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The lexicon of Japanese food | Umami Paris

Discover on this page of Umami Paris, a selection of Japanese words and their definitions. In order to better understand Japanese cuisine, it is obviously easier to understand these Japanese ingredients and components with some explanations. 

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Amazake is a naturally sweet non-alcoholic beverage with a production process similar to sake. Amazakeis made by fermenting rice with kōji which converts the rice starch into natural sugar. This sweet drink, very low in calories and rich in vitamin B and fiber, can be consumed at various temperatures but is also used in cooking, especially in baking where its creamy texture and sweet taste serve as a natural sweetener.

  • ANKO

The term anko refers to the paste obtained from red azuki beans. It is mainly used in bakeries and can be called by different terms depending on the way it is produced or its consistency. Basically, anko is made by first boiling the azuki beans and then grinding them. They are then sweetened with sugar or honey. Koshian is a bean paste which still contains the pods, shiroan is a paste made with white azuki. The anko also fills the famous dorayaki and mochi!


Arare are small balls with a soft texture, made with glutinous rice paste. They can be coated with different seasonings: soy sauce, sugar, spices etc. Their preparation has evolved over time but the principle remains the same: the mochi is left to dry, then toasted and finally seasoned. Traditionally, they are found at Hina matsuri, the calendar celebration of young girls, under different colors representing the seasons of the year but also mixed with tempura batter to bring even more crunch.


Azuki bean is a plant cultivated in many East Asian countries. The seeds are usually uniformly red but white, black and even spotted varieties are also available. The bean can be used whole, for example in the preparation of sekihan, rice mixed with azuki beans, prepared at festive times. Usually, azuki is used in sweet preparations, especially in the form of the famous anko paste. In Japanese cuisine, anko is used to make yōkan for example, a kind of jelly fruit paste, but especially to fill pastries such as mochi, taiyaki, dorayaki etc.



Bento is the Japanese equivalent of a takeaway. Naturally, the concept of nomadic lunch has existed for a long time in Japan, with the onigiri for example, but it is from the end of the 16th century that the characteristic bento boxes started to be made. Customarily, this bentobox will always contain rice, accompanied by various garnishes: from the simple umeboshi to grilled eel, tempura, sashimi or other tsukemono. They are available everywhere, and their great diversity is also reflected in the price ranges provided and in the refinment devoted to their composition.


Binchotan is a charcoal made from the wood of Ubamegashi oaks, a typical tree of the Wakayama region. Binchoya Chozaemon, its inventor, gave his name to this fuel. To make it, the pieces of wood are burned at low temperature for several weeks before enduring a temperature of over 1000°C. The result is a very porous charcoal, capable of capturing molecules suspended on its surface. Binchotan is used as a fuel for barbecue: it is slower to start than ordinary charcoal, but its very powerful infrared radiation allows it to cook food thoroughly without burning it. On the other hand, binchotan can also be used to filter water, and even as a deodorizer thanks to its high porosity.



Chasen is the name given to the small bamboo whisk traditionally used to mix matcha tea powder with water during the tea ceremony. It is made by cutting a single piece of bamboo into 16 equal parts, which are then divided into several prongs that will form the branches of the whisk. The number of branches will vary according to the consistency of the tea we want to achieve: the more branches, the lighter the tea will be. Although its delicate manufacture makes it precious, its bamboo composition inevitably makes it a fragile product and thus it needs to be replaced regularly. A ceremony called chasen kuyō, during which chasen are burned, allows tea masters to show their gratitude to their precious instrument.



Because of its umami content dashi broth is a staple of Japanese cuisine. Today, umami is commonly recognized everywhere as the fifth flavor. It brings a roundness and a length in the mouth that can be found in some broths or foods rich in glutamates: smoked meat, mushrooms, soy sauce etc. Dashi is mainly made of a broth of kombu seaweed and dried bonito. This broth is usually used to make miso soup, but it is also used as a base for other noodle dishes (ramen, soba) and for cooking vegetables, meat and fish. It can be easily made at home with bonito or shiitakés mushrooms, but it is also available in powder or liquid form.


