Small dishes

In the midst of my posting “More dipspreads”, this sentence:

Taramosalata … is a Greek and Turkish meze.

So: meze. From Wikipedia:

Meze or mezze … is a selection of small dishes served in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Balkans as breakfast, lunch or even dinner, with or without drinks. In Levantine cuisines, in the Caucasus region, and in parts of Balkans, meze is served at the beginning of all large-scale meals.

The word is found in all the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and comes from the Turkish meze “taste, flavour, snack, relish”, borrowed from Persian … mazze “taste, snack” < mazīdan “to taste”. The English word was probably borrowed from the Greek version mezés (μεζές).

Meze go everywhere from a side dish or two to an assortment of choices for an entire meal. Some possibilities:

Turkish meze often consist of beyaz peynir (literally “white cheese”), kavun (sliced ripe melon), acılı ezme (hot pepper paste often with walnuts), haydari (thick strained yogurt like the Levantine labne), patlıcan salatası (cold aubergine salad), beyin salatası (brain salad), kalamar (calamari or squid), enginar (artichokes), cacık (yogurt with cucumber and garlic), pilaki (foods cooked in a special sauce), dolma or sarma (rice-stuffed vine leaves or other stuffed vegetables, such as bell peppers), and köfte (meatballs).

In Greece, Cyprus and Balkans, mezé, mezés, or mezédhes (plural) are small dishes, hot or cold, spicy or savory. Seafood dishes such as grilled octopus may be included, along with salads, sliced hard-boiled eggs, garlic-bread, Kalamata olives, fava beans, fried vegetables, melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), taramosalata, fried or grilled cheeses called saganaki, and fresh Greek sheep, goat, or cow cheeses (feta, kasseri, kefalotyri, graviera, anthotyros, manouri, metsovone and mizithra). Other offerings are fried sausages, usually pork and often flavored with orange peel, bekrí-mezé (the “drunkard’s mezé”, a diced pork stew), and meatballs like keftédes and soutzoukákia smyrnéika.

[Other Middle Eastern meze listed include hummus, kibbeh, falafel, baba ghanoush, yoghurt, and rocket salad.]

Meze then fall into the rich world of “small dishes” in many cultures: appetizers, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, tapas, zakuski, dim sum. The function (and of course the instantiation) of small dishes varies from culture to culture. Some Wikipedian notes:

Hors d’oeuvre … (literally “apart from the [main] work”) or the first course, are food items served before the main courses of a meal [canapés, caviar, raw vegetables, cheeses, cold cuts, deviled eggs, bruschetta, pickled herring, spanakopita (Greek spinach pie), etc.] (link)

“Tapas” are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, and sometimes sophisticated, cuisine. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal.  (link)

zakuski … is a Russian term for hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, snacks, appetizers, served before meals. Usually presented buffet style, it often consists of cured meats and fishes, various pickled vegetables such as beets, cucumbers, and garlic, mixed salads, hard cheeses, caviar, and breads. (link)

Dim sum … refers to a style of Cantonese food prepared as small bite-sized or individual portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum is also well known for the unique way it is served in some restaurants, whereby fully cooked and ready-to-serve dim sum dishes are carted around the restaurant for customers to choose their orders while seated at their tables. (link)

One Response to “Small dishes”

  1. Zakuski | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Earlier mention of zakuski in my posting “Small dishes”. […]

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