Frequently Asked Questions

Here's a list of frequently asked questions. If you do not see your question, email us at


What are the basic Japanese condiments necessary for cooking Japanese food?

Please check my Pantry page and see the “Essential Japanese Condiments” section.

What is (Japanese ingredient name)?

If you see any ingredients that you are not familiar with in the recipe, please go to the Pantry page. When you click on an item name, you can see the detailed picture of the item and its description. The kinds and brands I can purchase at Japanese grocery stores in San Francisco Bay Area are limited, but I usually purchase imported condiments and ingredients that I’m used to using/seeing in Japan, which may not be available in your local stores.

Where can I find Japanese ingredients?

Just One Cookbook readers helped me create this list of Japanese Grocery Stores Around the World.  Please take a look at your country/city to see if you find any.  If you know any grocery stores that sell Japanese ingredients that you can’t find on the list, please leave a comment on the post so I can add them.  Thank you for helping the JOC community!

I can’t find the ingredient in the recipe; can I substitute it?

I completely understand that some of the Japanese ingredients that I use in my recipes are hard to find especially if you live in an area without a large Japanese population.  I try my best to suggest other ingredients that you can substitute with on the recipe post. You can also find my general suggestions on this page.  However, I hope you understand that some recipes call for certain ingredients/seasonings because they work best and I want to keep my recipes as authentic as possible.  So please try your best to use the specified items whenever possible to achieve the best results, and if you still can’t find them, please substitute with what you have, or leave your question on the blog post.

What’s dashi? Do I need to use it? Can I substitute with chicken (or other) stocks?

Dashi plays a VERY important role in Japanese cooking and we do not replace dashi with any other stock such as chicken stock or vegetable stock when we make traditional Japanese food. Unless I mention in the recipe, please try your best to make dashi. It’s very easy to make, and here are 3 ways to make dashi.  If you’re new to dashi, please read this post.

I’m vegetarian/vegan. How can I make dashi?

You can make Vegan Dashi!

Any substitute for sake? Due to religious reasons, I cannot consume any alcohol.

It is a bit tricky question because my advice will be different depending on the recipe.  In general, if a splash of sake is used to remove the odor of meat and seafood, you can omit it (see why we use sake in the next question). If I add a splash of sake while cooking, it’s possible that I added some moisture to steam (on top of removing the gamey/fishy smell).  In that case, add a splash of water.  Many of Japanese sauce contains sake and you will need to substitute with water so the sauce is more proportional and not salty or sweet.

Why do you use sake in cooking? What can I substitute it with?

We use sake for cooking, just like how you use wine for cooking. Sake is often used in marinades for meat and fish to make them more tender and to mask their smell. Alcohol evaporates with the meat/fish odor. It also adds umami and a natural sweet flavor (from rice – the ingredient for sake).
If you cook Japanese food often, I recommend getting sake (less than $10) because many recipes require it.  It doesn’t have to be expensive at all.  I recommend 3 (inexpensive) brands on my pantry page here. It’s not the same, but you can substitute it with Chinese rice wine or dry sherry.

Any substitute for mirin (sweet cooking/rice wine)?

To substitute mirin, you can substitute mirin with sake and sugar. The ratio of sake and sugar is 3 to 1. Mix ¾ cup  (or 1 Tbsp) sake and ¼ cup (or 1 tsp) granulated sugar. If you cannot use alcohol in your cooking, use water instead of sake.

What type of salt do you use?

I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt in my recipes instead of regular table salt (here’s why: please read here or here). If a recipe calls for 2 tsp. of kosher salt in my recipe, you will need 1 tsp. fine salt (table salt) or 1 1/2 tsp. Morton kosher salt.

What type of sugar do you use?

In general, I use organic cane sugar (natural blond/tanned color sugar; I get one from Trader Joe’s) for savory recipes and white granulated sugar for baking recipes.
The blond-colored organic cane sugar can discolor a lemonade or a light cocktail, add a deeper depth of flavor to baked goods because it retains a little of the molasses, or make it hard to spot the color change when making caramel. With practice and experience, you can figure out when to stop cooking the sugar.

Are you using unsalted or salted butter?

I only keep unsalted butter handy in my fridge and if I need to use salted butter, I add ¼ tsp kosher/sea salt to ½ cup (1 stick; 8 Tbsp) of unsalted butter.

What’s the difference between heavy cream and heavy whipping cream?

Heavy cream and heavy whipping cream are the same except that heavy whipping cream has additives that make it easier to whip when cold and which extend shelf life.


Are you using an American cup?

Yes, my recipes use US measuring cup (1 cup = 240 ml) instead of a Japanese measuring cup (1 cup = 200 ml).  However, please also note that when you cook Japanese rice, the measurement for 1 rice cooker cup (1 gō / 1合) is 180 ml (which is 150 g rice) instead of 200 ml or 240 ml.

How much is 1 cup of all-purpose flour?

A properly measured cup of all-purpose flour weighs 4.25 oz (120 g). The weight for 1 cup of all-purpose flour varies depending on how you measure it. When you measure flour by volume, please follow fluff and sprinkle the method. I’ve tested this method many times, and if you do it properly, 1 cup is VERY close to 120 g each time.

How much is a pinch of salt?

It’s about 1/8 tsp in my recipe (between typically 1/4 tsp and 1/8 tsp depending on the size of your fingers).

What is a large egg’s weight?

