Carley De Rosa sent me this illustrated description of an intriguing dish from a menu at a restaurant in Beijing:
Seldom does one encounter so many delectable Chinglishisms in such small space. Furthermore, several of the items, especially the last, are both rare and challenging, so I take particular delight in explaining how they came about.
Starting at the top:
The name of the dish is málà quánjiāfú 麻辣全家福. Málà 麻辣 is often rendered as "spicy," but it more specifically refers to the "numbing" effect of Szechwan peppercorn and the "hot" quality of chili peppers. Quánjiāfú 全家福, literally "whole family welfare / blessing / happiness / good fortune," is a colloquial term referring either to a "portrait of a whole family" or something quite different, "a hodgepodge." Unfortunately, the person who drew up this menu made the wrong choice between the two meanings. The correct translation should be something like "Spicy Combo," not "Hot family photo."
yuánliào 原料 should be "ingredients," not "stuff"
zhǎngzhōng bǎo 掌中寶 literally, "treasure in the palm"; depending on the context, this could means lots of different things (e.g., certain portable electronic devices go by this name), but in recipes it usually signifies the cartilage or gristle of chicken claws
hǎixiā 海蝦 "sea lobster," not "crayfish"
bāzhuǎyú 八爪魚 literally, "eight claw fish," but referring to "octopus"
jīchì 雞翅 this is pretty hard to mess up: literally, "chicken wing"
niúròu wán 牛肉丸 this one is also difficult to get wrong: literally, "beef meat ball."
All right, that's the end of the ingredients. Now we move on to pēngtiáo 烹調, which refers to how all the above will be cooked, and that is:
zhà 炸 means to "scald in hot oil or water"; unfortunately, because it also enters into the word for "explode," viz., bàozhà 爆炸, it often gets mistranslated on Chinese menus and in Chinese cookbooks as "explode," which is not exactly what one wants to happen while cooking
chǎo 炒 is "stir fry," the usual way to cook most vegetables and meats
Enough for the cooking process. What about the results? Well, the menu informs us that the wèixíng 味型 ("flavor type"), what is rendered on it as "taste," is "Kim Possible." A Google search for "麻辣" + "Kim Possible" yielded a fairly large number of occurrences of "麻辣女孩 Kim Possible OP," where the "OP" could appear at various places in the string of characters and letters, or even separated from the string. I guessed that "málà nǚhái 麻辣女孩 Kim Possible" must mean "Spicy Girl Kim Possible" (not "Spice Girl Kim Possible"!) — Kim Possible being a popular Disney cartoon character. The chat rooms are full of youths who confess to being in love with her.
But I was still confused about what the "OP" stood for, so I had to ask my students, and they immediately informed me that "OP" means the opening theme song for an anime show; it contrasts with ED, which means the ending theme song that is played at the conclusion of each episode.
Nor should we forget Kim Possible's friend Ron Stoppable, and his naked mole rat Rufus, though they have yet to be documented on a Beijing menu:
(And in Danish, even!)
Kim Possible is indeed a spicy girl, so that is how this inimitable "Hot family photo" got its "Kim Possible" taste.
[Many thanks to Miki Morita, Nathan Hopson, Jing Wen, Wicky Tse, and Sophie Wei.]