Simple, flavorful, and nutrient rich, Japanese cuisine is the perfect antidote to heavy winter fare. Incorporate these five healthy staples into your meal routine.


A fermented, sweet-rice wine that can balance salty tamari and miso. Authentic mirin gets its sweetness from the natural brewing process; some varieties add sugar or corn syrup, so read labels. Tips» Sprinkle over steamed greens or vegetables, or combine with tamari, grated ginger, and sesame oil for a quick marinade.


A salt-pickled Japanese plum, is a tangy-savory condiment sometimes used in traditional medicine to treat nausea or indigestion. You’ll find it as a thick paste or vinegar, or as whole plums. Tips» Use the vinegar in dressings, add a dab of the paste to cooked vegetables, or tuck half a plum into a ball of cooked rice.


A red-algae sea vegetable that is dried and pressed into paper-thin sheets. It’s full of minerals, including iodine, which is crucial for thyroid function. Tips» Toast nori just before using by holding over a gas flame or electric burner until it’s bright green. Wrap around rice, fish, tempeh, or thinly sliced vegetables, or crumble over cooked grains.


A thick, rich paste made from fermented soybeans. It’s rich in enzymes and beneficial bacteria that aid digestion. Find it in the refrigerated section. White or mellow miso has a sweet and delicate flavor; dark miso is saltier and more robust. Tips» To make broth, stir a spoonful into hot water or soup until dissolved. Avoid boiling miso, which destroys the delicate enzymes.


Made from cooked sweet brown rice that’s pounded into a paste and then dried. It is usually found in rectangular blocks in the refrigerator or freezer section or on the shelves in precut squares. Tips» If not precut, slice into small squares and bake until puffed and golden; it’s an excellent whole-grain, kid-friendly snack served with nut butter.