonly used in the west for wrapping items as sushi. Tsukudani nori is wet seasoned, often with soy sauce. 


Panko are airy breadcrumbs made from crustless bread. Panko is often used as a coating for fried foods, like eggplant or lotus root. It can absorb less grease during the frying process and results in a flaky and crispy crust.


Short-grained rice is the most widely consumed. The three main groupings of Japanese rice are uruchi mai, genmai and mocha gome.

Uruchi mai is mild-flavored, polished, short-grain rice that is tender, slightly whole when cooked and sticky enough to eat in clumps with chopsticks.

Genmai is another short-grain brown rice with rice bran and germ still intact. This rice has fibre with a chewier texture and nuttier flavour similar to our brown rice.

Mochi gome glutinous rice or know as sticky rice in other region is used to make mochi and mirin sweet cooking sake.

Sushi rice is short-grained rice. It is boiled rice mixing with rice vinegar, sugar and salt 


Wakame are seaweeds used in Japanese cooking, we commonly see them here in miso soup. They are sold dry and quite often they are added with salt. You will need to rehydrate wakame in water or broth to soften before adding them into soup, stir fries or salads.

Chilli Oil

Rayu is type of oil made by infusing chillies in sesame oil, sometimes vegetable oil is added. This condiment adds spicy heat to dressings, marinades and dipping sauces. People may add other things such as garlic, onion and sesame seeds.

Vegan Dashi

Dashi is traditionally made from bonito flakes (fish) and kombu. It is a flavour base for many soups, dressings, dipping sauces and marinades featured in Japanese cuisine. Dashi has a strong umami flavour and is a staple ingredient in so many Japanese dishes. You are able to replace the bonito flakes with shitake mushrooms to create a vegan version of the stock. This can help you to achieve umami without the need for animal products.


Mirin is made by fermenting steamed glutinous rice with shochu (distilled spirit). It adds sweetness and a subtle sake-like flavour to sauces and glazes.


Miso is a seasoning paste made by salting and fermenting soybeans with rice and (sometimes) barley. Koji mould (made from steamed rice treated with aspergillus oryzae) aids fermentation and creates umami in the paste. Red miso is aged for up to 3 years and has a reddish- to dark-brown colour and a stronger taste. White miso has a shorter fermentation time, yielding a mellow, almost sweet/salty flavour. Japanese cooks use miso in everything from sauces, marinades, soups and dressings.

Ponzu Shoyu

Ponzu shoyu is a condiment made with soy sauce, yuzu citrus juice and often mirin, rice vinegar and dashi. Its many uses include adding flavour to sauces, dressings and marinades, and acting as a dipping sauce for tempura, sashimi and noodle dishes.

Rice Vinegar

Japanese rice vinegar is made from fermented rice. It is less acidic than other types of vinegars, leaving you with a milder tang in your Japanese dishes. You might see ready-made sushi vinegar from the supermarket, these are mixed with sugar, salt and sake.


Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage that’s rich with culinary and cultural traditions. It’s made from fermented rice using a lengthy aging process to create many different qualities and flavour profiles. In cooking, sake is added to dishes to intensify the flavour of other ingredients. The alcohol content will vapour through the cooking process.

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is used in most Japanese dishes as a condiment to season dishes. Soy sauce is extracted from a fermented paste made from soybeans, wheat, salt and yeast, resulting in a dark, salty soy sauce.


Tamari is a type of soy sauce often made without wheat, so it’s safe to consume for anyone wanting to avoid gluten. Tamari has a complex, rounder and more balanced flavour. Check the label to ensure it is 100% wheat-free.

Kombu (Konbu)

Kombu is a type of sea kelp that is dried and used in a dashi broth. It is high in glutamates, giving it a savoury umami flavour that is often imitated by monosodium glutamate (MSG).


Karashi is a powdered mustard seed - often it has some dried horseradish powder mixed through. You can combine it with water to make a paste or you can buy it in ready-made tubes. Karashi is far more intensely flavoured when compared to a regular mustard. It’s a great condiment to make salads, dressings or dipping sauces.


Goma are sesame seeds that have an array of uses. They can be black, white, ground, hulled or unhulled. They can be used as a seasoning or garnish in sweet and savoury recipes. Toasting is one of the best ways to bring out their flavour before use.

Wasabi Powder/Paste

Wasabi or Japanese horseradish is a plant of the family Brassicaceae, which also includes horseradish and mustard in other genera. A paste made from its ground rhizomes is used as a pungent condiment for sushi and other foods

Wasabi, a type of Japanese horseradish is a plant of the brassica family which includes mustard. Fresh wasabi is hard to find in supermarkets but select Asian grocers and farmers markets may stock it. You can find it in dried powder form or in a paste. Wasabi has a very pungent flavour and aroma and should be an ingredient used sparingly.

Daikon Radish

Daikon is a large, white carrot-shaped radish. It has a lovely mild, peppery and sweet flavour. Daikon radishes are good for digestion and are often eaten with fried items to counteract the oiliness. They are also used in various pickles, ferments and simmered dishes.


Edamame is a young green soybean which is harvested before maturity. They are highly nutritious with delicious, nutty flavours. The pods can simply be boiled and served with a little salt as a snack.


Shoga is fresh ginger is used to garnish and flavour many dishes and sauces. Ginger root is often thinly sliced, pickled and served with sushi or other meals. Pickled ginger is made by marinating very thin slices of fresh, young ginger in a mixture of rice vinegar and sugar. Traditionally they use plum vinegar in the pickling process to bring out the pink colour.

Lotus Root

The root of the lotus plant is quite starchy and slightly sweet. When cut into cross sections, the lotus root reveals its iconic shape. It has a beautiful texture and is often used in pickles, soups, stir-fries and tempura.


Ume is a sour fruit similar to plum and apricot. Umeboshi is made by sun-drying and salting the fruit. It’s then pickled with vinegar and red shiso (perilla) leaves for an added rosy colour. Umeboshi is often eaten with rice and miso for breakfast in Japan.


Shiso leaves are known as ‘perilla’ in Thai and Vietnamese cookery. These leaves from the sesame family have a unique peppery aroma with a citrus, minty flavour. The red/purple leaves are commonly used for their flavour and colour in different food items. The green leaf is used to garnish sushi, tempura, salads and noodles.


Negi is the Japanese term for spring onions. This vegetable is used widely in cooking and as garnishes for soups and noodle dishes. They are also grilled and served along side teriyaki.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are used in tempura and various desserts. Shochu, a distilled spirit, can be made with sweet potatoes.


Tofu, made by coagulating the milk of cooked soybeans, is an extremely nutritious staple of Japanese cooking. See our separate note for all things tofu! 

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