Asian Food Glossary

Adzuki(also spelled azuki or aduki) is a type of small red bean commonly used in East Asian cuisine, particularly in Japan, Korea, and China. Adzuki beans are a good source of protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals, including iron and zinc. They are often used in sweet dishes such as red bean paste, which is a common filling for Japanese mochi and Chinese mooncakes. Adzuki beans can also be used in savory dishes such as stews and soups.
Congee, also known as rice porridge, is a type of rice-based dish that is commonly eaten in East Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Korea. It is made by cooking rice in a large amount of water or broth until it breaks down and becomes a thick, creamy consistency. Congee is often served as a breakfast food, and can be flavored with a variety of ingredients such as meat, seafood, vegetables, and herbs. It is considered a comforting and easy-to-digest food, and is often served to those who are ill or recovering from an illness. In some cultures, congee is also used as a base for sweet desserts.
Dim sum is a type of Cantonese cuisine that consists of small bite-sized portions of food, typically served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum dishes can be savory or sweet, and can include items such as dumplings, buns, rolls, noodles, and desserts. Dim sum is often served in restaurants that specialize in this type of cuisine, and is typically eaten as a brunch or lunch meal. It is a popular style of dining and socializing in many parts of China, as well as in Chinese communities around the world.
Donburi is a Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with various ingredients. The term "donburi" refers to both the bowl itself and the food inside it. The toppings can include meat, seafood, vegetables, and eggs, and are often seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, and other Japanese seasonings. Donburi dishes are popular in Japanese cuisine because they are filling, easy to prepare, and customizable. Some popular types of donburi include gyudon (beef bowl), katsudon (pork cutlet bowl), and oyakodon (chicken and egg bowl). Donburi is typically served in casual restaurants, and is also commonly made at home.
Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning that is typically sprinkled on top of rice. It is made with a mixture of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt, and other flavorings. Furikake comes in a variety of flavors and can include other ingredients such as bonito flakes, shiso, or egg. It is often used as a condiment to add flavor and texture to plain rice, and can also be used to season noodles, vegetables, or meat. Furikake is popular in Japan and is also widely available in other parts of the world.
Gomashio is a Japanese seasoning made from toasted sesame seeds and salt. The name "gomashio" comes from the Japanese words "goma" (sesame) and "shio" (salt). Gomashio is typically made by roasting sesame seeds until they are fragrant and then grinding them with salt to create a coarse powder. The ratio of sesame seeds to salt can vary depending on personal preference. Gomashio is often used as a condiment for rice, vegetables, and noodles, and is a popular alternative to plain salt. It is also a good source of protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented vegetables, typically napa cabbage or Korean radish, mixed with a variety of seasonings such as chili powder, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce. The mixture is then stored in a jar or other container and left to ferment for a period of time, ranging from a few days to several months. During the fermentation process, the vegetables develop a sour and spicy flavor and a crunchy texture. Kimchi is a popular side dish in Korean cuisine and is also used as an ingredient in many other Korean dishes such as kimchi fried rice and kimchi stew. It is also considered a probiotic food, as the fermentation process promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Kombu is a type of edible kelp that is commonly used in East Asian cuisine, particularly in Japanese cuisine. It is a type of brown seaweed that is typically dried and used as a flavoring agent in soups, stews, and broths. Kombu is rich in umami, a savory taste that is often described as "meaty" or "brothy." It is also a good source of iodine, calcium, and other minerals. Kombu is often used to make dashi, a traditional Japanese soup stock that is used as a base for many dishes. It is also used as a topping for rice dishes and as a component of vegetarian and vegan dishes, as it can be used to add depth of flavor without the use of meat.
Laksa is a spicy noodle soup that is popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. The soup is typically made with a rich, spicy broth that is flavored with coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, and other herbs and spices. The soup is then filled with a variety of ingredients such as rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, tofu, and vegetables, and is typically topped with bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and a squeeze of lime juice. Laksa can vary in spiciness and can range from mild to very spicy, depending on the recipe and personal preference. It is a popular street food and is also commonly served in restaurants.
Lotus root is the edible rhizome of the lotus plant, which is a water plant that is native to Asia. It is a common ingredient in East and Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean dishes. The lotus root is cylindrical in shape and has a brownish-red skin with a white interior that contains small holes, giving it a unique appearance. Lotus root is low in calories and is a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It has a crunchy texture and a slightly sweet, nutty flavor, and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is often used in stir-fries, stews, soups, and salads, and can also be pickled or made into chips. In traditional Chinese medicine, lotus root is believed to have various health benefits, including improving digestion and boosting the immune system.
