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With a handful of standard ingredients in your cupboard, you can make hundreds of recipes using whatever vegetables, meats, and fish you have on hand. There are 6 staple items I consider “must haves” for the Japanese Cupboard. The initial investment will be worth it. Having these items within easy reach will mean you can make Japanese food easily at anytime, and many of these items can do double duty in non-Japanese recipes, too. If you’re committed to trying out Japanese cooking in earnest, adding the ingredients in The Deluxe Cupboard list will make it possible to create nearly every dish in this book.

The Basic Cupboard: dashi, mirin, miso, rice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.

The Deluxe Cupboard: everything above, plus noodles, ponzu, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and cooking sake.

*And please, please use only light vegetable oil for cooking. No lard or olive oil! Many Japanese dishes have a subtle, delicate flavour that is altered when you use a flavourful fat. The use of oil in Japanese cooking is a practical matter – it’s to prevent burning and sticking, not to impart flavour to the dish.