Diccionario

From achiote to zarzamora.

December 2004By Comments

achiote to divorciado(a)  |  dulce de leche to migas  |  mojarra to zarzamora

achiote (ah-chee-oh-teh): Nothing to sneeze at, achiote is a dark red paste made from the crushed seeds of the annatto tree. It has a mild, paprika-like flavor.

adobado(a) (ah-doh-bah-doh): seasoned with adobo.

adobo (ah-doh-boh): a red or green paste and marinade made with achiote, garlic, canela, and other seasonings.

agave (ah-gah-veh): a plant family of several hundred species with long, swordlike leaves. Members include the century plant and the blue agave that is used to make tequila (see Respuestas). In Mexico, the agave is called the maguey (mah-ghey).

agua fresca (ah-gwah frehs-kah): Literally “fresh water,” the name actually refers to colorful, sweet fruit beverages (see Instrucciones,

aguacate (ah-gwah-kah-teh): avocado, from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl.

ajillo (ah-hee-yoh): diminutive of ajo, garlic; al ajillo means “with garlic.”

alambre (ah- lahm-breh): skewer.

albóndiga (ahl-bohn-dee-gah): “That’s one spicy meatball.”

anticucho (ahn-tee-coo-choh): kebab.

antojito (ahn-toh-hee-toh): “Little whim”; refers to a variety of snacks, often made with small tortillas or masa tarts.

arrachera (ah-rrah-cheh-rah): grilled,marinated skirt steak like that traditionally served at ranch cookouts in northern Mexico; think of it as uncut fajitas.

arroz (ah-rrohs): rice, not a rose by any other name.

asado(a) (ah-sah-doh): grilled or roasted.

bandera (bahn-deh-rah): “flag.” The popular dish enchiladas banderas has three sauces—green, white, and red—like the panels of the Mexican flag.

bebida (beh-bee-dah): drink.

bistek (bees-tek): beefsteak.

bolillo (boh-lee-yoh): Literally “small ball,” this crusty, elongated roll makes the perfect sandwich, or torta.

borracho (boh-rrah-choh): “drunk.” The main difference between frijoles a la charra and borracho beans is that the latter are cooked with beer.

botanas (boh-tah-nahs): snacks or appetizers.

buen provecho (bwehn proh-veh-choh): roughly equivalent to “bon appétit”; a popular saying in Mexico.

buñuelo (boo-nyweh-loh): a flat, round, crisp pastry, often dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon and traditionally served at Christmas.

cabrito (kah-bree-toh): a young goat—no kidding.

cajeta (kah-heh-tah): caramel sauce made with goat’s (or sometimes cow’s) milk; named for the small wooden boxes (cajetas) in which it was once packed.

calabacitas (kah-lah-bah-see-tahs): squash cut into small pieces.

caldo (kahl-doh): broth.

camote (kah-moh-teh): sweet potato, a popular empanada filling. 

campechana (kahm-peh-chah-nah): mixed- seafood cocktail, often in a spicy, tomato-based sauce. The name comes from the Mexican coastal city of Campeche.

canela (kah-neh-lah): Often called Ceylon cinnamon, canela is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree; sold in small curled, dried sheets, it is lighter in color and more papery, and generally has a milder flavor, than the stick cinnamon common in the United States.

carbón, al (kahr-bohn): cooked over charcoal.

carne (kahr-neh): meat, usually beef; carne asada is a grilled steak.

carne guisada (kahr-neh ghee-sah-dah): a stewlike beef dish with a gravy flavored with onions, chiles, cumin, and other spices.

carnitas (kahr-nee-tahs): This dish, whose name means “little meats,” consists of shreds or cubes of braised pork; used as a filling for tacos and burritos.

ceviche (seh-vee-cheh): a raw seafood cocktail that has been “cooked” in a citrus juice marinade.

