A-Z: 26 Words for Food Lovers

26 Jun

An assorted collection of food words, one for each letter of the English alphabet. Every word in the list has something special to recommend it – the quirkiness of the dish it represents, the sound of the word as it rolls off the tongue, or a bit of both.

Enjoy reading. How many of these words are new to you?

Antipasto

Yes, the word is as Italian as it looks and no, it doesn’t mean “the opposite of pasta”. Antipasto is the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal (literally: "before the meal"). You may find a variety of cheeses, olives, mushrooms and artichokes on a vegetarian antipasto platter.

Bechamel

Simply put, béchamel is white sauce, one of the mother sauces of French cuisine. Made by cooking together butter and flour in milk, until smooth and creamy. Check out this photo tutorial.

Chiffonade

Another word we owe to the French. Chiffonade is the technique of finely shredding leafy vegetables like lettuce or spinach. Here’s a demo of the process using basil.

Dabeli

A snack food originating from Kutchch, popular in surrounding states like Maharashtra but little-known in other parts of India. Dabeli means "pressed" in Gujarati: the dish is prepared by pressing a potato and dabeli masala mixture between two halves of a bun, often including other ingredients such as spiced peanuts and pomegranate seeds.

Recommended: A nicely illustrated dabeli recipe.

Edamame

A preparation of young soybeans in the pod, found in the cuisine of South East Asia and Hawaii. The pods are boiled or steamed, and served salted. The word literally means “twig bean”: eda = “twig” + mame = “bean”. Here‘s more on how to cook edamame, and a roasted edamame appetizer if you want to try something different.

Flambe

A cooking procedure that had me wide-eyed when I first saw it live at a food stall in a Delhi wedding. To flambé is to pour liquor over food and ignite! A beauty to behold when the night is dark and the amber flames from the food are the only source of light.

A video on how to make banana flambé.

Granita

Semi-frozen dessert of flavored ice crystals. Popular flavorings include lemon, jasmine, coffee, oranges, mint.

Try out this gorgeous watermelon granita recipe.

Hippenmasse

A cookie from Germany, molded into curved form and filled with berries or chocolate mousse. Food Republic tells us more.

Incaberry

Called makko in Bihar, eaten specially during the festival of Saraswati Puja. The incaberry is a pretty berry inside a papery covering, which you tear apart to get the marble-sized, yellow fruit. The incaberry originates from South America and is laden with minerals and antioxidants. It can be had raw or dried, or added to jams/salads.

Look here for some gorgeous pictures, how-to-grow tips and recipe using incaberries.

Jalebi

Among the top sinful street foods of India, jalebi is a tangerine-colored deep-fried sweet, shaped into delightful squiggles. Often eaten with rabri, a condensed milk-based counterpoint to the crisp jalebi.

Watch a sweet vendor (halwai) in action making jalebi: video. And feast your eyes on this pic, courtesy Wikipedia:

jalebi

Kohlrabi

In his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden describes the kohlrabi thus: "A cross between an octopus and a space capsule". Cannot argue with either the imagery or the inclusion of this vegetable in that hallowed list of healthy foods.

Kohlrabi comes from the cabbage/cauliflower family, a bulbous vegetable with little curved extensions on its surface. Aptly, the Hindi name for it is ganth gobi, which roughly equates to "knotted vegetable like cabbage/cauliflower". Try some Indian-style kohlrabi fry.

Litti

Wheat flour balls stuffed with a spiced sattu-filling, roasted in a tandoor and dipped in ghee, served with chokha and chutney. Litti is signature food from Bihar, somewhat complicated to prepare in the modern home – if you want the real deal, you’ll have to bake it over upla. But here‘s an urbanized recipe if you’re game.

Macaroon

A small circular cake/cookie, traditionally made with ground almonds or coconut as its main ingredient. The name comes from the Italian maccarone or maccherone meaning “paste” – a reference to ground almond paste. Check out 4-minute coconut macaroons for a quick vegan recipe.

Neufchatel

Soft, grainy, mold-ripened cheese from the French region of Normandy, sold in heart shapes. Legend has it that women shaped the cheese into hearts to give to British soldiers. More from David Lebovitz about Neufchâtel.

Osaman

A hot, light broth from Gujarat, made from the water in which dal is boiled. From The Steaming Pot archives: how to make osaman with green gram dal.

food-words-osaman

Pithale

A thick gramflour stew common to Maharasthrian home cooking, pithale is popularly eaten with bhakri, a type of unleavened bread. The basic pithale recipe is sometimes jazzed up with add-ons like coconut and drumsticks.

Quesadilla

The stuffed paratha’s Mexican cousin, a quesadilla is a tortilla with savory filling, folded into a half-moon shape. Along with cheese (the name comes from the Spanish word for cheese, queso), a quesadilla can contain any filling like vegetables, mushrooms, etc. Hop over to The Kitchn for some tips on quesadilla-making.

Roux

Not to be pronounced as "raauks" – it is "roo", as in the Hindi word for a ghostly spirit. Roux is what you get when you cook together a fat like butter with flour. It is used to thicken sauces and soups.

Skordalia

Greek garlic dip with a thick base of potatoes or other ingredients such as walnuts, liquid-soaked bread, whipped together with olive oil and vinegar or lime juice.

Taftan

A soft bread from Persian cuisine, baked in a clay oven, taftan is a fluffier version of naan. Not so easily found in Indian cooking, I’ve only ever had it at Copper Chimney restaurants – and they, too, have discontinued serving it.

[If anyone from Copper Chimney is reading – please bring the taftan back on the menu!]

Umami

The *fifth* basic taste that extends the classic quartet of salt, sweet, sour and bitter. The term "umami" was coined by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese chemist in 1908, to describe the taste lent to food by glulamate. [Kikunae Ikeda also patented the manufacture of monosodium glutamate, colloquially known as ajinomoto.]

Umami translates from Japanese to delicious  (umai) taste (mi). The taste is palatable only when present in food in very low concentration. Here‘s a story on the science behind this unusual taste, and Malcolm Gladwell’s take on ketchup, one of the most popular carriers of umami.

Vichyssoise

A chilled, creamy potato and leek soup. Vichyssoise sounds French, but it is one of those "gobi manchurian" type of dishes – it does not originate from the cuisine it appears to belong to. Vichyssoise was invented by French chef Louis Diat at the Ritz Carlton in New York, in 1917.  Simply Recipes has more on the history and a recipe.

Wasabi

A strongly flavored condiment used in Japanese cooking. Wasabi belongs to the family of cabbage, horseradish and mustard. The condiment comes from the root, grated using an oroshigane (fine grater used in Japan).

Here’s a pic from Wikipedia:

Wasabi On Oroshigane

Xacuti

A Konkani dish to stand for the letter ‘X’ (no surprise there: is there another language in the world that makes as much use of this letter as Konkani?), Xacuti is a curry including white poppy seeds, coconut and dried red chilies. Check out this recipe for a vegetarian Xacuti curry.

Yakhni

Yakhni is stock or broth, often the base for other foods like pulao or soups. Yakhni originated in Persia and caught on in the neighboring countries, reaching India sometime in the Mughal era. Time and location have brought many variations to its recipe. The Kashmiri yakhni has yogurt, fennel and ginger as the prime ingredients; and in Turkish and other cuisines it is a stew with "browned-onion base with tomatoes and olive oil".

Ziti

A type of pasta with the shape of long and narrow hose-like tubes. The word is said to be Italian vernacular for "bridegrooms", since ziti is traditionally served as the first course of a wedding lunch. Check out The Pasta Vixen for a baked ziti recipe and also other stories on the etymology of the word.

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