Japan, renowned for its quirky food culture featuring staples like ramen, sushi, and matcha, is equally renowned for its lexicon of food-related expressions. In a nation with such unique culinary traditions, it's hardly surprising that their language brims with phrases dedicated to gastronomic adventures.
Today, let TODAI Japanese unveil some of the most amusing Japanese food-related terms. Brace yourself!
In Japanese gastronomy, showing appreciation for every aspect of a meal, be it the chefs, waitstaff, or the food itself, is vital. Enter "itadakimasu" (頂きます), the perfect way to express gratitude for your meal in Japanese. Derived from the verb "itadaku" (meaning "to receive"), it's your personal thanksgiving for the food you're about to enjoy.
Before indulging, "itadakimasu" sets the tone, but after you've savored your meal, the Japanese offer another round of thanks to the chef using "gochisosama" (ごちそうさま) or the more polite "gochisosama deshita," akin to saying "thank you for the meal" to the culinary creator.
"Shokkan" (食感), combining the characters for "eating" and "feeling," signifies "food texture." It encapsulates that unique sensation and impression you get when tasting various foods in Japanese cuisine.
If you've ever embarked on the taxing journey of learning Japanese, you've undoubtedly stumbled upon a plethora of onomatopoeic words used to depict sounds, textures, sensations, and, naturally, food.
"Shittori" (しっとり), translating to "dense and moist," paints a vivid picture of a fluffy, moist cake, muffin, or any baked treat that refuses to be dry on the inside.
"Fuwa fuwa" (ふわふわ) translates to "fluffy, airy, and light." It's the go-to phrase for describing Japanese pancakes, renowned for their ethereal, giggly texture, as well as light cakes, soft toast, and sliced bread.
Pari Pari, Kari Kari, and Saku Saku
"Pari pari" (パリパリ), "kari kari" (カリカリ), and "saku saku" (サクサク) all revolve around the idea of crispiness and crunchiness. While the nuances are subtly different—pari pari is all about freshly crisp foods like chips or tempura, kari kari pairs up with bacon, and saku saku captures the crunchy goodness of freshly baked cookies or the flakiness of pastries.
"Toro toro" (トロトロ), akin to "melty" and "creamy," paints a delectable picture of rich, creamy textures like melty grilled cheese, luscious chocolate fondue, or a slow-cooked, tantalizingly fatty curry or stew.
Right after saying "thank you" and "good morning," two phrases that are essential in any food discussion in Japanese are "tabehodai" (食べ放題) and "nomihodai" (飲み放題). Japan boasts a vibrant food culture, and you'll encounter all-you-can-eat (tabehodai) and all-you-can-drink (nomihodai) deals almost everywhere. The prices are usually a bargain.
"Kuchi sabishii" (口寂しい), which literally means "lonely mouth" playfully conveys the urge to chew on something or have something in your mouth, whether it's a cigarette, a snack, or chewing gum.
"Hara peko" (腹ペコ) combines the characters for "belly" and "peko," a shortened form of "peko-peko," meaning "hungry." It's an informal, almost childlike term often used by youngsters to declare, "I'm starving" or "I'm famished."
"Okawari" (おかわり), a handy term for your Japan visit, is often heard in restaurants and bars. It directly translates to "second serving" or "refill." While we might not say this to our waiter in an English-speaking setting, it's commonplace to request an "okawari kudasai" (おかわりください), meaning "a refill, please," especially when you want more of the same item you've just enjoyed. It's particularly handy for rice, during Japanese set meals, or when ordering another round of drinks at the izakaya, the Japanese pub.
"Betsu bara" (別腹), literally a "second stomach," describes that delightful phenomenon where, despite feeling full, you miraculously find room for dessert – or two. Some folks seem to possess a "second stomach" exclusively reserved for sweets. So, it's a fantastic term to have in your food-related Japanese vocabulary!
"Kuishinbo" (食いしん坊) is a term reserved for the true food enthusiasts, describing those who love to eat and make it their mission to sample all the culinary delights from various restaurants. It's what we'd consider the traditional Japanese counterpart to the modern-day "foodies."
Finally, there's "omakase" (おまかせ), referring to a carefully curated dish recommended by the chef. It has gained popularity worldwide, particularly in the United States. "Omakase" also translates to "I leave it to you," symbolizing the chef's artistry in crafting a special menu for patrons without them having to place specific orders. Omakase meals are renowned for their excellence, albeit often accompanied by a hefty price tag, particularly in traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine.
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