Asawa's Recipes

Basic Japanese Seasoning

Before you can get anywhere with Japanese cooking, you will need to know some basic Japanese seasonings.  I imagine the target reader of this post (and most of my recipes) will be a foreigner struggling to make sense of a Japanese supermarket (in Japan or anywhere in the world).  Here I will try to brief you on the essential sauces which you will  most likely need when cooking Japanese dishes.(I also wrote the names in romaji so you can just ask the grocery attendants for it)

Soy sauce (醤油 しょうゆ shoyu)

You will find various types and brand of shoyu at supermarkets in Japan. In Kyushu (and western Japan), you will find Koikuchi shoyu and Usukuchi shoyu, sometimes next to each other. Koikuchi is the standard soy sauce and Usukuchi is more salty and often used for cooked vegetable dishes and soup so that they don’t look too dark while it is salted enough. Sashimi shoyu (joyu) is a soy sauce for sashimi (raw fish). It is sweeter and richer than the standard one.

Soybean paste (味噌 みそ miso)

The traditional way of starting a day in Japan is to have miso soup (miso shiru) for breakfast with rice. There are various kind of miso; Mugi miso (wheat), Kome miso (rice), Mame miso (bean) etc. Popular and favorite miso is different by region. Kyushu’s local miso is Mugi miso. Miso is preservative food. If you like miso soup you taste during your stay in Japan, it would be good idea to buy some miso to bring home.  It is usually available at a non-refrigerated section in a supermarket.

Rice wine (for cooking) (料理酒 りょうりしゅ ryorishu)


Sake is often used for cooking too. Ryorishu is not tasty as a sake but it is mild and gives stew dishes flavour. It is often used for Nimono(vegetable stew) and Sakamushi (sake steam dish) .



Sweet rice wine (みりん mirin)


Mirin is used for sweet vegetable stew such as  Nikujaga (potato stew with beef) and Teriyaki sauce. If you are not in Japan and it is difficult to find mirin, you can just add sugar and mild rice wine in place of it.

Rice Vinegar (酢 す su)


Rice vinegar is used for vinegared rice for sushi. If it is not easy to find rice vinegar, other vinegars such as apple, grape, malt vinegars can be used in place of rice vinegar from my experience.


Fish flavored soy sauce (だししょうゆ/つゆ dashishoyu/ tsuyu)


This  sauce can be used for various Japanese noodle dish such as Soba, Somen and Udon.

Fish powder (だしの素 だしのもと dashi no moto)

The tranditional way of making dashi soup is very complicated. Fish powder is often used instead of spenidng too long to buy ingredients for dashi soup.  Dashi soup is used for miso soup and nimono (Japanese style vegetable stew ) . Dashi no moto is very convenient if you want to make those dishes instantly.
My recipes (as well as most Japanese cookbooks) will refer to these sauces more often than not, and no Japanese kitchen is complete without them so get your supply now and start cooking Japanese food!

14 Comments on “Basic Japanese Seasoning

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  2. You’re missing two things:

    Sato (sugar)
    Shio (salt)

    The reason why is that basic Japanese seasonings should follow:

    sa shi su se so

    sa = sato
    shi = shio
    su = su
    se = shoyu
    so = miso

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