Japanese for Beginners

hotel management delhi

December 09, 2019


Mr. Sanzeev Bhatia, Vice President & General Manager, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa


10th April 2019

I take the pleasure in conveying my best wishes to all of you. It is always a privilege to address and guide new talent entering the Industry. With scale of growth happening in the industry, the demand for high quality hospitality professionals is much higher than the current supply. The industry is evolving rapidly within, aswell. Changing customer expectation, travel trends and technology advances are changing the dynamics of hotel operations and the budding hoteliers need to keep abreast of and pace with these trends. At The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa, Delhi, Sakura is signature in hospitality for authentic Japanese cuisine and it is my privilege to introduce terminology used for authentic Japanese Cuisine with you all.

Japanese for Beginners : Inside the Kitchen

Abalone: A large and highly evolved cousin of the limpet, this creature found deep in the Pacific Ocean is prized because of the meat of its large oval “foot” or adductor muscle by which it adheres firmly to its rock. An abalone whose flesh has a bluish tint is tough; its best eaten raw with a dipping sauce.

Albacore: The Japanese, unlike the rest of the world, don’t really value the meat of this highly respectable member of the tuna family. They would rather can it as a ‘Chicken of the sea’

Ark Shell; The Japanese call this bivalve Akagai and they eat it raw only when it is absolutely fresh.

Azuki Beans; Introduced into Japan sometime between the Third and Eight centuries, this legume is most widely used in Japanese cookery after the soya bean. Azuki beans are steamed with sticky rice and to make the festive dish Sekihan, which is cooked to celebrate Happy family events.

Bamboo: The young shoots of Bamboo, which normally emerge in April and May, herald the arrival of Spring. The most prized bamboo shoots are those of the Mosochiku. Kyoto’s famous for them. Only the very young shoots are edible and they are cooked with Dashiand Soy sauce, boiled with rice or put in Soup.

Bannuo-Negi: These thin onions with long green stalks are often used to flavour one pot dishes and noodles.

Buckwheat: For many centuries it was a vital food source for people living in the higher altitudes of Japan where the climate is too cold, the soil too poor and the land too limited for growing rice. Today it is best known for being the main component of Soba noodles which have been a part of the Japanese diet since the 1600s

Burdock: The edible roots of this plant of the Daisy family are called Gobo in Japan, the only country where they are eaten on a large scale.The Japanese don’t often cook Gobo as a vegetable in its own right, preferring to combine it with others.

ChawanMushi: A savoury custard made by pouring a mixture of eggs and dashi over a mixture of cooked chicken, seafood and vegetables in individual lidded china cups.

Daikon: The best known of all oriental radishes, it can reach a length of 45 cm but when it comes to the table in ribbons, it makes an attractive garnish for Sashimi.

Dashi: The delicately flavoured basic Japanese soup stock is made by simmering flakes of dried bornitofillets(Katsuobushi) and pices of giant kelp (Konbu).Its well suited for making clear soups but it has many other culinary uses which is why its regarded as a primary constituent of Japanese cooking.

Eels: These rich sources of vitamin- A which are born and die in oceans but spend much of their lives in fresh water, have been eaten by the Japanese since antiquity. The most popular way of eating Eels in Japan is Kabayakiwhere the eel is steamed, broiled and basted with a sweet sauce and served over rice for Lunch.

Enokitake: This mildly flavoured mushroom that grows wild on the stumps of the Enoki tree is most eagerly consumed in its biggest market, Japan.

Fish Pastes: Collectively known as Neri-Seibin, they account for atleast 20% of the huge Japanese fish catch. They are made of fish meat, usually a combination of two or three species of white fish reduced to a paste to which salt and other ingredients( starch, egg whites and preservatives) are added. The paste is shaped and heated so as to solidify it.

Fugu: This is the Japanese name for certain species of blowfish that are regarded as great delicacies but if handled by amateyrs can cause death. This fish have to be prepared with great skill by licenced chefs to avoid any possibility of the fatally toxic parts being eater or contaminating the flesh.

Funori: A red seaweed, its mainly processed to make a starchy food thickener. Some of the harvest though is eaten fresh or dried and subsequently reconstituted with diluted Vinegar.

Ginnan: Found growing on the sole of survivor of a group of primitive trees which grew all around the world in the very distant past.Ginko nuts make an appearance in the Japanese autumn. These nuts beside being roasted or boiled or deep fried on pine needle skewers are added to certain dishes like Chawanmushi.

