Japanese Recipes for Busy People

Posted on September 15, 2010


  • Where to get ingredients
  • Miso soup
  • Yaki-soba (fried noodles)

There’s a common misconception Japanese food is hard to cook. It’s a convenient notion for restarateurs but the truth is, as long as you can get hold of the right ingredients, some of it’s dead simple. Here’s how to do it like a busy, modern Japanese person.

Where to find the all-important ingredients

If you live in London, there are many specialist Japanese food shops. Some Chinese supermarkets stock Japanese ingredients too, but until you can identify what you’re looking for, I suggest going to a Japanese shop first where the staff will be able to help you out. Here are a few of the most popular shops amongst expats;

Rice Wine Shop: looks a bit like a corner shop from the outside but is well stocked and is known to be cheaper than most other Japanese supermarkets. No sashimi (raw fish) is sold here.
82 Brewer Street, Soho, W1F 9UA Open Mon to Sat 10am to 10pm, Sun 12pm to 9pm

Japan Centre: used to be on Piccadilly. Also has an online shopping service for those who live further afield.
14 – 16 Regent St.  Piccadilly, SW1Y 4PH website

Atari-Ya Foods: a chain that specializes in fresh fish for sushi and sashimi that also stocks groceries. There are branches in Finchley, West Acton, North and East Finchley and Kingston. They also run a few sushi bars.

The staff at Japanese supermarkets aren’t necessarily fluent in English. They’ll find it a lot easier to help you if you write down what you want on a piece of paper and show it to them. The Japanese name of ingredients, which should be identifiable by shop assistants, are written in [square brackets].

Recipe 1. Miso Soup

miso soup with shiitake and bean sprouts

Ingredients for one person (scale as necessary)
1 tbsp miso paste with stock [dashi iri miso] examples
150ml water
as much as you like of any of the following: tofu (fresh or fried [atsu age])/ onions/ sweet potato/ spinach/ shiitake mushroom/ mooli radish [daikon]/ bean sprouts/ pork/ prawn heads/ clams/egg/ anything else you think would go.


1. Boil the water in a saucepan and boil the ingredients without the paste. Try to stagger when you put the different items in so they’re ready around the same time.

2. Slowly melt the miso paste into the water – a good way is to put the paste into a ladle and make it thinner with the water before mixing with the rest of the soup.(Taste and add more water or paste to your preference.)

3. Garnish with fresh chopped spring onions if you like.

“Miso paste with stock” is an ingenious invention. It’s possible to buy the stock powder and miso separately, or even the dried kelp and bonito flakes to make the stock from but it’s a lot more hassle. Though if you have nothing against using Oxo cubes, this is the way to go.

Recipe 2. Yakisoba (Fried Noodles)

yaki-soba (fried noodles)

Ingredients for one person
100g pork, diced, any cut
1/4 white cabbage, roughly chopped
1 packet soft yakisoba noodles with sauce (make sure it has sauce) [yakisoba nama men so-su tsuki] example
100ml water
pickled red ginger garnish [beni shouga], if preferred examples


1. Fry the cabbage and pork in a little oil on a medium/high heat until the cabbage is soft and pork cooked through (about 5 minutes).

2. Add the noodles, sauce and about 100ml of water. Mix and cover for two minutes.

3. Serve with pickled red ginger.

In Japan, you can find all sorts of ingredients in yakisoba apart from pork and cabbage. Favourites include prawns, squid, bean sprouts, carrots and shiitake mushroom. Some people like to season their yakisoba with kewpie mayonnaise and powdered dry seaweed [aonori] too. N.B. Contrary to what the name suggests, yakisoba is made from a different type of noodle to soba, which is made of buckwheat.

Posted in: Recipe