These Are the Most Misunderstood Terms on Menus

By Mike Pomranz |

© Marcus Clackson/Getty Images

Have you ever been to a restaurant, glanced over the menu and thought to yourself, “This chef is just messing with us, right?”  You’re not alone. According to a recent online survey conducted by Harris Poll, 29 percent of diners thought some restaurant menus were needlessly confusing. Interestingly, however, 18 percent of those surveyed said they had still ordered a dish featuring an unfamiliar ingredient or term regardless.  It’s a reminder of just how cavalier we can be with our food ordering: Hopefully 18 percent of people wouldn’t get on a plane if they were unfamiliar with the destination.

Looking to help address this ongoing issue, OpenTable, the online reservation site that commissioned the poll, decided to do diners a favor and not only published a list of the 25 most misunderstood dining terms, but to create a handy glossary of all the definitions as well.


Topping the list: okonomiyaki – a term 69 percent of diners said they didn’t understand. I’m guessing a big chunk of the remaining 31 percent pulled out a Trump-esque answer like “Okonomiyaki? It’s amazing. I’m a huge fan. Huuuuge.” For the record, it’s a Japanese savory pancake. But you knew that.

Here’s the rest of the top ten, how many people had no clue about them and a quick primer on what they are:

1. Okonomiyaki (o-konomi-yaki) -69% - Savory Japanese pancake
2.  Gochujang (go-choo-jang) -67% - A spicy, and at times stinky, Korean condiment
3.  Piri piri (pir-ree-pir-ree) -64% - An African bird’s eye chili common in Portuguese and South African dishes
4.  Yuzu (yoo-zoo) -64% - A sour yellow citrus common in Japanese and Korean dishes
5.   Bibimbap (bi-bim-bop) -64% - A Korean dish of rice topped with a variety of things like sautéed vegetables, beef and eggs.
6.   Gougere (ɡo͞oˈZHer) -63% - A puffed cheese pastry.
7.   Guanciale (gwan-cha-lay) -62% - Cured pig cheeks
8.   Shiso (SHēsō) -62% - A member of the mint family found throughout East Asia
9.   En brodo (en BROH/doh) -61% - Broth, sometimes served on its own.
10. Ballotine (bal- -teen) -61%  - A boned piece of thigh meat that is tied and stuffed.

After that list, even I’m starting to feel like we should just go to Wendy’s.


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