In this series, we take a unique look at food groupings: by the number of letters in their common names! Sometimes, a fresh perspective helps us introduce variety into our diets, bringing a mix of cultural, historical and nutritional benefits to our plates. We’ll kick things off with this article on foods with three letters to their names.
The List: 24 Three-letter Foods
This sweet drink with a fruity taste is a type of beer. A warm fermentation brewing method gives this drink its typical sweet flavor. Originally, ale had a bitter taste due to a herbal mixture called gruit, a bittering agent that is now replaced by hops. The bittering agent is necessary to balance the malt. There are many ales to choose from, such as brown ale, pale ale, golden ale, Burton ale, Belgian ales and more. Cheers to all ale lovers!
A bun is a small bread or a roll that can sometimes taste sweet. Buns are made from flour, sugar, milk, yeast and butter. They can also be mixed with fruit, nuts and spices, or a delicious topping like icing, caramel, jam or cream. Some buns are filled with various meats or used to serve meats like hotdogs and burgers. This would probably go well with a hot soup or drink, don’t you think?
Known as Boletus edulis or “Cep” in English, this food is a type of edible mushroom. It was hailed by an Italian chef as “the wild mushroom par excellence” due to having the most rewarding taste and versatility of all fungi. Cep is said to have a nutty and slightly meaty taste, a smooth and creamy texture, and an aroma reminiscent of sourdough.
A popular food with a mild flavor and a dense, flaky white flesh, the Atlantic cod is commonly used for fish and chips in the United Kingdom. Cod liver can also be canned or fermented to produce cod liver oil, which provides high levels of Vitamins A, D, E and omega-3 fatty acids.
However, overfishing of this species has led to it nearly becoming extinct, and it was placed on the endangered species list in 2000. Always check with your supplier whether the fish you are buying has been fished sustainably, so that generations to come can enjoy this seaside treat.
Cos lettuce, also called Romaine lettuce, is a very popular variety due to its firm, crispy texture. The name Cos comes from the Greek island of Kos, while the name Romaine comes from its popularity amongst the Romans. Cos is commonly used in Caesar salad, and can also be cooked in soups.
Originating from the Indian subcontinent, dal is a term meaning dried, split legumes such as lentils, peas and beans. India produces the largest amount of dal in the world. Dal is also a name for various soups prepared with the legumes. It is considered the most important staple food in south Asian countries.
Dip is probably the best partner to the snacks you love. It is used to add a more enticing flavor or texture to foods such as bread, dumplings, crackers, fruits, veggies, meat, potatoes and more. There are a lot of finger foods you can pair with dip. Dip can be based on cheese, cream, yogurt, or even tomato sauces. With the sauces and condiments section of the US market being valued at over $28 billion in 2021, dip is firmly here to stay!
Have you ever tried eating unadon or unajū from Japan? Or traditional jellied eels from east London? What about eel sauce? These are just some of the cuisines you can eat with this three-letter food. But make sure it is cooked properly, because uncooked eel blood is toxic to humans! In 1913, scientist Charles Robert Richet won a Nobel Prize for his research on eel blood, during which he discovered anaphylaxis.
This three-letter food is probably one of your starter meals or a star on your breakfast plate if you want a good source of protein. There are many kinds of eggs such as duck, roe and caviar, but chicken eggs are surely the star. We enjoy eating them sunny side up, scrambled, poached, baked, and much more. As well as giving cakes their fluffy texture, eggs are also a key ingredient in soufflé, the classic French baked dish which is the ultimate test of a good cook!
This unique fruit that looks like a teardrop is definitely a contender among three-letter foods. This edible fruit is filled with hundreds of tiny seeds and has a mild, sweet taste. Figs are a healthy source of fiber and vitamins and are very good for your digestive system, but always consume dry figs in moderation because of their high sugar content.
This three-letter fruit has been used as a medicine for a thousand years in China and Vietnam. It has many memorable uses. Vietnamese use gac to make xôi gấc for weddings and New Year celebrations. This the green-colored fruit is used as a vegetable in India, curry in Sri Lanka, and served as an ice cream in Thailand.
If you like alcoholic drinks, maybe you know this three-letter word. Did you know this drink used to be a medicinal liquor made by monks and alchemists in Europe? It continued its role as a medicine by being paired with tonic water, which contained the natural antimalarial compound quinine. Gin fans now have access to dozens of flavored gins, including strawberry gin, lavender gin, damson gin and the famous sloe gin.