chalupa (chah-loo-pah): In Mexico, this “little boat” is a canoe-shaped masa shell or crisp tortilla with lettuce, refried beans, cheese, and other toppings. In the United States, a round fried tortilla is usually substituted for the masa shell. A chalupa compuesta is a chalupa with the works—sour cream, guacamole, and mucho más.

champiñón (chahm-pee-nyohn): mushroom.

charra, a la (chah-rrah): a dish cooked the way a wife of a charro (Mexican horseman) prepared it. Frijoles a la charra are pinto beans with chile, bacon (sometimes chorizo), and cilantro.

chicharrones (chee-chah-rroh-nehs): fried pork rinds, a crispy snack that lets you literally chew the fat.

chilaquiles (chee-lah-kee-lehs): a popular dish made with pieces of day-old corn tortillas cooked with a sauce. Confusingly, it can include scrambled eggs, like migas (see Respuestas).

chorizo (choh-ree-soh): spicy ground-pork sausage.

chuleta (choo-leh-tah): chop, as in pork chop.

cochinita pibil (koh-chee-nee-tah pee-beel): a dish from the Yucatán consisting of pork  seasoned with achiote, orange juice, and spices, wrapped in banana leaves, and cooked in a pit known as a pib.

cocina (koh-see-nah—not koh-chee-nah, the way everybody is mispronouncing it lately): kitchen.

comal (koh-mahl): a thin, circular, usually cast-iron griddle traditionally used for making tortillas but also great for roasting chiles and spices (see Instrucciones.

comida (koh-mee-dah): meal; comida corrida means “lunch on the run” or “quick lunch”; a moderately priced set lunch, Mexico’s blue-plate special.

costilla (kohs-tee-yah): rib.

crema (kreh-mah): a cultured cream, similar to sour cream and crème fraîche.

crudo(a) (kroo-doh): This just means raw, not impolite.

deshebrado(a) (dehs-eh-brah-doh): shredded.

divorciado(a) (dee-vohr-see-ah-doh): “divorced”; refers to two foods that are set apart from each other on the plate, like huevos divorciados—two fried eggs on fried tortillas, one topped with red salsa and the other with green.

dulce de leche (dool-seh deh leh-cheh): “A sweet made of milk,” this is another name for the soft, praline-like caramel candy called leche quemada.

elote (eh-loh-teh): corn, usually fresh.

empanada (em-pah-nah-dah): This small pastry turnover with various sweet or savory fillings proves that good things do come in small packages.

encebollado(a) (en-seh-boh-yah-doh): with (cooked) onions.

enchilado(a) (en-chee-lah-doh): in chile sauce; strictly speaking, the filling and tortillas are not part of the definition.

enfrijolado(a) (en-free-ho-lah-doh): in bean sauce.

enmollado(a) (en-moh-yah-doh): in mole sauce.

entomatado(a) (en-toh-mah-tah-doh): in tomato sauce.

epazote (eh-pah-soh-teh): Known in English as wormseed and considered a weed in many countries, this pungent plant has a strong flavor; it is indispensable in black beans.

escabeche (es-kah-beh-cheh): a vinegar-based marinade used in making a popular condiment of pickled jalapeños, carrots, and onions.

espinacas (es-pee-nah-kahs): spinach.

fideo (fee-deh-oh): vermicelli, sometimes cut short; a popular ingredient in soups.

flameado(a) (flah-meh-ah-doh): flamed, or melted.

flauta (flau-tah): an edible “flute” consisting of a tightly rolled fried corn tortilla with a shredded-meat or other filling.

flor (flohr): flower; flores de calabaza are squash blossoms, considered a delicacy and used in soups and quesadillas.

fresa (freh-sah): strawberry.

fundido(a) (foon-dee-doh): melted.

gordita (gohr-dee-tah): This “fatso” or “little fatty” is a small circle of flattened tortilla dough that is cooked on a comal or deep-fried until it puffs up to provide a pocket for filling.

guanábana (gwah-nah-bah-nah): a white-fleshed tropical fruit with a tart flavor and vanilla-like aroma; also called the cherimoya, custard apple, or soursop. Popular in desserts, including ice cream.

