We know that gift-giving is going to look a little bit different this holiday season, and the same goes for shopping: a lot of us are going to be buying gifts online. But that doesn't mean you need to stick to finding gifts at big box stores. That's why we've partnered with The Japanese Pantry to provide you with a unique gift box full of pantry staples that will surprise and delight any giftee who loves to cook.
Daniel first heard about The Japanese Pantry when Nancy Singleton Hachisu came to the Serious Eats kitchen to do a walkthrough of Japanese pantry essentials in 2018, and she praised the company for its beautifully curated inventory of ingredients. From an 85-year-old, family-owned shiitake farm to a sixth-generation somen producer, The Japanese Pantry highlights companies that even the biggest fans of Japanese cooking in the United States may not have heard about. We're excited to help showcase what they're doing.
If you want to jump right to the good stuff, you can click here to pick up a gift box for your friends or family (or yourself!). If you'd like to learn a bit more about the ingredients, read on!
I sat down (virtually) with Daniel Gritzer, our managing culinary director, to hear why he selected the ingredients he did for this gift box. Here's what he had to say:
Togarashi and Sansho Pepper Blend
"I'm really excited about these ground spices. Not only are the packages fun, visually, but the design is incredible for both of them. Most spices come in jars and, if you're like me, my cabinet is full of jars. If you have spices in vacuum packs like these, you can fit a lot more. When I opened the sansho for the first time, I was blown away by the intensity of the freshness; usually ground spices lose their edge over time, but this was so vibrant and alive—the clarity and intensity was striking. You can sprinkle either of these spices on top of dishes or cook them into dishes; togarashi, for example, is great on grilled items, like yakitori."
"When Nancy Hachisu came to the Serious Eats kitchen, she brought this brand of sesame oil. It's just eye-opening how flavorful and aromatic a high quality sesame oil can be. There are so many mass market brands that can have good flavor, but this one really captures the essence of a roasted sesame seed. It's much less overwhelming than typical sesame oils; it's more refined, gentle, and balanced."
"You can buy sesame seeds anywhere, but in my experience the flavor of these is so much fresher and more developed. The seeds are more plump compared to a lot of jarred, mass-market ones that I've had. Any time you're cooking with sesame seeds—whether you're sprinkling them whole or making a sesame paste or dressing—starting with these quality seeds upgrades the results."
Rice Vinegar and Soy Sauce
"Like olive oil or other vinegars, oftentimes when you're using whatever your baseline option is, it can be a little more harsh or have less depth of flavor. When you try these more artisanal products, it gives you a different appreciation for the roles they play in the food you eat. For me, if you're doing a lot of Japanese cooking, it's really nice to have some upgraded products. You don't have to use them in everything—that can be cost-prohibitive—but if you're finishing hand rolls or something at home, it can make a big difference.