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Last update July 26, 2011

Other Contents
Sightseeing in Japan
Hiragana and Katakana List
Japanese Word List
Japanese Proverbs

食べ物  Food Tabemono [tah-beh-moh-noh]
*: Kanji representation of the food name seldom used in modern day Japan.
 ginnan   ぎんなん, 銀杏
 Pronunciation  [ghee・n・nah・n]
Ginkgo Nuts 

ginnan Ginnan denotes the seeds of ginkgo trees with a light green color and soft bitter taste. Can be added to chawan mushi (a cup of steamed egg curd) as a decorative ingredient; or parched and sprinkled with salt as a side dish for alcoholic drinks. Individual seeds are surrounded by outer structures: a hard shell and soft fruit flesh (with an offensive stench), which must be removed to extract the seeds. An easy way to remove the hard outer shells is to drop several seeds (up to 10) at a time into a paper envelope and heat them in the microwave oven until the shells crack.
(Photo: Ginnan nuts; some of them with the shell cracked.)

 gobo   ごぼう, 牛蒡*
 Pronunciation  [goh・boh]

gobo Featuring an eccentric flavor and texture, gobo is another important ingredient for various Japanese dishes. It's indispensable for kimpira, and popularly used in nimono, takikomi gohan (rice cooked with minutely cut ingredients and seasoned with soy sauce) and kakiage. The gobo ten, a tube-shaped satsuma age with a gobo stick inside, is also a popular item for oden.

 gohan   ごはん, ご飯
 Pronunciation  [goh・hah・n]

takikomi gohan Gohan is the word used for boiled rice in comparison with uncooked rice grains or plant (kome). The term also suggests "meal" since the staple in Japan is rice. Plain boiled rice is specifically called shiro gohan (shiro: white) and takikomi gohan (takikomi: well-boiled) refers to rice cooked and seasoned together with small-cut vegetables, mushrooms, chicken or other ingredients. Mame gohan is mildly salted rice boiled with green beans. Some restaurants (especially western cuisine restaurants) may rephrase gohan to raisu (from English rice), probably to add some western flair.
(Photo: An example of takikomi gohan.)

 goma dofu   ごまどうふ, 胡麻豆腐
 Pronunciation  [goh・mah・doh・who]
Sesami Tofu  or a sesame starch pudding

Literally meaning "sesame tofu", it doesn't use soybeans and instead made of kuzuko (kudzu plant starch) and sesame seeds. The sesame seeds are roasted and grinded, and added with kudzu starch powder and water or broth, which is then, mixed and seasoned while being heated on the stove. This mixture is chilled in a mold to shape like a tofu. It's usually eaten with soy sauce and wasabi.

 gyoza   ぎょうざ, 餃子
 Pronunciation  [gyoh・zah]
Japanese Jiaozi  or Chinese-style stuffed dumplings

gyoza Originated in China (Jiaozi), gyoza is a Japanese version of its kind. Popular gyoza ingredients are minced pork, garlic, negi or nira, mildly seasoned and mixed, then wrapped into semicircular gyoza skins for baking or steaming. The ingredients can be improvised according to your taste. For example, shiitake or green shiso leaves can add a soft, simple flavor to the dish.
(Photo: Typical baked gyoza cuisine.)

 harusame   はるさめ, 春雨
 Pronunciation  [hah・roo・sah・meh]
Spring Rain Noodles  or thin starch noodles

gobo Harusame is the word for "drizzle in spring", and this food, with thin and transparent appearance, is indeed a reminder of that. Usually made of potato or sweet potato starch in Japan, while Chinese types are based on beans. Popularly used for sukiyaki (soy sauce-based beef and vegetable cuisine) or other nabe (ryori), as well as various sautés and vinegar salads.
(Photo: Salad using harusame.)

 hijiki   ひじき, 鹿尾菜*/羊栖菜*
 Pronunciation  [he・gee・key]
Black Sea Vegetable  or hijiki seaweed

hijiki Hijiki refers to a kind of rock seaweeds with the scientific name of "Sargassum fusiforme" harvested on the coastlines around Japan. Usually marketed in dry form, and saturated in water for cooking. It has the black color (after being dried) and short, string-like appearance. Popularly cooked as nimono, mixed with ingredients such as small-cut carrots, konnyaku, abura age and beans.
(Photo: Hijiki in nimono.)