February 27

甘味 (かんみ) : Kanmi / Sweet

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How to read this series

Each article augments Japanese words throughout its text. The vocabulary throughout the text is related to cooking, food, and flavor. Below each block of text will be a drop down menu that contains the meaning and reading of each word, Like this:

和食(わしょく) is a cuisine loved by people all over the world. Yet, most people don't know how to cook 和食 because they don't understand the 食材料(しょくざいりょう)in Japanese recipes.

Section Vocabulary

和食(わしょく)

"Wa-shoku" – Japanese cuisine

和:わ:Japanese style; harmony

食:しょく:eat; food


食材料(しょくざいりょう)

"shokuzai-ryō"– ingredients

食:しょく:food; eat

材:ざい:lumber

料:りょう:materials

This dropdown menu can be used in your preferred study method. We recommend that you attempt to read through each section first without revealing the word meanings, and make educated guesses based on context clues. Then, reveal the word meanings and read the section once more using the drop list for reference.

This is of course completely up to you, as you might prefer to read each drop list first, before reading each section. There are no right or wrong ways to use this tool, although we DO suggest that you use some form of memorization. So try to keep the words hidden for as long as possible, or go off of memory or context for as long as you can, and don't be afraid to read a section more than once!

The 甘っ to your 塩っぱ

If you've ever had the good fortune to try 豚肉のしょうが焼き(ぶたにくのしょうがやき), then you probably know first hand how indispensable sweetness is to 和食(わしょく). 豚肉のしょうが焼き is a quintessential comfort food found on the menu of any 定食屋(ていしょくや) worth its salt and sugar. One mouthful of this classic stir fry fills your palate with the rich combination of tender pork, bathed in a tangy glaze, accentuated by the aromatic しょうが(生姜)expertly cooked into the dish.


Upon first bite, the しょうが cuts through all the other flavors, boldly establishing itself as the dominant presence in the marinade. As we discussed in the previous post, 塩(しお)intensifies the flavor of the しょうが, as well as the 豚肉 it's slathered on. Pretty intense, right? You might even think that sounds too intense. And you'd be right – if it weren't for the gentle 甘味(かんみ) to complement this flavor bomb and soften its impact.

Section Vocabulary

豚肉のしょうが焼き(ぶたにくのしょうがやき)

"buta-niku no shōgayaki" – stir-fried pork in ginger


豚肉(ぶたにく)

"buta niku" – pork

豚:ぶた:pork; pig

肉:にく:meat; flesh


しょうが(生姜)

"shōga" – ginger

しょう:生:raw; life

が:姜:ginger


焼き(やき)

"yaki" – grill (noun form)

焼・き:や・き


定食屋(ていしょくや)

定:てい:planned; determined

食:しょく:meal; food

屋:や:shop; seller; dealer


和食(わしょく)

"washoku" – Japanese cuisine

和:わ:Japanese style; harmony

食:しょく:eat; food


塩(しお)

"shio" – salt


甘味(かんみ)

*see Feature Flavor section

What 甘味 does in a dish

You'll notice that a common theme of 味付け(あじつけ)in 料理(りょうり)is that flavor profiles work together as a team to complement and balance each other out. 甘味 in 和食 takes a myriad of different forms, just like all of the other flavor profiles. Each distinct 調味料(ちょうみりょう)characterized by an 甘い(あまい) profile has a unique affect on the 食材料(しょくざいりょう)it interacts with.

For example, 砂糖(さとう)dissolves easily into liquids and oils and is generally the most 優しい(やさしい)of all forms that 甘味 takes. It doesn't have its own flavor, but rather makes other 食材料 it mixes with sweet without adding it's own 香り(かおり). On the other hand, 酒(さけ)lends its own unique 味(あじ) to a dish, and also serves to tenderize meat, and lock flavor in place. It also helps mask the strong, fishy odors of 海鮮(かいせん)which might otherwise overpower other ingredients.

みりん(味醂)is made through a different process than 酒 which makes it much milder. It's used to add just a touch of 甘さ(あまさ)to a dish, and to magnify its 旨味(うまみ). It can be used to add a tinge of 甘味 without making the 糖分(とうぶん)too high. 

