Literally, ‘starter’ means something served at the beginning of a meal. Mostly it is the first dish served during a meal though it can follow a soup or other small dishes. Starters are also referred to as appetizers as they increase the appetite or hunger, hors d’oeuvre, or entrée.
Though in most of the world all these mean the same, in some parts, esp North America entrée means the main course or something served between courses.
Relatively there is another term Amuse Bouche, which is just a bite or mouthful of something that tantalises your taste buds and sets you in the mood for more. It is usually a complimentary food served in the restaurants.
Finger food is another term which is generally used for an appetizer or starter. Finger foods are the foods that are meant to be eaten with the fingers rather than using the cutlery. Usually it is served at the beginning of a meal, hence synonymous with starters.
Canapes are cute little one bite foods, which may be considered as a specific type of appetizer. Canapes usually contain 4 distinct elements- the base, spread, topping and garnish or glaze. The base can be toasted bread, puff pastry, crackers or even vegetables.
The spread is usually butter or cream cheese. Toppings and garnish include vegetables, meat, caviar, herbs etc. Vol-au-vent is a small round canape made from puff pastry.
Antipasto is the traditional first course of an Italian meal and so can be termed the Italian Starter or appetizer. It consists of an assortment of foods such as olives, anchovies, sliced sausage, peppers, and artichoke hearts.
Mezze may be considered the middle eastern appetizer or starter. It is an assortment of small savoury dishes served as starters to tickle your taste buds and whet your appetite. In the Mediterranean mezze are served as accompaniments to alcoholic drinks. Mezze can be hot or cold and includes both meat and vegetarian foods. Often mezze make up an entire meal.
Aperitifs are alcoholic drinks that are normally served before a meal to stimulate appetite. As they are served before a meal, as a general rule the emphasis is on dry rather than sweet. Popular aperitifs are gin, vermouth, champagne, cognac, dry sherry etc. Contrary to aperitifs are digestifs which are alcoholic beverages served after a meal to aid digestion.
Tapas are small Spanish savoury, spicy or sweet dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar. It can also be served with drinks before a main meal. More than an appetizer it can be considered as a snack, typically had between meals. Omlettes, mussels, calamari, anchovies, paella, croquettes, ham, cheese, olives etc are some examples of tapas.
Zakuski is an array of hot or cold Russian appetizers typically served with drinks like vodka, or before the main meal. Zakuski are consumed in a special order starting with the cold fish dishes and ending with hot meats. At times they can also become a meal by themselves. Typical examples are cold cuts, cured fishes, pickled vegetables, open sandwiches, devilled eggs etc.
Pu Pu platter refers to the Hawaiian or American-Chinese platter consisting of an assortment of small meat and sea food appetizers. A typical platter includes egg roll, chicken wings, beef teriyaki, crab rangoon, fried shrimp etc.
In India we have a huge number of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters. In most of India soups are considered as appetizers. Vegetarian starters mostly include foods made from paneer or cottage cheese, potatoes, baby corns, cauliflower & mushrooms. Non vegetarian includes sea foods and meat apart from eggs. Kebabs, Tikkas and cutlets are some popular Indian appetisers.
So that was my small note on starters. Honestly, a few of the terms are new to me 🙂 . Following it up, I shall post recipes for both vegetarian and non vegetarian starters from around the world in this page. Cook it up with me and enjoy!
Starters with chicken
Starters with fish
Starters with egg
More to come…..