September 25, 2022

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Simply The Best Food

Surprising food names around the world


What’s in a name? Sometimes, not all that much. Or at least, when it comes to certain foods, not a lot you can actually trust. Bombay duck doesn’t contain a scrap of duck, for example. And grasshopper pie isn’t quite as adventurous as it sounds. Here’s a selection of the most deceptively named dishes from around the world.



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Dolphin is a staple on Barbados menus, though you can rest assured these are no descendants of Flipper. Mahi-mahi, the large blue fish eaten around the world, is also known as a dolphinfish. Barbadians shorten the name (hence the rather unsettling associations) but it’s the same tender, flaky fish, usually served battered and deep fried.



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It might be because it was served at Thanksgiving, in lieu of actual turkey, when early New England settlers had little but fish. Or it could be because the Irish in Massachusetts apparently dubbed their Friday fish meal ‘Cape Cod turkey’. Whatever the origins, this dish of salt cod, served in a cream sauce and topped with boiled eggs and potatoes, doesn’t have a single pluck of turkey.



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Don’t be so precious as to ask for a fork if you’re served monkey bread, also known as monkey puzzle bread. Sweet, soft and sticky, this treat is designed to be torn apart and devoured by hand. It became popular in southern California in the 1940s, and is usually made with balls of dough bound by melted butter and caramel sauce before baking.



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Put away the red wine vinegar and shallots. These are a world apart from your usual freshly shucked half-dozen. Rocky Mountain oysters are actually the testicles of lamb, boar or calf, usually flattened, coated in seasoned flour, deep fried and served with dipping sauce. It’s believed the dish was invented by ranchers in Canada’s Rocky Mountain region, and it’s still widely considered a delicacy in the American West and western Canada.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Of course there’s no actual lion involved in this Shanghai speciality, the main element of which is an enormous meatball made with ground pork, crumbled tofu, ginger and soy sauce. They’re served bobbing in either a light broth or smothered with a rich, dark sauce, while cabbage leaves form the lion’s mane.



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The story of this devilishly good hors d’oeuvre dates back to Victorian times, when prunes or dates were soaked in tea, wrapped in bacon and grilled. They rose in popularity in the 1970s and 80s, usually skewered with toothpicks and passed around at dinner parties.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


This Russian dish conjures all kinds of whimsical images. The herring is ‘dressed’, though not in furs. Pickled fish are diced and layered with cooked and grated root vegetables, usually potatoes, carrots and beetroot, mixed with mayonnaise. It gives the dish, sometimes charmingly called ‘herring under a fur coat’, a colorful, elegant look, like a savory cake. Or a well-dressed lady.



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There’s no pigeon meat in gołąbki, a cabbage-leaf roll stuffed with ground meat (usually pork or beef) and rice. The delicious little parcels, similar to Greek dolmadaki, which are made with vine leaves, are often served in Polish households during the festive season, and the name refers to their small, birdlike shape.



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It might sound like a rich, gamey feast of a dish, but Scotch woodcock is really just scrambled egg served on toast spread with Gentleman’s Relish (anchovy paste). Legend has it the name was a dig against the Scots by the English, though nowadays it’s served as a pretty inoffensive hors d’oeuvre, usually on squares of toast and garnished with whole anchovies.



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It isn’t cheese, but it is made of heads – usually the meat from the head of a pig, calf, cow or lamb. Becoming more common with the rise in popularity of nose-to-tail eating, headcheese is served as a sausage or in a jellied loaf, similar to a French galantine or terrine.



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This delightfully named Sichuan dish is made with finely ground beef (the ‘ants’, apparently) and glass noodles, which represent the tree. Its Chinese name, ma yi shang shu, has also been translated as ‘ants creeping up a tree’ and ‘ants climbing a hill’. All equally charming and, infused with pungent spices, delicious.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Huge bear claw pastries are for those times when mere croissant or apple turnover just won’t satisfy your sweet dough cravings. The name makes sense when you see the jagged paw shape of this pastry treat, originating from the US in the 1920s and usually filled with almond paste and raisins.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


You’ll often find ladies’ fingers lurking in your Louisiana gumbo or stirred into a bowl of fragrant Malaysian curry. You might even bite into them beneath a delicate glove of crisp tempura batter. Okra is actually a pod vegetable shaped like elegantly tapered fingers, widely used in African, Caribbean, Cajun and Indian cuisine as a thickening ingredient. Just to make things more confusing, sponge ‘ladyfingers’ are something different altogether, layered up in desserts like tiramisu.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Founding US president George Washington was apparently partial to a slice of sweetbread pie. The word ‘sweetbread’ was first used a couple of centuries earlier, in the 16th century. Though some might argue there’s nothing sugary about the thymus gland of animals (most commonly calves), the name comes from the fact this meat is relatively rich and sweet. ‘Bread’ comes from the old English word for ‘flesh’.



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Before you tip this crunchy mix into Fido’s/Daisy’s/Dave’s dog bowl, take a nibble. This homemade snack, popular at picnics and potluck dinners in America’s Midwestern states, is a delicious concoction of Chex cereal mixed with melted butter, peanut butter and chocolate chips and shaken with icing sugar.



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Jerusalem artichokes are native to eastern parts of the US and Canada and prevalent in Maine, North Dakota, Florida and northern Texas. They’re delicious sautéed with olive oil or butter and served with a sprig of thyme and a squeeze of lemon. But they’re not artichokes at all. This knobbly, nutty delicacy is a species of sunflower root, sometimes called sunroot, sunchoke or earth apple.



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What does posh cheese on toast have in common with a rabbit from Wales? Its name. Commonly called Welsh rarebit (though originally spelled ‘rabbit’), this classic savory snack is elevated above the usual cheddar slices melted on bread by the sauce. Cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and strong beer are added to a roux. It’s then spooned on bread and browned under the grill.



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