guayaba (gwah-yah-bah): guava.

harina (ah-ree-nah): wheat flour.

helado (eh-lah-doh): ice cream.

hielo (yeh-loh): ice.

hígado (ee-gah-doh): liver.

hongo (ohn-goh): mushroom.

horchata (ohr-chah-tah): This traditional ground-rice drink, seasoned with canela, sugar, and almonds, makes a soothing chaser for too-spicy chile dishes.

huachinango (wah-chee-nahn-goh): red snapper.

huitlacoche or cuitlacoche (weet-lah-koh-cheh): Known unappetizingly as “corn smut” in the United States, huitlacoche is a silver-gray, mushroomlike fungus that grows on corn and is considered a delicacy in Mexico, where it is used in quesadillas, soups, and crêpes.

jaiba (hai-bah): crab.

jamaica (hah-mai-kah): not the tropical getaway but rather a dried hibiscus flower used to flavor aguas frescas and make a dark red tea.

jícama (hee-kah-mah): a large tuber with a sweet flavor and a crisp texture; often used in salads and salsas.

langosta (lahn-goh-stah): lobster.

leche quemada (leh-cheh keh-mah-dah): This “burnt milk” caramel candy is similar to pralines and often contains pecans.

lengua (lehn-gwah): tongue, usually beef or veal.

licuado (lee-kwah-doh): a blended fresh-fruit drink (see Instrucciones.

lomo (loh-moh): loin.

machacado(a) (mah-chah-kah-doh): from the verb machacar, “to pound.” Carne machacada is jerkylike dried meat that has been pounded into shreds; it is often scrambled with eggs, tomatoes, and chiles to make the breakfast dish machacado con huevo.

maíz (mah-ees): corn, usually dried.

manchamanteles (mahn-chah-mahn-teh-lehs): Literally “tablecloth-stainer,” this is a sauce made from chiles and fruit.

manteca (mahn-teh-kah): lard.

mantequilla (mahn-teh-kee-yah): butter.

mariachi (mah-ree-ah-chee): In most of Texas and Mexico a mariachi is a musician, but in Laredo the word also means a flour-tortilla taco.

melón (meh-lohn): melon or cantaloupe.

menudo (meh-noo-doh): a spicy stew made with hominy and tripe (see Respuestas).

michelada (mee-cheh-lah-dah): This refreshing drink has many variations, but its main ingredients are cold Mexican beer, lime juice, and hot sauce (e.g., Tabasco), served in a glass with a salted rim; Bloody Mary mix and Worcestershire sauce are optional.

migas (mee-gahs): These “scraps” of day-old tortilla are scrambled with eggs, chiles, and onions to make one of Texas’s favorite breakfasts (see Respuestas).

mojarra (moh-hah-rrah): a small, bony Gulf fish; in Texas, it generally refers to a tilapia.

mojo de ajo (moh-hoh deh ah-hoh): This garlic-butter sauce, typically served with fish or shrimp, will get your mojo working.

molcajete (mohl-kah-heh-teh): lava-stone mortar (see Instrucciones.

mollete (moh-yeh-teh): a split hard roll, or bolillo, that is hollowed out, stuffed with refried beans, and topped with melted cheese or, for breakfast, simply buttered and toasted.

motuleño(a) (moh-too-leh-nyoh): in the style of Motul (a small town in the Yucatán). Huevos motuleños consist of fried tortillas spread with refried beans and topped with fried eggs; typical garnishes are ham, peas, and cheese.

nacho (nah-choh): ubiquitous Tex-Mex snack consisting of a fried tortilla chip topped with—at the very least—melted yellow cheese and slices of pickled jalapeño; said to be named for Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, a maître d’ at the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico, who invented the treat in 1943.

naranja (nah-rahn-hah): orange.

nogada (noh-gah-dah): This luxurious walnut cream sauce defines the classic dish chiles en nogada.

