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to boil in Japanese

to boil in Japanese

If you have followed a Japanese recipe, you might have noticed that 3 different verbs, 煮(に)る、炊(た)く and 茹(ゆ)でる, have been used for the English word “to boil.” Today, I am going to explain the difference between these 3.

Among these 3, 茹(ゆ)でる is the most different. 茹(ゆ)でる means “to boil” as a process of cooking and after ingredients are boiled, the water is drained and discarded. Examples are:

スパゲティーを茹でる (to boil spaghetti)
→ Spaghetti will be fried further or mixed with a sauce.

たまごを茹でる(to boil eggs)
→ the water will be discarded after the eggs are boiled.

If you are parboiling vegetables, the verb 湯掻く(ゆがく) can be used instead of 茹でる.

煮(に)る and 炊(た)く are used differently in the Kanto and Kansai regions but throughout Japan, if you are cooking rice:

(✅)ごはんを炊(た)く

(✖)ごはんを煮(に)る

So in the photo, the correct answer is たく.

In the Kanto region, these days 炊(た)く is used for cooking rice only.
If you boil any other ingredients with seasoning, the verb 煮(に)る is used.

ごはんを炊(た)く = to cook rice
肉を醤油と砂糖で煮る(にくをしょうゆとさとうでにる)
= to boil/stew meat with soy sauce and sugar

In the Kansai region, however, 炊く is used more often in the same meaning as 煮る in the Kanto regions. Some people say what is 煮た has more water/juice left than what is 炊いた (i.e. rice does not have any water left when cooked) although this differentiation seems to have rather many exceptions.

大根(だいこん)を炊(た)く = to stew white radish
≒大根(だいこん)を煮(に)る = to stew white radish

In Kyoto, “xxxの炊(た)いたん” (boiled xxx or stewed xxx) can be used as a name of the dish.

大根(だいこん)の炊(た)いたん = stewed daikon radish
お芋(いも)の炊(た)いたん = stewed potato.

Even though たいたん (taitan) sounds similar to the English word “titan”, you won’t get a giant radish or potato with them!
<Edit 1>
As I was busy thinking about cooking, I forgot to mention the most obvious translation of “boiling”! If you are boiling water to make tea or coffee, you say:
(お)湯(ゆ)を沸(わ)かす
The first お is optional and don’t say 水(みず)を沸(わ)かす. (Please read my old article for explanation of this part.)
<Edit 2>
There is a dish called ゆで豚(ぶた), which is to simmer a block of pork meat for a few hours, cool it down, slice it thinly and eat it with a sauce. As boiling is the only method of cooking in this and the water will be kept for something else, this contradicts with my explanation of 茹でる above but because it will be eaten with a separate sauce and the water in which the pork is cooked will not be used as a part of this dish, this dish is still called ゆで豚. (If a kanji is used for this, it is rare to write it 茹で豚. It’s more often 湯で豚). If the pork is cooked with seasoning, it’s called 煮豚(にぶた).

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