May I Take Your Order

Chinese-restaurantChina is gearing up for the Beijing 2008 Olympics and needless to say there’s a lot of preparation to be done. Other than conducting a massive and shocking clean-up in parts of the country, the Chinese Government has asked local restaurants to translate their menus into English in preparation for the many English speaking visitors who will be attending the Olympics.

The naming of Chinese dishes is a very elaborate affair. It’s an artful combination of cultural, artistic, historical, geographical and political aspects. Some dishes derive their names from Chinese fairy and folk tales. For this reason many times only the people who know the culture well can understand the menus there. Translators are using cooking method, materials, taste and names of people and place as criteria for naming the foods. There’s a delicate balance to be maintained because they don’t want to lose their cultural backgrounds and yet they have to come up with Menus that their English speaking visitors can understand.

However, poor grasp of the English language and feeding Chinese dishes into a computer translator can combine to come up menu items like ‘Star fried Wikipedia’, ‘steamed eggs with Wikipedia’ or ‘husband and wife lung slices’ among other bizarre menu entries. Or does ‘braised pork balls in soy sauce’ sound better? Not my words! These are actual menu entries. Not to worry though. The waiters and waitresses are being trained to explain. And it seems they’ll have a lot of explaining to do.

Let’s for instance translate a dish that is listed in a Chinese menu as ‘chicken without a sexual life’. Chicken without a sexual life is actually what a translator with a more grace would call ‘virgin chicken’. On an English menu you may find the same dish gracefully named ‘Steamed Spring Chicken’. It’s that simple. And here are some more entries you might come across in a literally translated menu.

  • Eggplant prepared under mysterious circumstances
  • Shredded documents with Hoisin sauce
  • Vegetables with Tingling Horse Flavor
  • Domestic life beef immerses cabbage
  • Crispy fish with discarded needle
  • Cold Noodles in Sesame Waste
  • Aromatic Octopus on wheels
  • Sweet & Salmonella soup
  • Roast Pork Puppy Chow
  • Barbecued Bear Ribs
  • Squished Eel delight
  • Peking Daffy duck
  • Force Fed Shrimp

These are actual dishes on a Chinese menu. You don’t believe me? Check out some more here. Or here.

I’ve nothing against the Chinese as one would imagine after reading this and a previous article on this blog. Rather they fascinate me. They really fascinate me and make me laugh. I love them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *