Written by Chantel DaCosta

Yello Restaurant Guide: The Food Glossary


Have you ever sat down in a fine dining restaurant and felt overwhelmed by food items listed?

You scan the menu and items such as Gravlax with Mustard and Dill Sauce or Roe and Soft Cheese Dip jump out at you and feeling a tad bit intimidated you settle for the chicken. Well, it is time to ‘get in the know.’

Here is a quick food glossary of the most popular menu terms that you will across in your dining experiences.


Cold meat plate and grissini bread sticks on wooden background

Antipasto – Cold meat plate and grissini bread sticks on wooden background


Antipasto – Italian cold appetiser.

Aperitif – a small alcoholic drink that is served before a meal to stimulate the palate.



Batarde – A French butter sauce made with egg yolks.

Béarnaise Sauce – Sauce made with a wine and vinegar reduction, egg yolks, butter and flavoured with tarragon.

Béchamel Sauce – This is a white sauce made with milk or cream and thickened with a roux (mixture of fat and flour). Béchamel sauce is generally used as a base for other more complex sauces.

Beignet – A French or Creole version of doughnuts. Dough or batter is deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar or glazed with flavoured syrup.

Bisque- A thick creamy soup made with fish or game or pureed vegetables.

Bouquet garni – A sachet of herbs, usually includes parsley, thyme, a bay leaf and some rosemary that are used for flavour.


Ceviche raw cold soup salad of seafood shellfish almejas, lemon, cilantro onion in clay bowl on wooden background. Traditional dish of Peru or Chile

Ceviche raw cold soup salad of seafood shellfish almejas, lemon, cilantro and onion. Traditional dish of Peru or Chile


Canapé – A small biscuit or piece of bread served with cheese or meat on top, served as an appetiser.

Ceviche – A raw seafood dish of Peruvian origin wherein the seafood is combined with lime juice.  The juice ‘cooks’ the seafood by combining with its protein and turning it opaque.

Chateaubriand – Double steak cut from the centre of the beef fillet.

Coeur a la Crème – Meaning ‘the heart of the cream’, this is a soft cheese dessert where the mixture is drained in a mould to help it set.

Compote: Combination of fresh or cooked fruits. Compote may be served hot or chilled.



Daube – Classic French stew or pot roast consisting of a single piece of meat such as a shoulder or joint. The meat is stewed in a rich, wine laden broth with herbs and vegetables.

Dauphinoise – A potato gratin with cream and garlic that is topped with Gruyere cheese.



Éclair – A small finger-shaped bun made of puff pastry with a glaze icing, filled with custard or whipped cream.

Ecrivisses – Crayfish in French.

Edamame – A young soya bean.

Empanada – A small, savoury pie that is usually filled with meat, seafood or vegetables, of either Spanish or South American origin.

Escabeche – Mediterranean dish of pickled vegetables.




Fagioli – Italian term for beans, most often white kidney beans.

Falafel – A Middle Eastern dish consisting of a paste made from ground dried chickpeas and herbs shaped into balls and deep-fried.

Fleuron – A small crescent shaped pastry made of puff dough that is used to garnish fish dishes and soups.

Foie Gras – French, the fattened liver of both duck and geese.


Gravlax - raw fish marinated herbs spices white wine

Gravlax – raw fish marinated herbs spices white wine



Galantine – A traditional French dish made from poultry, meat or fish that is boned and stuffed with pistachio nuts, olives and truffles.

Gravlax – Gravlax is a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill. Gravlax is usually served as an appetiser.

Gazpacho – A cold Spanish soup made with tomatoes, onions, garlic and cucumber.

Ghee – Clarified butter that is butter from which all milk solids has been removed.

Gianduia – A classic Italian combination of chocolate and hazelnuts.

Gnocchi – Small soft balls made of potato, other vegetables or cheese, that is usually served with a sauce.




Hollandaise Sauce – A sauce made from egg yolks and butter, flavoured with lemon juice or vinegar.

Homard – French term for lobster.

Hongos – Spanish term for mushrooms.

Horchata – Beverage of Spanish origin made with sesame seeds, rice, barley, tigernuts, or melon seeds.

Hors d’oeuvres – Savoury, usually small, foods served before or as an introduction to the main meal; appetizers.



Iso – Sushi rice outside seaweed roll.



Jardiniere – Garnished or served with diced vegetables.

Julienne – To cut food, usually vegetables, into thin stick-shaped pieces.

Jus – French sauce for roasted meats. Many of these are started by deglazing the roasting pan, then reduced to achieve the rich flavour desired.



Kahlua – A coffee-flavoured liqueur from Mexico.

Kamoboko – A variety of Japanese fish paste cake.

Kasha – Common in Middle Eastern dishes, this is the toasted, hulled and crushed buckwheat seeds with a mildly nutty taste.

Kombu – An edible seaweed used in Japanese cooking.


Lefse, traditional soft Norwegian flatbread

Lefse, traditional soft Norwegian flatbread



Lachs – German term for salmon.

Langoustine – Small pink/orange lobster.

Langue de chat – Flat, finger-shaped, crisp biscuit or cookie served with cold French desserts.

Lefse – Norwegian thin, flat potato pancake, about the consistency of a tortilla.



Macaire – A pancake made with seasoned potato puree.

Maki – Sushi rice filled rolls wrapped in seaweed.

Memela – Fried or toasted cakes topped with different fresh ingredients eaten as snacks. Memela is of Mexican origin and is similar to a pizza.


