Decoding Menus

Ever felt like you needed a dictionary to figure out what you might want to order at that nice new restaurant? We’ve all felt that at some point. Eating out is a lot like travelling to a different country without a translator. But fear not. We have put together a list that will help when you’re next decoding menus and let you order like a pro at that fancy restaurant.

    • Aperitif : The French sure like their alcohol. An apertif is a light alcoholic drink had before meals to whet the appetite.
    • Antipasti: Italian for ‘before the meal’ and is the first course of an Italian meal.
    • A la carte: What it means is you can choose individual items from the Menu. Like most things food, this owes its origin to the French and literally means ‘according to board’.
    • Au jus: Another gift from the French, it means ‘in its own juice’. Served with meat, the sauce is usually made from the juices of the meat itself.
    • Bisque: Again a part of French cuisine, a thick creamy crustacean soup
    • Brioche: French, fluffy, buttery, light, Brioche is a delicious member of the bread family.
    • Bruschetta : An antipasta, this is large slices of toasted bread served with various toppings. Pronounced brus’ketta.
    • Crostini:  Also an antipasta, made from smaller sliced and toasted bread and served with different toppings.
    • Compote: Fruits cooked in sugar syrup, this is usually a topping along with a dessert.
    • Confit: It is a method of preserving meat by cooking it in its own fat. Duck Confit for example, is absolutely delicious.
    • Cheung fun: A type of Dim Sum. Thin steamed rolls made of rice noodles stuffed with vegetables, pork, prawns.
    • Dim Sum: Chinese meal where a variety of small bite-sized food items are served on small plates or baskets. These often include steamed or fried dumplings.
    • Dumpling: Cooked balls of dough, can be sweet or savory, filled with ingredients or ingredients may be rolled into the dough. Eaten on their own or with soups.
    • Entree: Literally translated, it means “Enter”. It usually represents the first course of the meal, and is usually served before the main course. It can be a little confusing – If you’re in Australia, entree usually means starter or appetizer, but if you’re in the US, Entree could very well mean Main Course.
    • Lasagna: Pronounced with a “z” instead of the “s”. This is a broad and flat pasta shape, usually stacked together with meat, vegetables and sauces for layering and then baked.
    • Glazed: A cooking technique used to put a glossy coat on food. This can be savory or sweet
    • Hollandaise:  A smooth, slightly tangy, very rich sauce, a key to a great Eggs Benedict. This sauce is made from egg yolk, butter and lemon juice.
    • Parfait: A French frozen dessert containing eggs, cream, syrup and sometimes alcohol and fruit. This is like ice cream on steroids in our opinion.  A non French parfait is usually a dessert served in a tall glass consisting of layers of ice cream, fruit, sauce and whipped cream.
    • Poached: A cooking technique which involves slow cooking or simmering in liquids for e.g. pears poached in wine, or eggs poached in water.
    • Ravioli: Little squares of pasta dough filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables to make little pillows. and served with a variety of sauces.

Trivia: Did you Menus owe their origin to the Chinese Song Dynasty. The Chinese had a lot of variety in their food and it was difficult for the waiters to rattle of so many things so they started using the blackboard to put down the items.

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