Lychee is a tropical fruit that is native to China, but is now cultivated in many parts of the world, including Southeast Asia, South Africa, and the United States. The fruit is roughly the size of a small plum and has a thin, rough, and pinkish-red skin that is easily peeled to reveal the translucent white flesh inside. The flesh has a sweet, floral flavor and a slightly chewy texture. Lychees are typically eaten fresh, either on their own or as a topping for desserts, and can also be canned or dried. They are a good source of vitamin C and potassium and are low in calories. In traditional Chinese medicine, lychee is believed to have various health benefits, including improving digestion and promoting relaxation.
Makizushi, also known as sushi rolls, is a type of sushi that is rolled into a cylindrical shape using sheets of dried seaweed (nori) and sushi rice. Makizushi typically contains a filling of raw or cooked fish, vegetables, or other ingredients, such as avocado, cucumber, crab meat, or tempura shrimp. The sushi roll is then sliced into bite-sized pieces, which are often served with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Makizushi is a popular form of sushi in many countries and is often found in sushi restaurants and sushi bars.
Mantou is a type of steamed bun that is a staple in Chinese cuisine. It is made from a simple dough of flour, yeast, sugar, and water, which is formed into small, round or oval-shaped buns and then steamed until fluffy and tender. Mantou can be eaten on their own, as a snack or side dish, or used as a base for sandwich-like dishes such as pork belly buns or vegetable-filled baozi. Mantou can also be sweetened by adding sugar or condensed milk to the dough, and can be flavored with ingredients such as green tea powder or pumpkin puree. In Chinese culture, mantou is often served during special occasions, such as the Lunar New Year, and is sometimes shaped into different forms, such as animal shapes, to represent good luck and prosperity.
Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish that originated in the Sichuan province. It is a spicy and flavorful dish made with tofu, ground pork or beef, Sichuan peppercorns, and a spicy chili bean paste called doubanjiang. The dish is typically served over rice and garnished with chopped scallions. Mapo tofu has a soft and silky texture from the tofu and a spicy and numbing flavor from the Sichuan peppercorns. It is a popular dish in Chinese restaurants and is enjoyed by many around the world. The dish is also often adapted to be vegetarian or vegan by replacing the meat with mushrooms or other plant-based proteins.
Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. The soybeans are cooked and then fermented with a specific strain of bacteria called Bacillus subtilis, which breaks down the proteins in the soybeans and produces a sticky and pungent-smelling substance. Natto is a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamin K2, and is often eaten as a breakfast food or a snack in Japan. It has a distinct taste and texture that is not enjoyed by everyone - it is often described as slimy or sticky, and has a strong flavor that is similar to blue cheese. Natto is often served with rice, soy sauce, and mustard, and is also used as an ingredient in various dishes, such as sushi rolls and salads.
Nigiri is a type of sushi that consists of a small ball of vinegared sushi rice topped with a piece of fresh raw fish, seafood, or other ingredient, such as egg or tofu. The sushi rice is usually lightly pressed into an oblong shape by hand, and a small amount of wasabi paste is often added between the rice and the topping to provide a spicy flavor and to help preserve the fish. Nigiri sushi is typically eaten with soy sauce and pickled ginger, and is a popular menu item in sushi restaurants and bars around the world. The quality of the fish used in nigiri sushi is considered to be very important, and is often a defining characteristic of a sushi chef's skill and reputation.
Sake is a Japanese alcoholic beverage that is made by fermenting rice. It is often referred to as "rice wine", although the brewing process for sake is more similar to that of beer than wine. Sake is typically clear or slightly yellow in color, and has a clean, crisp flavor that can range from sweet to dry. The alcohol content of sake can also vary, with some varieties having an alcohol content as high as 20%. Sake is typically served either cold or warm, depending on the type of sake and the preference of the drinker. It is often enjoyed with Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi and sashimi, and is also used in cooking to add flavor to various dishes.
Sashimi is a Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced raw fish or seafood, served with soy sauce and wasabi paste. The fish used in sashimi is typically of high quality and is selected for its freshness and texture. Common fish used in sashimi include tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and mackerel, although other seafood such as squid and octopus can also be used. Sashimi is often served as a first course or appetizer in Japanese cuisine, and is sometimes accompanied by pickled ginger and shredded daikon radish. It is important to note that sashimi should only be consumed if it has been properly prepared and stored, as raw fish can carry certain risks if not handled correctly.