Daikon is a variety of white radish, milder than the European radish, and essential to the cuisine of East Asian countries. It is a vegetable that grows particularly well during the autumn rainy season, until mid-November. In Japan, this vegetable is mainly used grated or finely cut as a condiment, or macerated in pickles also known as tsukemono. Cooked, it is found as a simmered element in oden, the famous Japanese stew.



Furikake is a typical condiment of Japanese cuisine made of dried seaweed, dried fish and sesame. The first origins of furikake date back to the Kamakura era, beginning in the 12th century. At that time, salt-cured sea bream, salmon or shark meat were sprinkled on dishes. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th century, furikake came back into fashion to compensate for the low calcium content of the Japanese diet. At that time, it was sprinkled on white rice to add taste but today, furikake can be found in many flavors that can be combined with all kinds of dishes. Discover furikake flavored with shiso, sansho or wasabi!



Genmaicha means brown rice tea and, as the name suggests, it is a tea made of green tea leaves and roasted rice grains. Although whole leaves are mostly used, there is also genmaicha to which matcha, the green tea powder, is added. This tea is characterized by a refreshing aroma and notes of roasted rice and a low caffeine content. Thus, it can be enjoyed by everyone at any time of the day.


As its name suggests, gomashio is a condiment made by combining toasted sesame (胡麻 goma) and salt (塩 shio). It can be used as a substitute for furikake, sprinkled on sekihan, the red rice prepared at festive times, or onigiri to give a toasted taste of salted peanuts. Other varieties combining gomashio and seaweed or even other seeds also exist.


The gohan indicates rice cooked in water ready to be eaten, but the term also means the meal.



Hōjicha tea is a very popular tea in Japan. It is produced from green tea leaves, roasted at high temperatures for varying lengths of time. The longer the leaves are roasted, the darker their color. Thanks to its low caffeine content, this tea can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It can be enjoyed hot or cold and incorporated into pastries as well.



The iyokan is a medium-sized orange citrus fruit whose appearance and taste are similar to the European mandarin with a more pronounced acidity. It is a cross between Japanese (mikan) and American (tangerine) mandarins. Its production is almost exclusively limited to Ehime prefecture which has a warm climate and a coastal landscape ideal for growing the best fruits.



Katsuobushi means dried bonito in Japanese. It is produced from bonito, a fish related to tuna, which has been fermented, smoked and dried. Once dried, the bonito becomes very hard and similar to a piece of wood. Katsuobushi bonito is then grated into chips for consumption. It is one of the central elements of Japanese cuisine as it is used to produce dashi, a broth very rich in umami. Indeed, katsuobushi has a very high concentration of inosinate, a substance at the origin of umami.


The term kizami could simply be translated as "minced". Generally, it is used to refer to food chopped into small pieces such as shiitake or seaweed. For example, kizami nori, or chopped nori, is a condiment used to garnish various noodle dishes or donburi, a variety of dishes consisting of a bowl of rice topped with all kinds of toppings. These kizami serve mainly a practical function: they are often found in ready-made preparations in stores.


Kinako is a powder made by grinding roasted soybeans. Roasting erases the particular smell of soybeans to give them a flavor close to hazelnut. When produced from yellow soybeans, it can be yellow in color, hence its name (黄な粉/kinako means yellow powder), or light green if green soybeans are used. This powder is generally used in the making of many confections, including mochi. Rich in proteins and minerals, it is often used as a food supplement nowadays.

  • KOJI

Kōji is not an ingredient used as is, but rather a ferment that helps in the fermentation of many basic preparations of Japanese cuisine such as miso or soy sauce. It is obtained by seeding a substrate (rice, soybeans, barley,etc.) with the spores of a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae. After a few days, a thin white layer can be observed on the substrate: this is the kōji! It is the protease enzyme contained in this kōji that gives the umami flavor. In addition to its function as a flavor enhancer, it can be used as a natural preservative. When mixed with salt, the kōji produces a paste, now also existing in liquid form, which is used to tenderize food: shiokōji.


Kombu is a large, thick, dark-colored edible seaweed leaf. It has the highest iodine content among the edible seaweed consumed in Japan. It is mainly used boiled in the preparation of dashi broth but is also one of the main ingredients in the kobujime recipe, a dish from Toyama region combining kombu seaweed with sashimi. It is also used in the preparation of tsukudani, a cooking method consisting of simmering food, usually seafood, in a mixture of soy sauce and sugar. Once used as a preservation method, tsukudani is now mainly used as a condiment to garnish rice.


