Tuesday, June 24, 2008

May I Take Your Order?

China 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.

See also: We are what we watch.

12 Comments:

Mcheku said...

Hahahahahaha! Please do.....

I will have the Eggplant prepared under mysterious circumstances and the chicken without a sexual life! Lol this is funny.

HLumiti said...

Jameni! Those waiters have their work cut out. I predict kina Janet-Eldoret-Express will be sticking to 'domestic life beef'. Reminds me of our own "Nani ngombe!"

Taabu said...

Ciku,
Not accusing you of being naughty but BOILED BALLS. Kwani is this done under induced/manual or natural temperatures? This obsession with everything EAST leaves one only more confused. The culture is so a drift to ours you would rather fry rats and leave Beijing alone. But again as they say asiyetembea hufikiria mamake mpishi bora-NANI MBUZI?

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Very difficult questions those ones Taabu.

Mcheku I cant make up my mind between stir fried wikipedia and the shredded documents. Lol.

Fixated said...

Ati aromatic octopus on wheels!#$%!! That should be quite a delicacy!

neema divine said...

this is way too hilarious.

Maua said...

Nani Mbuzi, nani, ng'ombe. Did you ever ask for extra tea to finish your pandika, (I know I did in primo)and the waiter goes 'nyongeza kwake asiyeshiba'. So this leaves me asking, what if I need extra boiled balls in a Chinese restaurant, in Nairobi. Pls translate in swa.

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

uuui! Maua don't even think about that order! I've tried it's untypable.

savvy who doesn't speak chinglish said...

i can't stop laughing

ati eggplant prepared under mysterious circumstances?? cold noodles in sesame waste?

yeah well, Chinglish is more like it...

maybe u should watch rush hour 2..really funny too

HLumiti said...

Maua, the extras come in saucer scoops... karanga sosa!... ma***de sosa!

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

ha ha ha Maua you got your answer! Someone is daring enough.

Maua said...

Even me who asked, oh my ribs.