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Japanese words to describe food textures

By Matthew Coslett

It’s sometimes said that in the context of Asian cuisine Japanese food is a little bland. While neighboring countries like Korea and Thailand are full of explosive flavors and food sprinkled with mind-blowing spices, Japanese people are more content with treats like ふぐ刺身 (さしみ -- raw puffer fish) and 豆腐 (とうふ -- tofu) with flavors so subtle that you have to train yourself to appreciate them.

One thing that critics of Japanese cuisine tend to overlook is that Japanese people often judge food using different criteria. The 辛 (からい -- spicy) food that countries like India create are somewhat rare here, sure, but instead, they tend to focus more on texture than other cultures, even to the point of scientists spending years researching the consistency of many Japanese foods.

Favorite Japanese food onomatopoeias

The first category are the fried, crunchy 揚げ物. You will often hear these complimented as being “カリカリ!” (“So crispy!”). The term カリカリ should be easy for English speakers as it’s supposed to be an onomatopoeia and even sounds like the English word crispy. A similar word is パリパリ which describes the crunchy feeling of spring rolls and gyoza. In other words, things that are crispy, but not quite カリカリ levels of crispy!

When you bite into the fried food, you might hear that crunching sound. If you say さくさく quickly, you can soon see why this word represents crunchy, flaky food (as in pastry). The most obvious use is for the feeling of biting into that Japanese-by-way-of-Portugal food, tempura.

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© GaijinPot

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