Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Japanese Grocery Stores - Sauces Part 1

So, I posted on my Facebook page about doing a grocery store post and I received quite a few comments and requests. A couple of people wanted to know more about the many sauces sold in Japan so I thought I would do a series of posts about shopping on the local economy. Starting with this post on sauces. I am certainly not an expert on Japanese sauces, nor do I claim to be. I am just a foodie who grew up in Iwakuni and also grew up eating foods prepared with some of these yummy sauces. I hope this helps you as you go out and explore the many grocery stores in Iwakuni, and I hope you will pick up a new sauce or two and give it a try!

I think that the most important sauce of all in any Japanese home is soy sauce, or "shoyu" as we call it. My mother always cooks with shoyu, but when I was little there was just a small selection of shoyu at the store. The biggest and most popular brand (and quite possibly the only brand carried at most majoy grocery stores) at the time was Kikkoman. When I moved to the states for the first time as an adult, I bought a bottle of Kikkoman shoyu and I was so excited to be able to find Japanese shoyu! Then I tried it and ..... I spit it out. It was disgusting. I didn't realize it was made in the U.S. and "geared to American taste". I don't know who thought of that, but I think they were way off base! That bottle of shoyu went right down the drain and I called my mother to see if she could send me a care package with a bottle of the "real Kikkoman shoyu" as I put it. Fast forward a few years (okay...maybe a little more than just a few), and it's amazing to me how many different types of shoyu there are now. Grocery stores in Japan have a huge section of an aisle that is just shoyu. There's regular shoyu, usukuchi (lighter flavor) shoyu, sashimi shoyo (which seems a little thicker and smoother), and on and on. I could probably do an entire post on the different types of shoyu, but I know a lot of people are wondering more about the other sauces they sell in Japanese grocery stores. Before I get to those sauces though, I do want to post a picture or two of some organic shoyu that is sold at Fresta. I know there are quite a few people out there who are very interested in organic products.

The shoyu in these two photos are all organic.

Let's check out the other sauces....


Yakiniku means "cooked meat" or "grilled meat" and it's what you usually eat when you go to JanJaka. You can make something similar at home. There are so many different types and brands of yakiniku sauce that I can't tell you which one is the best. I think I buy a different kind each time so I can see what the difference is. The problem is that I forget to take notes and remember which ones I really like. You can also get different levels of spiciness. Please keep in mind that sometimes when it says "spicy" it doesn't necessarily mean hot spicy. Sometimes it means "salty" or spices spicy. So, they have "Amakuchi" which is not spicy at all and means "sweet taste", "Chyukara" which is "medium spicy", and then "Karakuchi" which is "spicy taste". I personally like to mix the amakuchi with the chyukara because I don't like my sauce sweet, but I don't like it too spicy either. Mixing the two usually balances it all out for me. There are different ways to cook with yakiniku sauce. You can marinate some thin slices of meat in it and then grill the meat. Another way to do it is to grill the meat first and then just dip it in the sauce or pour some sauce over the meat. I have also taken thinly sliced beef (thickness is really up to you, but I like mine to be sliced pretty thin), sliced onions and sliced green bell peppers and stir fried it all in a little bit of oil. Right before you take the pan off of the stove, pour some yakiniku sauce on it, stir it around to get it on everything and then remove from heat and serve with some rice. Make sure you don't put the sauce in too soon because sometimes the sauce will burn if it cooks too long in a hot pan.


One of my favorite dishes is Shoga Yaki. Shoga is ginger and yaki is cooked. In this case, it is pork and cabbage that is sauteed with this delicious sauce. Some restaurants serve "Shoga Yaki" and a lot of times it is just thin strips of pork sauteed and covered in this sauce. I am a huge fan of pork and cabbage together (may have something to do with always eating tonkatsu and cabbage together....don't know what tonkatsu is?? Hmm..I feel another blog post coming..) so I usually take thin slices of pork and some cabbage, saute them together and when it's almost done put some of this sauce on it. Remove from heat right away so the sauce doesn't burn. Personally, I don't think this is super heavy on the ginger flavor so even if you aren't a big fan of ginger you should give this a try.
I know some of you are looking at the photo for this sauce and thinking the main bottle in the front is slightly out of focus, but the one behind it on the left is in perfect focus. I meant to do that. Uh huh.... yup... sure did. Wanted to see if anyone would notice.


Yakitori is the little pieces of chicken on a stick. You all know what "yaki" means now so I'll just let you know that "tori" means "bird"...which in this case means chicken. Yakitori are mostly found at izakayas and you can get yakitori at just about any festival in Japan. You can make yakitori at home with this sauce and some chicken and some sticks. You can buy the sticks just about anywhere (they just look like super long toothpicks). If you are grilling these, I highly recommend you soak the sticks in water for a little while. It keeps them from burning. Cut chicken into chunks big enough to put on the stick. Don't make them too big or too small. I had to play around with it because I kept making them too big. It's fine, but it takes longer to cook. Place about 4 pieces of chicken on each stick. Lightly (very lightly) salt both sides and throw on a hot (medium heat) grill. You really have to watch these so don't walk away too much. When they are almost done, dip them into some yakitori sauce and throw them back on the grill for a few mimutes... maybe 1-2 minutes on each side. Are you like me and don't own a grill? No problem. I take a chicken breast or thigh and cut it into chunks and because I like the fat green onions (I'm not sure what they are called in the US... but they are like big green onions... and I believe they are in season in the winter months), I'll cut up one or two of those also. Saute the chicken and green onions in a pan and right before it is done, cover everything with a little bit of the yakitori sauce. Stir it around for a minute, remove from heat, and serve over a bowl of rice.

Am I starting to sound like a broken record with my statements on making sure you don't add the sauce too soon because it may burn? I think that because a lot of sauces have soy sauce, they tends to burn a little easily. Burnt sauce does not taste good. At all. How do I know you ask? Well..... I maaay have had an accident or two when cooking with yakiniku sauce.

To be continued....

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