Goma: This is the Japanese name for sesame seeds which are used extensively in the vegetarian cooking style Shojin- Ryori, developed in Buddhist monasteries and temples whose influence on Japanese home cooking is enormous.

Glutinous Rice: Glutinous is a misleading adjective because the rice contains no Gluten. Sticky may be a more accurate description. The short grain Japonica rice turns tender and moist when cooked but retains a little crunchiness.

Hamaguri: The Japanese word for clam means ‘Beach Chestnut’ and its used only for a particular bivalve that does indeed resemble a chestnut.Prized and eaten in large quantities by the Japanese from time immemorial it’s a symbol of marital harmony because of its matching pair of shells which explains why it features often on the menus of wedding feasts.

Harusame: The Japanese word literally means ‘spring rain’ and it is used to describe the appearance of the vermicelli-like product made from different linds of starch (mung bean, soya bean, sweet potato or cornflour ) that’s usually chopped and used as an alternative to batter for coating tempura. They are also known as ‘cellophane noodles’ or ‘bean thread noodles’ or ‘bean vermicelli’, but the Japanese don’t count them as real noodles. They never eat them on their own.

Hijiki: A warm –current perennial sea-weed with a nutty flavor, it germinates every year for seven or eight years, attaching itself to rocks along the coastline. Its texture is hard, sohijiki processed for household use is first steamed and then dried in sun. An abudent reservoir of iron, calcium and dietary fibre, hijikiseasoned with soy sauce and mirin and complemented with strips of carrots and other vegetables (hijiki-no-nitsuke)is frequent feature of home cooking.

Hojiso: The Stem and spike of a budding green perilla(Shiso)is also called hana-hojisowhenthe bud unfolds by about 30%.Hojiso is used to garnish sashimi. Separated from the stem, the spike is eaten as a condiment- it has a good aroma and is pleasant on the tongue.

Hokkaido: The island in extreme north of Japan, originally inhabited by the Ainu people, has been a part of the country for little over 100 years, Unlike the rest of Japanese, who are lactose-intolerant, find very hard to digest.

Ika: The Japanese name of squid: cuttlefish are called koika.The Most lavish way of eating ika is probably ika-somen , which is popular in Hokkaido, where large quantities of suid are caught. For ika-somen the flesh of squid is cut into long ,thin strips resembling somen noodles , to be served raw in a deep bowl, and eaten with grated ginger and soy sauce.The thicker flesh of cuttlefish is generally preferred for sashimi. Squid is also eaten as yakimomo, nimono, sunomonoand aemonoand as tempura. The Japanese market, incidentally, absorbs about half of the world’s production.

Iwatake: This is the Japanese name, which means ‘rock mushroom’, for a lichen,which is collected with great difficulty from the cliffs where it grows. After a thorough wash , it is soaked for two days and then made into tempura or sunomono.

Jidori: These are premium (and expensive) chicken grown in particular regions with the help of special techniques to enhance their favour, texture and taste. The jidorithat are most sought after are Hinai-dori of Akita, Nagoya-kochin of Aichi , and Satsuma-dori of Kagoshima prefecture.

Kaki: This cultivated fruit also known as the ’Japanese persimmon’ has an orange pulp enclosed by a thin skin. It may be sweet or highly astringent: its vitamin- C and sugar contentment may also vary greatly.InJapan, it is eaten both fresh and dried.

Kasutera: The Japanese version of the ‘Castella cake’ was introduced by Portuguese merchantsans missionaries when they arrived in Nagasaki in the sixteenth century. This sponge cake , usually very sweet, is baked in coal-fired oven by specialist bakers. The ingredients are white wheat flour, eggs and sugar.

Katsuobushi: Shavings of ‘petrified’ fillets of bonito , a member of mackerel family, are one of the mackerel family ,are one of the two main ingredients of dashi, the basis stock of Japanese cuisine . It’s very common for household to use time-saving products, including readymade shavings and ‘instant’ dashi granules.

Katsuwo: The Japanese name for skip-jack , a fish of the tuna family accounting for over a third of the worlds’s catch of tune. It is eaten in various ways-as sashimi, or as tataki (the fish is filleted ,grilled for a few moments over a straw fire ,sliced like sashimi , and served with a special dip).

Kazunoko: Herring roe is a tasty New Year speciality that people eat for the prosperity of their descendants. It is believed that the eighth shogun of the Edo Period, Tokugawa Yoshimune, wished to have some celebratory food with people at least on New Year’s Day and encouraged them to use herring roe, which was relatively cheaper at that time than the expensive tarako (cod roe) or ikura (salmon roe).

Kinome: The young leaves of sansho pepper ,which are harvested between spring and early summer ,are often used as an edible garnish or ingredient for simmered and dresses dishes , as well as for clear soup. Before using a Kinome leaf, place it on one palm and slap it once with the other before use. This will further release the aroma.

KohakuNamasu: The red and white salad, consisting of juliennes of daikon and carrot, is a must for osechi-ryori(New Year Food) because white symbolizes sacredness and red is believed to chase awayevil spirits. Daikon is also a metaphor for a house with a strong foundation, as seen in its robust root and the addition of red of the carrot represents the celebratory mizuhiki(a way of wrapping gifts for traditional celebrations with red and white strings).

Koji: It’s the Japanese name for a product that consists of steamed cereal (usually) rice or legumes, fermented for several days to provide a starter cluture doe the preparation of soy sauce, miso and sake. The mould, Aspergillusoryzae ,is the most prominent of the agents used in the fermentation process .

Konbu( or Kombu): This is the Japanese name for a group of brown seaweeds used extensively , along withKatsuobushi, to make dashi. It is nature’s richest source of the taste-enhancing monosodium glutamate (MSG), commercially available as aji-no-moto .The seaweed grows in the sub-arctic waters off the coast of northen Japan, especially Hokkaido. The species ofKonbuthat goes intoDashi because of its refined flavor is named after the island of Rishri. Essential for making Dashiit is used in innumerable other ways in cooking

Konnyaku: The Japanese word for it means ‘Shapeless Phallus’ but the starchy root of the plant known as konjac yields ‘devils’s tongue jelly’ which in turn goes into making thin filaments called Shirataki ( white waterfall. These filaments are indispensable for Sukiyakithe one pot winter favourite. Konnyaku does not have a defining flavor of its own but the Japanese like it for its jelly like texture and its ability to absorb the flavours of things it is cooked with.

KurumaEbi: This is the Japanese name for tiger prawn, which can grow upto a length of 8 inches. Its sweet meat is used as a Sushi topping and also deep fried in an egg and breadcrumb batter.

Kuzu: This leguminous plant mainly grown as animal fodder is a valuable source of starch extracted from its roots. Kuzukois valued as a thickener in sauces and soups- it produces a sparkling,translucent sauce and adds gloss to soups and is also dusted over items to be deep fried, yielding an almost crystalline snow white coating.

Lotus Root: Properly described as a sub aqueous rhizome the lotus root is called Renkonby the Japanese. It is prized mainly for its characteristic crisp texture and peculiar shape. Lotus root pickled in sweetened vinegar is called Subasu.

Madako: This is the Japanese name for the common Octopus which reaches an average size of 24-36 inches. The Japanese incidentally consume half of the world’s catch of this cephalopod that can be found throughout the world;s warm seas.

Matsumo: Sometimes called ‘fir needles’ this brown seaweed which is a rich source of protein may be used in soups or as a garnish for Sashimi.

Matsutake: Considered the finest of all mushrooms by the Japanese the phallic shaped ‘pine mushroom’ is so named because it grows in red pine forests in the autumn.

Mioga Ginger: The rhizome which grows all over northern Japan is valued for its buds and stems. The buds thinly sliced are used to garnish or flavor soups, salads, tempura, tofu dishes and sashimi.

Mirin: This spirit based liquid sweetener is used only for cooking especially in glazes marinades and simmered dishes. Cooks sometimes burn off the 13% alcohol leaving only the special sweet taste that Mirin imparts.

Miso: One of the essentials of Japanese cuisine used mainly to make miso soup, the soya bean paste is made in a variety of ways. Miso comes in different colours because of the different ingredients and methods of fermentation used. The light kinds are quickly fermented and milder in flavour and darker ones are stronger and more mature.

Mistuba: It’s the Japanese name for a perennial herb that has a role similar to that of parsley in western courtries or coriander in Asian kitchens. The leaves and stems are used to flavour a wide range of Japanese dishes from savoury custards to Sukiyaki.

Mochi: The glutinous rice cake is made after steaming and poundering rice. These may be eaten while still soft or allowed to harden before being toasted and served with different accompaniments like soy sauce,sugar and nori.

Momiji- oroshi: This combination of grated giant white radish and red pepper adds a spicy flavour to the dipping sauce for one pot dishes.

