Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

What is Mentsuyu?

A super sauce

One of the greatest Japanese ingredients to have around in your pantry is a little product known by the Japanese as mentsuyu. Mentsuyu is a subtle but flavoursome broth that can be found easily in Japanese supermarkets both in Japan and around the world. It is an all important ingredient that goes hand in hand with noodle dishes and can be utilized easily in many dishes.

 

Mentsuyu is a sauce used for Japanese dishes and is especially important for many noodle dishes. The Japanese word gmentsuyuh when broken down speaks volumes about the purpose of the sauce. Men means noodles and tsuyu means sauce so this really is a sauce for noodles. Pretty much any noodles can be eaten with mentsuyu but it is especially good for dipping soba (buckwheat noodle), udon noodles and tempura too!! Also, it can be used to make some nice stock for making nimono (a common and well liked simmered dish in Japanese cuisine), oden (a Japanese winter dish consisting of several ingredients such as daikon, boiled eggs, seaweed and processed fishcakes..etc.), soba and udon noodles.


Ingredients

Mentsuyu is made using sugar, soy sauce, mirin and dashi stock, which you could easily make by yourself. However, itfs easier if you donft have to make it yourself, especially for dipping soba in. You can just pour it in a little bowl and dip the soba in and eat! How easy is that? The key to mentsuyu is the dashi (fish stock) which gives the key flavour component of the sauce. Dashi is a traditional Japanese stock with many health benefits that is used to form the base of many japanese dishes, especially soups and nimono.

 

There are various types of dashi that are used with various health benefits and each one suits different styles of foods and tastes such as niboshi (made from sardines), shiitake (made from dried shiitake mushrooms), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) to name but a few. These stocks have many health benefits and are delicious and an essential part of the Japanese diet, theyfre not too difficult to make on your own and can also be easily purchased from shops selling Japanese foods. Mentsuyu is all about dashi so of course there are various kinds of mentsuyu differing by the dashi that has been added. Some are a mixture of kelp and fish dashi or individual kinds of dashi. If you donft like fishiness then you could grab a mentsuyu which only uses kelp as the base stock.

 

When you use mentsuyu for dipping for noodles, you should put some wasabi paste in too (not too much because itfs hot) and mix it around, wasabi goes so well with mentsuyu so that you can not stop eating the noodles!! Just in case you donft know what wasabi is.. Wasabi is a Japanese plant or root vegetable (it is known in English as Japanese Horseradish) with a thick green root which tastes like strong horseradish and is used in cooking, especially in powder or paste forms as an accompaniment to raw fish. The wasabi plant is a member of the Brassicaceae family (which also includes cabbages, horseradish and mustard). The root of the Wasabi plant is used as a condiment and has an extremely strong flavour. Its hotness is more like a hot mustard - the vapours tend to stimulate the nasal passages more than they do the tongue, so whilst you might not feel a burning sensation or experience a numb tongue it will certainly help you to clear any sinuses. Because the burning sensation of wasabi is not oil based it is only a short burning sensation compared to that of a chilli, the burning sensation will go away after a short time and it is recommended you eat and drink as normal which will assist in the alleviation of the burning. It is very important to remember that less is always more when it comes to Wasabi; the more you have the more painful the burn is going to be. Just a note, putting wasabi in is only for dipping noodle dishes. Wasabi is around everywhere these days too, so you can go to the same section of the supermarket and buy mentsuyu, soba / udon noodles and wasabi together, thatfs one meal;)

Super easy

Mentsuyu is certainly one of the easier ingredients to make use of in Japanese cuisine. An example of everyday use in Japan of mentsuyu is somen. Somen are a very common noodle that are very popular in the summer as they are very light. Most Japanese will pour a little mentsuyu in a small bowl, add some cold water with ice and that is the dipping sauce for the noodles. This is extremely simple but effective. The next part of course is to pick up the noodles with chopsticks, dip them into the sauce and enjoy the subtle yet flavoursome taste. Itfs always easy to strengthen the flavour by adding a little more mentsuyu to increase its concentration but usually a low concentration is enough. Mentsuyu is not a thick sauce like curry is for example. It has a similar consistency to water so it is very easy to dip noodles into and this also means that the noodles will always be lighted covered in mentsuyu due to the water like consistency.

 

Well, this is just a little side story.. mentsuyu has been talked about a lot in Japan in recent years because of the effect of preventing the increase of midge flies. You know those midge flies flying around brown bananas? Supposedly, they love mentsuyu smell so what people have been doing in the summer when lots of midge flies annoy people is to put some mentsuyu and a few drops of dish detergent in a cup of water, and leave it close to where the midge flies are around. In about a couple of hours, they will all be in the bottle dead. Itfs a free midge flies detector!!!!!

 

Mentsuyu is a great Japanese ingredient and a must have for those who love noodles. If youfd like to try some, head down to your local Japanese supermarket and pick some up, itfs cheap, lasts long and is easy to use.