The Best Food Ingredients To Buy At The Japanese Supermarket


One of the things that Japan is most famous for is its food culture, with there being no shortage of places to eat. As much as it is nice to regularly go out and try all the amazing cuisine Tokyo has to offer, sometimes you just want to stay in the comfort of your own home and eat in. Given that each of our SUMIFUKU apartments come with a beautiful and fully furnished kitchen, there is no better excuse to spend some time cooking a nice meal indoors.

Grocery shopping in Tokyo isn’t always the cheapest and it can sometimes be hard to know what ingredients to get. If you are someone who is looking to get the best value for money when food shopping, as well as versatile ingredients which can be used in a variety of ways, then continue reading on!

① Fruit & Vegetables

Japan is known for selling fruits and vegetables at a slightly higher price than a lot of other countries do. This is partly due to the fact that in Japan, fruits especially, are given as a gift. The price of individual fruits and vegetables can dissuade some people from adding them into their weekly shop. It is important to add as many fruits and vegetables into your diet since they provide vital minerals and vitamins.

Naturally, even in the supermarket, some of the best quality individual fruit can be quite pricey. For fruit which is not only fresh but much more reasonably priced, bananas and oranges are the way to go. They are normally sold in a sealed packet and serve as the perfect healthy snack alternative.

In the case that you are looking for vegetables which can be bought in bulk, used in a variety of dishes, and are reasonably priced, onions, and carrots are a good option to go for. A pack of 3 will cost you no more than ¥200 and they don’t go off that easily so you have time to use them.

Tomatoes are also cheap to buy and can be used in salads, sandwiches and much more. You can get a packet of cherry tomatoes for around ¥250. You could also add some greens such as cabbage, pak choi, and spinach, as the majority of these are sold for under ¥300.

You could also add some greens such as cabbage, pak choi, and spinach, as the majority of these are sold for under ¥300.

② Meat & Fish

Japanese supermarkets have a solid meat and fish section where you can buy good quality, and often restaurant standard, ingredients.

In regards to meat, you can buy a reasonable-sized pack of beef, pork or chicken for ¥1000 or less. If you are looking for something which is finer quality, then you are looking at around ¥2000 plus for a pack. It is also worth noting that you can find meat sold in this section which has already been marinated with sauce and topped with some vegetables. These are a great choice if you are making a stir fry.

There are also many different types of fish including sashimi and frozen fish. You can buy good quality salmon, which you can fry or boil, for as little as ¥300. In terms of sashimi, you can get some maguro (tuna) for around ¥500 and this can just easily be topped on rice. Supermarkets also sell packs of frozen fish such as prawn, which is a good choice if you don’t mind having fish which isn’t as fresh but lasts a lot longer.

One thing to keep in mind about fish and meat which is sold at the supermarket is that it doesn’t stay fresh for very long so you will need to eat it pretty soon after it’s been brought or remember to freeze it for a later date. Finally, for those who are vegan, you can buy no-meat alternatives but this is still not that commonly sold in supermarkets and there isn’t that much variety as of now. 

③ Rice

A staple in the Japanese diet, rice is used in many traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes. Rice is a must-have ingredient as it not only is easy to cook, lasts a long time, and can be frozen, but you can make several types of recipes using it.

There is a wide variety of rice to choose from including white, brown rice and sushi rice (sasanishiki). Each bag can cost anywhere from ¥880 to nearly ¥3000. If you are someone who likes cooking often, then it is recommended to invest in a bigger bag of good quality rice. Some of the most popular rice brands in Japan include 山形県産つや姫 (Tsuyahime), which comes from the Yamagata Prefecture and 魚沼コシヒカリ新潟県, a white rice which is cultivated in the Niigata Prefecture.

If you aren’t keen on using a rice cooker or don’t need a whole bag of rice, opt for the individual packets of microwavable rice instead. Cooking this is as easy as it sounds, you simply need to put the packet in a microwave for a matter of minutes and then it’s done. The other great thing about these packs is that they come in the perfect portion size. A single one can cost as little as ¥113, depending on which brand and size you choose. To get the best value for money, it is best to pick up a bulk pack which includes 4 or 5 individual ones as these only cost around ¥400 to ¥500.

④ Noodles

Noodles are also used in a lot of Japanese dishes. Some of the most popular types of noodles include soba, udon, and ramen, all which can be bought in a pack for a reasonable price. They are super easy and quick to make and only require a few toppings and extra ingredients.

