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We learned a lot in 2016, including what these delightful Portuguese tarts are. (Photo courtesy of Bica.)

Food knowledge is increasingly crucial. You don’t wanna go on a first date to a Moroccan restaurant and have to ask what Mahia is, or travel to Cambodia without knowing anything about amok. Some of you may be familiar with all of these 68 culinary terms, and if you are, you’re a true expert. But for those who want to take their food expertise to the next level, read through the below, and click on the linked words for an even deeper dive.

1. Pastéis de nata

If you’re looking for a new pastry to add to your baking repertoire, there’s no better challenge to master than these perfect Portuguese custard tarts.

what is mastic?
What is mastic? It’s a fruit frequently eaten in Greece, and your favorite new exotic treat. (Photo: liesvanrompaey/Flickr.)

2. Mastic

Mastika, or as we know it, mastic, is a resin derived from the Pistacia lentiscus tree. Nuggets of this dried resin are among the first recorded substances chewed by humans for its refreshing flavor, an early predecessor of modern-day chewing gum.

What is high tea?
Once you’ve lived life with high tea, you’d be hard-pressed to get through the evening without it. (Photo: cumidanciki/Flickr.)

3. High tea

High tea is the British tradition of drinking tea while sitting in high-backed chairs at a table full of plated items such as cold meats, vegetables, pickled fish, potatoes, salads, pies, tarts, homemade bread or crackers with butter, teacakes and fruitcakes.

Dove’s Luncheonette in Chicago gives tepache the special treatment with tequila and Pacifico. (Photo courtesy of Dove’s Luncheonette.)
Dove’s Luncheonette in Chicago gives tepache the special treatment with tequila and Pacifico. (Photo courtesy of Dove’s Luncheonette.)

4. Tepache

Tepache is a pedestrian drink in Mexico made by fermenting pineapple rinds with water, sugar, and spices, often a combination of cloves, cinnamon and allspice.

There is just one producer of the Moroccan fig-based spirit mahia in the U.S.

5. Mahia

Traditionally distilled as an eau de vie by the Jewish population of Morocco (the Muslim population is not permitted to do so), mahia can be made from either figs or dates and aniseed.

What is furikake? It’s your steamed rice’s match made in salty umami heaven. (Photo: Jess Kapadia.)

6. Furikake

When dining at a Japanese restaurant, you may have wondered what that “ground-up sushi stuff” on top of your rice is. Fact: It is ground-up sushi stuff, but its proper name is furikake, and once you get to know it, you may have trouble downing a bowl of rice without it.

Commonly passed off as “white tuna,” escolar has a waxy texture and a rich, buttery taste. (Photo: Daniel Carnaje.)

7. White tuna

This common fish is actually known by a different name, and may not be safe to eat.

Firefly squid has a strong, unique taste that’s primarily attributed to its liver. (Photo: yoppy/Flickr.)

8. Firefly squid

This miniature squid lights up like a firefly, hence its name.

Pulque, the agave-based fermented beverage, is believed to be the oldest alcoholic drink in North America.

9. Pulque

Before mezcal, before tequila, there was pulque — believed to be the oldest alcoholic beverage in North America.

Shiso leaf has a distinct, refreshing taste and is used in a number of Japanese dishes. (Photo: Mon OEil/Flickr.)

10. Shiso

The ornamental green (or, less commonly, red-purple) leaves are in the mint family and are often used to provide a refreshing garnish to fish, rice, tempura, soup and vegetable dishes in Japanese cooking.

A bao can be filled with almost anything. (Photos: Nina Gallant.)
A bao can be filled with almost anything. (Photo: Nina Gallant.)

11. Bao

Also known as steamed buns or baozi (包子), bao is a complete meal conveniently packed away in a soft white bun.

Taiwanese boba tea can now be found in San Francisco's Hayes Valley and New York's Lower East Side. (Photo: Boba Guys/Facebook.)
Taiwanese boba tea can now be found in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley and New York’s Lower East Side. (Photo: Boba Guys/Facebook.)

