The Japanese Pantry is dedicated to bringing the best quality artisanal Japanese ingredients that we have found in our travels in Japan to professional and recreational cooks in North America.”
That’s The Japanese Pantry’s motto (started in 2015). And of course, I wanted to know more about this intriguing company! I found them a number of months ago on Facebook and was thrilled to see that they are also based in San Francisco like me! So, I met with Chris Bonomo, one of the Co-Founders at their local warehouse for a behind the scenes sneak peak of their operation. Greg Dunmore, the other Co-Founder and former chef/owner of Nojo, was in Japan on a sourcing trip (which is always a good sign to me!)
Although it was the first time we had met, we immediately started talking about how we fell in love with Japan, our families and kids, and recent and or upcoming trips to Japan. Chris then led me on a 2 hour taste test of soy sauces, sesame oils, sesame pastes, vinegars and spices. He was extraordinary, erudite, knowledgeable and so passionate about Japan and all of what they have to offer, especially food-wise. My taste buds just exploded with each taste, over and over. It was so much fun and I learned so much!
Yugeta Shoyu Smoked Soy Sauce (it has now replaced regular soy sauce as a dipping sauce for sashimi in my kitchen). The smokiness comes from using cherry wood and is not overwhelming at all, instead it just adds another subtle layer of umami to whatever dish you are using it in.
I’ve used Osaka-based Tsujita’s Yuzu Shichimi Togarashi (Yuzu Japanese Seven Spice Mixture) with hints of dried yuzu (Japanese citron) as a condiment for a variety of noodle dishes and also added it to a cucumber salad, mixed with Sesame dressing to add another layer of heat and spice at a recent dinner party. And this morning, I sprinkled it on an avocado. Yum! Per Chris’s suggestion, I am keeping it in the freezer to preserve freshness.
On a side note, as we were winding up our taste test, I mentioned how much I love the flavor and seductive aroma of yuzu (Japanese citron). And wondered where does Chris like to shop for yuzu products? He recommended Nijiya Market in San Francisco, Berkeley Bowl and Tokyo Fish, both in Berkeley and Umami Mart in Oakland, which has a whole page on their website dedicated to yuzu products. He also introduced me Choya’s Yuzu Soda, sold at Tokyo Fish and other markets, which is delicious! More about yuzu in my next blog posting.
If you’re like me (and like Chris and Greg) and want a source for artisanal Japanese ingredients in North America (because you know we can’t just hop over to Japan every few weeks to do our shopping) I find the Japanese Pantry to be an excellent online choice with high quality ingredients. You can even learn about the producers they source their products from.
Here are a few highlights from their offerings: specialty kits such as a sesame kit are for sale, as well as Okinawan brown sugar, a gorgeous Japanese mortar and pestle and an extensive array of soy sauces, vinegars, sesame products, seaweed, spices and so on are sold on their website (even gift cards for that hard to buy from person).
I have to admit that I like to troll through the product offerings on their website every week or so to learn more about the products and producers and to see what else is new, and to check out their recipes. Let me know if you try any of their products and what you think.
The Japanese Pantry LLC
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