Nazi Goring

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Menu from a restaurant on Wudaoying Hutong 五道营胡同 near Yonghe Gong 雍和宫 (Lama Temple) that left James Bradbury completely baffled last summer:

Although several of the items visible on the menu are quirky or quaint, none can match this one:

Yìndùníxīyà chǎofàn 印度尼西亚炒饭
("Indonesian fried rice")

In Indonesian and Malay, nasi goreng simply means "fried rice".



  1. Ben Zimmer said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

    This looks to be a clearcut case of the Cupertino effect. I guess we should be glad the spellchecker didn't change it to "Nazi Göring" (or "Goering").

  2. Michael Rank said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 5:15 pm

    What precisely are Mexico cornflakes what place do they have on an Asian menu?

  3. Dan Curtin said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 5:48 pm

    I see the problem-They missed the umlaut on Göring.

  4. K Chang said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 6:17 pm

    Pretty sure Mexican Cornflakes is really nachos

  5. maidhc said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 6:26 pm

    "Mexico cornflakes" could be tortilla chips, but that doesn't explain how they ended up in the "Rice specials".

  6. Zizoz said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 8:47 pm

    It turns out that if you ask Google to translate "Mexico cornflakes" into simplified Chinese, you get the name of the dish; translating it back into English gives "Mexican nachos". A rare case in which translating something twice actually makes it more clear?

    Also, apparently "nacho" is derived from a nickname of Ignacio, while "Nazi" is partially derived from a nickname of Ignatius!

  7. Chad Nilep said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 8:58 pm

    Well, maize (玉米) is arguably a special rice (米).

  8. K Chang said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 9:33 pm

    The ingredients actually gave it away. Mexican cornflakes, Western red tomato sauce, meat sauce, mu-sai-ray-la cheese…

  9. Michael Watts said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 11:42 pm

    How are you interpreting the characters in the cheese name? I make it ma-su-li-la :/

  10. Rubrick said,

    June 16, 2015 @ 11:57 pm

    Pretty nifty coincidence, Zizoz!

  11. K Chang said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 12:18 am

    @Michael Watts — tell you the truth, I was kinda making it up as I was typing on a mobile and can't see the picture and type at the same time. But I trust my gist came through relatively understandable.

  12. Michael Watts said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 1:24 am

    Oh, it might be worth noting that 玉米(corn)片(flat shape) is the chinese term for cereal corn flakes as well as for flat corn chips. It's kind of hard to blame the restaurant for getting that one wrong.

  13. K Chang said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 3:08 am

    Arguably the translation for tortilla chip is wrong. Cambridge dictionary doesn't have a Chinese translation for tortilla chip. Their translation for tortilla is 墨西哥玉米薄餅 (Mexican Corn pancake) so any definition of tortilla chip NOT from this is technically wrong.

  14. Michael Watts said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 3:24 am

    Doritos for Chinese export are labeled 玉米片. No real reason the word for tortilla chips in another language has to specifically reference Mexican tortillas.

  15. Adam F said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 4:25 am

    Maybe they got the idea from misunderstanding a Fawlty Towers episode?

  16. John Shutt said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 5:56 am

    My mother reacted to this item with 'oh yes, I know about Nazi goring'. It seems she heard about it (or thought she did) in the late 1940s or early 1950s. At which time, of course, it would have been really easy to mishear since WWII was on everyone's minds.

  17. Victor Mair said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 6:23 am

    Mǎsūlǐlā 马苏里拉 is the usual transcription of "Mozzarella" in Chinese.

    It's also translated as wúyán gānlào 无盐干酪 ("saltless cheese").

    Other Chinese transcriptions and translations of "mozzarella" that I've encountered are:

    Yìdàlì gānlào 意大利干酪 ("Italian cheese")

    zhīshì 芝士 ("cheese")

    mǎsūlǐlā zhīshì 马苏里拉芝士 ("mozzarella cheese")

    mǎsūlǐlā nǎilào 马苏里拉奶酪 ("mozzarella cheese")

    shuǐniú zhīshì 水牛芝士 ("[water] buffalo cheese")


