8 Ways to Spice Up Your (Love to Eat) Life
Put down that tub of ice cream or that jar of peanut butter because I am here to help you and your dog from having to eat anymore peanut butter.
The brands listed below are products that are frequently used by Japanese, Japanese Americans, chefs, and people who cook authentic Japanese food.
If you live in an area with no Japanese markets, I have provided a couple of ways to purchase online from either of these three online market places.
- Amazon (can be pricey)
- Tokyo Central market (best pricing)
- The Japanese Pantry (very specialized)
If you’re a media outlet (rhymes with “Focktard & Wine”), you might reference a Southeast Asian hot sauce because you associate anything Asian into the “ching chong” category, but if you are already familiar with my content you know that Korea, China, Vietnam, and Japan are very distinctively different from one another, so I don’t have to bring up Sriracha sauce in order to suggest the ten condiments below.
EDIT 12/30/19: I thought I could just link to the online marketplaces to make it easier on you to purchase, but the prices seem to fluctuate which is why I will be adding the competitive price range of the products.
1. Yuzu Kosho
I am putting this first because if you like to grill pork, chicken, or seafood, this is the one surefire ingredient to be a panty/boxer dropper if you utilize and wield it correctly.
Type: Green chili and citrus (red chili is also available), 2.8oz
Description: it’s primarily a paste of chili’s, citrus/yuzu, and salt that you dab it on items.
Recommendation: with meats like chicken, pork, to seafood it’s amazing on, and you can mix it with some yuzu ponzu to use it more like a dipping sauce.
Competitive Price Range: a 1.41 oz bottle is $2.88
Type: Green chili and citrus, 1.7oz (or 50g)
Description: I think I have tried all the brands of yuzu kosho, but I don’t have them all in front of me where I can do a side by taste test.
Recommendation: The same use as above.
Type: Green chili and citrus, 2.11oz
Description: this is the brand I currently have, but I probably have it because it was the only one available.
Recommendation: The same use as above.
Tokyo Central Pricing: $10.48, 2.11oz
Ponzu in the U.S., especially with really bad sushi restaurants use a ton of ponzu, but the types they use will differ dramatically from the soy sauces to the citrus used.
Type: Yuzu Ponzu
Description: This brand is the nectar of the GODS! Once you try it, you will never use another brand ever again. Right when you pull back the plastic tab, you’ll want to sniff that opening of the bottle for its intoxicating virgin aroma. If the product is not alluring enough, just know that this product is produced in a small secluded village in Japan called Umajimura in the Kochi prefecture (I seriously want to take the tour, check it out on tripadvisor).
Recommendation: shabu shabu, sashimi, a salad dressing, a perfume (slightly joking), and a number of other uses that you’ll have to google.
Competitive Price Range: this brand is the best, so it’ll set you back $9-10, but I have seen it sold for $12. Lesser brands sell for $6.78 (Mizkan/12.1 fl oz) or $3.29 (Kikkoman/10 fl oz).
Type: Sudachi Ponzu
Description: if yuzu is on par with a lemon, then sudachi I suppose could be likened to a lime due to the color although most would say it is a blend of lemon and lime. The sudachi is then blended with a soy sauce to create a ponzu.
Recommendation: the same as the yuzu ponzu although just like a lemon versus a lime, there is a discernible difference.
Description: This has got to be one of the most popular ponzu’s most likely due to the affordability although buying it online from Amazon is $12.39 which is not cheap to me.
Recommendation: this is the one that you’ll probably find at any sushi bar.
Tokyo Central Pricing: a (12 fl oz) bottle is $2.30 or the big mama bottle (24 oz) for $4.28 through Tokyo Central.
3. Tonkatsu Sauce
You like sauce don’t you… don’t answer that, I know you do. Now imagine a world where Worcestershire sauce is thick because you like thick. Now, how does it sound that it’s vegetarian based (I know you don’t care because you’ll be slathering it all over meat).
