Sa Shi Su Se So is the “s” row of the phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) in Japanese. At the same time, we express that as 5 basic seasonings ingredients which are essential in most Japanese cooking. They are: SATO (砂糖) Sugar, SHIO (塩) Salt, SU (酢) Vinegar, SEUYU (醤油) Soy Sauce, MISO (味噌) Miso. The order in which these ingredients are used is very important when you heat and cook (Marinade is exception). They are listed in order of light to strong flavors. Basically, the ingredients whose flavors are most susceptible to being changed by heat are added last, for example soy sauce or miso.
◎Sweet taste is difficult to penetrate so adding sugar first is usually advisable and allows more flexibility to adjust the sweetness with other ingredients. If soy sauce is added before sugar, it becomes very difficult for the sweetness to seep through the food.
◎Salt is added at the early stage of cooking because of its strong permeation and high absorption nature. It is not only for flavoring but to pull moisture from vegetables and get rid of the smell in fish.
◎It is important to add vinegar after salt, especially for vegetables. The vinegar will not seep in if there is too much moisture in the vegetables.
◎Soy sauce and miso come last because both are fermented foods and are most susceptible to being affected by heat.
What about Mirin or sake? If you are adding sake for additional flavoring, it goes in first before sugar. When Mirin, a type of rice wine similar to sake, is needed, it will be added last after miso. If you stick to this order, all flavors will become their richest. There are both practical reasons and chemical related reasons for this, and it is amazing how much of a difference it makes to your cooking.
Chicken Stir-Fry Wraps
By Natsuko Kure • November 14th, 2013
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½ lb. (200g) boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tsp. garlic, grated
1 tsp. ginger, grated
1 TBSP. sake
2 tsp. potato starch
½ red bell pepper
1 TBSP. Sesame oil
2 TBSP. soy sauce
1 TBSP. sugar
1 tsp. mint leaves, minced
½ tsp. sesame seeds
1 head Boston lettuce
½ zucchini, very thinly sliced using peeler (optional)
1. Cut chicken in half horizontally, and slice thinly. Season with S & P. Put into a bowl; add grated garlic, ginger, sake, and potato starch. Marinade for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise, remove the white pith inside, julienne.
3. Heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add the chicken; cook, stirring constantly, until opaque. Add bell pepper and sugar; cook until glossy*, stirring constantly (for about 2 min). Add soy sauce, stir a little.
4. Turn off the burner, add mint leaves. Garnish with sesame seeds.
5. Serve in lettuce cups with zucchini.
*When it becomes glossy, it’s a sign that the sweet taste has seeped into the ingredients. It’s important to do before adding soy sauce. If soy sauce is added before sugar, it becomes very difficult for the sweet taste to absorb into the food.