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Common Food Terms and Definitions

Sometimes when you visit a restaurant, there are terms on the menu I’m not with. So, I’ll ask the server to explain their meaning to me. Most often, servers are more than happy to answer these questions. Sometimes, they can be pretty snooty and make you feel inferior for not knowing these terms. So, I thought I’d put together a short list of terms you may encounter when dining out, I hope this guide helps.

* Aioli (i-Olee): Garlic mayonnaise. Aioli is traditionally a French garlic-flavored sauce, most often served with fish and other seafood.

* Amuse Bouche (A-muse Boosh): A pre-appetizer. This is a free sample usually of the chef’s choosing. Portion size will be much smaller than an appetizer portion – probably just a bite or two.

* Bearnaise (bayARnez) : Sauce made from eggs, butter, vinegar and herbs. It is a traditional sauce for steaks.

* Bechamel (bAYshamel) : Sauce made from butter, flour and milk. The white sauce is used for creaming certain foods such as au gratin potatoes, or in lasagne.

* Carpaccio (kArpachio) : Finely sliced raw beef

* Chimichurri (chimi-churi): This is a popular sauce used on grilled meats in latin countries. is made from chopped parsley or cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, and paprika with olive oil.

* Chorizo (chorEEtho) : Cured Spanish spicy sausage with paprika

* Ceviche (Se-veechay): A typical latin dish, Ceviche is a citrus-marinated seafood appetizer. It can be made with fish or shellfish.

Make your own Ceviche:
* 2 – 1 1/3 ounces tilapia fillets or other firm white fish fillets, cubed
* 5 – 1/3-6 2/3 garlic cloves, chopped
* 2/3 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 1/3 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped
* 2/3 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped
* 5 1/3-8 limes, freshly squeezed and strained to remove pulp, enough to cover fish
* 2/3 red onion, thinly sliced and rinsed

Combine all ingredients except red onion and mix well.
Place red onion on top and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving.
Before serving, mix well and serve with lettuce, corn, avocado or other cold salad vegetables on the side.
It is important to use a juicer that squeezes the juice out of the limes, not one that will tear the membrane of the lime sections since this will make the lime juice bitter.

*Jicama: This is a vegetable sometimes referred to as the Mexican Potato. It looks like a turnip. The taste however, is similar to eating an apple or a pear. They can be found in your local grocery store. Very underutilized in America. Most commonly you’ll see this dish used in a slaw.

*1 medium Jicama, peeled and shredded
*1 carrot, peeled and shredded
*1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin inch-long strips
*1 teaspoon ground ginger
*1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
*1/4 cup coarsely chopped or torn cilantro
*1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
*Juice of 2 limes

Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Chill for about half an hour to let the flavors come together, then serve. Prepare an antidote if you opted for the Habanero version. Serves 4-6.

* Pancetta (pancETta) : Italian salted pig`s belly, often in strips. It is very similar to bacon. It is often used to flavor pasta dishes, but also can be served by itself in which it is sliced very thin.

* Prosciutto (proshOOtto) : Another form of pork, this is the Italian word for “ham” and is dried and salted. It can be pretty pricey as the process of making prosciutto can take up to a year or even longer. It is often used in sandwiches, or sometimes in salads, or anti-pasta. Another common use, at least in America is to wrap the prosciutto around mozzerella cheese.

* Sommelier: This is a guide to choosing wine. They may have trained at a prestigious restaurant to learn all about wines.
* Tapenade: made of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil, the main ingredient is olives. It comes from the South of France and is mostly served as an appetizer. It is served on crackers or bread.

About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!