Description: Tonkatsu sauce contains an abundance of vegetables and fruits like tomatoes, onions, carrots, apples, lemon, and prunes. To top it off, over 10 different spices are ground and blended in-house, including ginger, red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, laurel, and thyme. Vinegar is also used, but it is used as a preserving agent.
This magnificent blend of spices gives the sauce its tangy and refreshing flavor.
Recommendation: it goes great with steaks, noodles, and a number of other foods like Japanese okonomiyaki, takoyaki, to of course tonkatsu (pork cutlet/schnitzel).
Tokyo Central Pricing: the 500ml size goes for $4.98
4. Japanese Mayo
There’s mayonnaise, and then there’s Japanese mayo.
Brand: By Kewpie
Description: “KEWPIE Mayonnaise is the “egg yolk type”, which contains egg yolk instead of whole egg.”
Recommendation: Like the typical mayonnaise it goes great with sandwiches, but where it beats your typical Miracle Whip is when blended with other ingredients like sriracha for sushi (that’s where that spicy sauce comes from), blending it with soy sauce to use as a dipping sauce for artichokes (I just gave away a family recipe), and it is used on a ton of Japanese foods from okonomiyaki to takoyaki.
Tokyo Central Pricing: 17.64oz for $4.78 (sale price is $3.88)
5. Shichimi Togarashi
This is as spicy as it gets for Japanese people.
Brand: House / S&B
Description: seven-flavor chili pepper which consists of coarsely ground red chili pepper (the main ingredient), ground sanshō, roasted orange peel, black sesame seed, white sesame seed, hemp seed (does this ingredient causing tunnel vision where this is all you see?), ground ginger, nori or aonori (seaweed), and poppy-seed.
Recommendation: I was big on this topping as a kid on udon and gyudon where it seemed like that hole in the bottle just wasn’t big enough. Nowadays, I very rarely use it although I may still be tempted to want to use it on gyudon.
Tokyo Central Pricing: House $2.18, .63oz
That tingle on your tongue is not paresthesia of the tongue due to damage to your nervous system, it is sansho, Sichuan peppercorn’s homie.
Description: This is one of those ingredients where you’re like WTF did I just eat because it’ll give you tingling sensation on your tongue.
Recommendation: I have had it with kabayaki which it is perfect on with the sweet and the contrasting makes the food “addictive” to me. The only foods I like it on are yakitori: chicken and pork, especially pork belly.
Tokyo Central Pricing: $4.88, .42oz
7. Soy Sauce
Yea, I have soy sauce here because even if you do have it, you probably do not have all the varieties that are available (the ones listed barely scratch the surface).
Type: Usukuchi Soy Sauce (light)
Brand: by Yamasa (I also like the Kikkoman product)
Great for cooking
Description: usukuchi is typically mistaken for being low-sodium soy sauce, but it is actually a lighter colored soy sauce that would be more on the saltier side.
Recommendation: any lighter dish such as a one pot cooking (nabe) or stew where you want the light dashi/broth to stay light like a sansai (mountain vegetable) rice dish (get the recipe on JustOneCookbook.com).
Tokyo Central Pricing: $5.28, 34fl oz.
Type: Soy Sauce (general use soy sauce)
Description: you should know this one, it’s everywhere.
Recommendation: on everything except on white rice foo (that is sacrilegious).
Tokyo Central Pricing: $4.28, 33.8fl oz.
Type: Shiro soy sauce (white soy sauce)
Recommendation: if you are preparing a dish such as white fish, pork, or a chicken dish, I highly suggest you try a shiro shoyu.
Amazon Pricing: Sorry, but there is no way I’m going to tell you to buy this product from the Amazon seller who is asking a ridiculous $109 for one bottle which is 1.8L!?!? Maybe it is due to the size of the bottle which makes it expensive to ship? Although if you were to get a competitive price, you can get a bottle for around $15.
Type: Artisan Soy Sauce (kishibori soy sauce)
Description: Not your standard one that you’re used to, but this is an artisanal shoyu by Takesan with no preservatives which is fermented in 100-year-old cedar barrels for one year. The soy sauce is produced on the small island of Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, between the main Japanese island of Honshu and neighboring Shikoku.