nopalitos (noh-pah-lee-tohs): strips of cactus pad (see Respuestas, and Instrucciones.

ostión (ohs-tee-ohn): oyster.

pan dulce (pahn dool-seh): sweet breads—not animal glands, but the tempting pastries in Mexican bakeries (see Respuestas).

pancho (pahn-choh): a macho nacho—with refried beans and extra garnishes like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, and ground beef or fajita meat.

papa (pah-pah): potato; capitalized, it means “pope.”

parrilla (pah-rree-yah): grill.

pastor, al (pahs-tohr): “shepherd’s style.” Tacos al pastor, originally made with lamb, now usually contain pork with garnishes of onion, cilantro, and, often, pineapple.

pato (pah-toh): duck.

pavo (pah-voh): turkey.

pechuga (peh-choo-gah): breast, as in chicken breast.

pepita (peh-pee-tah): pumpkin seed; ground for sauces or toasted and salted for a tasty snack.

picada (pee-kah-dah): minced or finely chopped; usually refers to meat.

picadillo (pee-kah-dee-yoh): ground meat, sometimes mixed with nuts or dried fruit; it makes a great stuffing for tacos or chiles.

pico de gallo (pee-koh deh gah-yoh): Literally “rooster’s beak,” this is a spicy relish of chopped tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños or serranos.

piloncillo (pee-lohn-see-yoh): Cones of this unrefined sugar are sold in every Mexican market; the flavor is a cross between dark brown sugar and molasses.

piña (pee-nyah): pineapple.

pipián (pee-pyahn): a sauce usually made of ground pumpkin seeds, although other seeds or nuts may be used as well.

plancha (plahn-chah): flat grill or griddle.

plátano (plah-tah-noh): plantain; related to the banana but usually larger.

pollo (poh-yoh): chicken.

postre (pohs-treh): dessert, not specifically a pastry.

pulpo (pool-poh): octopus; a popular ingredient in Mexican seafood cocktails.

pulque (pool-keh): the milky, viscous, fermented sap of the agave; in Aztec times, captives were allowed to drink great quantities of pulque before being sacrificed to the gods.

punta (poon-tah): tip, as in beef tips.

rajas (rah-has): These strips of chile—usually referring to a poblano in Texas—are typically cooked with onions; they’re delicious in tacos, quesadillas, and scrambled eggs.

raspa (rahs-pah): snow cone.

res (rehs): beef, or a cow.

revuelto(a) (reh-vwehl-toh): scrambled.

ropa vieja (roh-pah vee-eh-hah): Literally “old clothes,” this shredded-meat dish got its name because the meat supposedly looks like rags.

salpicón (sahl-pee-kohn): shredded or finely chopped; often refers to shredded meat or fish with zesty seasonings.

sandía (sahn-dee-ah): watermelon.

sincronizada (seen-kroh-nee-sah-dah): a grilled ham-and-cheese with flour tortillas top and bottom.

sopa (soh-pah): soup—not “soap,” as many gringos think.

sopaipilla (soh-pah-pee-yah): New Mexican rather than Mexican, this deep-fried rectangular roll resembles a little puffed-up pillow; frequently served with honey as a dessert.

sope (soh-peh): This little masa shell holds all sorts of savory goodies.

suave (swah-veh): soft, as in soft tacos.

tamale (tah-mah-leh): From the Nahuatl word tamalli, meaning, guess what, “tamale”; in proper Spanish, the singular form is tamal.

tamarindo (tah-mah-reen-doh): The tart pulp inside this long brown pod is used to make a popular flavor of soda and agua fresca, as well as a filling for desserts.

tampiqueña, a la (tahm-pee-keh-nyah): Tampico-style. Carne asada a la tampiqueña, invented at the Tampico Club in Mexico City in the thirties, is usually served with rajas and onions, plus a cheese enchilada, guacamole, and beans on the side.

ternera (tehr-neh-rah): veal.

