5 Japanese Seasonings and Condiments Perfect for Souvenirs! From Shichimi, Soy Sauce, and More!
How about purchasing some seasonings and condiments as a souvenir from your trip to Japan? The items introduced in this article all have very unique characteristics depending on the region they are made! Just by adding a little to your dishes, you can recreate the flavors that you enjoyed during your trip!
What Exactly Is in Shichimi?
Shichimi is written as "seven flavors" in Japanese, and is a type of seasoning made up of 7 kinds of spices, including dried togarashi (Japanese chili pepper) powder. Ichimi (literally "one flavor") is the name given to a seasoning that consists of togarashi only. It is sprinkled on top of foods like udon, soba, pickled vegetables, and stir-fried dishes to add extra spice and aroma.
It is a staple seasoning in Japan, so it can be found in convenience stores and supermarkets. However, if you're thinking about buying some as a souvenir, it's recommended that you choose from one of the famous three shichimi of Japan - Yagenbori (togarashi, fried togarashi, black sesame, sansho (Japanese pepper), citrus peel, poppy seed, hemp seed) from Asakusa, Tokyo; Shichimiya Honpo (togarashi, sansho, hemp seed, white sesame, black sesame, dried green seaweed, green perilla) from Kiyomizu, Kyoto; and Yawataya Isogoro (togarashi, ginger, hemp seed, sesame, citrus peel, perilla) from Zenkoji, Nagano.
Yagenbori has a deep spicy flavor brought out by its mix of 2 types of togarashi. Besides the togarashi, Shichimiya Honpo is made up of aromatic ingredients. Yawataya Isogoro has a bold ginger flavor. Each of them play an important role in further elevating the flavors of your meal.
Miso Widely Varies Depending On the Region
Miso can greatly vary in terms of appearance, flavor, and ingredients, depending on which part of Japan it was produced. It can be broadly split into 3 categories based on the ingredients: Kome Miso, which is made all across Japan and consists of adding kome koji (rice mold) to soy beans; Mugi Miso, which is mainly produced in the southwestern areas in Kyushu, Shikoku, and Chugoku, and consists of adding mugi koji (barley mold) to soy beans; and Mame Miso, which is mainly made in Aichi Prefecture and other central regions of Japan, and includes the use of only soy beans. However, there are also types like Shiro Miso, a white-colored sweet variation that is especially popular in Kansai, and the salty, red-colored Sendai Miso, that are made with the same ingredients yet look and taste completely different due to their manufacturing processes.
Look up what type of miso is popular in the area you'll be visiting to pick up as a souvenir! It goes without saying that it is great for miso soup, but you can also try using it for salads or dips for steamed vegetables!
Soy Sauce - An Essential Ingredient in Japanese Cuisine
Soy sauce is an indispensable ingredient in Japanese cooking. It is made by mixing yeast plant into fine bits of steamed soy beans and wheat and adding salt water to it. It is left to ferment, and then strained.
Like miso, soy sauce is made all around Japan. There are many different varieties, with rich flavored and dark colored dark soy sauce that goes well with katsuo dashi (bonito stock) in Kanto, round-flavored and lightly colored light soy sauce that goes well with kombu dashi (kelp stock) in Kansai, and the unique sweet soy sauce in Kyushu. Also, in Aichi Prefecture, there is also tamari soy sauce, the darkest in Japan, and white soy sauce, the lightest soy sauce in Japan. If you want to try a really interesting type of soy sauce, the smoked soy sauce is recommended. It goes very well with cheese and roast beef.
Ponzu - The Multipurpose Condiment
Ponzu was originally used to refer to a mix of citrus juice and vinegar, but nowadays, it is the name for a mixture of citrus juice, vinegar, and soy sauce.
In Japan, it is often used as a dipping sauce for hot pot dishes, but it also goes well with a wide variety of foods, such as grilled fish and meat, salad, marinades, and pasta.
Similar to many other seasonings and condiments, there are delicious, local ponzu variations in each region, like the salmon soy sauce ponzu in Hokkaido and the flat lemon ponzu in Okinawa, but the Kansai region comes especially highly recommended for ponzu lovers! There is a large selection of ponzu even at regular supermarkets in Kansai! The type of citrus alternates by product, with types like kabosu and yuzu, so you will be able to clearly taste the difference if you try out many different varieties.
Dashi - An Easy Way to Savor Delicious and Authentic Japanese Flavors
If you want to try to make Japanese food at home after your trip, be sure to buy some dashi. The main ingredients that are used to make dashi, one of the fundamental items in Japanese cooking, are katsuobushi*, niboshi*, kombu, and shiitake mushrooms. The famous regions for each of these items is Kagoshima and Shizuoka Prefectures for katsuobushi, Nagasaki and Kagawa Prefectures for niboshi, Hokkaido for kombu, and Oita Prefecture for shiitake mushrooms. If you find yourself trekking out to any of these areas, you'll be able to buy some really delicious dashi!
They also sell packaged dashi with liquid dashi, which only requires heating it up before use, and powdered dashi, which can be dissolved into hot water. Powdered dashi is light and small, so it fits right into your suitcase without any hassle.
*Katsuobushi... Bonito that is cooked, smoked, dried, then shaved into thin flakes. High-quality katsubushi includes a process called kabizuke (a superior type of mold that is used to make fermented foods) when it is first dried, and then it is dried once again.
*Niboshi… Small fish such as sardines that are cooked in ocean water and dried.
In addition to recreating dishes from Japan, it might be fun to try combining ingredients in your home country with Japanese condiments and seasonings. All of the items introduced in this article can easily be purchased at a supermarket or convenience stores, so be on the lookout for them! You may even find some unique local varieties, too!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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