Sometimes sweet and sometimes spicy, either way we all love sauces. Some foods are difficult to imagine without them; they make our food taste better and can be fun to experiment and mix together to transform the sauce into a new taste. Japanese cuisine is one of the world’s most delicious and these sauces contribute to its excellence.
10. Tonkatsu Sauce
For those of you who do not know tonkatsu, it is a pork chop battered and deep-fried. The sauce is slightly sour and thick with a taste similar to American steak sauce. By itself, tonkatsu is a pretty generic cooked pork meat with its vegetable oil and bread crumb batter but with the sauce, it can turn into an excellent, memorable meal. Add this delicious liquid to your tonkatsu or any other deep-fried concoction and you have made yourself a mouthwatering dish to make your taste buds soar. Not just pork meat, it can be poured on any meat or fried food to make it better.
9. Kushikatsu Sauce
Like tonkatsu sauce, this is one whose main component is a deep-fried food dish. In this case, kushikatsu or multiple deep-fried foods on bamboo wood skewers. It is very sweet and thin and I must admit is not easy to find as only a select few stores in Japan sell it. You can find this in any Japanese kushikatsu restaurant, but always know this rule: you cannot dip your fried food in the sauce more than once (think the no-double-dipping-rule from TV’s Seinfeld taken over seriously)! It is strictly forbidden and you will be kicked out if caught breaking this rule. Apart from that, the sauce tastes very good spread on grilled meat or as marinade.
8. Yakiniku Dare Sauce
This sauce and meat were practically meant for each other. Yakiniku means grilled meat, which is delicious by itself, but the Japanese have invented a sauce that makes the dish perfect. After you have cooked your meat over a hot grill until it becomes brown, just pour the sauce over the meat and it instantly becomes better. It is thin and comes in a variety of flavors. Depending on your choice, you can enjoy it spicy or sweet.
Hideya HAMANO on Flickr
7. Yakisoba Sauce
Now this sauce and the famous Kansai dish yakisoba actually were meant for other. Yakisoba is egg noodles grilled with pork meat, vegetables and ginger then drowned in this sauce. The sauce is thick and brown with a slight sour consistency. Once you grill your yakisoba, add this sauce and you will have made an excellent, filling meal that is loaded with flavor.
Naotake Murayama on Flickr
6. Goma Dare (Sesame Sauce)
Most of the mentioned sauces are thin, this one however is thick and creamy. It is made from sesame seeds and goes very well with meat or salads. I’ve even heard of it poured onto fruit! Goma dare’s best component meal however is shabu shabu, or Japanese hot pot. Heat your meat or vegetables in the boiling broth, then dip them into this delightful brown cream to make it taste better with every bite.
JAPANKURU on Flickr
5. Karashi (Hot Mustard)
French-style yellow mustard is not so popular here but hot mustard sure is. Karashi, just as spicy as wasabi, can spice up your sausage, Chinese dumplings or my personal choice, natto (Japanese fermented soy beans). It may be the same color as Western mustard, but contains seeds from the species Brassica Juncea making it spicier and more likely to flare your nostrils. Japan does not have much spicy food in its cuisine, but this can help anyone living here with a craving for something other than wasabi.
4. Okonomi Sauce
Try to say that name out loud. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake, pizza or omelet—we’ll call it a panzzalet—that contains cabbage, pork or octopus meat, a fried egg, mixed with batter and grilled over a flat iron. Just like yakisoba sause, it is a brown, sweet/sour, thick Japanese condiment but more sour and richer in flavor. And when put on top of the okonomiyaki (mayonnaise is often mixed with okonomi sauce), you can make yourself a fantastic flat Kansai dish that will fill you up faster than the time it will take you to finish this sentence. While it goes great on Japanese panzzalet, you can also use it to make your meat sweater or fried food tangier.
Dmitry.S. on Flickr
3. Miso Sauce
Not only for soup, add a good helping of miso paste to make a smooth sauce that goes great with meat or steamed vegetables. Its recipe is quite simple: a good helping of miso paste, mirin and sugar mixed together. Because of its mixture of alcohol and fermented beans, it can live in your fridge for months without molding. It is also vegan. Spread this on your next meat dish or dip your favorite vegetables in and you will finish your meal smiling brightly.
Kakei.R on Flickr
2. Ponzu Sauce
This may look like soy sauce, and it is made from soy sauce but is far from being that. Ponzu is thin, citrusy and tastes great with a variety of foods like salad or meat. A great recipe for tastier meat is grated daikon (or Asian) radish mixed with ponzu as a healthy dip. By itself, this sauce can liven up a vegetable or grilled meat dish. Try it with Japanese yuzu fruit juice.
s.yume on Flickr
1. Soy Sauce
Did you have any doubts? This wonderful, black liquid is not only a popular condiment found in almost every pantry in the world, but is one of the best sauces ever invented, PERIOD! Made from the liquid of fermented soybeans, it is extremely salty and can boost the flavor of any meat, plus makes a great addition to soy sauce-based dressings. What kind of food would sushi be without this great blessing of a sauce? Just raw fish with rice, that’s what. It can be found in almost any grocery store in the world and any fine Japanese restaurant.
bryan... on Flickr
For your trip to Japan, be sure to bring home a few bottles of these great sauces. They can make your food taste better and add an Asian flare to your kitchen. Enjoy!