Sushipedia – Japanese Food Terms Glossary and Definitions

japanese food terms

Photo by stu_spivack

Japanese food terms

Aburage – Fried tofu pouches stuffed with rice.

Aemono – Vegetables or meats mixed with a dressing or sauce.

Agari – A Japanese sushi bar term for green tea.

Agemono – Fried foods. May be deep-fat fried or pan-fried.

Ahi – Yellowfin Tuna.

Aji – Horse mackerel. This fish is not actually a mackerel, but member of the Jack family. It is small, about 6″ in length, and often served filleted and marinated in vinegar.

Aji-no-moto – Monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Aka miso – Red soy bean paste.

Akagai – Pepitona clam. These are the red ones.

Ama Ebi – Sweet Shrimp. Always served raw on nigiri-zushi.

An – Sweetened puree of cooked azuki (red) beans.

Anago – Salt water eel (Conger Eel) Anago is served boiled and then grilled. It is lighter than unagi (fresh water eel).

Ankimo – Monkfish liver, served cold.

Anko – Monkfish.

Aoyagi – Round clam.

Awabi – Abalone.

Ayu – Sweetfish. A member of the trout family from Japan. Served grilled.

Azuki – Small red beans used to make an.

Beni shoga – Red pickled ginger. Used for inari-zushi, futomaki, and chirashizushi, but not for Nigiri-zushi.

Bonito – See Katsuo.

Buri – Mature Yellowtail. (Young yellowtail are called Hamachi.)

Buri Toro – Fatty Yellowtail. The belly strip of the yellowtail.

California Roll – A California roll is an inside out (rice on the outside) maki created in California. It usually consists of kamaboko (imitation crab meat), avocado and cucumber.

Chikuwa – Browned fish cake.

Chirashi-zushi – A bowl or box of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi. Means “scattered sushi”.

Chutoro – The belly area of the tuna along the side of the fish between the Akami and the Otoro. More fatty than Akami, not as fatty as Otoro.

Daikon – White radish, usually served grated as garnish for sashimi.

Dashi – Basic soup and cooking stock. Usually made from Iriko (dried Anchovies), Konbu (type of Kelp) and Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).

Donburi – A large noodle bowl. Also refers specifically to a rice dish served in such a bowl with with the main items placed on top of the rice.

EbiShrimp. (Unlike Sweet Shrimp, Ebi is cooked.)

Edamame – Young green soybeans served steamed and salted. Usually served as an appetizer.

Fugu – Puffer fish. This fish is a delicacy that contains extremely poisonous tetrodotoxin. In Japan, only licensed fugu chefs are allowed to prepare fugu.

Futo-Maki – Big, oversized sushi rolls.

Gari Pickled ginger that comes with your Sushi.

Gobo – Burdock root.

Gohan – Plain boiled rice.

Goma – Sesame seeds.

Gunkan-maki – Battleship roll. This is where the maki is wrapped in a strip of nori to form a platform for the liquid or soft neta. Used for oysters, uni, ikura, tobiko, etc…

Gyoza – A filled wanton dumpling that has been either fried or boiled. Shumai (another type) is always steamed.

Ha-Gatsuo – Skipjack tuna.

Hamachi – Young Yellowtail tuna, or amberjack.

Hamaguri – Hard shell Clam. (Includes American littlenecks.)

Hamo – Pike Conger Eel. (Indigenous to Japan.)

Hanakatsuo – Dried bonito fish, shaved or flaked. Usually sold in a bag. Also called Katsuobushi (bonito flakes).

Harusame – Thin, transparent bean gelatin noodles.

HashiChopsticks. Also called O-Hashi.

Hatahata – Sandfish.

Hijiki – Black seaweed in tiny threads.

Hirame – This name is used for many types of flat fish, like fluke or flounder. Some restaurants call halibut “hirame,” however the actual Japanese word for halibut is “ohyo”.

Hikari-mono – A comprehensive term for all the shiny fish like Aji, Iwashi, Sanma, Kohada.

Himo – The fringe around the outer part of any clam. (The clam beard!)

Hocho – General Japanese term for kitchen knives. Can be classified as Traditional Japanese style (Wa-bocho) or Western style (yo-bocho)

Hokkigai – Surf Clam (also called Hokkyokugai).

Hotate-Gai – Scallops.

Ika Squid.

Inada – Very young yellowtail.

Inari-Zushi – Aburage stuffed with sushi rice.

Kajiki – Billfish including Swordfish and Marlins. Swordfish specifically is called Me-Kajiki or Kajiki-Maguro.

Kaki – Oysters.

Kamaboko – Imitation crab meat usually made from pollack.

Kampyo – Dried gourd. Unprepared is a light tan color. Prepared it’s a translucent brown.

Kani – Crab meat. This is not the same as kamiboko. This is real crab meat.

Karasu Garei – Atlantic halibut.

Karei – Winter flounder.

Katsuo – Bonito.

Katsuobushi – Bonito flakes. Smoked and dried blocks of skipjack tuna that are shaved and uses usually to make dashi.

Kohada – Japanese shad. Kohada is the name when marinated and used as sushi neta. Prior to this the fish is called Konoshiro.

Kuro gomaBlack sesame seeds.

Maguro – General term for tuna. Specific cuts have their own name.

Akami – the leaner flesh from the sides of the fish. If you ask for ‘maguro’ at a sushi bar you will get this cut.

Chutoro – The belly area of the tuna along the side of the fish between the Akami and the Otoro. Not as fatty as Otoro.

Otoro – The fattiest portion of the tuna, found on the belly of the fish.

[Toro is the generic term for the fatty part of the tuna (chutoro or otoro).]

Makisu – Mat made of bamboo strips used to make sushi.

