Chinese dishes are loved because of its diversity. We come to a restaurant to order the cold dishes, the hot ones, soup and the main course.
How are the western menus?
Normally they have starters as the first course. .
Starters are small items before main course such as soup or bread. I guess it should be “先垫饱垫饱 ” in Chinese.
Secondly, appetizers are what you order if you want not as substantive as main course like salad or toast or fruit plate or cheese, etc. In Chinese theyare called“填缝的”
Thirdly, entree is your main course like steak, fish, chicken or pasta dish. This is our “菜”，not”主食”
Then, comes the side. Side order is usually extras and mainly vegetables to accompany the main meal. Sides are items like side of bacon,side of sauce,side of lemon,side of vegetables or side of potatoes, etc.
Side means like a side order of fries or onion rings. They can also be peas or something on its own but can be added to a dish so you could order fish and chips.The waiter could say:“do you want a side dish of peas or just as it is?". This is more like our “大白菜,菠菜，蘑菇等”when we enjoy the hot pot.