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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.
 mezashi   めざし, 目刺し
 Pronunciation  [meh・zah・she]
Dried Sardines 

mezashi It's a dry salted sardine product in which several fishes are originally pierced together in the eye (me: eye; zashi: pierced), prepared through brining and drying processes. Lightly grilled on both sides for eating. The simple salty taste makes a nice side dish for cooked rice or sake.

 mirin   みりん, 味醂
 Pronunciation  [me・ree・n]
Sweet Cooking Sake 

Mirin is the sweet-tasting sake produced by squeezing and filtrating a fermented mash of steam-boiled glutinous rice mixed with rice koji (cereal bran with fermenting microbes such as koji molds germinated) and shochu (a kind of distilled liquor). Used as a condiment for nimono, noodle soups, kabayaki and teri yaki sauces.

 miso   みそ, 味噌
 Pronunciation  [me・saw]
Soybean Paste  or fermented soybean paste

miso Just like shoyu, miso is an indispensable condiment for many Japanese dishes. It's made from steamed and fermented soybeans, and depending on the type of koji (material used for fermentation), there are three kinds: rice, barley and bean miso. It also can be divided into two kinds depending on the color: aka miso (reddish miso) and shiro miso (one in light color). Used for a variety of dishes including miso shiru, nimono and nabe (ryori).
(Photo: Mugi miso, made from barley.)

 miso shiru   みそしる, 味噌汁
 Pronunciation  [me・saw・she・roo]
Miso Soup 

misoshiru Miso shiru (shiru: soup), sometimes called omiotsuke, refers to a soup of miso containing various ingredients including vegetables, tofu and abura age. Like gohan, it's one of soul foods in Japan. Depending on the ingredients (you can almost improvise) added for combination, the savor and flavor can be deepened and richened. Ingredients can be combined in many ways: tofu, abura age and wakame; potatoes with wakame; onions with abura age, etc.
(Photo: Miso shiru with tofu and wakame.)

 mizu ame   みずあめ, 水飴
 Pronunciation  [me・zoo・ah・meh]
Water Candy  or thick starch syrup

Featuring the transparent color and sticky property, mizu ame (literally, water candies) is a kind of syrup made from sugar converted from starch. Once an important sweetener before sugar was brought to the ancient Japan. In modern days, it's mainly used to add gloss to wagashi (Japanese sweets) or served as a summer-time refreshing drink called hiyashi ame (chilled candies) mixed with water and spiked with ginger.

 mochi   もち, 餅
 Pronunciation  [moh・chee]
Rice Cake  or steamed and kneaded glutinous rice

One of the most popular rice-based foods in Japan. It's made from steamed mochi gome (a kind of glutinous rice) by pounding and kneading it (traditionally, by a mallet in a mortar), until it becomes thick and sticky. The finished mass is then divided into smaller pieces, which are rounded or flattened for serving or preserving. Mochi is a festive occasion food, and offered in front of deity altars or consumed in the form of zoni for the New Year celebration. Colored ones (usually red and white) are thrown at topping off ceremonies, wishing for safety of the building to be constructed. A variety of mochi sweets are available: daifuku mochi and kashiwa mochi to name a few.