Imagine a magic sauce: with just one tablespoon any ordinary dish can suddenly become delicious. Well, if you ask the chef behind Japanese restaurants in Sydney Gojima and Sokyo, Chase Kojima, such a thing exists. It’s Nimben’s tsuyu sauce, Nimben No Tsuyu. “Basically, it’s soy sauce, sake, mirin, bonito extract, kelp, shiitake mushroom, sugar and salt. It's like a concentrate of a really strong stock,” he says. “Like soy sauce, but it's not as sharp and it has a lot more depth in its umami and sweetness.”

Traditionally it’s used to season soups and Japanese sauces. A watered-down version is also used as a dipping sauce for soupless ramen. Kojima says it will give any savoury dish a punch of umami and depth. “At home, I use it like a short cut to make something delicious straight away. When I make pasta, I drop it in. If I'm making a quick teriyaki I'll just cook this and reduce it down a bit then add sugar. If I wanted to make a tempura sauce I'd just use this and add water. I even use it in miso soup or clear soup.”

He gives a warning though, it’s extremely strong. You don’t need much. “Think of it like liquid salt.” Kojima says it can be found in most Japanese grocery stores. If they don’t have the Nimben brand, don’t bother. Other tsuyu brands are no substitute. “It's perfect, don't fuck with it.”

In this series, we ask the best in the business what they can’t live without and where you can get it, too.

Japanese grocers:

Sydney:
Maruyu, CBD
Tokyo Mart, Northbridge
New Yen Yen Supermarket, Chatswood, Haymarket, Eastwood

Melbourne:
Hinoki Japanese Pantry, Fitzroy,
Suzuran, Camberwell
Tang: The Asian Food Emporium, CBD

Brisbane:
Genki Mart
Formosa Asian Market

Adelaide:
Kim Wang Asian Grocer

Perth:
Super Fuji Japanese Market