Japanese Condiment Essentials

Essential Condiments for the Perfect Finishing Touch to Every Japanese Meal

As a companion to the article, Japanese Pantry Essentials, this list provides a comprehensive list of Japanese condiments that are essential to any Japanese kitchen. These condiments complete every Japanese meal with the perfect finishing touch.

  • 01 of 14

    Ponzu (Citrus Soy Sauce)

    Ponzu (Citrus Soy Dipping Sauce). MultiBits/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Ponzu is a citrus flavored soy sauce that is a very popular condiment used for salads, meats, fish, sushi, sashimi (raw fish), grilled vegetables, or as a dipping sauce for (hot pot), and teppanyaki (table top sautéed vegetables and meats).

  • 02 of 14

    Soy Sauce (Shoyu)

    Japanese Soy Sauce (Shoyu). © Judy Ung

    Soy sauce is used as both an ingredient and also a condiment. In Japanese cuisine, soy sauce can be used to enhance the flavor of almost any type of food. Most commonly, it is used as a condiment on tofu, sushi, vegetables, grilled fish, meat, and mochi (rice cakes).

  • 03 of 14

    Furikake (Dried Rice Seasoning)

    Furikake (Dried Seasoning for Rice). Katya Lyukum/Moment Open/Getty Images

    Furikake is a seasoning mixture of dried ingredients that is traditionally sprinkled on top of steamed rice. The dried ingredients range from seaweed, vegetables fish, egg, plum, and sesame seeds, to name a few. The applications for furikake are limited only by the creativity of the chef. Some examples include: ochazuke (rice with green tea, tofu, natto (fermented soy beans), popcorn, and grilled fish.

  • 04 of 14

    Roasted and Seasoned Seaweed (Nori)

    Nori (Roasted Seaweed). MIXA/Mixa/Getty Images

    There are many different types of dried seaweed available as condiments, but the most popular is that which is roasted and seasoned with a teriyaki flavor and cut into rectangular pieces. This type of nori is often eaten with steamed rice. Another type of plain roasted seaweed is larger and used for rice balls (onigiri), or cut and used for sushi.

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  • 05 of 14

    Aonori (Dried Green Seaweed Powder)

    Aonori (Dried Green Seaweed Powder). © Judy Ung

    Aonori literally translates to green seaweed: ao = green; nori = seaweed. This seaweed differs from nori in that the seaweed is crushed into small flakes and has a mild aroma. Traditionally, it is used to garnish dishes such as yakisoba (panfried noodles), takoyaki (small round pancake with octopus), and okonomiyaki (savory pancake). It is also used as a popular Japanese flavor for chips and other snacks.

  • 06 of 14

    White Pepper

    White Pepper (Shiro Kosho). Rachel Husband/Photographers Choice RF/Getty Images

    White Pepper

    White pepper is often used as an alternative to black pepper in Japanese cuisine. White pepper differs slightly in that it is hotter than black pepper, yet has a milder flavor than black pepper. It is often used as a condiment for ramen (soup with noodles), fried rice, stir fry dishes, vegetables and meats. 

    Suggested Recipe: Shoyu Ramen

  • 07 of 14

    Shichimi Togarashi (Seven Chili Spice)

    Shichimi Togarashi (Seven Chili Spice). Run Photo/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    Shichimi togarashi, also known as nana iro togarashi (seven color spice) is a dried hot red pepper spice that is made from seven different spices. It is spicy, but has a more complex flavor profile over plain red chili pepper. It is often used as a condiment for hot udon and soba noodles with broth, tofu, fried chicken, soup, ramen, gyoza (pot stickers), and even sashimi.

    Suggested Recipe: Spicy Tuna Donburi

  • 08 of 14

    Ichimi Togarashi (Chili Spice)

    Spicy Edamame. © Judy Ung

    Ichimi togarashi is a spice made from one type of dried red chili pepper. In Japanese it literally translates to “one flavor chili pepper”. It is used similarly to shichimi togarashi and used to spice up broth, soup, noodles, fried chicken, ramen, and gyoza (pot stickers).

    Suggested Recipe: Spicy Edamame

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  • 09 of 14

    Rayu or La-Yu (Japanese Chili Oil)

    Rayu or La-Yu (Chili Oil). Tohru MInowa/Amana Images RF/Getty Images

    La-Yu is a Japanese chili oil that is a mixture of sesame oil and red chili pepper flakes. The oil itself is tinted reddish-orange, due to the chili infused oil. It is a condiment that is commonly used with ramen, gyoza (pot stickers), and other dumplings and fried foods.

    Suggested Recipe: Vegetable and Meat Gyoza

  • 10 of 14

    Sansho (Japanese Pepper)

    Sansho (Fresh Japanese Pepper). Oliver Strewe/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

    Sansho is a ground spice made from the fruit of the Japanese pepper bush, also known as Japanese pricklyash. It is not spicy in the way that red chili peppers create heat, but rather, sansho has a tangy and zesty sensation when tasted, and has a mild aroma of lemon or citrus. It is traditionally served as a garnish to barbecued eel (kabayaki unagi), but it is also commonly used as a condiment to season chicken yakitori (grilled on skewers), and it is also one of the seven ingredients in Shichimi Togarashi (seven chili spice).

  • 11 of 14

    Wasabi (Japanese Horseradish)

    Wasabi Paste in Soy Sauce. Tobi 911/Moment Open/Getty Images

    Wasabi is green Japanese horseradish that is typically served grated and fresh to accompany sashimi (raw fish). Wasabi also comes in a dry powder, which can be mixed to make a paste, or it comes pre-made in convenient tubes. Wasabi is very strong and pungent. It’s heat and effects are similar to that of hot mustard, and causes a burning sensation. It should be used sparingly. In addition to sushi, and sashimi, it is also served with cold noodles and salads. It is common to find Japanese snacks that are wasabi flavored. 

  • 12 of 14

    Ginger (Shyoga)

    Fresh Ginger. Tetra Images/Getty Images

    Fresh ginger is commonly grated and then used as a garnish for various chilled dishes such as cold tofu (hiyayakko), sashimi (raw fish), and salads. It is also served along with certain types of sushi. Grated ginger is also used to enhance hot and cold beverages.

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  • 13 of 14

    Hot Mustard (Karashi)

    Karashi (Hot Mustard). Fotoos Van Robin/Moment Open/Getty Images

    Hot mustard, known as karashi in Japanese, is often mixed with soy sauce to create a dipping sauce for fried foods such as wontons, gyoza, harumaki (spring rolls), and other dumplings and fried foods (chicken katsu, breaded and fried shrimp etc.). Karashi is also used as a condiment for stir-fried noodles and stir fried vegetables and seafood, especially those that come with a gravy.

  • 14 of 14

    Umeboshi (Dried and Pickled Plums)

    Umeboshi (Pickled Plums). Koki Iino/Getty Images

    Umeboshi are very tart plums that have been dried and pickled. Often umeboshi is pickled with salt, and other times it is pickled with popular herbs such as shiso (perilla leaf). Although umeboshi is typically tart, it ranges in levels of saltiness and sweetness, and also has a hint of fruitiness. Umeboshi is traditionally enjoyed as a garnish for plain steamed rice, rice gruel or porridge (okayu), or ochazuke (rice soup with green tea).

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