Salty pickled plums (umebosh) are very popular with plain rice for breakfast in Japan, as they are believed to aid digestion. These dull-red plums are available in jars, and should be refrigerated after opening.
Not really pepper, but a round, reddish brown berry with a pronounced fragrance and acidic flavor, it is used primarily in Sichuan cuisine and as an ingredient in five spice powder. It is also known as prickly ash or fagara, and is often sold powdered under the Japanese name sansho.
A black, pungent, molasses-like seasoning also known ask hoy koh. Made of fermented shrimp, salt, sugar and thickeners, it is used as a sauce or a dip. It is sometimes labeled as petis and is unrelated to belachan. Usually sold in jars or plastic tubs, it is commonly added to rojak, a fruit and vegetable salad, and Penang laksa.
The leaves have an attractive dark green color, sometimes with reddish veins, and are widely used in Japanese cooking either as an ingredient or garnish. It is a member of the mint family, and the leaves have a hint of basil and spearmint flavor. They are crisp-fried as tempura, used to garnish sushi, or minced and added to rice saved with sashimi. Decorative sprigs of shiso flowers are sometimes used as a garnish.
Small, round and pinkish-purple, shallots add a sweet oniony flavor and a hint of garlic to countless dishes. They are also sliced, deep-fried and used as a garnish. Indonesian shallots are smaller and milder than those found in many Western countries.
Seven- spice chili powder (shichimi) is a mixture of several different spices and flavor. It contais sansho, ground chilies, hemp seeds, dried orange peel, flakes of nori, white sesame seeds and white poppy seeds. Shichimi togarashi, a similar but spicier condiment, consist of several types of chilies and spices. Both are available in small bottles in Japanese stores.
Extracted from roasted (darker oil) or raw (lighter oil) sesame seeds. It is used as a seasoning and never for stir-fries as high heat turns is bitter.
Both black and white sesame seeds, the latter more common, are use in Japanese cooking. White sesame seeds are toasted and crushed make a paste; if you don’t want to do this yourself, you can buy either a Chinese or Japanese brand of sesame paste. Smooth peanut butter makes a good substitute. Middle-Eastern tahini, which is slightly bitter, has a different flavor, as the sesame seeds have not been toasted before grinding; add a bit of sugar if you are using tahini as a substitute.
Salty and with a distinctive tang, these are often lightly pounded before being used to season fish, noodle or vegetables dishes, varieties packed in China are sometimes labelled “ Yellow Bean Sauce.” Mash slightly before using. Sichuan brands contain additional chili. Keeps indefinitely on the shelf. Japanese miso is similar and may be substituted.
Also known as kiamchye, this is slighty sour extremely salty. Various types of heavily salted cabbage are used in some Chinese and Nonya dishes; the most common is made from mustard cabbage. Soak in fresh water for at least 15 minutes to remove excess salt, repeating if necessary.