Not to be confused with the fermented drink, Japanese kombucha is an infusion made with kombu seaweed. There is no clear historical source that would shed light on the origin of this infusion, but it seems to have been consumed as early as the Edo era (1603-1868), or even the Heian era (794-1185). Kombucha can also be enjoyed with ume plums, the sour flavor of the ume being a perfect match for the sweetness of the infusion.


Komeko is rice flour. Rice flour is produced from 100% rice, which is ground into a very fine powder. Gluten-free, it can replace wheat flour and is used both to prepare bread and in pastries such as cookies or chiffon cakes. Rich in starch, this flour can also thicken sauces and is used for frying food.


Konjac is a plant of the Araceae family, mainly known for the food produced from its bulb. Flour is produced from this plant, to which limewater is added to obtain a mixture that is boiled and then cooled to produce konjac. Formerly used in the Asian pharmacopeia, konjac can be consumed in the form of jelly, noodles or patties. Its low calorie content makes it ideal for a variety of diets.


Koshihikari rice is a hybrid short grain rice variety obtained by crossing the strains of Nourin No. 1 and Nourin No. 22 varieties. It is particularly appreciated for its bright appearance and sticky texture. It is grown throughout the southern Tohoku region and is certainly one of the most widely grown and popular rice varieties in Japan.

  • KUZU

Kuzu is a plant native from the Far-East and introduced from Japan to the United States during the 1876 World’s Fair. Even though its leaves, as well as its flowers, are edible, it is its roots that are mainly exploited for the confection of kuzuko, a powder used for the preparation of many wagashi, the Japanese sweets. Kuzuko can also be used to thicken sauces or make jellies.



Matcha is a high-quality green tea powder. It is produced from young tea plants leaves, grown in shaded plantations for three weeks before harvesting. Matcha is one of the richest products in the world in antioxidants. It helps fight against the signs of aging and strengthens the immune system. Moreover, thanks to its gradual release of caffeine, theanine and catechin, matcha tea also has energizing and soothing properties and could even prevent certain diseases. Traditionally used in the tea ceremony, it is now used in the concoction of drinks, as a coloring agent or as a natural flavoring in pastries.


Mirin is a mild and sweet sake once enjoyed as a drink. By the 1950s, as other liquors continued to see growth in popularity, its use was restricted to seasoning and it is now a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Its sugar content balances the salt content of soy sauce. It is also used for the preparation of marinade and to give a lacquered, shiny aspect to meats.

  • MISO

Miso is a paste-like fermented condiment, a typically Japanese variety of kokubishiyo/穀醤, a similar condiment more commonly used in East-Asia. Miso is made from soybeans or other seeds such as rice, barley, water, salt and koji.

Many kinds of miso are available : white miso, creamy and sweet and made from rice, red miso, fermented for a long time, brown rice miso, smooth and tangy, the rather mild barley miso, or even pure soy miso with rich and strong flavors requiring at least two years of refining

In general, miso made up largely of soybeans will be more umami, while miso that includes more kōji seeded on other grains will be sweeter. Miso can be used as a base for soups and broths, marinades, but also as a condiment or seasoning or even as part of a dish in its own right.


Mochi is a Japanese sweet made from glutinous rice. Rich in amylopectin and low in amylose, this rice absorbs a lot of water to produce a gelatinous consistency. The rice is first steamed and then mashed in a large mortar with a hammer to form an elastic paste. After this long process, mochi can be formed as spheres or blocks. Mochi can be consumed as is or used in several dishes : savory soups (zoni) or sweet ones (oshiruko), grilled in arare, in making pastries etc.


Mochiko is a flour prepared from glutinous rice. It is mainly used to prepare mochi. Similar in appearance to starch, mochiko also thickens sauces and can be used as an emulsifier. It is also possible to coat chicken or fish with it to make gluten-free fries but it is not recommended to use it to prepare bread.


