A bowl of rice and miso soup. The photo above shows what I had for breakfast one morning. It may look too simple and I admit I wasn’t excited about those food when I was younger. But now, I feel like these food are luxury. The warm freshly cooked Japanese rice is my comfort food. The miso soup made with the homemade miso I made with my friends is so good that I can’t go back to the supermarket miso.
With my love for simple Japanese food, I will introduce 5 halal ingredients you may use to cook Japanese meal.
Japanese rice is short-grain rice. There are many cultivars and brands of Japanese rice and the texture vary depending on the cultivar. The most common brands sold overseas are Sasanishiki and Koshihikari.
Koshihikari has more moist and sticker texture compared to Sasanishiki. Usually, for sushi, Sasanishiki type of rice is recommended since less stickier rice is preferred.
If you like the unique stickiness of Japanese rice, Koshihikari is recommended.
Other popular brands that are close to Koshihikari type are Tsuyahime and Yumepirika. Tsuyahime is so delicious!! Recommended!!
To really appreciate Japanese rice, please try shinmai, or newly harvested rice that goes on sale from autumn. The taste, shininess, and flavor of shinmai is so special like no other rice.
Miso is fermented soybean paste. Miso is used in various meals. The most popular miso dish in the world would be the miso soup.
The basic ingredients of Miso are soybeans, salt, and koji (a fermentation culture, Aspergillus oryzae). Since sometimes ethanol is used as a preservative, if you want to make sure it is alcohol-free, there are now halal certified miso produced by Japanese companies such as Hikari Miso and Marukome. If you cannot find halal-certified miso, choose the one without additives or ethanol.
From the left:
Dashi means stock in Japanese. Katsuo dashi (bonito stock) and konbu dashi (kelp stock) are used in various Japanese meals including miso soup.
You can buy a bag of bonito flake or kelp and easily make the dashi yourself. Or you can buy the instant dashi powder and it is even easier. If you want to buy the powder version, you may want to choose a product that is additive-free.
The basic ingredients of soy sauce are soybeans, wheat, and salt but just like miso, sometimes a bit of alcohol is used as a preservative. There are some halal certified soy sauce produced by Japanese companies.
Those brands listed below produce few kinds of halal soy sauce for different usage. Besides the common soy sauce known as koikuchi dark-colored soy sauce, there are usukkuchi light-colored soy sauce, which can be used when you want to preserve the color and flavor of the ingredients. Some produce soy sauce with dashi or soy sauce for eggs! Soy Sauce Vinegar by Manryou is soy sauce that contains vinegar and dashi stock.
From the left:
Kewpie Mayonnaise Japanese Style
Kewpie Mayonnaise is different from any other mayonnaise. The long-loved Japanese mayo born in the early 20th century is now popular even outside Japan.
In 2016, they produced halal mayo, Kewpie Mayonnaise Japanese Style (Halal Certified), which has almost the same flavor as the original Kewpie mayo.
The uniqueness of the Kewpie mayo flavor is the strong taste of egg yolk. Compared to American mayo, Kewpie mayo is more yellow in color, thicker in texture, and less sweet and more tangy in flavor.
Some Japanese people adore the flavor and claim themselves “mayo-ler.” It’s a coined term combining “mayo” and a suffix “er”. Mayolers would put mayonnaise on almost anything. Usually they are referring only to Kewpie Mayonnaise and not any other.
Ingredients you may want to avoid: Sake and Mirin
When you look at Japanese recipes, you may see a seasoning called sake and mirin. These are both alcohol, so you may want to avoid using them.
Mirin is sweet cooking rice wine. It is often used in Japanese cooking. Compared to sake, the content of alcohol is lower and it is sweet but it is still alcohol. If you see that in a recipe, I would say just omit that or put a bit of sugar instead. There are also halal mirin in the market, I’ve seen mirin style seasoning in southeast Asia that does not contain alcohol.
Also, if you want to avoid vinegar that might contain something you are not sure of, substitute with that with some juice of a fresh lemon.
Make your Japanese Meal
A typical Japanese meal comes with a bowl of Japanese rice, miso soup with any ingredients, a main dish, and some pickled vegetable or salad. I hope you can make your own Japanese meal at home using those safe halal ingredients.