kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake

Today is the anniversary of my very first post in the Chinese menu project!

Over the past year, I've noticed a welcome trend among London's regional Chinese restaurants: more and more of them are providing translations of at least part of their Chinese-only menus. When I first visited Sanxia Renjia in June last year, the interesting menu was entirely in Chinese; on my latest visit a month ago, it was entirely bilingual (and illustrated too). Similarly, Royal Palace now has an illustrated English translation of part of their Chinese menu[see footnote 0], and it's a decent enough selection that on my latest visit we ordered almost exclusively from this.

However, even if this trend continues and spreads, I still think it's worth being able to read the Chinese names of dishes. For one thing, the translated/bilingual menu is often only a selection of the full menu; similarly, specials boards are usually Chinese-only. Also, the Chinese name of a dish often gives you more information than the English name. "Noodles with pork", for example: is that 炸醬麵/zhà jiàng miàn, 擔擔麵/dān dān miàn, or even 螞蟻上樹/mǎ yǐ shàng shù? (As an aside, [personal profile] bob mentioned to me the other week that he has a similar advantage when reading bilingual English/Spanish menus.)

On a more personal note, I am very pleased (and slightly surprised) that I've managed to keep this project going for so long. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone who's encouraged me, whether by commenting here or in email, by sending me useful links, by telling me in person that you enjoy reading the posts, or by coming out for yet another Chinese meal with me and being patient while I photograph the menu and interrogate the waitstaff.

I do have a couple of requests today. First of all, is there any way I can make my posts more accessible to you? I try to strike a balance between overexplaining and underexplaining, and between avoiding too much repetition and assuming all readers have read all posts. I also try to use informative alt texts for images (would people prefer to see that in the main text as well/instead?), and to provide transcripts or at least precis of videos that are in English (I don't speak Chinese, yet, so can't transcribe those). In short, I want to do my best not to exclude anyone from being able to read my posts — so if you have any suggestions, I am listening.

Relatedly, is there anything you particularly like or dislike about the way I structure these posts? Do you like (and indeed had you noticed) the model of concept on Monday, character on Wednesday, dish on Friday, vague theme running throughout the three? Do I post too often for you to keep up? And so on[see footnote 1].

Finally, if there's anything you'd like to ask me, anything at all, this is a good time! You can leave a comment, or email me if you prefer (kake@earth.li). Or if you'd just like to say hello, there is a handy tickybox below (should work for both Dreamwidth users and OpenID users).

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Footnote 0: There is actually a faint possibility that my frequent visits and requests for the Chinese menu despite not being Chinese had something to do with this, though I haven't asked.

Footnote 1: Before I saw how popular last Friday's post was, I was also going to ask if people would prefer the Friday posts to have more of a focus on restaurants and less on home cooking...

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Date: 2011-04-25 11:20 am (UTC)
nanila: me (me: ooh!)
From: [personal profile] nanila
I think your Chinese menu posts are structured very well. I don't often have time to spend longer than half an hour a day on reading, composing and answering DW posts, so I appreciate the readability of yours.

I had noticed the weekly theme, but not the Mon/Wed/Fri model. Now that I'm conscious of it, I'm curious to see if it will affect the way I read the posts!

Date: 2011-04-25 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It'd be great if you could write the alt text under the images - I usually get my RSS fix via iPad and you can't see alt text there.

How come you can read Chinese but not write it?


Date: 2011-04-25 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Whoops, I meant 'speak', not 'write'. I myself can't write more than a dozen super simple characters, but I can speak (haltingly) and read books. So don't worry too much about writing if you're not interested in that :)

There's not too much about Mandarin grammar, I'm sure you'll pick it up soon enough. The big hurdles in the beginning are the characters and the tones, and you seem to have gotten over that. 加油!

Date: 2011-04-29 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] miss_haitch
I kept seeing your blog linked around the place, and it looks interesting. I enjoy reading about language (especially language I know nothing about) and foodie things. So, um, I have subscribed, and hello! *scuttles*

Chinese menu

Date: 2011-04-30 11:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunflower-recipes.blogspot.com
If you need help with Chinese you can contact me.

Many Chinese menu's names go by a particular name not by the ingredients or how it is cooked.

炸醬麵/zhà jiàng miàn, 擔擔麵/dān dān miàn, or even 螞蟻上樹/mǎ yǐ shàng shù

These three are all very specific recipes, if you are familiar with them you will know where each recipe comes from and what are their differences.

You may be interested with this

There are also some useful pdf file and links to menu translations.

You can learn how to pronounce Chinese characters using this. Cut and paste any characters you want to read, then highlight one character at a time and click on the speaker in the box next to it.

Re: Chinese menu

Date: 2011-04-30 04:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sunflower-recipes.blogspot.com
Here is another good pronunciation/definition tool.

'one thing that's puzzling me at the moment is how to tell whether 椒 on a menu refers to chillies or peppers.'

Not that easy unless you are familiar with the name of dish or what other word it is pairing with.

辣椒 is simply spicy chilli

彩椒 a combination colourful sweet bell pepper/red and green chillies

尖椒 or 杭椒 are finger shaped green chillies

剁椒 chopped chillies (pickled/fermented with salt or not pickled)

泡椒 is watery pickled chillies

黑椒 is black pepper

胡椒 is either white or black pepper

雙椒 could means two of any of these red chilli/green chilli/any bell pepper/ground pepper/Sichuan pepper

豉椒 is normally fermented black bean with chilli and/sweet bell pepper

椒盐 is salt and pepper (pepper here can be normal ground pepper and/or Sichuan pepper)

虎皮煎椒 is chargrilled large mild hot green chilli. 虎皮 tiger skin here refers to the char marking not the type of green chilli.

青椒 can be green bell pepper or just any green chilli spicy or not.

干椒 dried chilli

Above are just some of the common terms, there are many more variations.


December 2012


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