In a broad sense, the term moromi refers to the fermented state of raw materials during the process of making sake, shōchū, miso, soy sauce, etc. In the case of sake, for example, moromi is the cloudy product resulting from the fermentation of the mother liquor, rice, kōji, and water. Thus, the filtered product will constitute sake, and the solid residue will constitute sake kasu, the sake lees.


Mugicha, or barley tea, is a very popular drink in Japan. It is particularly appreciated in summer, when barley starts to be harvested. Mugicha has a good fresh taste with nutty notes due to the roasting of barley. Usually, the drink is called tea but it is more like an infusion since it does not contain any tea leaves. It is said to help improve blood circulation and lower body temperature. Moreover, since it does not contain caffeine, it can be enjoyed by young and old at any time of the day. Today, mugicha is also one of the flagship products of the vending machines that line the streets of Japan.


  • NABE

The term nabe refers to a Japanese dish, the equivalent of a stew. Often prepared in winter, nabe consists of cooking various foods together (meat or fish, vegetables, tofu, etc.) in a dashi broth, in a large pot called nabe, which is placed on the fire in the center of the table. Everyone then helps themselves directly from the dish, in a friendly atmosphere.


Nigari is a food additive composed primarily of magnesium chloride, a derivative of seawater. In powder or liquid form, it contains a large amount of excess minerals produced when salt is made from sea water. It can be used as a coagulant, for example when processing soy milk into tofu.

  • NORI

The term nori refers to red-colored edible seaweed. Once dried, nori takes on a darker color between green and black. Very rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins, grilled nori leaves are traditionally used as tasty wrappers for temaki-sushi and maki.



Ochazuke is a very simple Japanese dish to prepare: you just pour a broth made from tea and dashi over a bowl of rice. Then, you can add sesame seeds, umeboshi, grilled salmon, cod eggs, strips of nori seaweed, chives and wasabi. We also add a little shoyu to season the dish.

  • ODEN

Often compared to French pot-au-feu, oden is part of the nabe family, a kind of fondue in which seafood (chikuwa) and vegetables (daikon, mushrooms, konjac) are simmered in a broth usually made with dashi and soy sauce. Ingredients used may vary according to the regions which makes oden a dish that can be adapted to any occasion! Traditionally, it was enjoyed in a mobile stand called yatai to allow solitary customers to relax. However, since the decline of these establishments in the 1980s, konbini, 24-hour grocery stores, have taken over this role.


Existing in an infinity of varieties, onigiri is a white rice based preparation filled with various ingredients: plum ume, salted salmon, tsukudani etc. Designed to be easily transportable, these rice balls are usually coated with nori seaweed.



Unlike European breadcrumbs which are made by grinding dry bread or biscuits, in Japan the most used breadcrumbs are dried fresh breadcrumbs, also called panko. Lighter and thinner than European breadcrumbs, it has the advantage of retaining much less oil.


Ponzu is a very popular sauce in Japan which combines soy sauce with dashi, vinegar and citrus juice. It is very easy to use because it fits very well in European cuisine. Each producer has his own recipe and combines different citrus fruits like yuzu, sudachi or mikan with different proportions of broth and vinegar to create a unique ponzu.



What we call sanshō pepper is actually closer to citrus fruits. As a matter of fact, its lemony flavor could have put us on the track but, unlike the common pepper from Piperaceae shrubs, sanshō berry is a species of the Rutaceae family, characteristic of citrus fruits. In addition to its lemongrass scent, it is its spiciness and numbing power that gave it the name pepper. In cooking, its lemony flavor goes well with white fish, and it remains a very versatile seasoning.

  • SAKE

In English, Japanese alcohol made from rice (nihonshū) is referred to as “sake”. Japanese sake is generally around 15% alcohol, slightly stronger than wine. Its transparent, even pale yellow color is reminiscent of white wine. Nevertheless, sake has a milder and less astringent flavor, very rich in umami. Contrary to popular belief, sake is not a digestive. It is not distilled and can be drunk throughout the meal, as an aperitif or with a dessert. Each sake has its own ideal drinking temperature which allows the full development of its flavors but they can be drunk at room temperature, cold, or even heated.


