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Jul 17

I know China has a lot of good food, but …

Written by DJ on Thursday, July 17th, 2008 at 4:05 am
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Tim Johnson dished out an interesting statistic of Beijing’s preparation for English speaking Olympics visitors:

The city government has standardized the English names of the 2,425 most commonly eaten dishes.

Wow, do tell! What are those 2425 “most commonly eaten dishes”. I don’t think I have ever consumed more than 3 digits of Chinese food varieties yet.

By the way, I am very grateful to be one of the gifted that appreciate good food of any kind around the global (e.g. cheese, steak, sashimi, whatever). The fact that my wife enjoys such things similarly really helps. 🙂


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7 Responses to “I know China has a lot of good food, but …”

  1. opersai Says:

    O_O me god! 2425? Wow! Is there a list? I had always find it hard to translate the name of dishes – so it’s as elegant as the original name. Most English translation of dishes I had read in menus in Canada had been literal translation of ingredients and/or ways it’s cooked, or it’s the direct phonetic take over. This had helped me couple times when I had no idea what so ever what the dish is about by looking at the dish name in Chinese.

  2. Daniel Says:

    Probably many will be simple my guess. Like pickled such and such or braised so and so etc. I wonder how long will some famous dishes names be though.

  3. Buxi Says:

    For those looking for that list, I think this is it:

    http://www.for68.com/new/2008/6/li8655365544181680024816-0.htm

    Let’s give this a try, people… If you were at a table for a small group of non-Chinese friends/colleagues, what would be your top 5 dishes from that list? This would work for me:

    1) 夫妻肺片 :Pork Lungs in Chili Sauce
    2) 东坡肘子 :Braised Dongpo Pork Hock with Brown Sauce
    3) 孜然羊肉 :Fried Lamb with Cumin
    4) 清蒸鲈鱼 :Steamed Perch
    5) 砂锅豆腐 :Stewed Tofu in Pottery Pot

    I probably shouldn’t do the lamb, that’s a lot of meat, especially for a summer in Beijing. But I love cumin too much.

  4. opersai Says:

    Let me clear myself on what I meant by translating it so it’s as elegant as the original name so in case somebody think that I’m (as a Chinese) is having a superiority complex.

    Just take a dish on Buxi’s list:
    夫妻肺片 - the translation of the name is again simple translation of the dish’s ingredients. However, in the Chinese name of the dish, there is a story embedded in it.

    早在清朝末年,成都街头巷尾便有许多挑担、提篮叫卖凉拌肺片的小贩。用牛杂碎边角料特别是牛肺成本低,经精加工、卤煮后,切成片,佐以酱油、红油、辣椒、花椒面、芝麻面等拌食,风味别致,价廉物美,特别受到拉黄包车、脚夫和穷苦学生们的喜食。20世纪30年代在四川成都有一对摆小摊的夫妇,男叫郭朝华,女叫张田政,他们看到一些废弃的内脏都被扔掉,觉得很可惜,小两口反正也还没有事做,正耽于生计,于是就清晨就到屠场,在堆积的内脏堆中翻翻捡捡,挑选自己觉得还有吃相的打理干净上锅煮熟,反复试验,终于做到了牛肚白嫩如纸,牛舌淡红如桦,牛头皮透明微黄,此后再配以夫妻精心搭配的红油、花椒、芝麻、香油、味精、上等的酱油和鲜嫩的芹菜等各色调料,而炮制出这后世传诵的美食来。此“肺片”具有颜色红亮、软糯入味、麻辣鲜香、细嫩化渣的特点,声望很快就在附近居民中传诵开来。而因为原料是从废弃的内脏挑选出来的,加工时又都切成薄片,故开始时称其为“废片”,又因其夫妻制作出来,故前面又冠以夫妻二字,由此得名“夫妻废片”。而后随着食客的日益增多,名声越传越远,就有人嫌其“废片”二字不好听,于是主张将“废”字易为“肺”字,这一改动就造成了成都这个著名菜品名字的由来。

      这道菜有牛舌,有牛心,有牛肚,有牛头皮,后来又加上了牛肉,但始终就没有牛肺,所以各位食客在品尝的时候不要认为这“肺片”就是牛肺片,要知道这本来就是没有“肺片”可偏偏叫“肺片”,因缘巧合造成的名不副实而已。
    http://baike.baidu.com/view/2102.htm

    Summary of that story: a couple tried to utilize the wasted internal organ of animal to make some money. After many experiments, they made delicious dishes with cow tongue, skin, stomach etc wasted internal organs. They called it couple’s wasted pieces (废片) because it’s made by a couple and uses wasted parts of slaughtered animals. Later, when the dish became very popular, people thought the “wasted piece” (废片) part of the name didn’t sound good. So they changed it to 肺片(feipian) which sound exactly like “wasted piece” (废片). So this is why, though the name of the dish has 肺片(lung piece), the dish itself rarely actually has lung in it.

    Phew, so there’s the story of the dish, which is completely lost in translation. But I suppose i was asking for a little too much. The translation serves pretty good to let people know what they are ordering. And I think, by western standard, judging how the restaurant I visit, this (the translation) is good practice of how to name dishes.

  5. MutantJedi Says:

    Great background story opersai, thanks 🙂

  6. Buxi Says:

    @opersai,

    Great translation and explanation! I’m kind of glad they changed the ‘fei’ character.

  7. Therese Says:

    It would depend if I were with people from Louisiana (who, like Guangdong people, will eat anything) or people from anywhere else. If I were with Louisianians, I’d pick the dishes that wouldn’t be so out of place back home, perhaps:
    怪味猪手 :Braised Spicy Pig Feet
    麻辣玉兔腿 :Sautéed Rabbit with Hot Spicy Sauce or 黑椒炒甲鱼 :Sautéed Turtle with Black Pepper Sauce
    香草蒜茸炒鲜蘑 :Sautéed Fresh Mushrooms with Garlic and Vanilla
    青蒜豆油烧石斑 :Braised Sea Bass with Green Garlic
    蒜茸炒时蔬 :Sautéed Vegetable with Chopped Garlic
    咸鱼茄粒炒饭 :Fried Rice with Salty Fish and Diced Eggplant

    And I didn’t see it on the list, but I’d probably include something with 佛手瓜/merliton/chayote.

    For anyone else, I’d just pick the most boring things possible or bring them to a dim sum restaurant.

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