Origin of some of the famous culinary terms

The fascinating and unexpected backstories behind the phrases and words that chefs and connoisseurs often use.

To all you foodies out there, you might be enjoying that pasta, but do you know why the pasta shells in your pasta are “Al Dente”? or what is “Al Dente”? To be a real food lover, you should be curious about all aspects of food. From taste to making and even origin of some of the culinary terms. Here are some of the famous culinary terms and the interesting stories of origin behind them.


The term is a fun way and snob way of calling complimentary and small appetizers at the start of the meal. Just saying the term makes the food sound very delicate and delicious. The literal translation of the term in French would be something that entertains the mouth. But whether this phrase originated in France or it is just an English phrase translated in French, we would never know.


The impressive and precise knife skills take time to learn and master. And if you are interested in learning that, you must learn to brunoise. The precise size cutting of vegetables by chefs is called brunoise. The standard brunoise cut would give you veggies that are cubed to 1/8 of an inch. The name brunoise comes from a commune named Brunoy which is located 12 miles from Paris. The chefs from this place are famous for their accuracy of size when dicing veggies.

Al Dente

We have often heard and read on recipe cards that pasta must be cooked, Al Dente. What does Al Dente mean? Pasta that has a bite to it is called Al Dente. The Italian meaning of this phrase is “to the tooth”. There are certain ways to check whether pasta is Al Dente or not. Some people even throw spaghetti to the wall. If the spaghetti sticks to the wall, it is overcooked, and if it not, then it is perfect. But this test does not have a hundred percent accuracy rate. Just taste pasta instead.


This Japanese word is quite hard to translate into English. Broadly speaking, Zatsumi is often used to describe a flavour that is very that is not very desirable. The flavour doesn’t necessarily have to be unappetizing or bad flavour. You describe the flavour as “miscellaneous taste”.

Can you think of any other culinary term’s backstory to add?

Priyadarshini Kaul

Priyadarshini Kaul Mishra has two Master’s Degrees in English Literature and History. She is actively following her passion for the language by being a content creator since many years now. Besides this, Priyadarshini is a true bookworm at heart and tries to be an avid reader despite being a full-time mother now. She is also a professionally certified baker and puts on the oven mitts every now and then.
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