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Move to dump Chinglish from Beijing menus
Last orders for “no-sex chickens,” “lions’ heads” and “glad meatballs” at Beijing restaurants
Next time you travel to Beijing, you will be less likely to find a particular Chinese specialty on restaurants' menu: hilarious Chinglish dish names.
The Beijing authorities have published a manual listing the official English names for 2,158 Chinese dishes and 944 foreign foods, hoping to help the city’s 70,000 restaurants rectify their English translations.
Chinglish is funny, but might be misleading
Jointly published by the Beijing Foreign Affairs Office and Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Programme (BSFLP), the 196-page book covers most mainstream Chinese dishes in the country's eight most influential cuisines, from the RMB-5 hand-pulled noodle soup to the extravagant braised abalone and seafood in casserole.
“[Chinglish] might be a funny culture to international travelers, but the translation of dish names shall not be misleading to foreigners,” said an anonymous officer from BSFLP, a governmental organization dedicated to raising Beijingers’ awareness of foreign languages.
If you have never read an English menu in a local Chinese restaurant, here are a few examples of what you’ve been missing.
- Chicken without a sex life (童子鸡): A poultry dish which only uses mature but yet-to-mate chickens due to their tender texture. Or simply call it Spring Chicken as the book suggests.
- Red burned lions’ heads (红烧狮子头): Braised pork balls. "Lions’ heads" is the direct translation of its Chinese name, which reflects the huge portion of each meat ball.
- Tofu made by woman with freckles (麻婆豆腐): Mapo Tofu, which is named after its creator, a freckle-face woman ("mapo" in Chinese) from Chengdu who lived during the Qing Dynasty.
- Lamb piece explosive f--k onion (爆炒羊肉): There is really no excuse for this one and, in case you're wondering, it’s sautéed lamb and onion.
More on CNNGo: 40 Shanghai foods we can't live without
(Got better examples? Share them in the comment section below.)
The book, which is called “Enjoy Culinary Delights” (美食译苑), was first published in 2008 as part of Beijing’s linguistic rectification campaign for the Beijing Olympics.
The current version was updated in May 2011 by a team of linguistic consultants employed by BSFLP.
The organization held a meeting to officially promote the book in early March and the book has since been pushed into the public spotlight.
An anonymous official from Beijing Foreign Affairs Office told Beijing Daily that the book tried to translate the dish names from many different angles, such as depicting the ingredients or explaining cooking techniques.
"Some names are translated into English by putting Chinese history, culture and the names of famous people relating to the dishes," the official said.
But not everybody in the restaurant business is thrilled by the goverment's efforts at culinary and linguistic bridge-building.
“We will not update our English menu based on this book,” said Mr. Wang, Dongbeiren restaurant chain’s communication officer.
“Our restaurant has special names for each dish. For example, we have ‘Communism-style’ stewed beef with potatoes and ‘mother-in-law’ stewed chicken and mushroom.”
According to Wang, the company has invited native English speakers to proofread the English menu.
“We also put pictures on the menu so foreign diners will have no problem understanding the dishes,” added Wang.
More on CNNGo: Around China in 31 dishes
BSFLP noted that this book was not a mandatory guide in Beijing but restaurants are encouraged to print English menus following the official terms.
Read the book’s digital version here.