Japanese Food & Cooking Terms

By Gayot Editors

Don’t know your tamari from your toro? Have no fear. Whether you’re dining at a five-star hotel restaurant or a traditional ryokan, our guide to Japanese food terms will arm you with the necessary culinary lingo to negotiate any menu

You also check GAYOT’s:
 Best Japanese restaurants
– Best Sushi & Sashimi restaurants
– Saké Guide



Amaebi: sweet shrimp
Anago: sea eel
Awabi: abalone
Azuki: dried bean; azuki flour is often used for confections


Bento: meal served in a box with different compartments


Daikon (Mooli): long, white radish, usually grated or cut into strips
Dashi: soup or cooking stock made from seaweed and/or fish flakes; commonly used in miso soup
Donburi: bowl of boiled rice with different toppings like chicken, egg or beef


Ebi: shrimp
Edamame: fresh soy beans boiled in their pods and sprinkled with salt
Enoki (Enokitake): delicate mushrooms with long stems and small caps

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Gohan: rice


Hamachi: yellowtail, often used for sushi or grilled
Hashi: chopsticks
Hibachi: small, open charcoal grill
Hirame: flounder


Ikura: salmon roe


Kaiseki: multicourse menu of luxury Japanese dishes reflecting the seasons with the use of seasonal foods and artistic dinnerware and presentation
Kani: crab
Kappa: cucumber
Kobe beef: cattle raised in exclusive conditions (frequent massages and a diet featuring large quantities of beer), which results in an extraordinarily tender, very expensive beef
Konbu: dried kelp; used in soup stock, for sushi and as a condiment


Maguro: tuna
Maki: rolled
Mako: shark
Mirugai: giant clam
Miso (soup): soybean paste from which a savory broth is made, usually served with cubes of tofu or strips of seaweed


Ono: wahoo fish; a relative of the mackerel often compared in taste to albacore


Ramen: Chinese soup noodles


Saba: mackerel
Sake: salmon
Saké: traditional rice wine served hot or cold

Japanese food: tuna sashimi
Tuna sashimi

Sashimi: thinly sliced raw fish on rice, usually served with soy sauce and wasabi
Shabu shabu: similar to sukiyaki; beef and vegetables cooked tableside in a broth
Shiitake: prized cultivated mushroom, dark brown with a large cap
Shoya: soy sauce
Shiso: herb and spice, also known as Perilla; its whole green leaf is often used as a receptacle for wasabi
Soba: buckwheat noodles
Sukiyaki: braised beef and vegetable dish with broth added after cooking
Sunomono: vinegared dishes
Sushi: rounds of vinegared rice wrapped in dried seaweed with a center of raw fish or vegetables, served with wasabi and soy


Tai: snapper
Tako: octopus
Takoyaki: a round dumpling filled with octopus
Tamago: egg
Tamari: dark sauce similar in composition and taste to soy; often used for dipping
Tempura: deep-fried, batter-dipped fish or vegetables

chicken teriyaki
Chicken teriyaki

Teriyaki: a marinade of soy and sweet saké used on meats, fish and poultry
Tofu: bean curd, processed into a liquid and then molded into large cubes
Toro: fatty belly cut of tuna


Udon: wheat noodles
Unagi: freshwater eel
Uni: sea urchin roe


Wasabi: a hot, spicy condiment made from the roots of Japanese horseradish, chartreuse in color


Yakitori: a dish of pieces of chicken and vegetables, marinated in a spicy sauce, skewered and grilled