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Michael Rank took this photograph earlier today (8/16/16) and posted it on flickr:

Vietnamese & Xi'anese street food, London E8

The shop is located in Hackney, London.

Here's Michael's explanation of the wording on the signage:

Vietnamese & Xi'anese street food, London E8

Xi'anese is comprehensible if you have heard of Xi'an 西安 (“Western Peace”), ancient imperial capital and capital of modern Shaanxi province, although it's a rather odd mixture of cuisines. But the Chinese 西越小厨 doesn't suggest Xi'an at all, it means either "West Vietnamese little kitchen" (i.e., cuisine of western Vietnam, which I think is pretty unlikely) or "Western and Vietnamese little kitchen" (i.e., it serves both Western and Vietnamese food). The apostrophe in Xi’an(ese) is correct but often / usually omitted.

191 Mare Street, London E8

I think that Michael does a good job of explicating the peculiarities of the writing on the sign, so I really don't have much to add except these phonetic annotations and lexical notes:

Xī-Yuè xiǎochú 西越小厨
("Xī['ān]Yuè[nán ] kitchenette / small kitchen")

Yuènán 越南 is the MSM pronunciation of Vietnamese Việt Nam.


  1. Michael Watts said,

    August 16, 2016 @ 10:27 pm

    西越 seems to correspond pretty closely with the term "Xi'Viet" on the top line of the sign.

  2. Jenny Chu said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 12:20 am

    Now I am terribly curious about the origin of the proprietor(s): a Vietnamese and a Xi'anese husband and wife? A Xi'anese who thinks that Vietnamese food has a bigger draw? A Vietnamese who spent time in Xi'an? A Chinese-Vietnamese from Vietnam whose roots are Xi'anese?

    In which of these scenarios would it make most more sense that the proprietor would end up with Xi'Viet?

  3. Michael Watts said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 1:20 am

    I asked someone from Shanghai about this (hoping to find out whether there was a more apt abbreviation for Xi'an than 西) and got quite a bit of commentary:

    – Why would a restaurant combine Xi'an food with Vietnamese food, they are not similar.

    – The sign must have been done by a Chinese person, as it has text in English and Chinese but not Vietnamese. (This nicely paralleled my personal opinion that the sign must have been done by a Chinese person because non-Chinese people are unlikely to assign any particular significance to Xi'an.)

    – This restaurant only makes sense if there are two owners, one Chinese and one Vietnamese.

    The proposed abbreviation for Xi'an was 镐, though English wikipedia suggests the situation for Xi'an is more complicated than that:

    Xi'an currently does not have a widely accepted one-character abbreviation as many other Chinese cities do, possibly due to fact that it was historically called Jing (京) or Du (都), both meaning "the Capital".[dubious – discuss] Several suggested abbreviations include Feng (丰, the city's first name when it was founded as the new capital of Zhou, meaning abundance, greatness, and bumper harvest), Hao (Chinese: 镐; pinyin: Hào, derived from the name of Zhou dynasty's capital Haojing), or Tang (Chinese: 唐; pinyin: Táng, from the name of the Tang dynasty).

  4. mollymooly said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 3:24 am

    FWIW the restaurant's menu and a 2010 press release suggest nothing more specific than "Vietnamese".

  5. Derry said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 4:35 am

    When they first opened the press release said "The menu consists of fresh and flavoursome authentic North Vietnamese cuisine…" No mention of Xi'an or western food.

  6. Graeme said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 5:47 am

    Green Papaya salad (shredded raw pawpaw drenched in tangy-fish/prawn sauce etc) is classic north Vietnamese dish, via Laos. Brisbane's best Vietnamese restaurant (north Vietnamese proprietors) went by the same name. My freezer is full of green pawpaws, for use in vege curries.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 6:51 am

    In eastern North America, pawpaw refers to a different plant, Asimina triloba.

    The papaya is Carica papaya.

    In South America, there is also the mountain papaya, Vasconcellea pubescens.

  8. Francois Lang said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 8:15 am

    In case anyone is curious about Xi'anese street food, I can heartily recommend Xi'an Famous Foods, a mini-chain of NY restaurants.