Section Vocabulary

味付け(あじつけ)

"aji-tsuke" – flavor development

味:あじ:flavor; taste

付け:つけ:to add; to join; to fix


料理(りょうり)

"ryōri" – cooking

料:りょう:materials; fee

理:り:logic; reason; arrangement


調味料(ちょうみりょう)

"chō-mi-ryō" – condiments

調:ちょう:tune; tone; arrange

味:み:flavor; taste

料:りょう:materials; fee


甘い(あまい)

*see Feature Flavor section


食材料(しょくざいりょう)

"shokuzai-ryō"– ingredients

食:しょく:food; eat

材:ざい:lumber

料:りょう:materials


砂糖(さとう)

"satō" – sugar

砂:さ:sand

糖:とう:sugar


優しい(やさしい)

"yasashii" – gentle; kind

優し・い:やさし・い


香り(かおり)

"kaori" – aromatic; fragrance


酒(さけ)

"sake" – Japanese rice wine


味(あじ)

"aji" – flavor; taste


海鮮(かいせん)

"kaisen" – seafood

海:かい:ocean; sea

鮮:せん:fresh; vivid; clear; brilliant


みりん(味醂)*primarily written in kana

"mirin" – Japanese cooking wine

み:味:flavor; taste

りん:醂:bleach in water


旨味(うまみ)

"umami" – savory; savoriness

旨:うま:delicious; skilled

味:み:flavor; taste


糖分(とうぶん)

糖:とう:sugar

分:ぶん:portion


甘さ(あまさ)

*see Feature Flavor section

Flavor overlap between different 調味料

This brings up another recurring theme of 味付け:  most 調味料 have more than one flavor profile which overlap. Much like how みそ(味噌)falls under both the 塩っぱい(しょっぱい) and the 旨い(うまい)classification, みりん falls under both the 甘い and the 旨い profiles.

Just like 塩, there's a plethora of 甘味 used in 和食, and it would go beyond the scope of this article to cover them all. For starters, we didn't even get to 蜂蜜(はちみつ)or  黒糖(こくとう)! In the mean time, we encourage you to dive into the glossary, familiarize yourself with all the terms used in this article, and then give it a read once again with more context. With all the work we put into it, we must insist it's pretty sweet!

Section Vocabulary

みそ(味噌)*primarily written in kana

"miso" – fermented soybean paste

み:味:flavor; taste

そ:噌:robust


塩っぱい(しょっぱい)

"shoppai" – salty


旨い(うまい)

"umai" – savory (adjective form)


蜂蜜(はちみつ)

"hachimitsu" – honey

蜂:はち:bee; wasp; hornet

蜜:みつ:honey; nectar


黒糖(こくとう)

"kokutō" – unrefined brown sugar

黒:こく:black

糖:とう:sugar

Feature Flavor: 甘味

The Kanji for "sweet" is 甘, read in its 訓読み(くんよみ) form as あま and its 音読み(おんよみ) form as かん. Here are its most common forms:

  • 甘い:あま・い:sweet (adjective)
  • 甘さ:あま・さ:sweetness (noun)
  • 甘味:かん・み:subjective level of sweetness (noun)*
  • 甘み:あま・み:same meaning as 甘味, used more in casual conversation

Let's say you're on a first date at a cafe. You order a particularly 甘い piece of strawberry shortcake. Staring suggestively into your date's eyes, you sensually slide a forkful of it into your mouth, and are immediately overcome by its delicate 甘さ. Wiping the cream from the corner of your mouth, you watch as your date takes a bite and frowns – the cake is just too rich! The cake's 甘味 is just right for you, but apparently a bit too much for some people. Too bad for your date, because strawberry shortcake is awesome.

In its transitive verb form, it becomes 甘える:

  1. to behave like a spoiled child
  2. to depend (on the kindness) of others

Essentially, it means to feign helplessness or innocence in a way that manipulates others into taking care of you. So calling back to the scenario above, you go to settle the bill, and realize that you forgot your wallet at home. These things happen, and lucky for you, you're not alone. So you do what you always do in this situation and 甘える to your date. You feign an expression of sheepish innocence, and promise to get the next one. Oh, how silly of you.

甘い:あま・い:naïve; overly optimistic; underprepared (adjective)

Alternatively, 甘い can mean naïve, overly confident, and even presumptuous. This usage of the word carries a negative connotation. So for example, to finish our chronicle about your dubious romantic escapade:

Your date, quite underwhelmed by the entire experience, roles their eyes and pays the cashier. Too bad there probably won't be a next time. That kind of thinking is quite 甘い, as was your whole performance today. At least the cake was good...