    1. Other terms for "cheese" in Chinese are:

    a. lào 酪 — this is a toughie, one that I've wrestled with for decades; it's of great importance, not only because it is used in so many terms for dairy products nowadays, but even more so for its connections with the steppe peoples who brought milk production and consumption to China two thousand and more years ago; the Middle Sinitic for this word is lâk, so I suspect that it is related to Greek gálaktos and Latin lac, lactis; when the nomads introduced lào 酪 to the Sinosphere, it probably referred to a number of processed and fermented milk products (sometimes including koumiss), but a serviceable translation that works in many instances is "curd"

    b. nǎilào 奶酪 ("milk curd")

    c. gānlào 干酪 ("dry curd")

    d. rǔlào 乳酪 ("milk curd")

    2. gānlào 干酪 ("dry curd") can also mean "cottage cheese"

  18. Gnoey said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 9:30 am

    Hmmm, I am not sure what the big fuss is over 印度尼西亚炒饭. Nasi goreng is a well-known Malay dish in Singapore where I live, and it is usually called 马来炒饭 (literally "Malay fried rice") here. Since Indonesian culture is culturally similar to Malay culture, I don't see anything quirky or quaint about translating "nasi goreng" as 印度尼西亚炒饭. I mean, how else can it be translated? It definitely cannot be simply translated as 炒饭 because Chinese fried rice is very different in taste and appearance from nasi goreng. Nasi goreng isn't simply "rice that is fried"; it is a proper noun for a very specific dish.
    Of course, whether or not the restaurant actually serves something that Southeast Asians like me would readily identify as nasi goreng is another question…

  19. Victor Mair said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 10:24 am


    The problem is not with the Chinese translation of the Indonesian, but with the English translation of the Chinese. Take another look.

  20. Jim said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 11:48 am

    "the Middle Sinitic for this word is lâk, so I suspect that it is related to Greek gálaktos and Latin lac, lactis; when the nomads introduced lào 酪 to the Sinosphere, it probably referred to a number of processed and fermented milk products"

    Probably the same Indo-Europeans that introduced the chariot to China, along with words for honey and lions. I don't know the reflex of "galaktos" in either Tokharian language but given that the "lak" piece shows up across Greek, Italic, Celtic and Germanic, chances are good it's reflected in the Tokharian form too.

    The fact that in Chinese it refers to curds rather than raw milk would fit this timeline too. The mutation for lactase persistence spread fairly recently and mostly in Europe, so early IE people were almost certainly consuming milk in the same form as people in East Africa do, as some form or other of yoghurt or cheese.

  21. K Chang said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

    @Michael Watts — then perhaps Doritos is also doing it wrong.

  22. neko said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 4:51 pm

    @k chang
    I dont quite buy that anything not agreeing with the Cambridge dictionary is by definition "technically wrong." It is one dictionary, reflecting the taste, style, and interpretation of its current editors. Coming from another angle, one dictionary cannot dictate what translation a people should accept as correct in their own language.

    Focusing on the appropriateness of 玉米片for torilla chips, one can at least appreciate the parellel of 薯 片 for potato chips. If we stick by your definition of "technically correct" we'd end up with a slightly odd墨西哥玉米薄餅片 "mexican corn flat cake chip"

  23. julie lee said,

    June 17, 2015 @ 9:07 pm

    I really laughed hard when I read the first half-dozen or so comments.
    Thank you, commenters.

    @Chad Nilep:
    As you mention, maize in Mandarin is "yu mi" (literally, "jade rice"), so maybe that's why the menu put "Mexican cornflakes" (nachos, tacos) under rice dishes.

  24. K Chang said,

    June 18, 2015 @ 5:58 am

    @neko — I guess the smiley didn't make it into my comment about Doritos, or it got filtered by the comment software. Any way, no, I'm NOT saying the Cambridge dictionary is the ultimate authority. My point is the term is ambiguous, having acquired two separate meanings of very different things.

    Given that Chinese generally don't eat the cold cereal like Americans do, but do enjoy potato chips / crisps (they make no distinctions between the two) it is no wonder Doritos would capitalize on 薯片 and use 玉米片

    So I guess the question is which got to China first… "cornflake" 玉米片, or "tortilla chip" 玉米片? And if cornflake did first , why did Dorito try to "redefine" the term?

  25. DaVince said,

    June 18, 2015 @ 11:40 am

    I recognize the words "nasi goreng" easily because here in the Netherlands we actually USE the words like that (although you usually get nasi goreng in Chinese restaurants, so… yeah).

    Nazi Goring had me grinning from ear to ear.

  26. Piyush said,

    June 18, 2015 @ 3:04 pm

    @Zizo: Arguably, to someone from China who is fluent in English but not so much in Spanish, the menu description "Mexican cornflakes" may be much more meaningful than "Mexican nachos".

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