The food industry is buzzing like never before, and with constant innovation, trends, and new ingredients, there’s something fresh to learn every day. And so, in order to help you be on the ball with all that’s happening within the food scene right now, here’s our curated list of all the cool new food vocabulary you should know.
A menu made of small portions and multiple courses is a degustation menu. Typically crafted with keen culinary skill, it is to be experienced for how it plays with the senses — sight, taste, smell, and so on — and is a representation of the chef’s star dishes. Usually restaurants in India have anywhere between four to 20 courses for these types of menus. If you know what a tasting menu is, this is just that, just French-ed up.
Potatoes, meats, asparagus… everything is sous-vide these days. In their pursuit to bring uniform and optimal flavour to the table, restaurants have invested in sous-vide machines, and that’s what enhancing your dishes these days. Essentially, it is a manner of cooking where the food is vacuum sealed in a plastic bag, immersed in an air-tight container with water, and then cooked very slowly while the water is temperature-controlled. What this does is ensure that the meat or veggies are never over- or under-cooked, which is likely when using a stove. And also that there are no cold or over-heated spots, as the water and fixed temperature ensure that food is cooked evenly.
This Japanese preparation literally translates to ‘what you like, cooked’. And that is exactly what it is. The savoury pancake of the East, this pan-fried batter is made of batter and cabbage, and the rest of the ingredients are as per choice. Seafood, meats, veggies, one is free to experiment with how they like this fun dish.
Pre-appetiser, palate cleanser, ‘before the actual food starts’, you may have heard several descriptions of amuse-bouche, and none of these may be incorrect as such. However, this tiny portion that the chef brings out before the dishes on the menu is by definition a ‘mouth amuser’. It’s typically served at the beginning of the meal, but can also be served in-between dishes. The amuse-bouche is there to add a fun element to your meal, and it also acts as a freeway for the chef to experiment as it’s constantly changing and isn’t required to be bound by the scope of the menu or restaurant per se.
A method known to exist since prehistoric times, confit has made a comeback on menus. Usually popular when cooking duck, it can be used for other meats as well as vegetables, wherein these are salted and cooked in their own fat. Once cooked, the meat or vegetable is packed in a sealed container and plunged in rendered fat. This method is popular because it creates a dish that melts in your mouth, and who doesn’t want that.
Stock, sauce, wine, juice, beer… everything that adds flavour to your choice of dish can be enhanced further by making a reduction out of it. Quite literal in execution, a reduction is any liquid used to braise a preparation reduced in volume. This is done by boiling the liquid in an open pot and letting it evaporate; what remains is a thickened, more intense in flavour, concentrated liquid. It even makes the food look more Instagram-friendly!
Sicilian in origin, the popularity of arancini on menus in India is just another proof that our love for Italian isn’t going anywhere. Traditionally, these are deep fried balls of rice with a bread crumb coating, with meat or mozzarella filling. Restaurants are serving it and its many twists with the filling alternated with the likes of cauliflower, mushroom, chicken, seafood, spinach, and so on. Bread, rice, cheese, fried – there’s no explanation required why this combination in the form of tiny balls is loved across the board.
Typically, carpaccio is thinly sliced or pounded raw beef, served with minimal toppings such as olive oil, capers, squeezed lemon, and onions. Yet another Italian delicacy, this one also uses other meats and veggies, such as tuna, kohlrabi, salmon, beetroot. It can have any topping – chives, goat cheese – as long as it goes with the base. Light and high on flavour, carpaccio makes for a great start to the meal.
Love it or hate it, deconstructed food is here to stay. In deconstructing the dish, the resulting taste and texture remain the same though the visual aspect changes. More of a trend than a technique, this phenomenon takes a dish and breaks down its components to be put as separate entities on the plate, instead of one composite portion.
A Peruvian dish, ceviche has recently become popular in the country. Raw fish cured with lime or lemon juice and topped with chives, cilantro, onions, avocado and the like, is what ceviche essentially is. Seafood other than fish, specially crab, can also be used. The food is cooked and uncooked at the same time – the citrus juice helps break down the protein in the meat, hence making it safe to eat, but it’s not ‘cooked’ using any heat. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go.
Big in the dessert sections these days are petit fours. What this means is that instead of one large serving of one dessert, you get an assortment of bite-sized confectionery. Literally meaning ‘small oven’, it alludes to the micro desserts that come to the table. Who doesn’t love variety when it comes to desserts? So it wouldn’t be surprising if this one is here to stay for long.
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