In culinary terms, a dish is a food that has been prepared and assembled, ready to be served and eaten, either with cutlery or without. The term can also refer to a prepared food item, such as lasagna or fruit salad. At potluck events, each person attending brings a dish: one person brings a salad, another person brings an apple pie, another person brings a meat stew, and so on. Each of these prepared foods is a dish.
A plate is a specific type of dish. Generally speaking, a dish is something where food is eaten or served. A plate tends to refer specifically to a flat plate that is suitable for holding foods that do not have a high liquid content. The other common type of dish is a bowl.
A bowl will be similar to a hollow sphere cut in half and is useful for serving soups and other high-liquid foods that would come off a plate. Before the 12th century, the word dish, derived from Middle English, was used to refer to any type of food. The word plate has several meanings in English, but it can mean type of food or food prepared and cooked in a certain way. For example, last week we received a big question from a viewer named Aurum who asked what is the difference between a plate and a dish.
Some languages only have one word for both. A plate is typically a container or bowl that is quite shallow, so it's not very deep. We serve food from a plate, and sometimes we also cook food on it. But sometimes a dish is also used to refer to particular types of food served as part of a meal.
Examples include fish dishes or pasta dishes. A plate, on the other hand, is usually flat and round. We put our food in it and eat from it. In American English, a plate can also refer to an entire main course of a meal. Aurum's question seemed simple at first glance, but if you look deeper into it, it's quite complicated.
There are many more words like this in the culinary world. Some dishes, such as sausage with tomato sauce, rarely have their own recipes printed in cookbooks since they are prepared simply by combining two ready-to-eat foods. The word food, on the other hand, is usually singular, so you should say: “I ate a lot of food(not foods) last night”. In restaurants, you might find the terms main course (a large amount of food such as steak) and side dish (a small amount of food that accompanies the main course such as small bowl of broccoli).