'From regional U.S. specialties to international snacks, there's any number of bizarrely named foods that can make even the most sophisticated gourmand chuckle. But do these oddly dubbed foods have a backstory explaining their silly-sounding nomenclature? Natch.
Rollmops - Don't mistake these for some kind of cleaning tool when you see them on a menu - they refer pieces of pickled herring wrapped around onions, pimentos or olives - a popular Northern European snack since Medieval times. The name comes from German origin: the roll part we get - I mean duh, they're rolled, but mop? Mops come from the German word moppen which means to "make a sour face." (Fun fact: Mops refer to the pug breed of dog in German too.) The sour face in this case comes from eating a pickled item such as herring. Get it?
Coffin Board - No this is not a type of canapé you'll find at a funeral parlor, but actually coffin board or coffin sandwich (as it translates) is a popular snack food in Tainan, Taiwan. It's made from deep-fried bread which is hollowed out in the middle and filled with chowder or a meat/vegetable mixture, not unlike a Western bread bowl of sorts. The "coffin" aspect of its name refers to the way the sandwich looks - four walls of bread, a hollowed-out middle and a "lid" on top.
Spotted Dick - The name of this traditional steamed British pudding made with beef or mutton fat (yum) may make the immature among us snicker, but here's the lowdown on its eyebrow-raising name: the "spotted" part refers to the dried fruit that stud the pudding itself, and the "dick" - well, the exact origin is not totally clear. But it refers to the pudding aspect of the dessert and may be old slang for the word "dough." Oh, those cheeky Brits.
Head Cheese - Nope, there's no actual cheese involved here, but this term refers to a terrine that's made from meat from the head of a pig or calf that is kind of like an old-school cold cut. While both the name and description don't sound very appetizing - take it from us, when prepared correctly and paired with pickled veggies, head cheese is nothing short of sublime.
Pasty - Kind of like a British empanada, "pastys" or "pasties" are meat and veggie-filled pastry pockets that have dozens of regional variations (they are a major tourist attraction in the UP of Michigan, for example). As for the name (which is unfortunately shared with a crucial element of a stripper's costume) the origin of "'pasty" comes from the old British word for "pie."
Pupu Platter - Pupu platters became a common menu item as early as the 1950s in the U.S. during the era's "Polynesian craze" but are most often remembered as a part of 1970s dining (along with fondue and lazy susans). The dish itself is a plate of American Chinese hors d'oeuvres that might include items like teriyaki chicken, fried shrimp and spare ribs. The name, which has undoubtedly caused millions of snickers and bad jokes over the years, comes from the Hawaiian word for appetizer.
Ugli Fruit - You may have seen these odd-looking fruits with a giant "Ugli" sticker on them in your international market - but Ugli is just the brand name for Jamaican tangelos - a hybrid of a tangerine and a grapefruit. Why they decided to label them "ugli?" Well, that choice is still a mystery.
Pocari Sweat - No actual sweat is found in Pocari Sweat - a popular drink in Japan which may not sound very appetizing at first glance of the label. But really this is just water with a slight grapefruit flavor that is advertised as an "ion supply drink." The word Pocari is meaningless and "sweat" is part of the company's decision to market it as a sports drink in Japan. Guess in Japanese the negative connotation of "sweat" doesn't really translate.
Paris-Brest - To a non-Francophile, Paris-Brest sounds more like the name of a Parisian burlesque club, but Paris-Brest is actually a delicious traditional pastry made from choux dough (like a profiterole), topped with almonds and filled with praline-flavored butter cream. The pastry was created in 1891 and named for the famous bicycle race, Paris-Brest-Paris.
Cullen Skink - This traditional thick Scottish soup is similar to an American chowder as it's made with haddock, potato and onions. The name, which sounds funny to Americans because of the "skink" (a cross between skunk and stink?) actually has Gaelic origin. Cullen is the name of a town in northern Scotland and "skink" comes from the Gaelic word for a shin, knuckle or hough of beef which eventually gained a secondary meaning as "soup."'
Originally posted on the Zagat Blog by Kelly Dobkin
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