A Few Theories on the Term Monkey Dish
Chances are you haven’t heard of a monkey dish unless you work at a zoo or in a professional kitchen – perhaps there is a connection there, but I digress. The kitchen is in fact full of oddly named items and we are out to investigate how these names came to be. Follow along with this series as we wander through back of house operations to better understand the wild world of professional foodservice lingo.
To begin, a monkey dish looks like this:
But the origin of the name isn’t quite as certain. This small vessel has been quite a mystery for some time. Here are a few of the theories that have been proposed:
1. According to a few chefs posting to one of our favorite food forums, Chef Talk, the dish got its name from the vessel an organ grinder’s monkey would use to collect tips while combing the crowds.
2. The folks over at Tuxton China have a different theory. They proposed that the name actually comes from the small dish that royalty would ask their servants to use to test their food for poison. They’d place the questionable food in a tiny dish for a monkey to try and if it lived, they would then sit down to dine.
3. FoodReference.com has a few theories on this topic. Perhaps the most interesting is the idea that these small dishes got their name from bowls that were once made from monkey’s skulls in exotic locations across the world.
Remember, this is not a monkey dish
Do you have a theory for where the name came from? Share your theory here and perhaps we’ll finally put this mystery to rest. Check back soon for our exploration of the Cornelius keg.