Learning Kanji and cooking words in Japanese

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Learning Kanji and cooking words in Japanese'

Anna Baffa Volpe

Here we are, welcome back!


In this post I will introduce the recipe of a Japanese dish in order to learn or review some useful cooking terms.

レシピ reshipi from the English word recipe

The dish we are introducing today has Chinese origins and has long been cooked and served in Japan as well.

  • ()(ほん)(りょう)() or ()(しょく) means Japanese cuisine
  • (ちゅう)()(りょう)() or simply (ちゅう)() refers to Chinese cuisine

The Japanese Fried Rice ()(めし) Yakimeshi

チャーハン、焼飯: fried rice
The term Yakimeshi is written 焼き飯 or simply 焼飯

The Fried Rice very popular in Japan is called ()(めし) Yakimeshi in Japanese, but the term チャーハン Chāhan is also used and derives from the Chinese word 炒饭 Chǎo fàn.

  • ()yaki derives from the verb in the dictionary form yaku ()く, cook, toast, bake
  • (めし) this kanji has Japanese reading kun meshi and represents rice as grain, but means also meal


Making fried rice skillfully in your home kitchen.

  • (じょう)()に is a widely used adverb in the Japanese language and means good, skillfully; the adjective is (じょう)()good at, skillful

We need for the recipe:

  • (はん) rice
  • ()(ざい) the various ingredients


What are the secret tricks to make it tasty like a pro?

We have 2 terms for secret tricks:

  • (うら)(わざ) urawaza (うら) indicates the backside ⇨ the secret and (わざ) is the art and the technique, here written in katakana to emphasise the term
  • (かく)(あじ) kakushiaji: the verb (かく)す means hide combined with the kanji of taste (あじ)


An important aspect in the Japanese cuisine as well as in other Asian countries is the habit of:


Washing rice in cold water.

水: water, cold water

Why is it better to wash the rice well?

This dish in restaurants is prepared on a high heat cooker with a well-oiled wok so that the rice grains do not stick and remain crispy. At home, on the other hand, the cooker is often not powerful enough and one often does not have a wok.

Steeping the rice in cold water removes some of the starch and thus the stickiness, so it remains soft before being stir-fried.


Let's see how this dish is actually prepared.


We have seen the word ()(ざい) and now we add:

材料: the ingredients

This word (ざい)(りょう) refers to food ingredients in this case, but it is also the term used for various kind of materials: () wood and (かね) metal are a type of (ざい)(りょう).

材料 the ingredients to make 焼き飯

Here is the complete list of ingredients:

材料|, the ingredents

(ざい)(りょう)>(1(じん)(ぶん))Ingredients for 1 person

  • ()やごはん、(ちゃ)(わん)(やま)()り1(ぱい): 180 g rice soaked in cold water (one full cup)
  • (たまご)、 L(たま)、1(): one large egg

Let's review the counters or numeric suffixes in Japanese, elements that indicate the category to which the object belongs.

In this case we have for the eggs the classifier () and for the cups (はい).

  • チャーシュー、(こま)かく(きざ)む: 30 g of chāshū, the Japanese braised pork belly, cut into fillets is also used as topping of ramen.

The word derives from the Chinese char siu (叉燒) and the Japanese translation for this type of meat is ()(ぶた), roast pork.

チャーシュー味噌ラーメン: 'chāshū miso ramen' with soy sauce and pork meat

Cutting, chopping

Let's look at two expressions for cutting meat or vegetables:

  • (こま)かく(きざ)finely chop, cut fine
  • みじん()finely chop, mince

Dealing with a recipe, we often find the verb cutting expressed by ()る and (きざ)む; (きざ)む is also used in the artistic field with the meaning of carve, engrave, chisel.

  • えび(ボイルしたもの、(こま)かく(きざ)む): 20 g of shrimps, boiled and finely chopped
  • (あお)ねぎ、 ()(ぐち)()り: 15 g of green onion cut into small pieces (小口)
  • しょうが、みじん()り、 (しょう)々: shōga, a type of finely chopped ginger, in small quantity
  • サラダ()()さじ 2: 2 teaspoons of salad oil; えび(ボイルしたもの、(こま)かく(きざ)む): 20 g of shrimps, boiled and finely chopped

Cooking Measurement: Tablespoons and Teaspoons

Other units of measurement in cooking we commonly find in Japanese recipes are:

  • (おお)さじ tablespoon; (大) large, big
  • ()さじ teaspoon; (小) small, little

調(ちょう)()(りょう) Seasoning

  • (しお)、こしょう、(かく)(しょう)々: salt and pepper, a little (少々) for each (各)
  • しょうゆ: ()さじ1〜1と1/2: 1 or 1½ teaspoon of soy sauce, which is essential in most Japanese dishes
塩こしょう: salt and pepper mix commonly sold in Japanese food shops

()(めし)(つく)(かた) How to make Yakimeshi


Put the salad oil and ginger in a frying pan over medium heat.

A note on ginger:


Ginger is not added for flavouring, but to eliminate the smell of the oil.

In recipes we often find the verb:

  • (くわ)える add, sum up, include


Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

卵を加える: add the eggs

()ぜる Stirring

We have 2 forms translating the verbs mix, stir: ()ぜる or かき()ぜる.


When the oil is hot enough, add the beaten eggs in one go, stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.


3. Add rice and stir-fry to break up the rice.

  • ほぐす, the verb that appears in this passage means to break up. It is used here in cooking with the meaning of mixing and making the whole mixture homogeneous, and it is also used to say:
  • (かみ)のもつれをほぐす unravel hair
ほぐす: break up any lumps


4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

塩こしょう: salt and pepper


When the rice and eggs are well mixed and the water has evaporated, sprinkle with salt and pepper and fry quickly.

Note to the verb expressing mix:

  • ()ぜる is the transitive form of the verb: mix something.
  • ()ざる is the intransitive form: when something is mixed


5. Add pork and shrimps.

(くわ)える: add


6. Add the green onions and stir-fry quickly.

  • In this passage we find the て form of the verb:
  • (くわ)えて(いた)める add and fry, two actions occurring at the same time

Frying, Stir-frying, Sautéing

A single verb that we translate differently depending on the 調(ちょう)()(ほう) cooking method.

(いた)める can be translated as fry, saute, stir-fry.

You can find Yakimeshi as Japanese Fried Rice or Stir-Fried Rice.

The term saute is expressed by ソテー from French language sauté.

青ネギ, cipolle verdi


7. Add soy sauce from the edge of the pan and stir quickly.

Kitchen tricks

It is worth dwelling on an expression read in the previous step:

  • (なべ)(はだ)から(くわ)える or
  • (なべ)(はだ)から()れる: add from the edge of the pan

(なべ) is the pan edge and (はだ) the skin and in this case we refer to the pan edges.

Generally the seasoning, soya in our recipe, is not poured directly onto the food in the pan, but onto the rim, so as to better amalgamate and enhance the flavour.

出来た~! Done!

シンプルなのに ()()(ぶか)い! パラパラ (ぜっ)(ぴん) チャーハン の (かん)(せい): Simple, yet full of flavour! The exquisite crisp fried rice done!

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