Section Vocabulary

訓読み(くんよみ)

"kunyomi" – the native Japanese reading of a kanji

訓:くん:instruction; native Japanese reading

読・み:よ・み:reading


音読み(くんよみ)

"onyomi" – the Chinese-derived reading of a kanji

音:おん:sound

読・み:よ・み:reading

Glossary

*some items may appear in more than one section

味(あじ)



味(あじ)

"aji" – flavor; taste


塩味(えんみ)

"enmi" – salty

塩:えん:salt

味:み:flavor; taste


甘味(かんみ)

"kanmi" – sweet

甘:かん:sweet

味:み:flavor; taste


酸味(さんみ)

"sanmi" – sour

酸:さん:acid

味:み:flavor; taste


旨味(うまみ)

"umami" – savory

旨:うま:savory; skilled; great

味:み:flavor; taste


苦味(にがみ)

"nigami" – bitter

苦:にが:bitter

味:み:flavor; taste


香り(かおり)

"kaori" – aromatic; fragrance



料理(りょうり)– Cooking



料理(りょうり)

"ryōri" – cooking

料:りょう:materials; fee

理:り:logic; reason; arrangement


和食(わしょく)

"Washoku" – Japanese cuisine

和:わ:Japanese style; harmony

食:しょく:eat; food


味付け(あじつけ)

"aji-tsuke" – flavor development

味:あじ:flavor; taste

付け:つけ:to add; to join; to fix


調味料(ちょうみりょう)

"chō-mi-ryō" – condiments

調:ちょう:tune; tone; arrange

味:み:flavor; taste

料:りょう:materials; fee


量(りょう)

"ryō" – amount


濃・い(こ・い)

"koi" – strong; dark; potent


小皿(こざら)

"kozara" – small plate for dipping sauce

小:こ:small

皿:ざら:plate


焼き(やき)

"yaki" – grill (noun form)

焼・き:や・き


定食屋(ていしょくや)

定:てい:planned; determined

食:しょく:meal; food

屋:や:shop; seller; dealer


食材料(しょくざいりょう)

"shokuzai-ryō"– ingredients

食:しょく:food; eat

材:ざい:lumber

料:りょう:materials



食べ物(たべもの)– Food



食べ物(たべもの)

"tabemono" – food

食べ:たべ:food; eat

物:もの:thing; object


野菜(やさい)

"yasai" – vegetable

野:や:plains; field; rustic

菜:さい:vegetables; greens


果物(くだもの)

"kudamono" – fruit

果:くだ:fruit; reward

物:もの:thing; object


きゅうり *kanji very obscure and almost never used

"kyūri" – cucumber


動物(どうぶつ)

"dōbutsu" – animals

動:どう:move; motion

物:ぶつ:thing; object


肉(にく)

"niku" – meat; flesh


牛肉(ぎゅうにく)

"gyū niku" – beef

牛:ぎゅう:beef; cow

肉:にく:meat; flesh


鶏もも(とりもも)

"torimomo" – chicken thigh

鶏:とり:chicken

もも:thigh


玉子(たまご)

"tamago" – egg(s)

玉:たま:ball

子:ご:child; seed


卵焼き(たまごやき)

"tamago-yaki" – Japanese rolled omelette

卵:たまご:egg(s)   *same meaning as 玉子, represented by one kanji

焼・き:や・き:to grill; to roast


刺身(さしみ)

"sashimi" – raw fish

刺:さ・し:pierce; stab

身:み:body


海鮮(かいせん)

"kaisen" – seafood

海:かい:ocean; sea

鮮:せん:fresh; vivid; clear; brilliant


ご飯(ごはん)

"gohan" – rice; meal

ご:御:honorific marker denoting something deserving of respect

飯:はん:meal; boiled rice


豚肉のしょうが焼き(ぶたにくのしょうがやき)

"buta-niku no shōgayaki" – stir-fried pork in ginger


豚肉(ぶたにく)

"buta niku" – pork

豚:ぶた:pork; pig

肉:にく:meat; flesh


しょうが(生姜)

"shōga" – ginger

しょう:生:raw; life

が:姜:ginger


海鮮(かいせん)

"kaisen" – seafood

海:かい:ocean; sea

鮮:せん:fresh; vivid; clear; brilliant



塩味(えんみ)– Salty



塩(しお)

"shio" – salt


塩っぱ・い:しょっぱ・い:salty (adjective)

塩っぱ・さ:しょっぱ・さ:saltiness (noun)