    Quite unlike anything I (or my Beijing-born wife) has ever tasted anywhere else. And a screaming bargain, to boot.

  9. Ginger Yellow said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 10:16 am

    – Why would a restaurant combine Xi'an food with Vietnamese food, they are not similar.

    Not sure why this would be a barrier. There's another restaurant in London which serves Mexican and Polish food, for the first reason suggested by Jenny Chu above. And its name is French.

    Incidentally, for those not familiar, Hackney (especially the area around Kingsland Road, where one of the Green Papaya Xi'Viet branches is) has one of the largest Vietnamese communities in London, so it's not surprising that they might make fine distinctions on the cuisine. Though that doesn't appear to be the case here.

  10. cameron said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 10:46 am

    I read the explanation in the OP as indicating that the city of Xi'an and its cuisine are not involved at all. The Xi- prefix in Xi'Viet refers to Western in the sense of European.

  11. Andreas Johansson said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 11:24 am

    Then I believe you misread the explanation. Note that the English text on the sign (you may have to click the image to enlarge to be able to read it) says "Xi'anese".

  12. Wang Yujiang said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 2:04 pm

    From the sign I guess the owner of the restaurant is a Chinese because Chinese characters in the sign.
    For the sake of economy, Chinese people often shorten a group of characters (词ci, a phrase) to one character (which is similar to English abbreviation or acronym), and then group two shortened characters to form a new (词ci, a phrase).
    For example, 中美贸易(中国和美国之间的贸易)Sino-US trade, 京广线(北京到广州的铁路线)Beijing to Guangzhou railway line.
    Therefore Xi’Viet is correspondent to 西越. Xi’ is shortened from Xi’an, without the meaning of western. Viet is shortened from Vietnam. Xi’Viet is a name of a restaurant, a proper noun.

  13. John Swindle said,

    August 17, 2016 @ 8:42 pm

    The restaurant is called Green Papaya or Green Papaya Xi'Viet. The smaller print on the sign says in English that they serve "Vietnamese and Xi'anese street food." According to their website (green-papaya.com) they have two locations, although one will be "closed for refurbishment" until last week. They've posted pictures and descriptions of some menu items at finerestaurantfinder.com and on Facebook. You can find references to this restaurant by Googling 100950859975340. I don't know why that particular number, but I'm sure it's a perfectly fine number.

  14. Neil Dolinger said,

    August 18, 2016 @ 12:10 pm

    I was convinced as others were that the "Xi" in the name must be an abbreviation indicating Western cuisine — it was too much of a stretch to think they paired Vietnamese and Xi'an cuisines — but the menu image their Facebook page does indeed feature Xi'anese Noodles.

  15. Eidolon said,

    August 18, 2016 @ 6:20 pm

    The following Facebook post makes it explicit that it is Xi'an, China that they are referring to:

    "We are delighted to announce the rebranding and relaunching of a new exciting menu which started this week at our Kingsland Road branch. Together with our original delicious Vietnamese favourites, we have also introduced some of the best Xianese Street food dishes from Xian, China. So come along and try it for yourself."

    One can only imagine what caused the owner to decide to build a new brand this way.

    In this case, then, it is the Chinese that is confusing, not the English, because while Xi'Viet would come off as a brand name to English readers due to not having any definition in English, 西越 by contrast is simply the combination of "West" and "Yue." The latter character can stand for both Vietnamese and Cantonese in popular usage, among others. Thus it would be the equivalent of the English being "WestVietnam Little Kitchen" which obviously would not be "Xi'anese-Vietnamese Little Kitchen" as was the goal.

    Due to this fact, I am actually of the mind that the owner is NOT from China, as a person from China should be able to see that the Chinese translation doesn't say what they want it to say.

  16. John Swindle said,

    August 18, 2016 @ 7:58 pm

    It's in London. The Chinese name doesn't have to be self-explanatory. And I'll guess that the owner is Sino-Vietnamese (broadly Chinese from Vietnam).

  17. William said,

    August 19, 2016 @ 7:11 am

    Is it relevant that the Vietnamese refer to the Mekong Delta as being 'the west'?. For those just looking at a map, they might call this region 'the south' or 'the far south', but from the perspective of someone inn Saigon / HCMC, the delta is off to the west.

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