By Laura A. Edgerton
Menus seem to be getting more and more complex. Each time you venture into a restaurant, you’ll see new ingredients and your options are as follows: google it under the table, ask the waitstaff or order blindly and hope for the best. Whether these new ingredients are the results of plotting hipsters or the globalization of food, this guide should help to demystify your next exotic dining experience.
Artisanal means that what you are consuming isn’t made in factories, instead it’s made in small batches, by small companies and generally made in a process that adheres to traditional methods. Artisan foods take longer to produce, and cost more, but that added cost supports small producers.
Bubble Tea is a sweet drink (that can vary from slightly to mouth achingly sweet) made with tea, milk, and tapioca pearl bubbles (also called boba) that are made out of cassava.
Charcuterie boards are all over restaurant and wine bar menus and are great for sharing since they offer variety. The word has French origins: “flesh” (chair) and “cooked” (cuit), and the original meaning remains, as charcuterie refers to prepared and preserved meats like salami, ham, prosciutto and dried sausage.
Crudo is an Italian term for raw and could apply to a dish composed of raw beef, fish or vegetables. Crudo dishes are often served lightly dressed or oiled and with a vegetable or seasoning garnish.
Dauphinois potatoes are a side dish, where spuds are thinly sliced and layered, then topped with cream or milk and baked until fork tender.
Dukkha is an Egyptian mixture of herbs, nuts and spices that is typically used as a dip but can also be sprinkled on top of a dish to finish the plate with extra flavor.
EVOO is the abbreviation for extra virgin olive oil. EVOO is simply made by crushing olives and extracting the juice. This oil offers extra flavor, extra health benefits and is extra useful to have around the kitchen as it can be used as salad dressing or as a cooking oil.
Farm-to-Table means that consumers are getting meat, dairy and produce from the farm directly to their table either at their home or in a restaurant. In essence, the farmer sells directly, with no distributors or supermarket involvement, helping improve speed to market and profit margins for farmers and reducing the (added) carbon footprint from shipping.
Harissa is a spicy red chili paste used in both North African and Middle Eastern cuisines and can be used as a dip or spread.
Halloumi is popping up on more menus, as Ireland’s cheese producers are cashing in on demand from vegetarians for this high protein, great tasting meat alternative. This cheese is brined, somewhat salty, and is semi-hard and usually cooked (fried or grilled) before eating.
Kimchi is a salted and fermented vegetable dish, often used as a condiment that is a staple in the Korean diet. It is made from cabbage, Korean radish, onion, garlic and spices.
Kombucha is a fermented, sweet black or green tea drink. The fermentation causes this drink to be lightly effervescent. It is consumed for both taste and health benefits, carrying “good” bacteria to promote gut health.
Labneh is a mild, thick, spreadable fresh cheese made from salted strained yogurt, traditional in Middle Eastern countries.
Gremolata is a bright green condiment that could easy be mistaken for its Italian brother from another mother, pesto. It is made from parsley, lemon and garlic, which is whizzed up with olive oil and drizzled on steaks, fish, vegetables or pasta.
Sumac is a spice growing in popularity as Middle Eastern dishes have become more common in Ireland. It’s made from the dried berries from a wild sumac flower and is a little sour and acidic like lemon juice.
Tahini is an oily paste made up of roasted, ground and hulled sesame seeds and is a mandatory ingredient in traditional hummus.
Tempeh or Tempe is often rectangular and used in lieu of meat (and cooked like meat) by vegetarians due to its high protein content. It originated in Indonesia and is made from fermented soybeans.
Yuzu is a unique Asian citrus fruit that you’ll often see in cocktails and desserts. It has slight leanings towards grapefruit and lime flavors, so if you like citrus flavors there’s a good chance, you’ll be a yuzu fan.
Zaatar is an herbal spice blend used frequently in the Middle East. Despite its exotic sounding name, it consists of herbs that you’re most likely already familiar with, dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds and salt.