Thursday, 1 October 2009

Como se dice? A guide to Mexican dishes

I cringe everytime I hear someone ask for "pie-ella"; ll is pronounced as a y in Spanish, so paella is "pie-ay-ya". Here's a quick explanation and pronounciation guide to some other popular dishes and food-related terms frequently used in Mexican cuisine.

Achiote (annatto or roucou) a-chee-OH-tay
Adobado (in chilli sauce) a-do-BA-do
Ajo (garlic) a-ho
Albondigas (meatballs) al-BON-di-gas
Almendra (almond) al-MEN-dra
Antojito (appetizer) an-to-HEE-to
Arroz (rice) a-ROS
Buñelo (Mexican biscuit) boon-NWE-lo

Calabacita (courgette) ca-la-ba-SEE-ta
Calabaza (pumpkin) ca-la-BA-sa
Canela (cinnamon) ca-NE-la
Carñitas (braised and roasted pulled pork) car-NEE-tass
Cazuela (pot) ca-SWE-la
Cebolla (onion) se-BOY-ya
Ceviche (fish marinated in lime) say-BIS-chay
Chayote (root vegetable like squash) chai-YO-te
Chipotle (smoked jalapeño pepper) chee-POT-le
Cilantro (coriander) see-LAN-tro

Empañada (turnover) em-pan-NY-da
Enchilada (stuffed and rolled tortillas served in a sauce) en-chi-LA-da
Ensalada (salad) en-sa-la-da
Epazote (pungent mexican herb) e-PA-so-tay
Escabeche (marinated) es-ka-BE-chay
Espinacas (spinach) es-pee-NA-cas

Flan (Mexican crème caramel)
Frijoles (beans) free-HO-les

Galleta (biscuit) ga-YE-ta
Guacamole (avocado dip) gwa-ca-MO-le

Harina (flour) ha-REE-na
Helado (ice-cream) e-LA-do
Horno (oven) OR-no
Huevo (egg) WAY-bo

Jalapeño (type of chilli pepper) ha-la-PEN-yo
Jicama (Mexican tuber) HEE-ca-ma
Marisco (shellfish) ma-RIS-ko
Mole (traditional sauce, often made with chilli and chocolate) MO-le
Nopales (cactus paddles) no-PA-les

Olla (pot) O-ya

Pavo (turkey) PA-bo
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) pe-PEE-tas
Pescado (fish) pes-CAR-do
Pibil (annatto seasoning) pi-BEEL
Picante (spicy) pee-CAN-te
Piñones (pine nuts) pee-NYO-nes
Pipian (ground pumpkin seeds) pee-PI-yan
Pollo (chicken) po-YO
Pozole (Mexican soup with corn kernels) po-SO-le
Puerco (pork) PWER-co
Pulque (native drink) POOL-ke

Quesadilla (tortilla folded in half with filling) ke-sa-DEE-ya
Queso (cheese) ke-SO

Raja (strips of chilli) RA-ha
Ranchero (ranch-style) ran-CHE-ro
Refrito (refried) re-FREE-to
Relleno (stuffed) re-YE-no


  1. OK i'm sorry, but a lot of these pronunciations are wrong...

  2. I'm sorry that you think some of these are wrong. Admittedly, I misspelled the pronunciation of achiote! The above is just a rough guide and of course, pronunciation does vary throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Which do you disagree with?