塩味:えん・み:subjective level of saltiness (noun)


塩分(えんぶん)

"enbun" – salt content; The amount of sodium in a food

塩:えん:salt

分:ぶん:portion


醤油(しょうゆ)

"shōyu" – soy sauce

醤:しょう:a kind of miso

油:ゆ:oil


みそ(味噌)*primarily written in kana

"miso" – fermented soybean paste

み:味:flavor; taste

そ:噌:robust


赤味噌(あかみそ)

"aka miso" – red miso paste

赤:あか:red

味:み:flavor; taste

噌:そ:robust



甘味(かんみ)– Sweet


甘い:あま・い:sweet (adjective)

甘さ:あま・さ:sweetness (noun)

甘味:かん・み:subjective level of sweetness (noun)*

甘み:あま・み:same meaning as 甘味, used more in casual conversation


みりん(味醂)*primarily written in kana

"mirin" – Japanese cooking wine

み:味:flavor; taste

りん:醂:bleach in water


砂糖(さとう)

"satō" – sugar

砂:さ:sand

糖:とう:sugar


糖分(とうぶん)

糖:とう:sugar

分:ぶん:portion


酒(さけ)

"sake" – Japanese rice wine


砂糖(さとう)

"satō" – sugar

砂:さ:sand

糖:とう:sugar


優しい(やさしい)

"yasashii" – gentle; kind

優し・い:やさし・い


蜂蜜(はちみつ)

"hachimitsu" – honey

蜂:はち:bee; wasp; hornet

蜜:みつ:honey; nectar


黒糖(こくとう)

"kokutō" – unrefined brown sugar

黒:こく:black

糖:とう:sugar



酸味(さんみ)– Sour



腐ってる(くさってる)

"kusatteru" – rotting; rotten

腐る:くさる:to rot; to go bad; to decay; to spoil


酒(さけ)

"sake" – Japanese rice wine


酸っぱい(すっぱい)

"suppai" – sour



旨味(うまみ)– Umami (Savory)



旨味(うまみ)

"umami" – savory; savoriness

旨:うま:delicious; skilled

味:み:flavor; taste


苦味(にがみ)– Bitter


苦い(にがい)

"nigai" – bitter


注意(ちゅうい)

"chūi" – CAUTION

注:ちゅう:concentration; notes; to pour into

意:い:idea; mind; thought


危険(きけん)

"kiken" – danger; hazard

危:き:dangerous; fear

険:けん:steep place; sharp eyes; precipitous


毒性(どくせい)

"dokusei" – toxic; poisonous

毒:どく:poison; germ

性:せい:essential nature; gender


辛味(からみ)

"karami" – spiciness (subjective)

辛:から:spicy

味:み:flavor


油(あぶら)– Fats & Oils


バター(ばたー)

"batā" – ...butter


加塩バター(かえんばたー)

"ka-en batā" – salted butter

加:か:add; join; include

塩:えん:salt


胡麻油(ごまあぶら)

"goma-abura" – sesame oil

胡:ご:foreign; barbarian

麻:ま:hem; flax

油:あぶら:oil


栄養(えいよう)– Nutrition


炭水化物(たんすいかぶつ)

"tansui-kabutsu" – carbohydrates

炭:たん:charcoal

水:すい:water

化:か:change; take the form of

物:ぶつ:thing; object


蛋白質(たんぱくしつ)

"tanpaku-shitsu" – protein

蛋:たん:egg white

白:ぱく:white

質:しつ:substance; quality


脂肪質(しぼうしつ)

"shibō-shitsu" – fat

脂:し:fat; grease; lard

肪:ぼう:obese; fat

質:しつ:substance; quality


塩分(えんぶん)

"enbun" – sodium content

塩:えん:salt

分:ぶん:portion


糖分(とうぶん)

糖:とう:sugar

分:ぶん:portion


雑(ざつ)– Misc.


訓読み(くんよみ)

"kunyomi" – the native Japanese reading of a kanji

訓:くん:instruction; native Japanese reading

読・み:よ・み:reading


音読み(くんよみ)

"onyomi" – the Chinese-derived reading of a kanji

音:おん:sound

読・み:よ・み:reading


国(くに)

"kuni" – country


王(おう)

"ō" – king


総理大臣(そうりだいじん)

"sōridaijin" – prime minister

総:そう:whole; all; general

理:り:logic; reason; arrangement

大:だい:big; large

臣:じん:retainer; minister; subject

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