Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen

Flavourings: 'Kaeshi'

味付け

A variety of flavourings are used to prepare Japanese dishes. In this episode from the series Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen, Michelin-listed chef Shimizu Akira of AKIRA restaurant introduces one of his favourites: kaeshi.

Kaeshi

Kaeshi is a flavouring often used in Japanese cuisine as a base ingredient for soups and dipping sauces. The word ‘kaeshi’ is an abbreviation for ni-kaeshi, meaning ‘second simmer’.

It is made from soy sauce, sugar and mirin (rice wine). Some recipes use cooking sake instead of mirin. The rich sauce can be mixed with dashi (Japanese stock) to make delicious soups, such as those used for ramen. It can also be used as a base for nimono (simmered dishes), sukiyaki (Japanese hot pot), or as a dipping sauce for soba (buckwheat noodles). It can also be a delicious addition to European-style dishes such as pizza, pasta, stews, or used as salad dressing.

Kaeshi Recipe

To make the hon-gaeshi variety of kaeshi, heat up 180ml of mirin in a saucepan until the alcohol has evaporated, then reduce the heat. Then add 160g of zarame, a light brown, granulated sugar. Mix well, and once the sugar has dissolved, add a litre of soy sauce before simmering over a low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Do not boil the mixture, and skim off any froth from its surface. Transfer the mixture to a container and let it mature in the fridge for a couple of weeks before using it.

Each restaurant has its own unique kaeshi recipe. It is often regarded as a signature ingredient, which defines the restaurant’s flavour, even more so than their dashi.

Using Kaeshi

Kaeshi is commonly paired with soba in one of two ways: as a dipping sauce or soup. Dilute it with a small amount of dashi to make a dipping sauce for soba. This is called kara-tsuyu (salty sauce). Diluted with more dashi, kaeshi can be used as a soup for hot soba. This is called ama-tsuyu (sweet sauce).

In his own restaurant, Akira uses home-made kaeshi to season various dishes, including bentō box, nimono and donburi. He prefers to make his hon-gaeshi with sweet soy sauce and recommends that when using the seasoning at home, use small amounts at a time as the flavour is quite strong. Akira's other tip is to mix the last third of a batch of home-made hon-gaeshi with a fresh batch. This helps the fresh ingredients mature and makes the sauce even tastier.