Taking its name from the hamstring muscle on the back of the leg, a ham is a preserved cut of pork leg that has undergone either wet or dry curing. This 3-letter meat can star in your sandwiches, on pizzas or in pasta dishes. Westphalian ham, Spanish jamón, proscuitto di parma and Smithfield ham are some of the well-known hams. Ham has specific geographical name protection, meaning hams named after their place of origin cannot be produced outside of that region. What is your local ham called?
Haw or Haw flakes are a Chinese sweet made from Chinese hawthorn. They are a dusky-pink colored candy that tastes sweet and tangy, and perfectly complements a cup of tea. But be warned: the artificial colorings in this sweet aren’t approved in all countries. The US Food and Drug Administration don’t authorize it, and in Europe it is recommended that children do not consume these artificial colors.
Ice has a solid place in food history, both as a foodstuff itself and for freezing and preserving other foods. Adding a cool, refreshing touch to drinks and desserts, ice is particularly popular during hot days or summertime.
In the ancient Roman and Greek empires, wealthy households would have an underground ice room filled with ice and snow from mountains, to give their food stores a longer shelf-life. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that refrigeration techniques developed and ice became widely available for the general public.
Jam, also called jelly, is made by preserving fruits using sugar and sometimes acid, which are then stored in jars. Jam is traditionally used as a condiment or a spread on bread for breakfast, and it can also be added as a filling to pastries and desserts.
Nuts are technically classified as fruits with a hard shell and generally edible seed. Nuts are used for culinary purposes such as baking and snack foods, and they can also be eaten raw or roasted. There are plenty of nuts on the market with different tastes and textures such as hazelnuts, chestnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and more.
Nuts are a great protein source and often feature in vegan diets. Just be careful if you have allergies: peanut and tree nut allergies are common, and some cross-react meaning the allergic person can react to more than one type of nut.
Ogi is a traditional Nigerian dish. It is a cereal pudding made from maize, sorghum or millet. The grains are soaked for days before being filtered and fermented until sour. The resulting product can then be boiled to make a pap or cooked for a creamy pudding.
Oil has many different types but this one we could refer to as cooking oil. This three-letter food is commonly used in most meals we eat, from frying to baking to topping on salads. Oils come from different sources, including plant-based, animal fat, and synthetic fat. Over-consumption of oil is not good for you, but selecting healthy, plant-based sources such as olive oil are better for your body than animal fats.
Coming from the family of legumes, this three-letter vegetable may be small but is packed with nutrients. There are a large variety of peas, each with their own textures and flavors. Garden peas grow on rounded pods and are sweet and starchy, while snow and snap peas grow in edible pods and taste a little sweeter than garden peas. Peas have plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, so there are plenty of reasons to bring this three-letter food into your diet.
Do you love pie? This three-letter food might well be one of your favorites. From apple pie to pecan pie, and even savory pies like chicken pie, who wouldn’t love this heart-warming, baked dish?
Pie is typically a baked dish with a pastry topping, with or without a pastry base. They can be filled with various sweets and savory ingredients. But not all pies involve pastry: shepherd’s pie and cottage pie break the mold by have a topping of mashed potato! No matter whose recipe you try, I bet your Grandma’s pie still tastes the best.
Rye is a type of grass that has long been cultivated for its grains. Closely related to other cereals like wheat and barley, rye grains are used for flour, bread, beer, crispbread, whiskeys and animal fodder. You can also eat rye grains whole, either boiled or rolled like rolled oats.
One of the most popular legumes of Asia, soy is popular among vegetarians as a replacement for meat. Generally, soybeans are known to be a healthy source of protein and some nutrients. You can consume soybeans in a variety of ways, either through soy milk, soy sauce, or as a supplement.
However, latest studies indicate that too much soy can cause some health risks. They contain compounds called isoflavones which act like estrogen in the body, and have been linked to reduce fertility and potential effects on children’s development. This three-letter food is definitely a hit, but should be taken in moderation.
Known for its starchy tubers, this three-letter food is cultivated in regions such in Africa, South America, Caribbean, Asia and Oceania. There are several species of edible yam, including purple yams (D. alata), the Japanese mountain yam (D. Japonica), and the lesser yam (D. esculenta) prevalent throughout south-east Asia. These three-letter tubers offer a healthier alternative to potatoes because of their high fiber content.