Dining Out in the Middle East — Food and Drink Vocabulary List

Food has always been one of the highlights of Arabic hospitality. Although the cuisines of the Middle East are broadly Mediterranean in nature, they often reflect a diversity of taste and culture.

Most Middle Eastern dishes are seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices, and many are served with Turshi, which is made of a variety of pickled vegetables. Eggplant is a common vegetable in Middle Eastern cuisine, and dried fruits and nuts are also very popular.

As for beverage, take heed to abstain from asking for an alcoholic drink in Saudi Arabia since it is illegal and strictly forbidden to Muslims under Islamic law.

Remember that the three main meals of the day are served a bit later than in Northern Europe or North America, but that won’t pose a problem since you can always find an eatery open day or night.

The following guide will help you learn some of the basic words used when ordering key items in order to make the experience of eating out in the Middle East a lot more enjoyable.

Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

…زجاجة

A bottle of… Zuǧaǧat…

منديل المائدة

A napkin Mindīl ʾal-māʾidah

طبق نباتي

A vegetarian dish Ṭabaq nabāti

طبق مقبّلات

An appetizer Ṭabaq muqabbilāt

مشهّيات

Aperitifs Mušahhiyyāt

تفاحة

Apple Tuffāḥâ

شعير

Barley Šaʿīr

الحساب/الفاتورة

Bill/ Check ʾAl-ḥisāb/ʾAl-fātūrah

شاي أسود

Black tea Šāy ʾaswad

مَاء مَغْلِي

Boiling water Māʾ maġlī

خبز

Bread Ḫubz

قهْوَةبِالحَلِيْب

Caffe latte Qahwah bilḥalīb

جبن

Cheese Ǧubn

كرز

Cherry Karaz

فحم

Coal Faḥm

قهوة

Coffee Qahwâ

بهارات

Condiments Buhārāt

الحلو

Dessert ʾAlḥulw

طبق اليوم

Dish of the day Ṭabaq ʾal-yaum

بطة

Duck Baṭṭâ

بيضة

Egg Bayḍâ

عفواً

Excuse me ʿAfwan

سمك

Fish Samak

دقيق ؛ طحين

Flour Daqīq; ṭaḥīn

فاكهة

Fruit Fākiha

عصير فواكه

Fruit juice ʿAṣīr fawākih

زنجبيل

Ginger Zanǧabīl

معزة

Goat Miʿzâ

أوز

Goose ʾAwizz

دجاجة

Hen Daǧāǧâ

عسل

Honey ʿAsal

جوع

Hunger Ǧūʿ

لا آكل اللحم

I don’t eat meat Lā ʾākul al-laḥm

ثلج

Ice Ṯalǧ

شاي مثلج

Iced tea Šāy muṯallaǧ

مطبخ

Kitchen Maṭbaḫ

سكّين

Knife Sikkīn

خروف

Lamb Ḫarūf

ساق

Leg Sāqq

الطبق الرئيسي

Main course ʾAṭ-ṭabaq ar-ra’īsī

لحم

Meat Laḥm

حليب

Milk Ḥalīb

نقود

Money Nuqūd

زيت

Oil Zayt

زيتون

Olive Zaytūn

بصل

Onion Baṣal

بسلة

Pea Bisillâ

خوخ

Peach Ḫawḫ

كمثرى

Pear Kummaṯrá

فلفل

Pepper Filfil

حمام

Pigeon Ḥamām

صحن

Plate Ṣaḥn

برقوق

Plum Barqūq

بطاطس

Potato Baṭāṭis

مَطعَم

Restaurant Maṭʿam

ملح

Salt Milḥ

توابل

Seasoning Tawabel

صابون

Soap Ṣābūn

ملعقة

Spoon Milʿaqâ

سكر

Sugar Sukkar

أوزعراقي

Swan ʾAwizz ʿirāqī

مُعَجَّنات حُلوَة

Sweet pastry Muʿaǧǧanāt ḥulwah

منضدة ؛ مائدة

Table Minḍadâ; māʾidâ

شاي

Tea Šāy

البقشيش

Tip Al-baqšīš

طماطم

Tomato Ṭamāṭim

لسان

Tongue Lisān

خضار

Vegetables Ḫuḍār

خل

Vinegar Ḫall

!جرسون

Waiter! Garso!

ماء

Water Māʾ

قمح

Wheat Qamḥ