Maki-zushi – The rice and seaweed rolls with fish and/or vegetables. Most maki places the nori on the outside, but “inside out” rolls place the rice on the outside.

Matoudai – John Dory.

Mirugai – Geoduck or horseneck clam.

Miso – Soy bean paste.

Moyashi – Bean sprouts.

Murasaki – Sushi bar lingo for shoyu/soy sauce. Literally means “purple”.

Namako – Sea cucumber.

NasuEggplant. Also called Nasubi.

Natto – Fermented soy beans. (Not just for breakfast anymore) Very strong smell and taste.

Negi – Green onion/scallion. Larger round onions are called Tama-negi.

Neta – The piece of fish that is placed on top of the sushi rice for nigiri.

Nigiri-zushi – The little fingers of rice topped with wasabi and a filet of raw or cooked fish or shellfish. Generally the most common form of sushi you will see outside of Japan..

Nori – Sheets of dried seaweed used in maki.

Odori ebi – Large prawns served alive. Literally means “Dancing shrimp”.

Oshibori – The wet towel one cleans one’s hands with before the meal. Not meant to be used on the face and neck!

Ocha – Tea.

Ohyo – Pacific halibut. Atlantic halibut is called Karasu Garei.

Ono – Wahoo. Also the Hawaiian word for “delicious,” because it is.

Oshibako – Used for pressing the sushi to make Oshi-zushi.

Oshi-zushi – Sushi made from rice pressed in a box or mold.

Ponzu – Sauce made with soy sauce, dashi and Japanese citron.

Ramen – ‘Instant’ noodles. Traditional Japanese “fast food,” ramen was invented in the 1960s and is now found worldwide. It has been said that without ramen, many American college students would starve to death each year.

Roe – Generic term for fish eggs. (Flying fish, smelt, and salmon roe are available in all sushi restaurants.)

IkuraSalmon roe.

Kazunoko – Herring roe.

Tobiko – Flying fish roe. Red and crunchy, often served on maki-zushi.

Masago – Smelt roe. Very similar to tobiko but slightly more orange in color.

Saba – Mackerel.

Sake (sah-keh)Salmon. To avoid confusion, some people say Sha-ke.

Sashimi – Raw fish fillets served without sushi rice.

Sansho – Japanese pepper.

Sazae – Type of conch, not found in the US.

Shari – A sushi bar term for sushi rice.

Shiokara – A dish made of the pickled and salted internal organs of various sea creatures. It comes in many form such as ‘Ika no Shiokara’ (squid shiokara), shrimp, or fish.

Shirataki – A type of translucent noodles.

Shiro goma – White sesame seeds.

Shiro maguro (’White Tuna’) – Sometimes called ‘Bincho Maguro’ or ‘Bin-Naga Maguro.’

Shiro miso – White soy bean paste.

Shiromi – This is the general term for any white fish.

Shiso – The leaf of the Perilla plant. Used frequently with in makizushi and with sashimi. The sushi term is actually Ooba.

Shitake – A type of Japanese mushroom.

ShogaGinger root. Usually grated.

Shoyu – Japanese soy sauce.

Soba – Buckwheat noodles.

Somen – White, threadlike wheat noodles.

SPAM – Used in Spam Musubi, a sushi you can get in Hawaii. (Even 7-11 has SPAM Musubi!)

Su – Rice vinegar.

Suimono – Clear soup.

Surimi – Imitation crab meat (also called kamaboko) usually made from pollack. Often used in California rolls and other maki, it is not the same thing as “soft shell crab.”

Sushi – Technically refers to the sweetened, seasoned rice. It is modified in Japanese to zushi when coupled with modifiers that describe the sushi style. For example, “nigiri-zushi.” Generally, however, when someone says “sushi,” they are referring to the broader category of food, not just the flavored rice.

Suzuki – Sea bass.

Tai – Usually refers to porgy or red snapper. Real Japanese tai is very hard to find in the US.

Tairagi – Razor shell clam.

Tako – Octopus, cooked.

Tarabagani – King Crab.

Tamago yaki – Egg omelet. Sweet and light. In Japan it is the trademark dish of each chef.

Tataki – Tataki is a Japanese term which may mean seared on the outside only (as in Katsuo) or chopped up and served in its raw form (as in Aji).

Temaki-zushi – Hand rolled cones of sushi rice, fish and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. Very similar to maki.

Tempura – Seafood or vegetables dipped in batter and deep fried.

Tofu – Soybean curd.

Tori – Chicken.

Torigai – Japanese cockle, black and white shell fish.

Toro – Fatty Tuna.

Udon – Wide noodles made from wheat.

Unagi – Eel (Freshwater) – grilled, and brushed with a teriyaki-like sauce, it is richer than salt water eel (Anago).

Uni – Sea Urchin.

Usukuchi shoyu – Light Japanese soy sauce.

Wakame – Dried lobe-leaf seaweed in long, dark green strands.

Wasabi – Japanese horseradish. Unfortunately, the wasabi most often served in sushi bars is not real wasabi, but powdered and reconstituted American Horseradish with green food coloring. Real wasabi is difficult to find in most restaurants due to cost.

Other Japanese food terms

Yakumi – A generic term for condiments.

Itamae– The Sushi Chef

Domo – Thank you

Domo arigato – Thank you very much

Dozo – Please

Hai – Yes

Itadakimasu – Traditional phrase opening a meal

Gochiso-sama [deshita] – Traditional phrase closing a meal

Konichiwa – A greeting, roughly `how are you’

Omakase – Chef’s choice

Okonomi – The practice of ordering sushi a few pieces at a time

Sabinuki – `No wasabi, please.’

Nani wo tabereba iino-desuka? – What should I eat?