12. Boba tea

Also known as bubble tea, tapioca tea or pearl tea, the drink, traditionally a milk tea served with chewy, black tapioca balls, originated in Taiwan in the 1980s.

If you encounter fried fish, be sure you’re armed with enough remoulade to take it down in style. (Photo: dinesarasota/Flickr.)

13. Rémoulade

It’s a rich, tangy, creamy egg- and oil-based emulsion used as a binder, dipping sauce and salad dressing. You can call it “fancy mayo” if you like, but its French name is rémoulade — and you might as well use it!

They may look like double shot glasses, but the contents hold an entirely different experience. (Photo: topsteph53/Flickr.)

14. Verrine

A verrine is an amuse-bouche or hors d’oeuvre that’s as elegant as it is easy to prepare.

sambal oelek
Sweet, fiery and garlicky, this chunky red paste goes on top of anything that needs a spicy kick. (Photo: Paul Harrison.)

15. Sambal oelek

Sambal oelek has roots in Malaysian and Indonesian cooking. While there are actually hundreds of types of sambal, each with its own blend of chilis and seasonings, in the U.S., sambal oelek is the most common.

Powdered soy sauce has more uses than you might think — pick some up! (Photo: thedelicious/Flickr.)

16. Powdered soy sauce

Powdered soy sauce is soy sauce combined with maltodextrin powder, a flavorless starch commonly used in food preservation.

Toast up coconut flakes with a bacon-like combination of savory umami, smoke flavor and a kick of sweetness and spice. (Photo: kiry/Flickr.)

17. Coconut bacon

Crisp, salty and smoky with just a little sweetness to balance it out, coconut bacon is made with large unsweetened coconut flakes or “chips” (not the fine shreds you bake with).

Sticky natto on top of a bed of white rice is a staple in Japanese homes and restaurants.

18. Natto

According to Tomonori Takada, the president of Ootoya America (a restaurant serving Japanese comfort food, currently with three locations in New York City), the most common way to eat natto is on top of white rice after mixing it with soy sauce.

lobster mince
Lobster mince is the most versatile shellfish ingredient you’ve never cooked with. Break out the pasta roller! (Photo: Dorin Baul.)

19. Lobster mince

Lobster mince is what it sounds like: finely processed meat pulled from the tiny crevices of the lobster body between the bones and knobby joints.

Photo: Samuel Adams/Facebook

20. Braggot

Braggots are meads made with a hefty proportion of beer, or beers made with a hefty proportion of mead.

Chef Eliott Moss’s house-made hash at Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo: Johnny Autry.)

21. South Carolina hash

What is hash? Well, first, it seems to be a very colloquial South Carolina product.

(Photos: Rina Ogh)
(Photo: Rina Ogh)

22. Rocky Mountain cuisine

We asked a chef from the small Colorado mountain town of Steamboat Springs what exactly the cuisine of these mountains is.

lap cheong
Chinese sausage can be found at any Cantonese butcher shop, hung from the ceiling. (Photo: logatfer/Flickr.)

23. Lap cheong

Traditionally steamed with rice, the coarse, rich and slightly sweet sausage is typically made in links of two with lean meat and identifiable chunks of soft fat, and it does not gather mold like its European cousins.

organic beer
Photo: Peak Organic/Facebook

24. Organic beer

Most organically labeled beers in the U.S. are comprised of ingredients that are at least 95 percent organic.

Wild sorrel by Rahel Jaskow
Wild wood sorrel resembles common clover in appearance but packs a fresh, grassy, tangy flavor that lends itself very well to a variety of culinary applications.

25. Sorrel

Sorrel sounds romantic, like a secret mushroom, special tincture or magical word used to conjure fawns to appear by your side. However, sorrel is none of these things — it’s a simple perennial herb that sprouts eagerly from the ground each spring.

huitlachoche by David Cohen
This strange fungus is a delicacy. (Photo: David Cohen.)