Sake kasu refers to sake lees, a white product obtained at the end of the alcohol fermentation process. These lees are retrieved after filtering and reused in many forms: tiles, elastic paste, bars… Sake kasu has a fruity taste, similar to sake, and strengthens the umami flavor of dishes in which it is added. It can be found in marinades, soups and even cakes or biscuits. It can also be used in cosmetics !


Sakura is a variety of Japanese ornamental cherry tree that does not produce fruit. However, it is highly appreciated for its flowers which mark the arrival of spring and symbolize the impermanence of things. Sakura is used in various forms in cooking (leaves, paste, vinegar etc.) to bring a floral note to savory and sweet dishes.


Soy sauce could easily be considered as the most important ingredient in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. It can be used as a seasoning on its own or as a base for the preparation of a great deal of marinades, sauces or broths. Several categories of sauces exist depending on the ingredients and the manufacturing methods used or the consistencies obtained.

In general, the production of soy sauce follows the same process. A mixture of soaked then pressure-cooked soybeans as well as roasted and ground wheat is seeded to produce kōji, the ferment that forms the basis for many of the preparations essential to Japanese cooking. After several days, salt is added to the preparation with a brine to let the result mature for several months. Finally, the resulting product is pressed to obtain a liquid that is decanted to separate the soy sauce from its oily part.


Sencha literally means “infused tea”. In general, sencha refers to green tea in the form of dried leaves which, unlike matcha tea, are not ground into powder. Tea leaves are directly infused in hot water, it is the most common way to prepare tea in Japan. The higher the temperature, the more it becomes astringent. Sencha is a dense tea which offers a balance between sweetness, umami and sourness. As matcha, it is rich in catechin, an antioxidant that strengthens the immune system, but also in vitamin C.


Shiitake is a variety of mushrooms mainly cultivated in Japan, in China and in Korea. They are cultivated on “shii” oaks stumps, especially in southern Japan where the hot and humid weather and large areas of dense woodland are conducive to their cultivation. Rich in guanylic acid, shiitakes is one of the three ingredients (along with dried bonito and kombu seaweed) with the highest umami content in Japanese cuisine. They can be used fresh or rehydrated and are appreciated for their woody fragrance and soft texture.


Shichimi togarashi, literally seven flavors pepper, is a popular Japanese spice composed of red pepper, sesame, poppy and hemp seeds, mikan or yuzu peel, sansho and nori. In the beginning, this mix was used for its supposed medicinal properties. It was apparently invented by an herborist from Tokyo : Yagenbori. Quite versatile, it can be used to spice up broths and soups or even to season meat.


Shiokōji is the result of mixing kōji ferment and salt. It is a whitish paste containing many enzymes giving it extraordinary properties! It is particularly popular for tenderizing the flesh of foods by breaking down their connective tissues but can also act as a flavor enhancer giving an umami flavor to dishes. Shiokōji also exists in liquid form, so it becomes easy to use and very useful in marinades thanks to its double faculty of tenderizer and flavor enhancer.


Shiso is a plant of the mint family used as an aromatic herb. It comes under different varieties, most common ones being red shiso (akajiso) and green shiso also known as ōba. Red shiso leaves are generally used as an ingredient for furikake, or, combined with salt, for a spice called yukari. Green leaves are more likely found prepared as a tempura, as a garnish for fish dishes, or even as a receptacle for other condiments such as wasabi for example.


Shōchū is an alcoholic, distilled beverage. This spirit can be distilled from rice, barley, buckwheat, or even sweet potato. This spirit averages 25% alcohol, but some shōchū can contain up to 45% alcohol. Its slightly woody taste can be enjoyed both on the rocks, as well as with soda, fruit juice or even Oolong tea.

  • SOBA

Soba is a variety of thin noodles made from buckwheat flour. They are unique in that they contain all nine amino acids that are essential for the proper functioning of our body. In the middle of the Edo era (1603-1868), soba became particularly popular because of its high level of vitamin B1, which is able to fight beriberi, a disease caused by the lack of this vitamin in the diet. They are certainly among the most consumed foods in Japan and are the center of a considerable variety of hot and cold dishes. Generally, noodles are served with broth and various toppings. Moreover, as buckwheat can be grown in almost any type of soil, different recipes can be found in almost every part of the archipelago.


