Restaurant Menu Dictionary


I do often wonder if wait staff around Sydney get tired of answering “and what’s this?” when it comes to menus, and quash the urge to roll their eyes. I’ve been to a few restaurants in my time (just a few) and am constantly seeing new ingredients which leave me clueless. “Salisfy”, for instance, sounds more like a verb, than a noun (“I salsified my carrots”). And are konbu and kombu actually the same thing but someone has spelled it wrong? A quick scour of current menus at hatted establishments around town revealed that ingredients ‘du jour’ include amaranth, konbu, ponzu, wakame, and Glacier 51 toothfish (as opposed to Glacier 52, terrible quality apparently)……..and of course, kale – in fact I think Parliament may have now passed legislation that prohibits kale’s absence from any menu. Anyway a little guide to keep in your back pocket, so you can nod knowledgably when your waiter is going through the specials of the day.

Agretti                      An edible leaf also known as salt wort
Agave                       A type of succulent plant that can be made into a sweet nectar
Ajvar                         Croatian relish, typically made from bell peppers
Albacore tuna          A white tuna with milder flavour
Allemande sauce     French sauce based on a veloute but thickened with cream
Amaranth                 A seed, often referred to as a ‘superfood’
Amuse bouche         Meaning “to please the mouth”, a complimentary course , typically spoonful
or bite size, as a precursor to your meal
Bagna cauda            Italian for “hot bath”, a type of warm dip often served with julienned
Black pudding          A blood sausage, typically made from pigs blood
Bottarga                   Salted cured fish roe originating from Sicily & Sardinia
Brandade                 A puree of salt cod and potatoes
Burrata                     Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream (devine)
Cassava                    A type of root plant. It can be made into alcohol, cooked as a side dish, or
milled into a type of flour
Cavolo Nero            A black leaf kale, part of the cabbage family
Ceviche                    A seafood dish where the seafood is basically cooked using lemon or lime
Chirashi                   Vinegared sushi rice topped with vegetables or sashimi
Cotechino                Italian cured pork sausage, containing pork skin as well as meat. Must be
cooked before eating
Daikon                     White radish
Escabeche               Fish dish where fish is either poached or fried
Farro                        An ancient wheat variety with a somewhat nutty flavour
Feijoa                       Plant native to South America, often called pineapple guava
Freekeh                   Green roasted wheat
Fregola                    Type of Sardinian pasta in the shape of little beads, usually made from
Glacier 51 Toothfish   A brand of sustainable toothfish from WA vicinity
Katsuobushi            Japanese dried and fermented tuna
Kimchi                     Traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables, usually cabbage or daikon
Kohlrabi                  A vegetable, part of the cabbage family
Koji                          A type of fungus, often used in Korean and Japanese cuisine
Kombu lettuce       Type of seaweed
Konbu                      Type of seaweed
Labne                       A Middle Eastern cheese made from strained yoghurt
Manchego               Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk
Meuniere sauce     Simple French sauce of butter, parsely, and lemon, typically used for cooking
flour coated fish
Miche                      A rustic French sourdough
Mignonette           Sauce typically served with raw oysters containing shallots, vinegar, pepper
Mojama                  Salt cured tuna
Nam Prik                Chilli based Thai hot sauce
Nasturtium            Type of edible flower
Oba leaf                 Edible green leaf used in Korean and Japanese cuisine
Oloroso sauce      Thick sherry sauce
Padron                   Variety of green pepper
Pandan                  An Asian green tropical plant whose leaves are often used in Asian desserts
Ponzu                     Japanese citrus sauce
Purslane                Also known as pig weed, an edible member of the succulent family
Remoulade            A French sauce, similar to a mayonnaise
Riberry                   A red native Australian berry
Rillette                   A rillette is like a meat ‘spread’, typically made with pork but can also be made
with duck or rabbit
Romesco               Spanish sauce usually made with almonds and red peppers
Salmoriglio           A green Italian condiment often served with meat containing parsely, oil,
lemon juice, oregano
Salsify                   A root vegetable also called the oyster plant
Salty ice plant      A plant from the succulent family
Samfaina              A vegetable sauce typically made with onions, eggplant, peppers and tomato
Sancho                 Japanese pepper
Shanklish              Type of Syrian cheese
Shiso                     An Asian herb related to mint
Skipjack                Medium size type of tuna
Sous vide             Method of cooking food in a sealed vaccuum bag submerged in water
Sukiyaki               Japanese hot pot
Sweetbread        Nothing to do with actual bread. It is the thymus gland, especially of the calf and lamb
Tahini                   A paste made from sesame seeds an oil
Takuan                Pickled radish
Tobiko                 Flying fish roe (that orange stuff you sometime see on top of sushi rolls)
Tonnato              An Italian mayonnaise type sauce flavoured with tuna
Trompette          A dark mushroom sometimes called ‘false truffle’
Umeboshi          Pickled ume fruits, often called Japanese salt plums
Upland cress      A type of herb with a peppery taste
Vacherin             Type of creamy cow’s milk cheese
Veloute               A French soup or sauce, usually made from chicken, veal or fish stock and
thickened with butter and flour
Verjuice              An acidic juice made from unripe grapes; also verjus
Wakame             Another type of edible seaweed

3 thoughts on “Restaurant Menu Dictionary

  1. jugernauts

    a surprisingly competent list of mystery ingredients. If someone isn’t food savvy, I think more than 80% of the list would be “huh?”. I went to dinner @ the botanist and friend’s friend had never heard of ceviche. :)


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