Butter chicken served with Naan Bread

Butter chicken served with Naan Bread



Naan – A white flour Indian flat bread, also known as roti.

Natilla – Spanish custard dessert similar to floating island, with stiffly beaten egg whites layered on top of an egg custard; often accompanied with fresh or poached fruits.

Nigiri – Raw fish served over pressed vinegar rice.

Nori – Thin dry sheets of seaweed used in Japanese cooking. It is mainly used to wrap sushi and as garnish for other cold presentations.

Normande – A cream sauce containing fish essence, mushrooms and egg yolks.


 Ouzo - anise-flavoured liqueur from Greece

Ouzo – anise-flavoured liqueur from Greece


Oeuf a la Neige – A sweet meringue puff poached in milk and chilled. When served, these puffs are drizzled with caramel and served with cream.

Ouzo – A clear anise-flavoured liqueur from Greece.



Paella – A Spanish dish consisting of rice, saffron, a variety of meat and shellfish, garlic, onions, peas, tomatoes, and other vegetables.

Pan dulce – Spanish sweet bread.

Pancetta – Cured pork belly that is rolled and tied. Unlike bacon, this is not smoked.

Panforte – A dense, flat Italian cake filled with hazelnuts, almonds, honey, candied citron and citrus peel, cocoa and spices.

Papadum – Flat lentil wafers that puff up when deep-fried, used in Indian cuisine.

Parathas – Indian triangular-shaped fried flaky breads. The dough for parathas is oiled, rolled, and folded several times, giving this bread its distinctive flaky texture.

Parfait – French dessert made of layers of fruit, syrup, ice cream and whipped cream, frozen and served in tall slender glasses.

Piri Piri – Flavoured derived from a type of Central African chilli.



Quenches – French light savoury dumplings made of meat or fish and used as a garnish or served alone in a delicate sauce.

Quinoa – Pronounced (KEEN-wah). A natural high-protein whole grain grown in South America.


Ratatouille, a traditional French dish of fresh vegetables in a white ceramic bowl on a dark blue background

Ratatouille, a traditional French dish of fresh vegetables.


Raita – East Indian yogurt salad consisting of yogurt and a variety of chopped vegetables, fruits and flavoured with masala, herbs and black mustard seeds.

Ratatouille – French vegetable stew consisting of onions, eggplant, sweet peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes flavoured with garlic, herbs, and olive oil.

Remoulade – This classic French sauce (or salad dressing) is made by combining mayonnaise with mustard, capers and chopped gherkins, herbs and anchovies. It is served chilled as an accompaniment to cold meat, fish and shellfish.

Roe- Hard roe is the fully ripe internal egg masses in the ovaries of fish and marine animals, such as shrimp, scallop and sea urchins. As a seafood, roe is used both as a cooked ingredient in many dishes and as a raw ingredient.



Sabayon – Custard of egg yolk, sugar, and wine that is made by whisking the ingredients over simmering water. Sabayon is served warm as a dessert or sauce.

Salmagundi – A mixture of many foods cut into pieces: meat, chicken, seafood, cheese, and vegetables, combined with or without a sauce, served cold.

Sambuca – An anise-flavoured Italian liqueur which is usually served with two or three dark-roasted coffee beans floating on top.

Sashimi – A Japanese specialty, sashimi is raw fish sliced paper-thin, garnished with shredded vegetables and served with soy sauce, grated fresh ginger and wasabi (green horseradish).

Smitane – Wine sauce with sour cream and onions added.



Tabbouleh – Lebanese salad made of softened bulgur tossed with vegetables and seasoned with lemon and mint.

Taramasalata – Greek dip made of olive oil and fish roe with the consistency similar to that of mayonnaise.

Tempura – In Japanese cooking, a method of deep-frying foods coated in a light batter of rice flour.

Tzatziki Sauce – Dipping sauce derived from yogurt, garlic, cucumber, olive oil and lemon juice, it is usually served with calamari.

Vol-au-vents filled with mushroom

Vol-au-vents filled with mushroom


Valencienne – A sauce for rice containing tomatoes, mushrooms, meat strips, and grated cheese.

Velouté sauce – French sauce made with veal stock, cream, and tightened with a white roux.

Vichyssoise – French cold potato and leek soup thickened with cream and garnished with chives.

Vol-au-Vent – French round pastry case which is filled with a sauced mixture of meat, seafood, or vegetables then topped with a pastry lid.



Wasabi – Japanese horseradish, a pungent green paste made from a tuber of the watercress family.

Waterzooi – Flemish stew with chicken or fish and assorted vegetables. The sauce is enriched with a liaison of cream and egg yolks.


A plate of authentic Japanese yakitori.

A plate of authentic Japanese yakitori.


Yakhni – Indian stock from meat and bones.

Yakitori – A Japanese dish of grilled skewered chicken. They may also include vegetables, chicken livers, or ginkgo nuts. They are first marinated in teriyaki sauce, a sweetened version of soy sauce with the addition of sake, honey and ginger.



Zabaglione – Italian dessert made from egg yolks, wine, and sugar. Zabaglione is beaten over simmering water, which cooks the egg yolks and makes a light custard.

Zingara – A sauce made with white wine, meat glaze, mushrooms, ham and tongue, finely chopped and peppered.

Zubrowka – Polish vodka flavoured with a sprig of bison grass.


Now that you know the A-Z of fine dining, flex your culinary knowledge around friends and family, be bold, and try new flavours.

Happy eating!


Sources: The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink, A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition, Theodora’s Recipes, Fine Dining Lovers,


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