Talking foreign: 40 of the most commonly mispronounced food words

At a music festival in Scotland in 2003, I ambled up to a food truck to procure the necessary beer-absorbent dinner. After attempting to order a behr-gehr three times in my flat Saffa accent and receiving nothing but a perplexed look, I put on my best Scots brogue and asked instead for a barr-garr. Success! (Yes, it was worse when I tried to ask for a kirk. The sugary caffeinated beverage is better known as a cork in Scotland.) The point is: it’s pretty important to be able to pronounce your food – if you want to get the right thing into your mouth anyway. To assist you in avoiding culinary embarrassment and/or starvation, we’ve gathered a list of the most tricky food words and give you a handy – and extremely silly, if you read it aloud as intended – phonetic guide to rolling your tongue over the syllables. Enjoy!

Amuse bouche

An amuse bouche. Photograph: iStock

Amuse bouche
Ah-mooz boosh
What is it: A small taste of something to amuse the palate, usually served at a fine dining restaurant before a multiple course meal.
How not to say it: Ah-moo-say bowch

What is it: A traditional South African spiced sausage made predominantly with beef, but also pork and/or lamb. Best when braaied to perfection. (Read our tips from the country’s top braai masters.)
How not to say it: Bo-uh-ree-wers

Boeuf bourguignon
Berf boor-geen-yon
What is it: A slow-cooked Burgundy dish (made popular with homecooks by Julia Child in the 1960s) of beef braised in red wine and herbs.
How not to say it: Bee-oof bow-gweeg-non

What is it: A traditional Malay South African dish of gently spiced beef mince (sometimes containing dried fruit), topped with an eggy custard before being baked in the oven. Especially good served with nostalgic favourite Mrs Balls Chutney.
How not to say it: Bow-bow-tee

What is it: A fragrant fish stew from the Provence region of France, using bony fish (difficult to sell at markets by local fisherman) and the region’s herbs and spices.
How not to say it: Boo-eeh lah-base or boo-lah-bayz

Bruschetta with sundried tomatoes.

Bruschetta with sundried tomatoes. Photograph: iStock.

What is it: Fancy toast, usually made from slices of baguette rubbed with a clove of garlic and then grilled in the oven.
How not to say it: Brushetta (Yep, we thought we were being fancy by saying ‘sh’ instead of ‘k’ too.)

Boo-ghoo (soft ‘g’)
What is it: A detoxifying herb, popular in teas, that has been used in South Africa for centuries.
How not to say it: But-chew

What is it: Brazil’s national cocktail made with cane, lime and sugar. (See our list of where to watch the Brazil World Cup.)
How not to say it: Kai-pur-rinna

What is it: A smoked and dried jalapeño chilli.
How not to say it: Chip-ottle

What is it: Spanish and Portuguese cured pork sausage commonly containing smoked red peppers.
How not to say it: Cho-rizzo

What is it: Italian bread baked in a long, flat loaf with a loose and airy crumb.
How not to say it: See-ah-batter

Croissants with apricot jam

It’s also acceptable to serve these pastries with bacon and Nutella. Photograph: iStock.

What is it: Buttery pastry rolled up and curved into a sickle moon shape. (Best eaten with lashings of Nutella.)
How not to say it: Croy-sant, cro-see-ont

What is it: A dish of sliced potatoes baked in a creamy garlicky sauce. Locally known as potato bake.
How not to say it: Doff-in-oyz

What is it: Anything that’s covered in breadcrumbs and cheese and baked to golden, bubbly perfection. Try this recipe for butternut and sage gratin.
How not to say it: Grat-tin

Filet mignon
Fi-ley min-yon
What is it: A cut of beef or pork from the tenderloin.
How not to say it: Fill-it mig-non

Foie gras
What is it: Liver of a fattened-up duck, prized for its buttery and rich flavour.
How not to say it: Fooey-grass

Hors d’oeuvres
What is it: Fiddly snacks on a tray which are infuriatingly tricky to eat while holding a glass. (Read our rant about canapés.)
How not to say it: Horse duh-oov-raz