Nameko: It’s the Japanese name for a small mushroom that grows wild in beech woods and is also cultivated. Pleasantly flavoured and slightly aromatic nameko is extensively used in Miso soup and stews.

Natto: These fermented soya beans have a slightly disconcerting texture and flavour but are considered a delicacy and aid to digestion. Most popular in eastern Japan natto is used as an accompaniment to rice. By itself its eaten with soy sauce, mustard and negi(Japanse Onion) or with raw quail eggs , broken into and mashed with the natto.

Noodles: Collectively known as menuri, noodles were first introduced into Japan from China during the Nara period(710-794) and they come in five varieties – The popular light brown soba(Buckwheat) noodles, wheatflourUdon noodles which have a great following in Osaka and western Japan, flat ribbon like Kishimen noodles from Nagoya, fine vermicelli like hiyamugi noodles and somen which are similar Hiyamugiexcent that their dough is thinly coated with vegetable oil before being made into noodles.

Nori: An important group of seaweeds which are most visible in Norimaki sushi rolls they are sold as thin as paper like sheets, which are toasted over fire for a few seconds before being used so that they may become crisp and flavoursome.Nori is a rich source of Iodine, calcium,iron and other essential minerals besides providing a useful amount of protein which is of particular value in a vegetarian diet.

Octopus: Akashi a port on the sheltered sea between Honshu and Shikoku is famous for its octopuses.The Japanese boil octopuses just lightly to prevent them from getting touch then slice them thin and eat with a dip made variously with soy sauce, yuzu juice or mustard.

Onigiri: These ubiquitousrice balls appear in school lunch boxes as part of a meal and as fast food or picnic snacks. It is a meal in itself stuffed with everything from Korean barbecue to curried chicken from salami to salmon.

Oysters: The prized marine molluscs called milk of the ocean because of their nutritional value are eaten raw and put in stews and deep fried but they are not commonly eaten in summer. As rich sources of vitamins A,B,C,D and E oyesters have many beneficial effects like prevention of hardening of the arteries and anaemia and facilitation of liver functions. The rich taurine content of oysters lowers cholestrerol and their glycogen content helps recovery from Fatigue as well as perks up the brain.

Sake: The well known Japanese alcoholic drink is used sparingly for cooking but it has its uses. Its an effective tenderizer, it removes strong smells and tones down saltiness and it removes or tames fishy flavours. Japanese cooks also use sake as pickline medium.

Sasami: It’s the flesh of chicken breast inside the wings. As the Japanese name suggests its shape seems like a bamboo leaf. The sasami of a chicken contains the least fat and cholesterol and is rich in proteins and amino acids which make it useful for building muscles and dieting.

Shichimi: This is the Japanese spice mixture whose name means seven flavours. It consists of red chilli pepper flakes, roughly ground sansho pods, hemp seeds or white poppy seeds, white sesame seeds, rape seed, milkan or yuzu peel in tiny fragments and nori in small bits.

Shiitake: These mushrooms with a strong flavour grow on rotting wood of a number of Japanese trees or on deciduous trees such as a certain oaks. They are used for appearance and texture as well as flavour.

Soba: The buckwheat noodles which are traditionally preferred in the eastern half of Japan especially in Tokyo are served in many ways but the most common are mori and kake as a soup.

Tofu: The bean curd performs an important function- it enables the digestion of soya proteins which though abundant are physically and chemically sealed in a manner that challenges human digestion . Tofu infact yields the essential amino acid called lysine which is missing in rice.It has a much stronger aroma and flavour which it retains even after being soaked in water.

Tsukemono: This is the Japanese name for pickles which form an essential part of a meal. These are served as relishes to accompany the cooked food or as palate cleansers at the end of meal either singly or in groups of two or three beautifully arranged in tiny individual dishes.

Udo: The young white stalks and leaves of this aromatic plant are similar to asparagus in taste and smell. They are eaten as vegetables in Japan.

Ume: This early summer fruit which grows on a deciduous tree of the rose family is often mistakenly called a plum when in fact it is an apricot. It has a strongly acid and bitter taste which renders it unsuitable to be eaten raw. Its either salt pickled oto make umeboshi or macerated with rock sugar in alcohol to make a liqueur called umeshu.

Wasabi: This perennial herb is not related to horseradish but resembles it in flavour though it is mellower and more fragrant. The plants grow on the banks of mountain streams or are cultivated in flooded mountain terraces.

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