tinga (teen-gah): sauce of stewed tomatoes, chipotles, and garlic, usually with a meat added.

tocino (toh-see-noh): bacon.

torta (tohr-tah): a heroic layered Mexican sandwich made with a bolillo or similar rectangular roll; mayo and avocado are all but obligatory, plus refried beans, cheese, meat, cabbage, tomato—you name it.

truck-stop enchiladas (truhk-stahp en-chee-lah-dahs): enchiladas filled with cheese or ground beef and smothered in chili gravy, yellow cheese, and raw onions—the quintessential Tex-Mex dish.

tuna (too-nah): Nothing fishy about the fruit of the prickly pear cactus; it is also called a cactus pear. Tunas can be made into jelly, but their highest and best use is the magenta-colored syrup in prickly pear margaritas.

vuelve a la vida (vwehl-veh ah lah vee-dah): “Return to life!” This mixed-seafood cocktail is said to revive the seriously hung over.

zarzamora (sahr-sah-moh-rah): blackberry.

mariachi (mah-ree-ah-chee): In most of Texas and Mexico a mariachi is a musician, but in Laredo the word also means a flour-tortilla taco.

melón (meh-lohn): melon or cantaloupe.

menudo (meh-noo-doh): a spicy stew made with hominy and tripe (see Respuestas, page 145).

michelada (mee-cheh-lah-dah): This refreshing drink has many variations, but its main ingredients are cold Mexican beer, lime juice, and hot sauce (e.g., Tabasco), served in a glass with a salted rim; Bloody Mary mix and Worcestershire sauce are optional.

migas (mee-gahs): These “scraps” of day-old tortilla are scrambled with eggs, chiles, and onions to make one of Texas’s favorite breakfasts (see Respuestas, page 139). 

mojarra (moh-hah-rrah): a small, bony Gulf fish; in Texas, it generally refers to a tilapia.

mojo de ajo (moh-hoh deh ah-hoh): This garlic-butter sauce, typically served with fish or shrimp, will get your mojo working.

molcajete (mohl-kah-heh-teh): lava-stone mortar (see Instrucciones, page 155).

mollete (moh-yeh-teh): a split hard roll, or bolillo, that is hollowed out, stuffed with refried beans, and topped with melted cheese or, for breakfast, simply buttered and toasted.

motuleño(a) (moh-too-leh-nyoh): in the style of Motul (a small town in the Yucatán). Huevos motuleños consist of fried tortillas spread with refried beans and topped with fried eggs; typical garnishes are ham, peas, and cheese.

nacho (nah-choh): ubiquitous Tex-Mex snack consisting of a fried tortilla chip topped with—at the very least—melted yellow cheese and slices of pickled jalapeño; said to be named for Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, a maître d’ at the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico, who invented the treat in 1943.

naranja (nah-rahn-hah): orange.

nogada (noh-gah-dah): This luxurious walnut cream sauce defines the classic dish chiles en nogada.

nopalitos (noh-pah-lee-tohs): strips of cactus pad (see Respuestas, page 139, and Instrucciones, page 155).

ostión (ohs-tee-ohn): oyster.

pan dulce (pahn dool-seh): sweet breads—not animal glands, but the tempting pastries in Mexican bakeries (see Respuestas, page 145).

pancho (pahn-choh): a macho nacho—with refried beans and extra garnishes like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, and ground beef or fajita meat.

papa (pah-pah): potato; capitalized, it means “pope.”

parrilla (pah-rree-yah): grill.

pastor, al (pahs-tohr): “shepherd’s style.” Tacos al pastor, originally made with lamb, now usually contain pork with garnishes of onion, cilantro, and, often, pineapple.

pato (pah-toh): duck.

pavo (pah-voh): turkey.

pechuga (peh-choo-gah): breast, as in chicken breast.

pepita (peh-pee-tah): pumpkin seed; ground for sauces or toasted and salted for a tasty snack.

