The Glossary: A - Z of modish menus

Don't know your galangal from your tamarillo? Caroline Stacey offers some help for the anxious restaurant-goer. Illustrations by Dettmer E Otto
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Adobo Not to be confused with adobe, which is what Mexicans make houses out of, this is a sauce or marinade of vinegar, chillies and salt, together with other herbs and spices, used in south-western American cuisine and slapped on meat before roasting or grilling.

Aubergine caviare Since when did an aubergine lay eggs? Nevertheless, you will find this description for a dollop of mashed aubergine on some menus.

Baba ganoush Cult leader? No, but a modish Middle Eastern dip of grilled aubergine flesh mashed with garlic, tahini (sesame) paste and lemon juice.

Bento A box. In Japanese.

Bois boudrin A tomato sauce of mysterious origin, though can possibly be attributed to the Roux brothers, and has made its way around the country's restaurants.

Bobotie Savoury egg custard baked with meatballs. South African.

Bottarga Tuna roe.

Brik Deep-fried Tunisian pastry parcel.

Bruschetta Surely you know this is only toast.

Caponata A Sicilian sweet-and-sour salad of aubergine, celery, capers and green olives.

Cappuccino It takes its name from the robes of Cappuccin monks (brown with a white hood), but it hasn't been just a milky coffee since Gordon Ramsay and others frothed up haricot bean soup.

Cavolo nero If you haven't heard of this Italian cabbage, where have you been? It's stocked by Sainsbury's (due to popular demand from River Cafe Cookbook owners, presumably) and has even made a guest appearance on Ready Steady Cook.

Ceviche Raw fish or seafood marinaded in lime juice to "cook" it.

Champ One of several winning Irish ways with the potato. This is mash with spring onions.

Chermoula North African marinade of garlic, cumin, peppers, coriander and lemon juice.

Chipotle A smoke-dried variant of the jalapeno chile pepper (see below).

Chorizo Spanish sausage which, confusingly, can be raw, or cooked. There's a lot of it about.

Choi sum Chinese flowering cabbage, a relative of pak choy (see below).

Cilantro What Americans call coriander. Pronounce it "chilantro".

Clapshot Potatoes and turnips mashed together - a Scottish contribution to world cuisine.

Colcannon Yet another variation on the potato from Ireland - this time mashed with cabbage.

Confit Of beetroot? Tomato? Monkfish? New potatoes? You name it, it's probably not preserved in duck fat like the original confit of duck.

Crushed potatoes Is it really good for a potato's self-esteem to be partially mashed, with lumps?

Daikon Another word for mooli or white radish.

Duxelle Mushroom stuffing.

Enoki Spindly little mushrooms.

Escabeche Not to be confused with ceviche. Cooked fish marinaded in hot wine vinegar and herbs, then cooled. Now applies to vegetables.

Fufu Or foo foo. Mashed plantain which you may find shaped into fluffy balls - even so it bears no resemblance to a poodle.

Galangal A less gingery, smoother-skinned Thai variety of ginger.

Gaufrette potatoes Do they mean wafers?

Garrotxa A Spanish cheese.

Goosnargh Prefix for chicken or turkey or duck - not some sort of sinister poultry hybrid, but the producer, a highly regarded one and hence named on menus.

Gremolata Chopped parsley, garlic and lemon peel garnish sprinkled over ossobuco (see below). Now turns up all over the place - even in mashed potato.

Gribiche A cold sauce of mayonnaise with chopped hard-boiled egg, capers and herbs, usually tarragon and parsley.

Gumbo Wise up, it's a lumpy, soupy stew from New Orleans with a roux (the sauce, not the brothers) base.

Habanero Hottest of all the chilli peppers.

Harissa Moroccan hot chilli paste. Too much can ruin your couscous.

Huevos rancheros Not the retching sound the morning after a tequila binge but the breakfast: black beans, fried eggs, chilli sauce on tortilla.

Iki jimi Red snapper. A jumped-up fish. Snappers swim all over the place but the fish flesh is similar wherever they come from.

Jalapeno Introduction to the world of Mexican chillies: this is fat, small, dark green, and not especially hot.

Jerk Spicy Jamaican sauce usually applied to grilled chicken or pork - these meats can take it.

