The condiments section of Japanese supermarkets has always been a treasure house for any lover of Japanese-style cuisine. The variety of seasonings and spices available in Japan is simply dazzling! So what are some of the must-have items that would be difficult to find anywhere else?
LIVE Japan visited Keio Supermarket, one of Tokyo's main chains, with a homemaker, and interviewed staff there to find out what are the top 9 items visitors from abroad should pop in their basket and bring back home!
1. Kewpie Half 400g
Mayonnaise is a curious condiment. Depending on the country in which you buy it, its flavor and texture can vary dramatically. Japan's Kewpie brand is quite well-known around Asia for its creamy consistency and mild saltiness. While it goes well with savory dishes such as okonomiyaki and takoyaki, you can also see it as a side for karaage chicken and other fried foods, plus vegetables.
In addition to the classic original flavor, Kewpie also comes in several varieties, from zero calorie, sesame flavor, one without egg folk, and even Kewpie Half, which has half the calories but all the taste. Our shopper, Akane, chose this version.
The easiest way to eat Kewpie is of course with veggie sticks! Whether you choose carrots or cucumber or even fruit tomatoes, its flavor is very full and has a slightly sour tang, refreshing and enjoyable. There are also many recipe suggestions available on the website that you can try too. People who want something delicious but who are health-conscious should consider this as something to take home!
2. Kikkoman Nama Shoyu (450ml)
Now Kikkoman soy sauce is well-known throughout the world, and it's one of the brands that Akane loves as well in Japan. Stroll down the aisle of any Japanese supermarket and you're bound to see a large variety of soy sauces. Now this one in particular insists on natural fermentation without any added sugar or flavorings. Since it is filtered to remove natural impurities, its color tends to be lighter than soy sauce you might find on the table, and tends to have a lighter flavor as well. If you want a nice soy sauce accent without the bold umami, this is for you!
Now Japanese products aren't just appreciated for their quality, but also for their packaging. Once opened, this one will retain freshness for up to 90 days. In fact, this particular bottle won the Good Design Award for its innovative approach which keeps the flavor fresh, while avoiding unintended dripping.
The freshly squeezed plain soy sauce with light and translucent color is suitable for all kinds of ingredients. This simple flavor is perfect for sashimi and other fish, but can also be used over vegetables to give a soy accent. The taste is quite harmonious and elegant.
3. S&B Golden Curry 198G
S&B is a Japanese food and seasoning company that's been in business for around a century. It produces hundreds of products related to daily Japanese cuisine and several of these will be found on the shelves and in the refrigerators of perhaps most Japanese.
One such product is the Golden Curry Gold curry roux, cubes of seasonings that can be mixed with water and vegetables to come up with a quick, flavor-packed curry.
Now if you've never tried Japanese curry, you're in for a treat. While it does have a kind of curry flavor you may be used to, it tends to be sweeter and have a different variety of spices than its Indian or even Thai cousins. So if you had a chance to enjoy Japanese curry during your stay and are looking to bring the flavor back home, here's the perfect chance!
As mentioned, each S&B Golden Curry will come in blocks that can be used according to the number of people you're cooking for. And, conveniently, they need not be refrigerated. The Golden Curry range comes in varying degrees of spiciness, but bear in mind that as Japanese people tend toward the milder range of spice, even packages marked 'Hot' or 'Spicy' will not leave fire on your breath.
Voila: Akane's super delicious beef curry. Actually, thanks to S&B you don't need superb culinary skills to make this delectable dish. Just chunk up the ingredients you love, mix them together with the Golden Curry roux in a pot of water, and bring to a simmer. Shortly thereafter you'll enjoy the aroma of curry!
4. S&B Nama Shouga (Fresh Ginger)(40g)
Now in cooking, all kinds of spices and herbs can be used. While some people will prefer to hand-select ingredients and prepare everything from scratch, items such as minced garlic or ginger will take some time. And that's where Akane enjoys S&B's series of condiments, because they are delicious time-savers - and a very compact way to bring back home some of the tastes of Japan.
Now S&B's 'Nama Ginger' emphasizes that their product is made of quality, real raw ingredients and contains no artificial additives or pigments. Ginger cultivated in Yamanashi Prefecture has been used for over 30 years in this product, loved for its simple and pure flavor. The compact packaging is perfect for stashing in your suitcase, and does not occupy much space on your shelves or in the refrigerator either.
One of Akane's simple recipes: chopped green onion and katsuo flakes over cold tofu, garnished with a dob of S&B Nama Shouga.
5. Mizkan Ajipon (360ml)
On a health kick and prefer eating salad? While Kewpie can be used as a topping as well, you can also choose one of the citrus vinegar sauces made by 200-year old brand Mizkan. Ajipon is a Japanese-style sauce that's loosely like a cross between vinegar and soy sauce, but blended with citrus fruits. Have a splash over cold salad, use as a dipping sauce for meats, fish and other treats, or even add into soups to give them an unexpected kick and rounder flavor. It just might be your new best friend!
