Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

About the Fresh Ingredients

When preparing a Japanese dinner, the most important element is the freshness of the ingredients, especially since many of the dishes are served cold or raw. Ideally, shopping should be done the day before the meal, so that all the ingredients will be available for any preparations you might want to do the night before. Things like marinades and vinegared salads.

Believe it or not, the fresh vegetables required to make a Japanese dinner are not especially esoteric. Garden-variety cucumbers, carrots, garlic, scallions, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and potatoes. However, if you wish, you can get a little more exotic with specialty mushrooms like shitake, tiny Japanese eggplants called nasu, fresh daikon radish, shiso leaves, and whole ginger root.

For the fish, it?s important to buy the very freshest you can find. If you have to buy frozen fish, only use it for dishes that will be cooked. Anything served raw, such as sashimi or sushi, should be purchased specifically for that purpose. So be sure to ask your butcher if the fish is ?sushi grade? and therefore safe to be eaten raw.