Jicama Also known as yam bean, sweet turnip or Mexican potato, a crunchy white-fleshed root used in salads.

Jus Gravy just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Kangaroo Only Australian chefs have an excuse. Has hopped on to menus as a coward's alternative to beef.

Kumera If they're serving kangaroo they may put this next to it. It's Australian for sweet potato.

Lardons French for bacon bits.

Mahi-Mahi Rather like a swordfish, comes from the Indian Ocean.

Menma Pickled bamboo shoots.

Mesclun French salad leaf. Consumption will not produce an altered state of mind, mescalin does that.

Mirin Sweet Japanese rice wine.

Mizuna Jagged-edged Japanese salad leaf, that's not as rare as it sounds, as it comes in the Marks & Spencer Californian mixed salad pack.

Mojama Wind-dried tuna.

Nori Japanese seaweed that comes in dark green sheets for wrapping sushi.

Oshitasi Japanese spinach,of course.

Ossobuco Literally, stewed shin of veal, but is applied to other meats - monkfish may also get the treatment.

Pak choy or bak choi or pak choy or bok choy or paak choi. If you thought there was some vital distinction between all these, relax, they're all Chinese cabbage.

Panache Eighties expression which still occasionally afflicts vegetables and seafood, as in panache of ... All it means is a selection.

Pancetta Ubiquitous use of Italian bacon has made this word commonplace.

Panzanella Salad of tomatoes and bread.

Peri peri Or piri piri. Lethally hot barbecue sauce from South Africa via Portugal.

Pithivier Correctly, an almond cream with a top and bottom layer of puff pastry sealed with a scalloped edge. Now almost anything can take the pithivier, but especially potato.

Poblano Yet another chilli pepper. When dried it's called ancho.

Ponzu Quite a different breed from fufu (see above). A sharp thin Japanese dipping sauce of soy, sake, mirin etc.

Pratullina Under-age Italian porn star or semi-soft cheese? You decide: clue, it can be covered in breadcrumbs.

Quesadilla Tortilla sandwich filled with, among other things, cheese which melts when it's fried. Served cut into quarters.

Romesco sauce A cold thick Spanish sauce that's caught on. Made with a blend of fried bread, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, vinegar and chilli for heat.

Rosti Grated potato fried in a cake. Beats the cuckoo clock as one of the better Swiss inventions.

Shabu shabu Think very complicated version of fondue, in Japanese. Paper- thin slices of beef, various raw vegetables and beancurd are dipped in hot stock and eaten with dipping sauces. Then the stock turns into soup.

Shiso Japanese herb related to basil, with an aniseed flavour.

Shitake A mushroom sometimes more tastefully spelt as shiitake or even achieving double-barrel respectability as shi-take.

Soba Buckwheat noodle, more earnest in appearance than other noodles.

Succotash Butter bean and corn stew pinched from Indian tribes by New England settlers. Bear grease has been dropped from the recipe.

Tamarillo Frank Zappa rhymed with it, in South America they cook with the fruit, a tree tomato, turning it into sauce for meat or fish, or sweetening it for dessert.

Taro root A tasteless tuber, seen in restaurants which are pinning their fortunes on fusion.

Tilapia A freshwater fish farmed in East Africa.

Tomatillo Not just a posh name for a tomato, although it looks like a green one when the papery outer skin is taken off. More like a large Cape gooseberry, which it tastes like. Used for the Mexican version of salsa verde (green sauce, in case you didn't know).

Trelough Origin of some of the best-bred British ducks.

Trevise Italian vegetable.

Udon Fat, round, white and slippery. These Japanese noodles have slithered their way into soups, or come pan-fried.

Valhrona Top of the chocs, the smartest of the darkest, for those who read the cocoa solids content on the packet. Sometimes given a namecheck on chocolate puddings.

Wasabi Japanese mustard. Approach any small blob of pistachio-green paste with extreme caution.

Wilted What happens to spinach in places that exhaust diners with adjectives.

Xipister Basque vinaigrette dressing, conveniently beginning with an X.

Yabbies Australian freshwater crustaceans like crayfish.

Yarg Cornish cheese whose name derives from that of the cheesemaker spelled backwards.

Zampone Foot of the alphabet: a pork-stuffed pig's trotter.