26. Huitlacoche

In simple terms, it’s a plant disease that grows on ears of corn around the kernels in puffy, gray clouds that look kind of like river stones. But when you take this strange fungus into the culinary world, huitlacoche becomes a delicacy used in all sorts of dishes from soups to enchiladas to sauces.

Mezcal con sal de gusano. (Photo: Raul Ramirez/Flickr.)

27. Sal de gusano (a.k.a. worm salt)

The gusano, or worm, at the bottom of a bottle of cheap mezcal is actually moth larva.

Monteverde_Saba_Bourbon_Soda_ Galdones_Photography
The bourbon and soda cocktail at Monteverde in Chicago uses saba for a flavor boost. (Photo: Galdones Photography.)

28. Saba

When chef Sarah Grueneberg was opening Monteverde earlier this year and knew she wanted to feature a soda on the menu, she quickly dismissed cola and sugarcane for another soft drink base: saba, otherwise known as mosto cotto or cooked grape juice.

The Denver cut is from the shoulder, but it’s surprisingly tender.

29. Denver cut

The Denver cut: You know it? Probably not. To be fair — and depending on who you ask — it didn’t really exist until a handful of years ago.

Bitter melon by Karen Christine Hibbard

30. Bitter melon

Instead of being round and sweet-fleshed, bitter melon — also known as bitter squash, balsam-pear, karela and goya in various parts of the world — resembles a cucumber (though flavor-wise you would never compare them).

The South African–style sausage called boerewors. (Photo: CoralBrowne/Creative Commons)

31. Braai

If you’ve never visited South Africa, either on some gourmet safari or otherwise, then you’re probably unfamiliar with braai, the country’s regional style of barbecue.

Amok Curry, photographed at The Secret Garden on Otres Beach in Southern Cambodia, by Jenny Adams-8197
Amok curry at the Secret Garden on Otres Beach in southern Cambodia. (Photo: Jenny Adams.)

32. Cambodian amok

Cambodia’s most famous dish is fish amok. This slightly sweet curry is always presented in a banana leaf bowl, and it has more of a custard consistency thanks to a signature steaming step in preparation.


33. Jackfruit

In its green form, it’s a vegetarian’s dream, and the ripe, yellow fruit is delicious solo or in desserts. Play with jackfruit in the kitchen and surprise your guests with the fruit’s subtly sweet flavor that smacks of banana, peach, tangerine and mango.

Local Montauk porgy with Persian cucumbers, candied macadamia nuts, scallions, and popped rice. (Photo: Crave Fishbar/Facebook.)

34. Porgy

In Montauk, porgy is often what you get when you’re trying to catch fluke or bass — and you fail. It’s a relatively slow swimmer, easy to catch, and thus has long played second fiddle to its better-known ocean brethren.

nitro beer
An offering from Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing. (Photo: Left Hand Brewing Co./Facebook.)

35. Nitro beer

A number of American-made nitrogen (or nitro) beers are widely available for the first time, thanks largely to recent releases from the biggest craft brewery in the land.

Chef Heston Blumenthal

36. Neurogastronomy

According to neurogastronomy, taste and flavor are two very different things.

Chef Kevin Adey at Faro in Brooklyn, NY dresses his dry aged duck breast with his variation of fish sauce caramel. (Photo courtesy of Faro.)
Chef Kevin Adey at Faro in Brooklyn, New York, dresses his dry aged duck breast with his variation of fish sauce caramel. (Photo courtesy of Faro.)

37. Fish sauce caramel

What happens when you add fish sauce to some melting sugar? You get something called fish sauce caramel — naam plaa waan in Thai or nuoc mau in Vietnamese — and it can be drizzled over almost anything, according to three New York chefs.

activated charcoal cocktail
The tequila-based Heart of Darkness cocktail at NYC’s Pouring Ribbons

38. Charcoal-activated cocktails

Activated charcoal is a cocktail microtrend (according to Jim Kearns, you don’t really need more than one on your menu), but before that it was used for millennia in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a detoxifying agent and to boost digestive health.


