I’m just going to say it: Asian food can be intimidating to the English speaker. Knowing your “nori” from your “nigiri” will let you get creative with your ordering and get outside your culinary comfort zone. Below is a glossary to some of the terminology of Asian cuisine.

Bonito Flakes: Flakes of dried, smoked bonito tuna. Used as garnish on soups and sushi rolls and to make stock; they have a smoky flavor.

Edamame: Boiled green soybeans; 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. Made with eel eggs, soy sauce and sugar. Much more delicious than it sounds, it is drizzled on sushi and rice dishes.

Galangal: Similar to ginger in texture and taste, it has a more peppery flavor. Used in soups, curry pastes and stir-fries.

Gyoza: Or in American: potsticker. Dough filled with a meat or veggie filling, either pan-fried or steamed, usually eaten with soy-vinegar sauce.

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.

Nigiri: Traditional type of sushi; made up of fresh, sliced fish atop a small oval clump of sushi rice. Best served at room temperature.

Ponzu: A thin, tart, citrusy sauce. Very versatile, it is often used as a dipping sauce atop chopped meat or fish (tataki) or as a salad dressing.

Sashimi: Slices of raw, fresh fish, most commonly salmon or tuna. Often expensive but a real delicacy.

Tempura: A light, airy batter often used to coat vegetables, fish and sometimes even ice cream!

Thai Basil: Sweet basil with a peppery, licorice-like taste; it adds flavor to Thai red and green curries as well as noodle dishes and is served raw as an accompaniment to Vietnamese pho.

Uni: A Japanese delicacy, uni is raw sea urchin roe. Known as an “acquired taste.”

Toro: Often the most expensive item on the sushi menu, toro comes from the fatty belly of bluefin tuna. The high fat content means it has a buttery, rich flavor.


A version of this article appeared on page 8 of March 6th, 2013’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.