NHK WORLD > JAPANESE FOOD > Special Features > Essential Glossary for Japanese Food Lovers!

Essential Glossary for Japanese Food Lovers!

April 24, 2017

The golden rule in Japanese cooking is to make the most of the natural flavors of seasonal ingredients. This applies as much to home cooking as it does to exquisite full-course meals served at high-end restaurants. The ingredients used in the national cuisine of any country reflect climate and other aspects of the natural environment, and because of its geographical location and a north-south orientation, one well-known feature of Japan is its clearly differentiated seasons. But that's just for starters. Surrounded by the ocean, and with an intricate coastline, Japan offers access to a stunning assortment of seafood delicacies that have engendered numerous cooking techniques and seasonings. And with an impressive spine of mountains running through the middle of the archipelago, dividing the country into a Pacific side and a Sea of Japan side, Japan's exceptionally diverse regional conditions have given rise to numerous distinct lifestyles and agricultural traditions. The result is a vibrant food culture that takes creative advantage of Japan's cornucopia of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Having said that, it’s also true that many essential features of Japanese cuisine are largely unknown to people outside Japan. It can be difficult to follow a recipe if you’re not familiar with the ingredients, and therefore cannot imagine what the dish will look and taste like. And that’s precisely why we’ve put together a glossary that offers lots of useful information! You'll find a link to the glossary at the bottom of the main JAPANESE FOOD page, so please make use of it as you put together the ingredients you need to have delicious fun with Japanese food. Understanding the various key items will give you a clear idea of what you’re aiming for, and we hope that this will further enhance the pleasure you get out of Japanese cooking.

More than 180 listings!

The glossary is divided into seven categories and features 180 or so of the most common ingredients in Japanese cooking, plus some of the more distinctive ones unique to Japan. For each item, you will see the Japanese name and a recommended English equivalent (sometimes the same as the Japanese name), accompanied by an image and a useful definition.

One of the most striking features of this glossary is that it’s full of information for cooking Japanese food at home. Take for instance eggplants or aubergines. Since they come in various sizes and shapes, it may be difficult to picture what kind of eggplant the recipe calls for. That’s why we’ve made a point of explaining the kind of eggplant that would be used in Japan.

We hope this will give you an idea of what the recipe is calling for, and will make it much easier to follow!

And for your greater convenience, recipes on the website are linked to the glossary. Click on any underlined ingredient in a recipe to get access to the relevant glossary listing.

Fun reading!

If you're already a Japanese food enthusiast, you may know about the different kinds of soy sauce and miso, which are among the most essential of Japanese seasonings. But take soy sauce. Do you know when to use usukuchi, and when to use tamari? What about the salt content in the different types and colors of miso? The answers to these questions and more are all in the glossary. And if you want to get more details about a certain ingredient or seasoning, try our special features.

Related recipes!

The best way to understand an ingredient is to eat it! Each item in the glossary introduces up to four recipes in which it is used. Click on the image to go straight to the recipe page. It’s also helpful when you’ve bought too much of something and are searching for a good way to make full use of it.

Maybe the accompanying recipes are not what you're after today, or you just want to try something different. In that case, just look for the key term using the search box on the main page. You’ll get a list of all the recipes containing that word.

Bonus feature: Favorites

Did you know that the website has a Favorites function where you can register your top choices? There's no registration hassle at all. All you need to do is click on the Favorite button on the recipe page. Then, to call up your favorite recipes, just click on the Favorites tab on the top page. What could be simpler!

Japanese cuisine is constantly evolving, and so will this website, so please keep coming back to see what's new!

Special Features