Recommendation: it is probably best to use as a dipping sauce, so that you’ll be able to taste the subtleties of the shoyu.
Type: fresh soy sauce (shiboritate nama shoyu)
Description: “Freshly pressed raw soy sauce, however, is unpasteurized which is characterized by a gentle, sweet scent and taste, and has a rich clear color.” This particular soy sauce comes in a special airtight container. Once opened, it’ll maintain its freshness up to 90 days.
Recommendation: any food that you typically use soy sauce for it’ll change the flavor characteristics because this soy sauce has a lot gentler, a sweeter scent and taste, and has a richer clear color.
Tokyo Central Market: $3.48, 6.8fl oz.
Type: tamari soy sauce (gluten free)
Brand: Ito Shoten
Description: “Produced from only Japanese-grown soybeans and natural sea salt, slowly aged for three years in cedar casks, the tamari has a thick, caramel-ish, smoky, meaty, deep umami flavor that is well balanced, not very salty. We recommend that you do not cook with this special brew, just use as a dipping sauce and/or brush on meats, fish or whatever you prefer. Please refrigerate after opening.”
Recommendation: Tamari and Butter Braised New Potatoes, for dipping sashimi or sushi, and try brushing a little on roasted pork right before serving.
Japanese Pantry Pricing: $15.00, 200ml
8. Kizami Wasabi
If powdered cheese, powdered milk, and powdered wasabi are just not cutting it, your next move is to move on up to real wasabi that has been frozen to retain its freshness.
Type: Real wasabi (frozen)
Description: the vast majority of wasabi that you will eat in a sushi restaurant will be the powdered kind (just add water), but this is the real stuff although frozen. Once you have had it, the powder is like comparing peppermint to peppermint flavored toothpaste.
Recommendation: yea, you’re thinking sushi or sashimi, but I highly suggest you try it with marbled steaks which can be likened to horseradish on a nice juicy prime rib. Although, I am sure you will be able to come up with some better uses that I can suggest here.
Want to shock a Japanese person? Well, panty sniffing won’t, but pour some soy sauce on your rice, and you just went a little too far. So, keep things on the tame side, use furikake.
Type: nori fumi furikake
Description: it’s a pack of four 1.7 ounce jars although they have single bottles which are upwards of $5 on Amazon, so why not commit because it’s not like you’ll be locked in for life to it, like marriage. The one listed is “nori” which is the basic seaweed version although they have salmon, wasabi, katsuo, and I think a shiso (perilla leaf).
Recommendation: “Furry cake”, yea, not the right way to say it, and the right way to say it is “foo-ree-kah-keh.” Even if you can’t pronounce it, it is great on rice, french fries, and I have seen more and more people hype it up on how good it is on popcorn which I have had, but I still love it on a plain ole rice ball (onigiri), yea I’m basic.
Tokyo Central Market: $2.58, 1.7oz
10. Goma Dare
I was almost on the fence on adding this one because it is like the tonkatsu/Bulldog sauce which has a specific use, but this sesame based sauce is used as a dipping sauce for shabu shabu.
Type: goma dare (sesame sauce)
Description: goma dare are not all created equally, and I am not a fan of the sweeter ones which is why this is the one I always buy. The only downside is that it is $5, and most people don’t go easy on the sauces which is why I make sure to ration guests.
Recommendation: This is of course a great dipping sauce for shabu shabu, but if you boil spinach, you can drizzle a little on top, along with adding it to a number of cooked or raw veggies (think of it as a tahini and miso like sauce).
Tokyo Central Pricing: $4.98, 11.8fl oz.
Type: goma dare (sesame sauce)
Description: since you have a jug of it, you can bathe in it.
Recommendation: the same as above, but now you have enough for you and your friends to bathe in it.
A big ole jug: $24.29, 1090g or 38oz
I’m sure the spice I just injected in to your life will put some magic back into you kitchen, so you are welcome.