Sobacha, or buckwheat tea, is an infusion made from shelled and roasted buckwheat seeds. Sobacha is appreciated for its roasted notes and for its benefits for the body. It is rich in rutin, a powerful antioxidant present in buckwheat, and could also help fighting stress thanks to its magnesium inputs.


Sōmen are a type of thin noodle made from wheat flour and vegetable oil. Somen are commonly enjoyed cold, dipped in a sauce called tsuyu, which is mainly composed of dashi and soy sauce. During the kneading process, it has become common to add other ingredients to somen to create new varieties: ume, sake, iyokan etc.


Sudachi is a small green citrus fruit with a very tangy taste. Symbol of the Tokushima prefecture on the Shikoku island where it is mostly produced, its taste lies between lime and yuzu with fresher and sweeter notes. It is easily used to add a touch of acidity to all kinds of dishes. The skin of the fruit can also be grated and used as a condiment.



Until the middle of the Edo era (1603-1868), tamari soy sauce was the main sauce used in Japan. Strong, thick, and less salty, it is a soy sauce prepared following an ancient Chinese method, exclusively from soybeans, without any wheat or other cereals added. In other words, tamari was the result of the extraction of miso.


The term “tempura” refers to a Japanese frying method which has the particularity of offering a light, almost transparent coating. It is during the Edo era (1603-1868), in parallel with the increase of oil production, that tempura started to be widely distributed, especially via stands called yatai. Tempura peculiar texture is probably due to its method of frying. As the food is dipped into the oil bath, the batter “blooms” and is dispersed in the oil to gently envelop the food.
Many ingredients can be fried in tempura but fish and vegetables are usually preferred. Tempura can be enjoyed on its own, dipped in a sauce, with some lemon or salt, or as a side dish with soba or udon.

  • TOFU

Tofu is obtained through the curdling of soy milk. A salty or acidic coagulating agent such as nigari (magnesium chloride) is added to soy milk. Tofu is low in calories, contains little fat and is an important source of iron and protein!


Originally, “tsukudanirefers to a method of cooking and has been derived to refer to condiments produced through this cooking method. Traditionally, seafood such as seaweeds or small fishes are gently simmered in a mixture of soy sauce and sugar. Usually, mirin or sake are also added. This method of cooking was originally used to preserve fresh food in preparation for times when it would run out.


Tsuyu sauce is a sauce with smoky notes that brings a lot of umami. It is made from a mix of soy sauce, dashi, salt and sugar. It goes well with noodle dishes such as zaru soba, a summer dish consisting of cold soba noodles dipped in tsuyu sauce, but it can also be used as a condiment to season soups or broths for example.


  • UDON

Thicker and firmer than somen, udon noodles are made from wheat flour, water and salt. With its low hydratation, the dough is difficult to work by hand, hence the industrialization of its production today. It would seem that the culture of udon is older than the culture of soba, more popular in western Japan. It is the Kagawa region, the smallest prefecture in Japan, which produces the most udon today. Udon noodles can be served in thousands of ways, cold or hot, in a stew, in a broth or even sautéed and accompanied with different toppings.


Umami is commonly acknowledged as the fifth base flavor. Discovered by a Japanese chemistry professor, Kikunae Ikeda, it brings a sensation of roundness and length in the mouth due to the glutamates contained in some foods. Thus, among the foods rich in umami, we can find smoked meats, mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, kombu seaweed, some cheeses like parmesan and some fermented preparations such as soy sauce or miso. Umami has the particularity of entering in synergy with many flavors in order to enhance them. With foods rich in ribonucleotides, for example, it combines particularly well. This can be seen in universal examples such as the pairing of parmesan with tomato sauce or even champagne with oysters.


Umeboshi is a contraction of the words “ume”, a variety of Japanese plums hybrid between the European plum and apricot, and “boshi”, which means “sun dried”. Umeboshi are part of the big family of tsukemono, “macerated things” very close to pickles preserved in vinegar. They are mainly used to accompany rice or in the confection of the ume sauce, a sweet and sour sauce that goes particularly well with meats.


Umeshu is a liquor made from ume plums macerated in alcohol and sugar between 3 and 6 months. This sweet and sour liquor can be consumed as it is or mixed with various drinks : soda, carbonated water, tea etc.


