The Five Basic Ingredients of Japanese Cuisine

Normally, Japanese menus are prepared based on the mixture of five basic ingredients, which can be remembered easily like studying the major Japanese alphabet including

さ(sa) し(shi) す(su) せ(se) そ(so)

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         さ(sa) – Satou:Sugar                          し(shi) – Shio:Salt                    す(su) – Su:Japanese vinegar             せ(se) – Seyu:Soy sauce                            そ(so) – Miso

Let's see the details

Sugar – Sugar refining techniques were introduced to Japan by “Ganjin”, a Buddhist monk visiting the country to disseminate Buddhism during the Nara period. Sugar contains natural sweetness and helps increase food flavors to be more delicious and delicate. According to the research, sugar is considered a major ingredient used for food preservation and can also prevent oxidation reactions in food.

Salt – Salt is considered one of the world’s most basic and ancient ingredients. As salt possesses a white crystalline shape with salty flavor, it helps increase minerals in food, eliminates excessive dampness, and minimizes the deliciousness of cooking menus. Besides, salt is used widely by professional chefs, particularly to kill unpleasant smells of uncooked food and to maximize the quality of food preservation.

Japanese Vinegar – Japanese vinegar offers a sour taste and is used to kill germs in food. It is innovatively used to mix with sushi rice so as to be kept for longer; the taste of sushi rice and topping ingredients are perfectly blended. Japanese vinegar can be divided into several categories.

● すし酢 (Sushizu)        is widely used to mix with sushi. This type of Japanese vinegar contains sugar, salt, and mirin mixed in an appropriate
                                        proportion required for sushi cooking.
● 甘酢 (Amazu)             contains a little bit of sugar to enhance the sweetness of this Japanese vinegar.
● 二杯酢 (Nibaizu)         becomes more delicious as salt and shoyu are added.
● 三杯酢 (Sanbaizu)      offers a very distinctive taste with shoyu and mirin added in an equal amount.

Additionally, there are some other specific types of Japanese vinegar, such as those with the mixture of Katsuo Bushi, ginger, and preserved plums, used in the food processing industry nowadays.

Shoyu or Japanese Soy Sauce – Shoyu or Japanese soy sauce is obtained from the fermentation of soy beans, wheat flour, and salt. With distinctive fragrance, Japanese shoyu is currently exported to more than 100 countries worldwide, marking the uniqueness and reputation of Japanese menus recognized by people from every corner of the world.
Some people may think that shoyu is just an ordinary condiment made in the Japanese style. In fact, there are several types and brands of the Japanese soy sauce available on the market, with different secrets of recipe preferred by those who enjoy cooking delicious Japanese dishes.

●溜り (Tamari Shouyu)
   has become famous since the Edo period. Inspired by its strong color and mellow taste, this Japanese soy sauce is mostly preferred by Sashimi
   lovers and is used to make Teriyaki sauce. Soy bean is considered a major ingredient that makes the sauce even more delicious and traditional,
   in which the addition of wheat flour is optional.
●濃口 (Koikuchi Shouyu)
   offers a strong taste and is considered the most well-known type of soy sauce among Japanese food lovers. Backed by tremendous manufacturing
   quantity, the soy sauce is obviously less salty compared to Usukuchi Shouyu.
●淡口 (Usukuchi Shouyu)
   is another popular soy sauce among Japanese people. Despite a relatively light color, this type of Shoyu unveils a stronger taste compared to
   Koikuchi Shouyu. Actually, Usukuchi Shouyu is used for cooking light-colored menus, for instance, soup and hot pots. In addition, this type of
   shoyu is famous among the local people of Kansai.
●再仕込み (Saishikomi Shouyu)
    is also known as Sashimi Shouyu or Kanro Shouyu. This shoyu gains huge appreciation from Sashimi eaters as it is manufactured via the repetitive
   cooking process, which can ensure a greater taste and aroma.
●うす塩 (Usushio Shouyu) 
   >has been manufactured based on a salt-reducing concept to promote good health and sanitization of eating, particularly
   >for those who are affected by high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney infections.

There are several types of shoyu available on the market. People tend to enjoy their favorite types of soy sauce depending on the selection of their preferred menus, such as Sashimi, Tamako Kake Gohan (rice topped or mixed with raw egg), tempura, and other noodle-based dishes.

Miso – Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by soy bean, rice, and barley fermented with salt. With a soft and salty taste, Miso is rich in protein and amino acids as it is manufactured with different major ingredients.