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:


    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.



    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:


    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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