39. Tejuino

Follow legendary food writer Betty Fussell as she finds out how this low-ABV fermented corn flour is made.

hard seltzer
What’s the difference between spiked seltzer and vodka soda? (Photo: fieldmuzick/Flickr.)

40. Hard seltzer

Spiked sparkling water, or “hard seltzer,” clocks in at a respectable 5 to 6 percent ABV per bottle, around 100 calories per 12-ounce bottle and just a gram or two of sugar.

Photo: William Clifford/Flickr

41. Bloody Mary made with mezcal

What do you call a Bloody Mary made with mezcal?

drinkable butter
Photo: GS Retail

42. Drinkable butter

Described as a “dessert latte” that blends the rich taste of gourmet Normandy butter and fresh milk, the concoction includes a pinch of French salt to draw out further sweetness.

If you’re looking for a hallucinogenic trip, wormwood’s not a very good place to start.

43. Wormwood

The first thing most people think about when you mention wormwood is absinthe, the magical green booze with the legendary hallucinatory effects. As it turns out, wormwood has more to do with flavor and less with this temporary (but unproven) madness.

maple water
From the tree to the bottle, DRINKmaple could be the next big alternative water. (Photo: Kristen Kellogg.)

44. Maple water

Even the most devout pancake lover might not know one essential thing about maple sap: When it comes out of a tree on a cold spring morning, it is not at all viscous. Rather, fresh sap is roughly the consistency of water, rich in free-radical-fighting manganese, a source of refreshing electrolytes, and just a touch sweet.


45. Bock beer

Why is this style of beer also advertised with a goat?

Nicholas Bennett’s cognac Sazerac at Porchlight in New York City

46. Haute dive bars

Haute dives aim to reduce the amount of fussiness commonly associated with so many of today’s drinking dens, yet still maintain a degree of sophistication with regard to recipes and ingredients.

detroit style pizza
Detroit-style pizza goes all the way back to the 1930s and started at Buddy’s in Motor City. (Photo courtesy of Buddy’s.)

47. Detroit-style pizza

It’s baked in a square/rectangular pan, there’s a frico crust, a crispy bottom, an airy middle and stripes of sauce on top.


48. Nigella seeds

Nigella seeds are probably one of the most confusing spices.

vivian howard meat seasoning
Vivian Howard tells you to season your pig, and we’re inclined to strongly agree.

49. Seasoning meat

Using meat as a seasoning is the Southern way.

what is salsify
Salsify is a seasonal root vegetable you should definitely get your fingers on.

50. Salsify

Salsify, a vegetable that resembles, well, a twig from a tree, hails from the sunflower family (though the plants share little in common with each other). For starters, salsify tastes nothing like a sunflower seed.

Forget the sushi burrito. The onigirazu is your new favorite savory lunch item. (Photo: Son-Gohan/Facebook.)

51. Onigirazu

Onigirazu is the love child of an onigiri and tonkatsu sandwich.

what are crosnes?
Crosnes (pronounced “crones”) are a crunchy tuber with a sunchoke-like flavor. Try them in season now!

52. Crosnes

At first glance, this small, lumpy white tuber looks a bit like a fat grub. But fear not: There is nothing insectivorous about the crosne (pronounced “crone”).

Handmade mooncakes at the Peninsula Chicago. (Photo courtesy of the Peninsula Chicago.)

53. Mooncakes

These round-shaped pastries, stuffed with a variety of fillings, are the official go-to snack of the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.

Have a little texture with your ketchup (and spare your burger buns at the same time). (Photo: Plan Check Kitchen & Bar.)

54. Ketchup Leather

Ketchup Leather is trademarked, and while it may look like the fruit-based cellophane rolls of your childhood, it’s a decidedly grown-up concept.

The Beyond Burger looks like a beef burger at first glance. (Photo: Tiffany Do.)
The Beyond Burger looks like a beef burger at first glance. (Photo: Tiffany Do.)

