32 Essential Japanese Cooking Tools, Supplies & Utensils
Japan is known for having one of the oldest and richest culinary traditions of any country in the world. The country that gave the world sushi and kitchen knives that perform like samurai swords is home to plenty of other kitchen tools that are treasured by home cooks and professional chefs alike. In this article we’ll discuss some of the other kitchen tools that are found in most Japanese kitchens and explain why you’ll want to add them to your collection as well.
- Tamagoyaki Pan - this rectangular frying pan is the perfect tool for making the sweet rolled omelettes, known as tamagoyaki that can be found throughout Japan. A staple of bento boxes, tamagoyaki is a foundational dish in Japanese cuisine.
- Otoshibuta/ Drop Lid - an otobushi is a drop lid that has a slightly smaller circumference than the pot you are using. Its main purpose is to hold the ingredients in place while the sauce or broth circulates around. This prevents the ingredients from getting jostled or broken up, as well as minimizes evaporation. They can be made of wood, silicone or stainless steel. In a pinch a otoshibuta can be made from parchment paper.
- Yukihira Nabe - one of the most common cooking pots found in Japan are Yukihira Nabe. Made from hammered aluminum, with a heat resistant wood handle and no lid, yukihira nabe are available in a range of sizes and are an affordable cookware option.
- Electric Rice Cooker - Found in virtually every home in Japan, an electric rice cooker cooks Japanese rice, the staple of Japanese cuisine to perfection. Since rice can be eaten at every meal, the rice cooker can be programmed to cook it at a specific time and to hold it at temperature for many hours.
- Iwatani Gas Burner - This culinary torch works with disposable gas canisters to create a strong adjustable flame that can efficiently sear the outside surface of fish and other proteins found in Japanese food.
- Takoyaki Pan - Takoyaki is a battered octopus ball loved by Japanese young and old alike. A street food staple, found at festivals, a dimpled takoyaki pan allows you to make this dish at home. Common additions to the batter are scallions, pickled ginger, tempura bits and octopus. Takoyaki is usually garnished with katsuobushi flakes, aonori (green seaweed) mayonnaise and a savory sauce.
- Donabe Earthenware Pot - A donabe is a traditional lidded earthenware pot. They come in a range of sizes, from individual to quite large and are perfect for braising and simmering stews. Donabes are commonly used in dishes that feature tableside communal dining like sukiyaki and shabu shabu.
- Taiyaki Pan - Taiyaki is a classic street snack in the shape of a Tai (seabream). They are typically filled with sweet bean paste or custard. Having a taiyaki pan allows you to create waffle like taiyaki cakes at home and use virtually any filling.
- Indoor Japanese Grill - tabletop konro are small cooking grills that allow for communal table top cooking for grilled meats, seafood or vegetables.
- Outdoor Japanese Grill - BBQ Konro are larger table top grills that can be used outside or indoors with proper ventilation. Konros are essential for traditional Japanese dishes like yakitori.
- Long Chopsticks -saibashi are long cooking chopsticks. They are perfect for gingerly manipulating ingredients and have a much softer touch than tongs. They are often made of wood, bamboo or silicone.
Cooking Prep Tools
- Japanese Knives - Probably the single most essential Japanese cooking tool is a sharp Japanese Knife. The most common shapes are the Japanese Chef’s Knife - Gyuto, small utility knife - Petty, all purpose santoku and sujihiki or slicer.
- Fine Mesh Skimmer - skimmers are important for making stocks, soups and stews. These cooking utensils can remove impurities from the top of the pot and help retrieve ingredients as they are cooked to desired completion.
- Noodle Strainer - Japanese cuisine features a number of noodles cooked in hot liquid. Whether soba, udon, some or ramen, a Japanese style noodle strainer lets you quickly and efficiently drain noodles.
- Miso Strainer & Miso Muddler - miso soup is enjoyed daily throughout Japan. Using a dedicated Miso Strainer and pestle allows the fermented bean paste to be quickly incorporated into the broth.
- Suribachi and Surikogi - Ground sesame appears often in Japanese cuisine, either as a condiment or incorporated into sauces. A suribachi is a dedicated tool, a ceramic bowl with grooves for the sesame to be ground to the desired consistency.
- Ceramic Grater - a small ceramic plate with raised nubs is the preferred tool for grating ginger and garlic.
- Japanese Grater - small copper or metal graters are the go to kitchen utensil for grating ginger and other aromatics.
- Hangiri/ Sushi Oke - A hangiri is a flat wooden tub used in preparing rice for sushi. The wooden material absorbs excess moisture and creates the perfect surface for cooling rice and preparing it for the addition of vinegar, sugar and salt.
- Bamboo Sushi Rolling Mat - A makisu is a woven mat that aids in the rolling prepared rice, seaweed and other ingredients into sushi rolls.
- Onigiri Mold - onigiri (filled rice balls) are a common snack or meal on the go throughout Japan. These triangular shaped treats can be made by hand, but for uniformity, a wooden or plastic mold can be used.
- Bamboo Skewers - Bamboo skewers of various shapes and sizes are used throughout Japan for grilled chicken (yakitori) grilled meats (yakiniku) and fried skewers (kushiage). Various ingredients are skewered for presentation in bentos, lunch boxes and other common presentations.
- Hinoki Cypress Wood Cutting Board - wooden cutting boards protect the super sharp edges of knives and Hinoki, Japanese cedar is a top choice. Synthetic materials are a popular choice in professional kitchens.
- Rice Washing Bowl - The first step to preparing a well made bowl of rice is careful and thorough washing until all the residue from polishing is washed away and the water remains clear. A dedicated rice washing bowl with perforations to let the cloudy water wash away makes this important talk much easier.
Kitchenware & Accessories
- Serving Ladle for Hot pot - Japanese cuisine features a number of broth boiled dishes as well as table side cooking. Various serving ladles with perforations allow selection of specific ingredients while controlling how much broth is served.
- Knife Sharpening Tools - All knives need to be sharpened periodically on a whetstone to maintain peak performance. Sharpening stones are available in a wide range of grits. We recommend a double-sided #1000/#4000 sharpening stone for routine maintenance.
- Ramen Bowls - Tableware is a key component of Japanese food service. Wide deep bowls for serving noodles and broth and their accompanying seasonings are essential.
- Dipping Bowls - small bowls and shallow dishes in various sizes to hold sauces. Examples include soy sauce for sake. Tsuyu dishes for noodle preparations that are dipped before eating. And light brothy sauces such as tempura.
- Japanese Sake Set - whether sake is served warmed or cold, you’ll typically find some combination of carafe and small cups when sake is served.
- Tetsubin Teapot - a cast iron teapot used both ceremonially and at home for heating water before preparing tea.
- Jubako - lacquer boxes for formal food presentation. Commonly used in layered dishes such as eel over rice or chirashizushi.
- Tawashi Brush - a fibrous brush that can be used to scrub pots and pans for cleaning.
Conclusion: Japanese has an incredibly diverse and rich culinary tradition and features a huge number of specialized tools and equipment. Many of these tools have gone unchanged for centuries and represent some of the best craftsmanship Japan has to offer. Many of these excellent tools have utility in cuisines and kitchens throughout the world.