Japan is also famous for its instant noodles, especially the pot noodle. These are not only convenient and cheap but they are super filling. Although not the healthiest, they are a good choice if you just want something quick and easy. From instant ramen to yakisoba, there is a lot to choose from, with the most notable ones being Donbei, U.F.O Yakisoba, and of course, the famous Cup Noodle.

⑤ Cooking Sauces

If you want to cook authentic tasting Japanese dishes, then you will need to at least invest in some soy sauce and mirin (rice wine). These two ingredients are used in the majority of Japanese dishes as they help to add depth and flavour. At the supermarket you will find that these two sauces are sold in both bigger and smaller bottles, depending on the brand and quality.

Notably, there are two main types of soy sauce: dark and light, so it is good to also consider which one of these you would prefer. Dark soy sauce is often thicker and used to add colour, whereas light soy sauce is used to flavour food. There are also different types of mirin including Hon-mirin, mirin and a mirin-like condiment. Since it is likely that you will use these ingredients a lot, buying a bigger sized bottle is highly recommended. These cost anywhere from ¥200 to ¥400. 

⑥ Curry Roux

Curry roux is a great food ingredient to choose as they are not only easy to cook but can be used for multiple dishes. It helps to make a thick curry sauce and is most commonly paired with rice to make a hearty and homely dish. Costing as little as ¥98, curry roux is a sustainable ingredient in the sense that each pack includes at least two curry blocks, which makes around four portions of curry. This means you can bulk make a curry, put it in the fridge and reheat to enjoy later on.

It is worth keeping in mind that different curry roux have different spice levels: 甘口 (mild), 中辛 (middle), 辛口 (hot) and 大辛 (super hot). Some of the best brands include House Vermont Curry, House Java Curry, Kokumaro Curry, and S&B Golden Curry. To make the ultimate Japanese-style curry, you will need to also get some carrots, potatoes, onions and meat.

⑦ Natto & Furikake

If you are wanting to top your rice with something other than a curry sauce, then you could also try using natto or furikake. For those who are unfamiliar with what these two ingredients are, natto is made from fermented soybeans and has a sticky texture and slightly bitter taste to it. It is one of these things that people either love or hate. For those who fall into the love category, natto is a great ingredient to buy as a pack of three only costs around ¥100. You can even use it on top of other carbs such as soba and bread.

Alternatively, you could top your rice with a type of furikake instead. Furikake is a type of seasoning typically made out of a mixture of dried fish, sesame seeds and chopped seaweed and it is a simple way to add a little bit of flavour to your dish. The most popular furikake brands are Noritama (made with dried seaweed and eggs), Sukiyaki (beef hot pot flavoured) and Yukari (tastes like pickled plums). There are even types of furikake specially designed for children, which are less salty, and are based on popular animated characters such as Pokemon and Anpanman.

⑧ Miso

Miso is another staple Japanese cooking ingredient, a thick paste made out of fermented soybeans and salt. It is most often used to make miso soup but can also be used to make a marinade for different meats and vegetables. Tubs of miso don’t cost much at all and they are a versatile ingredient which can last for a long time. Another bonus is that miso is good for you as it promotes gut health, similar to natto.

Although miso soup is fairly easy to make, you may want to instead choose to buy packets of instant miso soup, which simply involves putting the paste into a bowl and pouring boiling water over it. There are many different flavours to choose from, with some of the most popular being wakame, tofu and abura-age (deep-fried tofu). A pack of eight instant miso soups cost as little as ¥108 and they are a great side dish to have alongside a main meal.

⑨ Senbei

Japanese rice crackers, known as 煎餅 (senbei), are a healthy snack choice which come in many savory and sweet flavours such as soy sauce, seaweed and shrimp. Since they are often sold in a medium sized packet, which cost no more than ¥200, they are affordable and last a while. There is a culture that many Japanese people have adopted, giving out senbei when serving green tea to guests who are visiting. With this in mind, it could be a good idea to pick some up if you are planning to have people come over!

The must-try senbei brands include Age-Ichiban (a crispy senbei covered in honey and soy sauce), Tsumami-Rui (an assortment pack of rice crackers and flavours) and Pota Pota-Yaki (a senbei baked in soy sauce). 

⑩ Bread

Bread is an essential ingredient to have in your kitchen as it can be used to make different things. You could try adding tuna and cheese or bacon and egg on top to replicate some of the popular savoury breads found in Japanese bakeries. Most supermarket loaves contain four to eight pieces of white bread which costs under ¥200.

At the supermarket, you can also find packets of mini buns which have different fillings inside including butter, raisins, and cream. These are a good choice for breakfast as well, though not the most substantial. 

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