55. Plant-based protein burgers

Alternatives to meat burgers are plentiful today, from portobello mushrooms to black bean and grain-based, hockey puck–like veggie patties. But none of them truly taste as great as the beef burger. This is where plant-based protein burgers step in.

Honey Butter Ice Cream42
If you haven’t gotten acquainted with the honey butter chip yet, here’s your chance. (Photo: Oiji.)

56. Honey butter chips

Honey butter potato chips have become so ingrained in South Korea’s popular culture that the craze has its own Wikipedia page.

SMoked Mullet Kenny Gilbert

57. Seafood charcuterie

What happens when you smoke and cure mullet and alligator? You end up with the vastly untapped world of seafood charcuterie.

Ripple, a new legume-derived milk, provides the protein and calcium of a glass of cow’s milk with a much smaller carbon footprint.

58. Pea milk

The new plant-based milk is made from protein-rich organic yellow split peas, but Ripple’s patent-pending formula can be used to extract nutrition from most legumes.

Many spice shops at the souk had artful displays of Baharat spice, or “a little bit of everything.” (Photo: Jess Kapadia.)

59. Baharat

Like India’s ubiquitous garam masala (translated as “hot spice,” although traditionally there’s no chili powder included), baharat’s name doesn’t indicate what might be in the mix — it’s simply Arabic for “spices.”

Tabo Noodles is one of the options at the new Chef Street food court inside Macy’s flagship department store in New York City. (Photo: Chef Street/Facebook.)

60. Retail-host restaurants

It’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. food industry, generating some $40 billion in sales last year. Yet for some inexplicable reason, it’s been given one of the clunkiest names of any kind of eating establishment. We’re talking about the “retail-host” restaurant.

patatas bravas
Classic patatas bravas at El Zorrito in Barcelona. (Photo: Edu González.)

61. Patatas bravas

Legend has it that patatas bravas came about at Barcelona’s Bar Tomás, a place that still offers only half a dozen other items besides the fried potatoes bathed in paprika and oil and topped with aioli.

When you see calçots in Barcelona, you know it’s almost spring.

62. Calçots

High season for calçots, the Catalan green onion, comes during Lent. But purposefully sloppy, social, and even kind of sexy, the eating of calçots habitually results in the kind of ritual abandon that feels like Carnival.

Lupini beans are better-tasting and more nutritious than edamame. Edamame is green with envy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)

63. Lupini beans

Slightly spicy and tangy but also buttery like a gigante bean, lupini beans are a refreshing alternative to the omnipresent garbanzo and cannellini.

what is Dutch process cocoa
Thanks to Dutch-process cocoa, your brownies are nuanced, smooth and totally addictive.

64. Dutch-process cocoa

Although chocolate has long been a darling of the collective human palate, it took the invention of one Dutch chemist in 1825 (or 1828, depending on which source you check) to change the way chocolate was made and consumed.

what are oeufs miroir?
What are oeufs miroir? They’re your new favorite way to eat eggs, French style. (Photo: kimberlykv/Flickr.)

65. Oeufs miroir

Oeufs au miroir or, simply, oeufs miroir, translated as “mirror eggs,” are fried, baked or broiled to form a barely perceptible film or “crown” of white over each yolk.

bluff oysters
Fresh local Bluff oysters at Logan Brown restaurant in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo: Rachel Tepper Paley.)

66. Bluff oysters

The most prized of these mollusks — briny, sweet and with a tangy metallic finish — grow in the bone-chilling waters of New Zealand’s Foveaux Strait just off the modest seaport of Bluff, the tiny nation’s southernmost town.

Move over cronut — it’s all about the bonut now.

67. Bonut

A biscuit and doughnut walk into New York City’s Root & Bone, out walks a Bonut.

Get your cream cheese–stuffed bagel bites at B-Holes bakery.

68. B-Hole

Cream cheese-filled bagel holes are the breakfast waiting for your discovery.

This post has been updated from an earlier post with a new introduction and headline.