What is it: Traditional Italian dumplings of potato, flour, egg and parmesan. (Try this recipe for roasted butternut and sage gnocchi.)
How not to say it: Guh-no-chee

What is it: Large, mild chillies picked when green and commonly used for chilli poppers. (Read our list on where to get chilli poppers.)
How not to say it: Jay-luh pay-no

Mange tout
Monj too
What is it: A type of pea enjoyed when still inside the thin-skinned pod. (Also known as the sugar snap pea.)
How not to say it: Man-je-towt, man-go towt

What is it: Red red wine. (We trust you know all about this one.)
How not to say it: Mer-lott

Mille Feuille with raspberries

It’s a custard slice, innit? Photograph: iStock

Mille feuille
Meel foh-way
What is it: A French dessert that features multiple layers of puff pastry and custard. Mille feuille in French means thousand leaves.
How not to say it: Mill-foily or milly-filly

What is it: A Cuban cocktail comprising rum, lime juice, mint and sugar.
How not to say it: Mo-jee-toe

Moh-roh-gho (soft g)
What is it: A leafy vegetable similar to spinach that’s cultivated in Southern Africa. Delicious, as are most vegetables, with butter.
How not to say it: Mow-roggo

Samp and beans with lamb

Samp and beans with lamb. Photograph by Russel Smith.

Ngqush (Umngqusho)
N-qoosh (click on the ‘q’)* 
What is it: Samp and beans, a dish beloved of Nelson Mandela. (Here’s how to make ngqush at home.)
How not to say it: N-kush

What is it: A traditional French salad (originating in Nice) that contains tuna, boiled egg, tomatoes and a tangy vinaigrette.
How not to say it: Nee-soyz

What is it: Confectionery made with honey, egg whites and nuts, most commonly found in the form of a bar. (Make your own frozen hazelnut nougat.)
How not to say it: No-ghut


Gordon Wright’s iced nougat

What is it: A one-pan Spanish dish of rice, seafood, saffron and sausage.
How not to say it: Pie-yella

What is it: Very thinly sliced cured Italian ham.
How not to say it: Pros-kyu-eet-oh

What is it: A traditional Mexican tortilla folded in half and filled with meat, cheese and/or salsa.
How not to say it: Kwess-uh-duh-lah


Crab and asparagus quiche. Photograph courtesy BBC Good Food Magazine.

What is it: An open pie with a savoury filling of vegetables and eggy custard. Great for using up leftovers. (Read the A-Z of leftovers.)
How not to say it: Quickie, kweech

Jane Coxwell's lamb and quinoa kofta.

Jane Coxwell’s lamb and quinoa kofta. Photograph courtesy Fresh, Happy, Tasty, published by Harper Collins.

What is it: A protein-rich grain from Peru that’s popular with health nuts.
How not to say it: Kwin-oh-ah

Rat-ta too-wee
What is it: A French cooked dish of chopped up brinjals, courgettes and tomatoes. (Also the name of a rat with extraordinary culinary talents in the Pixar film.)
How not to say it: Ra-ta toy-lee

What is it: Japanese rice wine.
How not to say it: Sayk

Shisa nyama
Shi-sah nya-mah
What is it: A South African meal of meat cooked on an open fire.
How not to say it: Shy-sa nyay-muh

What is it: A popular herb used in cooking, especially with lemon in chicken dishes. (Read our A-Z of herbs.)
How not to say it: thigh-me

Oom-qom-boh-tee (click on the ‘q’)*
What is it: A traditional home-brewed Xhosa beer made from fermented maize and malt. Creamy and sour tasting, it is drunk on important family celebrations.
How not to say it: Um-kwom-boat-ee

Traditional South African vetkoek. Photograph by Russel Smith.

Traditional South African vetkoek. Photograph by Russel Smith.

What is it: Traditional South African fried balls of dough with either savoury (minced beef) or sweet (apricot jam) filling. (Make your own vetkoek.)
How not to say it: Vet-koh-ek

What is it: Cold potato and leek soup.
How not to say it: Vee-chis-oyz

*Learn how to do the Xhosa ‘q’ click in Khaya Dlanga’s video.

We’d love to hear which food words you find most difficult to pronounce. Let us know in the comments below. 


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