Akane's chosen a simple recipe that goes well with the Mizkan sauce. She's taken standard salad ingredients and included slices of boiled beef which have been cooled. Everything is mixed together with a splash of olive oil and a little salt, then the Mizkan citrus vinegar sauce is drizzled atop. A citrus aroma wafts around the salad bowl, which is particularly refreshing in the heat of summer. Everyone is sure to enjoy.
6. Otafuku: Okonomiyaki 4-person serving / Okonomiyaki Sauce
During your Japan trip, did you get a chance to head over to Osaka? If you had, you probably enjoyed one of the famous local dishes, okonomiyaki! While you can easily make this enjoyable Japanese soul food at home, to give it that full authentic flavor, you'll want to give Otafuku's okonomiyaki kits a go!
Each package contains enough ingredients for four people, divided into two large packages. In addition to the authentic Osaka mix, you'll also find seaweed powder and other important accents to get that full flavor. Best of all, the package has pictographic examples so there's no worry about not understanding Japanese!
You'll also need to prepare some extra ingredients, such as Chinese cabbage, chopped green onion, egg, pork or bacon slices, and water. Just refer to the instructions on the package and you'll be fine.
After you've finished preparing your okonomiyaki, be sure to top it with a good drizzle of Osaka sauce and a sprinkle of seaweed powder and bonito flakes. Your taste buds are sure to be in a treat! And the whole okonomiyaki tastes crisp and savory - just like how you enjoyed during your Japan stay.
7. Nittou Kaisou: Hokkaido Kelp
Now remember those incredible Japanese-style soups you had in Japan? In order to make them from scratch, you'll want to include the natural rich umami from kelp. Many of the main production areas for kelp (konbu) are found in Hokkaido, and Nittou Kaisou offers high-grade selections. Now in fact, while konbu is often used in miso soups, it can also be used to produce the stock for shabu-shabu, noodle soups, and even used to accent flavor of rice - just cook with the white rice and it will transform it into an unexpectedly elegant Japanese-style dish!
It is said that the white powder visible on the kelp is actually one of the sweet and sweet ingredients, so it is best to wipe it with a damp cloth, just to wipe off any surface dust, taking care not to remove these white powders.
Akane likes to cook fresh miso soup with vegetables and fish at home. The umami and sweet flavor of the high-grade kelp are very refreshing. When I tasted her variety, I wasn't expecting the flavor to be so layered and unforgettable!
8. S&B: Rayu (Chili oil)
Here is another S&B product with high popularity. This bottle of spicy oil is a must-have for Japanese families. One of these bottles can be found on many dining tables around Japan - just a drop in some soy sauce and/or vinegar adds a delightful kick. And the bottles are small enough for people to enjoy bringing back as souvenirs!
S&B series of spicy chili oil also has a very clever package. The push-type design makes it easy to control the dosage, and it does not drip out the oil or make the bottle greasy.
Although the appearance of this spicy oil looks like a whole lot of fire, it is not very spicy, but it can add aroma. Blend with a little sesame oil and add as an accent to any dish. A robust condiment, you can use with practically anything: fried shrimp, chicken, or stir-fry, to make it immediately more tantalizing!
9. Nagatanien: Hotel New Otani Hotcake Mix (500g)
Now just as with many other countries, the shelves at this Tokyo supermarket also have a variety of mixes for baked goods as well. This particular one is a Hotcake mix that can also be used for muffins. Its recipe is based around the original one served at Japan's famous Hotel New Otani.
The main product is the vanilla muffin powder that is supervised by the dessert chef of a well-known restaurant in Tokyo and supervised by Nakajima Yusuke, the head chef of Hotel New Otani in Tokyo. Easily make a delicious muffin with the quality of a Japanese restaurant with simple ingredients and pans at home!
There are a total of 200g in two packs of muffin mix and 25g of maple syrup in the box package. Many of the muffin mixes made by this brand do not have maple syrup included. The powder is quite fine and gives off a hint of vanilla essence.
The outer box package also displays a graphic illustration for how to prep and bake, so Japanese language skills are not required. It's the best way to make a perfect and delicious hot muffin! Add a dollop of cream and drizzle the maple syrup on top and you're sure to have the perfect #Instaworthy dessert.
About KEIO STORE
Keio Store is a supermarket chain that is all about the daily life around Keio Electric Railway’s lines. As of right now, there are 33 individual stores including the affiliates Kitchen Court and Keio Store Express, all of them loved by the locals. We hunted for the best heat-to-eat curry specialties at the Sakuragaoka Store, right next to Sakuragaoka Station, and also recommend its other diverse product selection, ranging from fresh foods to alcohol and miscellaneous goods. Women are the main customers during the day while office workers crowd the shop in the evening.
Keio Store (Sakuragaoka)京王ストア KEIO STORE 桜ヶ丘店
- Address 1-11-1 Sekido, Tama-shi, Tokyo, 206-0011, Japan
Seiseki-sakuragaoka Station (Keio Line), right next to the station
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. (2F is open until 9:00 p.m.)
Closed: January 1, irregularly twice a year
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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