picada (pee-kah-dah): minced or finely chopped; usually refers to meat.

picadillo (pee-kah-dee-yoh): ground meat, sometimes mixed with nuts or dried fruit; it makes a great stuffing for tacos or chiles.

pico de gallo (pee-koh deh gah-yoh): Literally “rooster’s beak,” this is a spicy relish of chopped tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños or serranos.

piloncillo (pee-lohn-see-yoh): Cones of this unrefined sugar are sold in every Mexican market; the flavor is a cross between dark brown sugar and molasses.

piña (pee-nyah): pineapple.

pipián (pee-pyahn): a sauce usually made of ground pumpkin seeds, although other seeds or nuts may be used as well.

plancha (plahn-chah): flat grill or griddle.

plátano (plah-tah-noh): plantain; related to the banana but usually larger.

pollo (poh-yoh): chicken.

postre (pohs-treh): dessert, not specifically a pastry.

pulpo (pool-poh): octopus; a popular ingredient in Mexican seafood cocktails.

pulque (pool-keh): the milky, viscous, fermented sap of the agave; in Aztec times, captives

were allowed to drink great quantities of pulque before being sacrificed to the gods.

punta (poon-tah): tip, as in beef tips.

rajas (rah-has): These strips of chile—usually referring to a poblano in Texas—are typically cooked with onions; they’re delicious in tacos, quesadillas, and scrambled eggs.

raspa (rahs-pah): snow cone.

res (rehs): beef, or a cow.

revuelto(a) (reh-vwehl-toh): scrambled.

ropa vieja (roh-pah vee-eh-hah): Literally “old clothes,” this shredded-meat dish got its name because the meat supposedly looks like rags.

salpicón (sahl-pee-kohn): shredded or finely chopped; often refers to shredded meat or fish with zesty seasonings.

sandía (sahn-dee-ah): watermelon.

sincronizada (seen-kroh-nee-sah-dah): a grilled ham-and-cheese with flour tortillas top and bottom.

sopa (soh-pah): soup—not “soap,” as many gringos think.

sopaipilla (soh-pah-pee-yah): New Mexican rather than Mexican, this deep-fried rectangular roll resembles a little puffed-up pillow; frequently served with honey as a dessert.

sope (soh-peh): This little masa shell holds all sorts of savory goodies.

suave (swah-veh): soft, as in soft tacos.

tamale (tah-mah-leh): From the Nahuatl word tamalli, meaning, guess what, “tamale”; in proper Spanish, the singular form is tamal.

tamarindo (tah-mah-reen-doh): The tart pulp inside this long brown pod is used to make a popular flavor of soda and agua fresca, as well as a filling for desserts.

tampiqueña, a la (tahm-pee-keh-nyah): Tampico-style. Carne asada a la tampiqueña, invented at the Tampico Club in Mexico City in the thirties, is usually served with rajas and onions, plus a cheese enchilada, guacamole, and beans on the side.

ternera (tehr-neh-rah): veal.

tinga (teen-gah): sauce of stewed tomatoes, chipotles, and garlic, usually with a meat added.

tocino (toh-see-noh): bacon.

torta (tohr-tah): a heroic layered Mexican sandwich made with a bolillo or similar rectangular roll; mayo and avocado are all but obligatory, plus refried beans, cheese, meat, cabbage, tomato—you name it.

truck-stop enchiladas (truhk-stahp en-chee-lah-dahs): enchiladas filled with cheese or ground beef and smothered in chili gravy, yellow cheese, and raw onions—the quintessential Tex-Mex dish.

tuna (too-nah): Nothing fishy about the fruit of the prickly pear cactus; it is also called a cactus pear. Tunas can be made into jelly, but their highest and best use is the magenta-colored syrup in prickly pear margaritas.

vuelve a la vida (vwehl-veh ah lah vee-dah): “Return to life!” This mixed-seafood cocktail is said to revive the seriously hung over.

zarzamora (sahr-sah-moh-rah): blackberry.

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