Tag Archives: French

Français Facts !

Page_4Bonjour et bienvenue! 

In honour of Bastille day (the 14th of July), today’s post is all about fun French food facts!

French terms are thrown around the dining scene all the time, but nobody ever explains what they mean – or where they come from!

Having lived in France before, I’ll take you through some popular French foods: how to pronounce the words properly, as well as some fun facts that could surprise you!

So, on y va (let’s go!)1

1. amuse-bouche
Pronunciation: amooz-boosh
Français fact: Ever been to a fancy French restaurant, and they bring out cute little snacks before your meal? They’re complimentary (or so I’d like to think) and are meant to tease your appetite. The words amuse-bouche literally mean amuse-mouth: a way to entice the palette before the main show!


2. baguette
Pronunciation: bag-eht
Français fact: Baguettes are pillars of French family life. This loaf of bread has a characteristic long, thin shape and is eaten at almost every meal. The word baguette can also refer to an orchestra conductor’s baton – but more importantly to Hong Kongers – chop sticks are called baguettes (plural) in French.


3. café au lait
Pronunciation: cafay-olay
Français fact: Coffee with milk is called a latté in Italian, and a café au lait in French. Lait means milk, by the way 😉


4. compote
Pronunciation: kohm-poht (silent ‘e’)
Français fact: If you see a dish on the menu “served with fig compote”, for example, what does that mean? It’s kind of like jam – but not really! Compote is made by slow-cooking fruit with sugar syrup. Spices are often added while the mixture slowly reduces to a sticky, sweet concoction. It’s a popular companion to foie gras and the origin of the word is from compost (like at the farm)… yummy(?!)


5. crème brûlée
Pronunciation: crem-broolay
Français fact: The best crème brûlées are served thin. What do I mean? The bowl it’s served in shouldn’t be deeper than a few centimetres. A bigger surface area, and a shallower depth = a better balance of crispy burnt sugar, and delicious vanilla-flavoured custard. As for the words? They mean burnt cream.


6. croissant
Pronunciation: kruh-sawn
Français fact: Ever noticed this famous French pastry looks like a crescent moon? It’s not by accident: the word croissant has multiple meanings, the most obvious being “crescent” – and trust me when I say, a good one is hard to find! The best have a buttery richness; aren’t chewy; are wonderfully flaky on the outside; and moist on the inside.


7. escargot
Pronunciation: s-car-go
Français fact: Yes, the French eat snails – but only specific varieties are fit for consumption. The most popular way it’s served, is with pesto and garlic. They are a bit rubbery and take a while to break down while chewing, so if you’re faint of heart, beware!


8. foie gras
Pronunciation: fwua grah
Français fact: It sounds fancy, but it means fatty liver. Not as nice in English, I know. While the way foie gras is made has been an animal rights issue for decades (duck and geese are force-fed to make it), it remains a staple on fine dining menus all over the world. My illustration above shows two of the most common ways it’s eaten: cold as a pâté (similar to a block of butter), or hot (fried) in its original form.


9. mille-feuille
Pronunciation: meal-fuy
Français fact: A “thousand layers” is that crispy, flaky dessert where many, many layers of thin puff pastry sheets alternate between layers of cream. It’s often topped with sugar icing and is totally irresistible.


10. petits fours
Pronunciation: puh-tee-foor
Français fact: Petits fours are very similar to amuses-bouches, except that they come at the end of the meal. Petit four means little oven. Is that cute, or what?


11. salade niçoise
Pronunciation: salahd knee swaz
Français fact: Nice (pronounce “niece”) is a wonderful coastal town in south-eastern France, and its culinary style is typically Mediterranean. Salade niçoise has a lot of goodies: tuna, egg, green beans, olives, anchovies, onion, potatoes and tomatoes. A native of Nice is referred to as a niçois (male) or niçoise (female), in the same way someone from the US is called an American. It’s sad that most outside of France don’t know where this salad calls home, so next time you dig in: remember Nice and thank those French foodies for this classic tuna salad.


