Japanese cuisine features some of the best and most interesting dishes in the world. They’ve had thousands of years to perfect it, after all.
Below are five essentials you’ll want to have on hand to get started making your own Japanese food.
Rice is a staple of Japanese cooking, and thus an electric rice cooker (suihanki) is a must-have item. The Zojirushi NS-TSC10 is at the higher end of the rice cooker market but has the features to back it up:
- Holds 5.5 cups of uncooked rice, 10 cups cooked.
- Has lots of cooking presets: white rice/sushi, mixed rice, porridge, sweet, brown, cake, steam, and quick cooking. Choose the right setting for whatever rice you’re cooking, and it always comes out perfect.
- Can keep rice warm for up to 24 hours (although I don’t recommend going past 12 hours if you can help it). This is nice if you have leftover rice from dinner you’d like to finish the next morning.
- Has a delay timer with two presets (defaults are 6 hours and 18 hours, respectively, but these can be adjusted) so you can set up the unit to have rice prepared as soon as you get home.
- Has a clip for holding your rice paddle.
- Easy to clean.
- Plays a “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” chime when your rice is ready, which is just delightful.
Obviously, the best way to eat Japanese food is with a typical pair of chopsticks (hashi), but the actual making of food calls for a set of extra-long cooking chopsticks (saibashi) to keep your hands away from the heat, á la tongs. This set from Dealglad gives you five pairs of 13″ bamboo saibashi for eight bucks, which is a great deal. With them, you can pan-fry and stir the food as it cooks, then easily serve it all up afterward.
Sushi is one of the more common ways you may end up using all that Japanese rice you cook. A nice bamboo mat (makisu) is essential for shaping sushi rolls (makizushi) and other soft foods (such as omelettes), and is also useful for pressing excess liquid out of food. MBW Northwest sells a pack of four green bamboo mats that do the job well.
Pro tip: To keep rice and other foods from getting stuck between the slats, cover the mat with a bit of plastic wrap before rolling.
A regular grater can handle most needs, but when it comes to Japanese cooking there will be times when you’ll require the services of a Japanese grater (oroshigane). It’s designed to very finely grate fibrous ingredients like ginger, wasabi, radishes (such as daikon or horseradish), garlic, carrots, and onions. It also has a built-in well for conveniently catching the grated food and juices.
Miso soup is a traditional Japanese comfort food consisting of a naturally fermented soybean paste (miso) mixed with soup stock (dashi). This stuff is about as prevalent in Japanese cuisine as rice is. However, the paste can be a bit difficult to dissolve in the stock without the use of a miso soup strainer (miso-koshi), which comes with a wooden pestle to make quick work of the task.