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Japanese Food Glossary A - B

Check back periodically to see new additions to this inexhaustible list.

Abura-age. Abura means fat or lard while age is bean curd (tofu). Abura-age is fried, seasoned firm tofu slices. Often included in stew-type recipes, abura-age slices can be slit to form pockets which are filled with sushi-flavored rice. It may be purchased dried or canned with seasoning.
Agedama. Also known as tenkasu, agedama is crispy bits of fried batter made of seasoned flour, egg and water. This crunchy condiment is sprinkled on noodle soups and other dishes.
Ajinomoto. A crystallized seasoning that looks like salt but is monosodium glutamate. Due to health concerns today, most Japanese restaurants no longer add this once-requisite ingredient even though it adds a distinctive umami (savory) flavor. Common complaints include headaches from those with MSG sensitivity; however, some clinical studies have shown no adverse effects from casual consumption.
Akajiso and Aojiso. Leaves from the Perilla herb plant. The green leaves are called aojiso; the purple leaves are called akajiso (red). They are eaten fresh with raw fish as well as in a variety of salads and pickle dishes.
Anago. Saltwater eel.
Andagi. Okinawan fried doughnuts. Okinawa is a region in south Japan.
An or Anko. An is sweet bean paste made from red azuki beans. Tsubu-an or tsubushi-an is a sweet whole bean concoction. Koshi-an refers to the smoother bean paste. Shiro-an is a light-colored sweet bean paste made from white beans like navy beans or lima beans. An is used to fill pastries, mochi, ice cream as well as formed into candy-like sweets.
Amaebi. Sweet shrimp eaten raw.
Arare. Crunchy rice crackers. Flavors vary depending on the seasonings used. Some have a sweet-soy-nori flavor while others can be strictly sweet or strictly salty.
Azuki. Red beans. Azuki beans may be added into rice dishes (sekihan) or sweet paste (anko) to fill pastries, mochi (sweet rice dumplings), sweets and ice cream.

Bamboo shoots (takenoko). Young shoots are cooked until tender-crisp. They are marketed canned and packaged in water.
Bara zushi. Sushi rice, or seasoned vinegared rice, that is mixed with vegetables.
Bean sprouts (moyashi). Sprouts of all kinds are prized in Japan. Moyashi refers to mung or soybean varieties.
Bean curd (tofu). Tofu comes in different textures from soft/silken to firm and extra firm. Each texture type lends itself to different preparations.
Bean paste (miso). White or red bean paste is used to prepare many dishes including soups, pickles and meats. Some types of bean paste may be seasoned with chilis and garlic. Because it is a fermented product, it has an indefinite shelf life.
Beef (niku). Beef once was banned from the Japanese diet in favor of vegetarianism for over a thousand years preceding the late 1800s. Today, Japanfs famed Kobe beef is considered the worldfs premier beef while different cuts are prepared in various dishes.
Benishoga or shoga. Red pickled ginger that enhances the flavor of many dishes. It is served with sushi and used as a condiment or topping to popular snack foods like okonomiyaki.
Bento. A lunch box that may or may not consist of stacked layers. Bento foods must be palatable and safe to eat at room temperature. Today, bento boxes come in all sizes and mostly are plastic. Higher quality bento boxes are made of exquisite black lacquer and have several layers for more food.
Bonito flakes (katsuobushi). Dried bonito shavings are used to make fish stock, or dashi, that is the basis for many soups. The flakes also are used as a condiment topping for tofu, noodles and okonomiyaki.
Burdock root (gobo). This thick, woody stem is scraped and cut thin to make it easier to chew. It is seasoned and cooked in a variety of ways.

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