As you start down your Japanese home cooking experience, it's a great idea to pick up a few staple ingredients that will help build the foundation of many of the recipes you’ll want to try. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the fundamental “5 S” ingredients of Japanese cooking and how to store them.
Sa - Sato (Sugar)
Both white (eg johakuto or guranyuto) and brown (eg. kurosato or kokuto) sugar are essential for Japanese cooking. And, sugar being sugar, proper storage is a must to avoid hardening or mold growth. To this end, keeping white sugar stored in an air tight, room temperature container is a must. Brown sugar, on the other hand, is best stored in the refrigerator after opening.
Shi - Shio (Salt)
Salt is very sensitive to humidity, so keeping it in a cool dry place is also best, or store it with a desiccant like silica plastic or even rice!
Vinegar is remarkably shelf stable, so after you open it, it is good for about six months. If you are looking into other cooking vinegars, such as rice, apple, or ponzu, it might be a good idea to store it in the fridge for maximum freshness.
Se (Soy Sauce)
Given how you often see large bottles of soy sauce for sale, it actually has the shortest shelf life on this list. Properly stored in the refrigerator, you can expect about a month of peak flavor.
The savory umami packed fermented bean paste is a must, and will last for three to six months in the fridge. For best results, make sure to seal it as airtight as you can to get the most out of it!
BONUS: Mirin or Hon-Mirin
Mirin, a sweetened cooking wine, is used in many recipes and will definitely be useful in your cooking journey. There are different types including hon-mirin (or "true mirin" and a cheaper alternative that is a mirin type seasoning (learn more about the types of mirin). Be sure to store hon-mirin at or near room temperature, as the sugars in it could crystalize if kept too cool, while mirin type seasonings should be stored in the fridge.
About the author:
Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen. Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!