Literally meaning “sea grape” for its appearance similar to a grape cluster, umi budō is the edible upper stem of the Caulerpa lentillifera seaweed, a species that grows in coastal areas of the Indo-Pacific basin. Umi budō is mainly used in Okinawan cuisine, raw as an accompaniment to sashimi, soba or rice, it brings an iodized taste that bursts into the mourh.



The term wagashi refers to Japanese sweets, as opposed to "western style" sweets. Wagashi differ according to the seasons and the regions of the archipelago. In general, they are designed to balance the bitterness of green tea with a very sweet taste. Compared to western confectionery, wagashi contain less fat, spices and dairy products to make use of characteristic ingredients such as kuzu powder, azuki beans or grains such as rice. Wagashi has undergone several evolutions as a result of exchanges with other countries. The influence of China, for example, introduced manju, steamed buns often filled with red bean paste. Portuguese missionaries introduced pastries and cakes made of flour and sugar such as the famous castella. Finally, the opening of the country to the Meiji era (1868-1912) and the discovery of new foods such as chocolate and cookies completely formalized the differentiation between Western confectionery and wagashi, while opening the door to crossbreeding between the two cultures.


Wakame is a large brown seaweed of the Araliaceae family. It has a slight oyster taste, iodized, as well as a very tender and slightly crunchy texture. It contains glutamic acid (responsible for the umami taste in seaweed) which spices up the taste of the foods it is served with. Rich in protein and in vitamins A, B and C, this seaweed was even once used in the oriental pharmacopeia for its benefits to the hair and skin.


Wasabi is a plant native to Japan, traditionally used ground into a fine paste. It is often referred to as “Japanese horseradish” but has a fresher flavor and a milder spiciness. Wasabi is said to have been consumed in Japan for many centuries, especially as a medicinal herb. As an ointment for example, wasabi would have helped to fight rheumatism and bronchitis. Its use would go back far enough that a wooden tablet of the Asuka era (592-710) already mentions its existence. Today, its antibacterial properties are the main reason why it is often used to accompany raw fish dishes.


  • X-MONO

The vocabulary of Japanese cuisine often uses the suffix "mono", literally translated as "thing" in English. In general, "mono" will designate the food used in the recipe, food that will be prepared following what the verb placed just before "mono" establishes. For example, tsukemono means macerated food, nimono means stewed food, agemono means fried food, mushimono means steamed food, etc.



The term yakiniku refers to Japanese barbecue, derived from Korean barbecue. In fact, the first yakiniku restaurants in Japan are said to have been founded in the post-war period by Korean residents. In Japan, meat pieces are generally boned and cut in thin slices for quick cooking. Beef and pork are mainly cooked, and most animal parts are used, including offal, but some restaurants also offer vegetables and seafood to grill. Guests order different ingredients which they cook themselves on the grill before dipping them in different sauces : ponzu, soy sauce, or a typical sauce, notably composed of mirin, soy sauce and apple, and called by extension “yakiniku sauce”. In general, meat is accompanied by typical Korean dishes such as kimchi or other seasoned vegetables.

  • YUKO

Created by natural crossing, yuko is a citrus fruit derived from yuzu. Larger and more bitter than yuzu, yuko is mostly used for the confection of juices, or as an ingredient for the preparation of ponzu or vinegar. Too acidic to be consumed on the spot, yuko was once enjoyed as a snack after letting it rip for a year, when its sweetness reaches its peak and its acidity has dissipated.

  • YUZU

Yuzu is a yellow citrus fruit with thick and bumpy skin, mainly cultivated on the Shikoku island. It has many large pips in its pulp and produces only little juice. Its taste, less acidic than lemon, has a much more fruity and powerful perfume which lies between the lemon, the cédrat and the mandarin.


Yuzu koshō is a universal condiment that combines, as its name suggests, yuzu and chili pepper. Indeed, the term koshō, which usually means "pepper" in Japanese, refers here to chili pepper in the dialect of Kyushu, the island in the south of the archipelago where this condiment originates. It is made by grinding chili pepper from which the seeds have been removed and yuzu peels. Salt and yuzu juice are then added to this mixture to let it ferment and form a kind of paste.