Asian food can be intimidating. When the ingredients of a dish read more like a list of randomized consonants and vow- els (enoki, inari and daikon, anyone?), it often seems safer to stick with old clas- sics like “chicken teriyaki” or “California roll.” However, knowing your “nori” from your “nigiri” will let you get creative while ordering, stepping outside your culinary comfort zone. Below is a glossary of some of the more puzzling parts of Asian cui- sine.
Bonito Flakes: Flakes of dried, smoked bonito tuna. It is used as garnish on soups and sushi rolls and also to make stock. They have a smoky flavor.
Edamame: Boiled green soy- beans; nutty and very nutritious. Often used shelled in salads or served in their pods with salt and soy sauce.
Eel Sauce: A sweet and salty sauce, akin to a strong teriyaki. It is made with eel, soy sauce, sugar and Japanese rice wine. Much more delicious than it sounds, it is drizzled on sushi and rice dishes.
Galangal: Similar to ginger in tex- ture, it has a more peppery flavor. Used in Southeast Asian soups, curry pastes and stir-fries.
Gyoza: Japanese for what is commonly known in English as dumplings. A dough wrapper filled with meat or vegetables, and either pan-fried or steamed. They are usually eaten with soy sauce and vinegar.
Nigiri: Traditional type of sushi; made up of fresh, sliced raw fish atop a small oval clump of sushi rice. They are best served at room temperature.
Nori: Sheet-thin seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls and as a garnish in soups. Also can be bought in squares and eaten as a healthy snack.
Ponzu: A thin, tart, citrusy Japanese sauce. Very versatile, it is often used for dipping, atop chopped meat or fish (tataki) or as a salad dressing.
Sashimi: Slices of raw, fresh fish, most com- monly salmon or tuna. It is often expensive but a real delicacy.
Tempura: a light, airy batter often used to coat vegetables, fish and sometimes even Thai Basil: Sweet basil with a peppery, licorice-like taste. It is used to flavor Thai red and green curries as well as noodle dishes, and can be served raw as an accom- paniment to Vietnamese pho.
Toro: Often the most expensive item on the sashimi menu, toro comes from the fatty belly of Bluefin tuna. The high fat content means it has a buttery, rich flavor.
Uni: A Japanese delicacy, uni is raw sea urchin. It is known as an “acquired taste.”