Archive for Language and food

Charaelerislie

Francois Lang sent in this menu from YU Noodles Cafe in Rockville, MD:

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Who owns kimchi?

[This is a guest post by S. Robert Ramsey]

"Korean kimchi originally came from China."

–Or so China’s online encyclopedia Baidu Baike declared in its article on kimchi.

Koreans were outraged. What gall for Chinese to lay claim to their national dish! Adding to the furor, China’s English-language newspaper Global Times reported last year that the International Organization for Standardization (the ISO) had recognized an “international standard for the kimchi industry led by China.”

Indignant Koreans flooded the Internet: “It’s total nonsense, what a thief stealing our culture!” a South Korean netizen said. Another wrote: “I read a media story that China now says kimchi is theirs, and that they are making international standard for it. It’s absurd.”

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Full pastry shop

The name of my favorite pastry shop in Philadelphia's Chinatown is Bǎobǐng diàn 飽餅店 (English name "Mayflower Bakery & Cafe").  They serve all sorts of Chinese pastries, cakes, buns, turnovers, etc. Their egg tarts (dàntà 蛋撻) are divine, and you can get everything at scandalously reduced prices late in the afternoon.

Nearly all of the Chinese friends who go to Bǎobǐng diàn 飽餅店 with me think the name is strange and believe that, if anything, it should be Bāobǐng diàn 包餅店, but even that seems rather odd to them.

Diàn 店 means "shop", so we won't worry about that.  Bāobǐng 包餅 would mean "bun and (flat)cake / pie / cookie / pastry", which my friends can make sense of, but they are not familiar with that wording.  On the other hand, bǎobǐng 飽餅 would mean "full (flat)cake / pie / cookie / pastry", which they have a hard time making sense of, though most of them just say, "Well, they must mean they are a shop whose (flat)cakes / pies / cookies / and pastries will / can make you full".

Oy, the joys of naming in Chinese!

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Pineapple suicide

Sign at a fruit stand:

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Pork in a pot

That's how Google Translate renders "Guō bāo ròu 锅包肉", and it sounds pretty good, though it's wrong, as we will discover below.  Baidu fanyi gives "Soul of shadow", for which I have no idea how they got it or what it means in relation to a pork entree.  Microsoft Bing Translator has "Pots and pans of meat", which leaves me wondering how carefully prepared it might be. 

I got interested in this term, "Guō bāo ròu 锅包肉" (lit., "pot package / bag / bundle meat") because of these remarks by Michael Broughton:

I am a Chinese translator and a long time reader of Language Log. 
 
I am currently in the midst of translating a travel book from Chinese to English and have recently come across a dish called 锅包肉. 
 
After doing some searching online I discovered that the most common translation for this dish is "Fried Pork in Scoop" (over 2000 hits in Google when searched with quotation marks [VHM:  I got 11,500 hits]).

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Sweets and snakes

Sunny Jhutti sent in this photograph of an Indian shop sign:

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Ingredients of Chinese rice crackers translated by GT phone camera device

Have you tried the Google Translate app on your phone? It has a camera tool that automatically translates text that you point it to, but it looks like it needs some work for Mandarin…

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Persian peaches of immortality

When I visited Samarkand about 35-40 years ago (before digital days), I ate some of these luscious, mythic peaches:

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Spinach: the Persian vegetable

The other day, when we were discussing where Napa cabbage came from, Diana Shuheng Zhang mentioned to me that the Chinese word for "spinach", bōcài 菠菜, indicates that it came from Persia.  She's usually right about such things, and she was in this case too:

From earlier 波斯菜 (bōsīcài), from 波斯 (Bōsī, “Persia”) + (cài, “greens, vegetable”).

where bōsī 波斯 is obviously a transcription of "Persia":

Borrowed from Old Persian (Pārsa).

Middle Sinitic: /puɑ  siᴇ/

(source)

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Napa cabbage

It's one of my favorite vegetables.  Delicious prepared in so many different ways (in soups, stir fried, I even use it for salads).  And it almost never goes bad — I can keep it in my frig for a month or more.  Plus, it looks nice — aesthetically pleasing, with its exquisite shades of light green blending into white and crêpe-like crisp and crimped, delicate texture of the upper portions of the soft, frilly leaves next to glistening, gleaming, smoothly rounded surfaces of the basal rosette.

Quick question:  what's the first thing you think of when you hear the name "Napa cabbage"?  Write it down now before clicking to the second page of this post.

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Soused noodles / face

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

An unfortunate cultural misunderstanding has occurred in the attached image:

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Kana, not kanji, for names

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Lucky eating you

Sign at a shop in Changzhou, Jiangsu, specifically at the Computer City mall:

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