It is both surprising and unsurprising how many people think our products are just meant for Japanese food. Why is it surprising? Many people are not familiar with working with Japanese food products, so the natural thought process is that they are only meant for Asian cuisine. This makes perfect sense to me, because before I starting working with soy sauce, I had no clue how to use it. That was the same for many ingredients before I started working with them, like olive oil.
Growing up, olive oil is what we used to make spaghetti sauce and put a little in the pasta cooking water to “prevent” the pasta from sticking. Once I was taught about olive oil and how to use it, over the years it became major flavor component in a lot of my cooking. That being said, I use olive oil for a multitude of different cuisines, even Japanese. It is noteworthy that this is the way we as North Americans cook - we intergrate many flavors from other cultures to make our own. This is what makes our cuisine so special.
When I had my restaurant, Nojo, I described the cuisine as California-Japanese. California cuisine is similar to American cuisine, but only found in California (if that makes sense). It was born out of cooking with what you could find locally, which now in other reaches of North America is what many call Farm to Table. What is completely cool is we can mix all sorts of cuisines together to form our own. The same goes for ingredients.
If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you will see some dishes and recipes that are Japanese and some that are not. Staffan Terje, chef/partner of Perbacco and Bar Bacco in San Francisco uses our products in supporting roles in his cuisine. Sometimes Staffan adds a bit of soy sauce to enhance flavors, such as making a braise. My friend Takashi is first generation Japanese. He told me his mom wanted them to integrate into American culture, so she cooked American food. She would add a touch of soy sauce here and there because she could not let go of her Japanese heritage. He jokes that she was way ahead of her time, because now you see many chefs using all sorts cross-cultural ingredients in their cooking.
This brings us back to the products from The Japanese Pantry. Have fun with them, play around with them in ways you might not think. Try to get out of your comfort zone. If you can’t, follow our recipes to see the diverse use of all these products. Think soy sauce ice cream, because it is the new salty caramel…