An American large egg is about 50 grams without a shell (56.7 g with a shell).

What does “heaping” or “scant” cup mean?

Sometimes measures are given as heaping or scant. For example, a heaping cup is 1 cup plus 1-2 Tbsp and a scant cup is 1 cup minus 1-2 Tbsp.


Do you use a convection oven or a conventional (regular) oven?

All my recipes on my blog give instructions for the electric conventional oven (regular oven without a fan).  If you use a convection oven (with a fan), please reduce the oven temperature by 25ºF (15ºC). If the recipe says 375ºF, then you will preheat the Conv Oven to 350ºF.

What’s your oven rack setup (for baking and broiling)?

My oven rack position is in the middle of the oven, about 8-9 inches (22-23 cm) away from the heating element unless I mentioned otherwise.

What’s the wattage for your microwave?

1100W for recipes prior to my kitchen renovation in the summer of 2015. The new microwave oven I started to use in the fall of 2015 is 1000W.

Can we change regular recipes to pressure cooker/slow cooker recipes, or vice versa?

The major difference is that the pressure cooker/slow cooker limits evaporation. While traditional cooking methods evaporate excess liquid, a pressure cooker/slow cooker cooks in a sealed pot. If you’re adapting a standard recipe, it’s best to reduce the liquid by roughly ⅓. Even though you reduce the liquid, you might be surprised the cooking liquid hasn’t changed much or might be increased after all the ingredients release their juices! Keep in mind that you might need to further reduce the liquid after pressure cooking/slow cooking. Add the ingredients into the pressure cooker/slow cooker the exact way your regular recipe calls for, keeping the amounts of seasoning or oil the same. As for cooking time, I highly recommend checking the instruction manual of your gadget for proper cooking time. If necessary, you will need to pressure cook/slow cook in batches.

General Questions

How can I contact you?

You can shoot me an email (after reading this FAQs page) or leave a comment on my blog post if it’s a recipe-related question.

I sent you an email a while ago. Did you receive it?

I personally read every email and do my best to write back as soon as I can. However, with the growing volume of messages I’m receiving every day, please understand that I’m no longer able to respond right away and sometimes I can’t respond.  It’s important for me to spend more time testing recipes, filming & photographing new recipes, and writing the next blog posts. I’m really sorry! If it’s a question about a specific recipe, please ask it on the recipe post after checking if others asked the same question and I’ve already answered.

How do I know when you post a new recipe?

I have a FREE newsletter that I send out every time I publish a new post/recipe/video. You can sign up here. You can also follow my social media channels to see what I’m up to. Or, you can always find my latest post on Facebook, PinterestInstagram, or YouTube Channel.

I cooked a dish using your recipe, but it does not taste right. What went wrong?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  Because I wasn’t in the kitchen with you, I couldn’t possibly tell you what went wrong. Most of the recipes that you see on my blog have been cooked in my kitchen at least several times (usually many times) before being published, and everything is measured precisely.  Each kitchen has different equipment (gas vs. electric stove, the size of the oven, etc) and you might use different brands of condiments and ingredients than what I used. Therefore please understand that my recipes are the results that worked best for my kitchen (and my family’s taste buds).

How come the current recipe is different from the one I had printed out/kept from the original post?

Please understand that I will tinker with my recipes from time to time. When you use a recipe from my site, please check back to see if I made any changes.

Do you have a cookbook published?

I have three cookbooks available only on Amazon. Check out my cookbook page for more details.

How did you learn to cook?

I learned cooking from my mom at a young age, and I have been cooking on my own since I came to the U.S. to attend college. I cooked mainly because I missed my mom’s cooking and I was the only one that could re-create it. However, I only started to take cooking more seriously and cook almost every day after my children were born.

Do you develop all of your recipes?

Unless stated otherwise, they are my recipes that came from my kitchen. However, I have been cooking for a long time and I might have adapted some recipes from magazines/newspapers (pre-Internet days) and do not have those sources anymore or remember them. If I used or adapted from someone’s recipe, it is noted under the recipe.

Do you only share Japanese recipes?

Most of the recipes you find here are Japanese food. I cook Japanese food most of the week but once in a while I cook non-Japanese dishes and keep the recipes that my family enjoys in my blog.

Do you make money off this site?

Yes, I host ads on my site, and I’m an Amazon affiliate (which means that when I link to an item on Amazon and you buy something, I get a small percentage of the sales). Blogging is my full-time job which takes a huge investment of time, effort, and money, therefore I host several ads on my site.  I work closely with ads publisher and I make sure they are not disturbing. Please notify me with a screenshot if the ads are disturbing when you’re reading my blog.

I’m going to Japan! Can you give me recommendations for restaurants and sightseeing spots?

Please visit my Travel Blog to read my Japan travel posts. We book our ryokans and hotels using JTB Premium hotels and ryokans and JapaniCan.

Are you Chinese?

I’m married to a Taiwanese American (Mr. JOC), hence my last name is Chinese. I was born and raised in Japan and came to the U.S. by myself when I was 20 years old.

Where do you live?

I live in San Francisco Bay Area (Peninsula).

What camera and lens do you have?

Please read my Gear page.

Who is filming your videos?

Mr. JOC films and edits all the videos shared on my blog.  We film 1-2 videos every weekend and he edits videos at night during the weekdays.

I love your knife! What cooking tools and gadgets do you recommend?

Please read Your Guide to Japanese Knives post.

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