Herbs, Spices and Seasonings: Japanese Cuisine Essentials

Essential Ingredients for Traditional Flavors

Here’s the list of herbs, spices and seasonings that the Japanese consider essentials to Japanese cooking.

Bonito flakes are used to make dashi and as a seasoning in many other dishes. Bonito or skipjack tuna belongs to the mackerel family. The fillets are cooked, smoked, dried and cured with mold in a process taking several months. Once hardened, the fillets are shaved into flakes, called katsuobushi.

Kombu is a sea kelp that is dried and used most famously to flavor dashi broth. Kombu is high in glutamates, giving it a savory umami flavor that is often imitated by monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Mustard powder or karashi is powdered mustard seed, sometimes blended with dried horseradish. It needs to be diluted with a bit of water, or it can be purchased as a paste. Karashi is hotter and more intense than Western mustard, and is used sparingly as a condiment or as an ingredient in dressings and dipping sauces.

Sansho powder, or Japanese pepper, is a golden spice ground from the seedpod surrounding the berry of the prickly ash shrub. It has a citrusy, minty aroma and flavor, and a slight tongue-tingling effect. It is used in shichimi togarashi and as an all-purpose seasoning.

Sesame seeds or goma, both black and white, are used widely in Japanese cooking as a seasoning and garnish in sweet and savory dishes. Both black and white seeds benefit from toasting before use to bring out their flavor and aroma.

Shichimi togarashi is a blend of seven dried and ground spices that often includes red chiles, sansho, roasted orange peel, yellow and black sesame seeds, ginger, hemp seed and nori. It’s commonly used to flavor soups and noodle dishes and as an all-purpose seasoning.

Wasabi powder/paste is Japanese horseradish. Fresh wasabi is largely unavailable in the West, but is easily found dried in powdered form or as a paste. The powder needs to be reconstituted with a bit of water; the paste is ready to use but quickly loses pungency after opening. Wasabi has a very pungent flavor and aroma and is paired in small amounts with sushi and sashimi.

Flavors Uniquely Japanese in Seattle

Experience the unique flavors of our soups, cold plates, lunch and main menus spiced with herbs and seasonings essential to our cuisine. Come visit your favorite Japanese sushi restaurant in Seattle.