There are many specialty cooking tools but these are considered among the essential tools for preparing authentic Japanese food. Iíll add more in future articles, but these items will get you started on your Japanese food adventures.
Shamoji (rice paddle)
Rice paddles have a flat surface on one end and a thinner elongated handle for easy grasping. Rice paddles are used to fluff freshly steamed rice and blend ingredients into rice. The wide, large surface can lift rice with minimal contact with and damage to individual rice grains. Spoons tend to mash the rice.
Shakushi (wire mesh ladle)
Used to scoop out and strain food from liquid or hot oil, shakushi has a fine wire mesh bowl attached to a bamboo or wooden handle. The wood handle is heat resistant.
Deba Bocho (pointed carving knife)
These come in various sizes but all have a pointed tip and thick, beveled blade. Designed to debone and filet fish, deba knives can be used to cut meat, too, but are not meant to cut through heavy bone.
Usubu Bocho (vegetable knife)
Usubu allows for speedy chopping as the chef uses his knuckle against the tall edge of the thin, flat blade as a guide.
Makisu (bamboo rolling mat)
Essential for making sushi rolls, makisu also forms rolled omelets or norimaki (deep-fried, nori-wrapped meat rolls).
Tamagoyakiki or Makiyakinabe (rectangle omelet pan)
Different regions have their own style, but basically these are square or rectangular-shaped pans with a handle. Like other pans, the metal construction varies. Aluminum, copper and cast iron are common.
Saibashi (cooking chopsticks)
Long handled chopsticks, sometimes connected at the handling end with string, are made from wood or bamboo for heat resistance. Perfect for keeping hands far away from hot oil, saibashi made from metal on the cooking end and bamboo on the handling end are said to be best since the metal will not absorb seasoning and oil that can get rancid.
Suribachi and Surikogi (mortar and pestle)
Suribachi is a ceramic pottery bowl with a rough interior. The pestle or surikogi is usually made from wood to avoid grinding down the ceramic interior of the suribachi as it crushes seeds and dried herbs.
Suihanki (rice cooker)
Thesedays, everyone uses an automatic electric rice cooker as cooking rice over a flame takes practice in timing. Rice cooked in even the thickest pots will develop a crust on the bottom. Although some like to eat this golden, crunchy koge-rice, itís too easy to end up with black, charred rice. Conversely, one can end up with mushy rice if the heat is too low for too long. A suihanki cooks rice perfectly. Wash and soak the rice for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Use a ratio of 1:1 and once the rice cooker clicks off, allow the rice to steam for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Yaki Ami (wire fish basket)
A two-sided, flat wire basket with a long handle, a yaki ami allows for easy flipping when grilling soft-fleshed fish.
If you canít find these tools at your local gourmet cooking store and you donít have a local Asian food market, you can find supplies online. Overseas sites donít always have adequate English translations and then there are added international shipping rates to consider so Iíve found that Amazon.com has the best prices along with reliable, trustworthy service. Some of the products qualify for free shipping and Amazon has a good reputation for honoring returns and exchanges. Iíve never had a problem with returning a product and receiving refunds.