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Japanese Pantry Ingredients

With just a few choice ingredients, you can set up your very own Ramen Bar at home!

July 1, 2016

Japanese Pantry Ingredients

This ‘starter pack’ will enable you to commence your Japanese Culinary Journey at your kitchen bench. I’ve also included a few short orders to inspire.

Miso Paste

Miso is soy bean paste. Deliciously Umami (the 5th flavour profile we can taste) it has infinite uses. I have a tub of white Shiro Miso in my freezer at all times. I find this flavour to be the most versatile as opposed to stronger miso. It is best heated briefly as long cooking effects the delicate flavours.

  • Spread on three-quarter cooked BBQ smoky chicken pieces as in my Miso Chicken Wing recipe. Complete cooking.
  • Add to vinaigrettes (as you would add mustard) and toss through leaves.
  • Pan fry white fish fillets, remove from pan and rest. Add dash of vinegar (white rice, white or red wine), spoonful of miso paste and a dash of water. Bring to a simmer. Taste for sour/salty balance. When you are happy with flavour, drizzle sauce over fish.
  • Great in 30 minute marinades especially for chicken, fish or pork.


Panko Breadcrumbs

These super crunchy, flaky dried breadcrumbs are available in all good food stores, Asian supermarkets and the big chains.

  • MYO chicken nuggets (Katsu). Coat chicken breast pieces in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, then panko crumbs. Pan fry in olive oil until golden and cooked through. Serve with homemade Aioli dip. Add spices like paprika or a Mexican spice mix to flour or herbs such as fresh chopped chives or dried oregano to crumbs for additional flavour.
  • Use as a crunchy topping for macaroni cheese, lasagne, or baked vegetable dishes. Toss with grated cheese and scatter over surface, cook as usual.
  • Really tasty to coat prawns and deep fry to serve with an Asian Style sauce such as a balanced mixture of Mirin, fresh chopped coriander leaves, grated ginger and garlic, finely chopped red chilli, lime juice and fish sauce (balance out the sweet, sour, salty flavours)


Most commonly used are the toasted Nori sheets to make sticky rice rolls. I love playing with the savoury saltiness of these. Even to add crisp texture to dishes when used dry.

Wakame is sold as tangled strips of dried seaweed that can be added to soups, pickles and salads. Re-hydrates in cold water within 5 minutes to about 10x it’s dried size!

Konbu is not available in Australia as far as I know. It is large kelp seaweed, sold in wide stiff pieces. It’s an essential ingredient in dashi stocks. I use wakame in place, but it doesn’t have the depth of flavour that konbu has.

  • Using scissors, cut nori sheet into quarters, then piled on top of each other snip into thin strips. Scatter over Asian rice or noodle dishes on serving.
  • Add broken pieces of seaweed to asian style stir fries at end of cooking to allow to soften and add a salty hit.
  • Simply place a square of nori on top of rice portions on serving. Steam from the rice will soften the sheet and make the rice a little more special.


Sweet Japanese rice wine, this is an awesome ingredient. Not only for Japanese cooking. Steer clear of imitation Mirin, buy the real deal for a healthier choice.

  • Particularly good with fish. Add to pan just before serving to incorporate a subtle sweetness.
  • Add to noodle broths.
  • Make a simple teriyaki marinade using equal quantities of mirin, soy sauce, little fresh grated ginger, chopped garlic and a touch of vegetable oil. Marinate lean beef, pork or chicken and cook quickly.
  • Combine a flavour balance of mirin and soy sauce, add finely sliced spring onions and use as a dipping sauce for tempura, nori rolls or katsu.


Can be purchased conveniently as a paste in tubes but be aware of the nasties detailed on the label! Wasabi powder is my preferred form to use. Make the paste by adding as much or as little water as desired. A more flexible ingredient than ready made paste. It is a root which loves to grow in very wet soil. It offers a very clean heat to be added usually as a condiment, in a similar manner to mustard or horseradish. It can be purchased occasionally fresh at gourmet fruit and vegetable markets. A special shark skin grater is a necessary utensil to prepare fresh wasabi for the fashionistas out there.

  • Add zing to mayonnaise. Incorporate small amounts of powder to begin with as can be very intense.
  • Serve paste on a seafood platter or mix paste into soy for a powerful dipping sauce.
  • Mix dry wasabi powder with flour. Toss through prawns or chicken and pan fry in hot oil to create a crisp spicy exterior.

Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love this stuff! Eat with caution as opposed to gay abandon. There are a couple of ingredients in this mayo your body won’t thank you for. But for a treat, it’s hard to go past. This versatile sauce spans Asian cuisine through to European style flavours as well as South American and Mexican food.

  • Ate this at Andrew McConnells Melbourne restaurant Supernormal a couple of years ago…brioche bun (lightly warmed) thick slices of crayfish tail, watercress and Kewpie Mayonnaise. YUM. Perfect, simple, quality food at its best.
  • Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake served criss-crossed with Kewpie Mayo.
  • Pork Bao, fluffy Chinese buns are awesome filled with soft pork belly slices, crisp crackling, crunchy raw shredded cabbage and mayo.
  • Use for potato salad instead of regular mayo.
  • In a sandwich…duh! 😉
  • Add wasabi or sriracha for a wicked dip.

Want to learn how to incorporate these ingredients and more into tasty Japanese dishes? Then why not try our Tastes of Tokyo class.

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Tracey Cotterell

Tracey Cotterell
Tracey Cotterell


Tracey has been in the food industry since completing her Diploma in Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management in 1982 in the UK. She worked for an outside catering company in London, then joined her parents in rural West Sussex running

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Tracey Cotterell

Tracey Cotterell


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