12. le sniff

Last, but not least, what’s up with that weird custom that goes on in French restaurants? You know, when the waiter pours a little bit of wine into a glass (but only one person on your table – usually the one paying, lol) and waits for you to smell it. The purpose is to make sure you’re satisfied with the quality before serving the whole table. It’s only really acceptable to reject the wine if it’s “corked” (bouchonné), which means the cork has contaminated the wine. This is something you can smell and taste immediately, hence the tradition. How do you know if it’s corked? It smells like cork, and will mess up the wine’s aroma, and flavour.


Thank you for reading, if you’d like to see more educational posts like this one, please let me know in the comments 🙂 – and one more thing to say before signing out: VIVE LA FRANCE!

Bakker x

Sig bbites


La Fleur – A Lesson in French

1There’s been a steady rise in the number (and quality) of French restaurants in Hong Kong over the past few years. Some are very high-end, while others range from hipster-cool to traditional and homely.

2This past Sunday I tried one of the more traditional ones – La Fleur in Wan Chai – with my Dad and some family friends.

But a review isn’t all that you’ll get in this post; I’ve included some dining tips and etiquette that I picked up from my childhood in France to spice things up along the way…4My father is a big wine aficionado, and he always seems to have another new trick up his sleeve when it comes to the vino.

Among them, is this cute wine collar – which makes a bottle of red look like a tuxedo. Its purpose is to soak up any drips that fall after the wine has been poured. Wine collars can get pretty fancy, using metal and velvet, but this one is quick, fast and inexpensive.3At La Fleur you can BYOB (bring your own booze), which we did… before moving on to food.

Lesson 2 arose during our starters, which included moules (mussels). As you can see in the photo, I’m using bread to soak up the sauce.

– Bread is a staple in French dining – 9 times out of 10, bread is served with breakfast, lunch and dinner in a basket (as you see above). And with cheese, too – of course!

– The French word for bread is pain and it’s actually the root for the French word for friend: copain. A friend (or companion) is someone you break bread with, hence “co-pain”.

– Don’t bite into the piece of bread with your teeth, when dining à la Française. Instead, tear off small pieces with your hand.

– You can use those pieces to soak up any sauce of your choice. This is normal and totally acceptable among family and friends… that’s what bread was made for, right?
6French cuisine can use a lot of butter, fat, cream and oil. In other words, they know what tastes good, and aren’t afraid to use it!

Our two excellent meat dishes during main course exemplified the best of this “life is short” spirit, when it comes to French food. They were a wonderful Duck Confit and Quail with panfried Goose Liver.
7Duck Confit is prepared by preserving the meat with various herbs and spices before poaching it in its own fat. Yup, it doesn’t get more intense than that!

La Fleur‘s version was a triumph! With crispy and fatty skin encasing meat so tender that only a gentle gesture with my fork was enough to separate it from the bone, the taste and texture was on par with our favourite neighborhood restaurant in France – and trust me, that’s saying something for authentic French!8Then there was the delicate – and expertly cooked – quail, paired with a generous portion of goose liver. A combination of rich, gamey and roasted flavours, the meat bathed in its own reduced wine sauce. Delicious.

Both dishes were as filled with cholesterol as they were with culinary joy. By far the highlights of the night.

9I say c’est la vie (that’s life) for Lesson 4 because in a traditional, family restaurant in France it’s expected that not everything will be perfect.

Sometimes, Hong Kong diners (including myself) forget that part of food culture: a restaurant doesn’t have to excel in every single dish to be a restaurant worth visiting.

For example, your typical French restaurant in France will have several dishes that they specialise in, or are famous for, and that’s why patrons visit and return.

In the case of La Fleur, it was absolutely the meat dishes that shone, while our other orders varied from good to disappointing (see above photo).

However, before closing shop – I would like to highlight the Smoked Eel Salad, which was a very pleasant surprise! It had a very soft texture and a fascinating flavour somewhere in between ham and salmon (you’ll believe me when you try it!). Not a single bone got in the way of my enjoyment either… yummy!

10Fairly priced, La Fleur is an alternative to ultra-pricey, perfectionist French dining that offers some exceptional dishes in its traditional menu.

We had a very pleasant evening, and the restaurant staff graciously left us undisturbed – as we talked art theory and finished our wine – even after all the other customers had gone.

Bon appétit until next time…

Bakker x