Menu mysteries

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In this article, we have the following peculiar menu items:

餐蛋治 Meal egg rule

腿蛋治 Leg treatment

奶油多 Cream more

華田 Hua Tian

新界油菜 Rape in the New Territories

净面 Wash the face

加底 With the bottom

Since it's from Hong Kong, we need to look at the menu through a Cantonese lens:

caan1 daan6/2 zi6 餐蛋治 ("luncheon meat and egg sandwich, a.k.a. spam and egg sandwich")

teoi2 daan6/2 zi6 腿蛋治 ("ham and egg sandwich")

naai5 jau4 do1 奶油多 ("toast with condensed milk and butter")

[o1] waa4 tin4 [阿]華田 ("[O]valtine")

san1 gaai3 jau4 coi3  新界油菜 ("New Territories greens with oyster sauce")

zing6 min6 净面 ("plain noodles")

gaa1 dai2 加底 (a. "to add more rice or noodles to a plate with a main course of vegetables and/or meat on top of the rice"; b. ("[in order to cut its costs for a restaurant] to increase the bulk of food by adding vegetables under the main course to make it appear to be bigger in size")

In the first two items, the zi6 治 ("rule; govern; cure; heal; treat; control; manage; harness [a river]") is short for saam1 man4 zi6 三文治 (lit., "three civilized rulers"), the Cantonese transcription of "sandwich".  Cf. Mandarin sānmíngzhì 三明治 (lit., "three wise rulers"):

"Secret bilingual language" (4/27/17)

Of course, there are many more zany translations on this menu, but I've just focused on these six because they are highlighted in the article.  Anyway, you get the idea of how these quaint translations are made.

[h.t. Timothy W K Chan; thanks to Bob Bauer and Abraham Chan]


  1. chris said,

    August 8, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

    Well, at least they got the egg part right. And the New Territories.

    How does "greens with oyster sauce" become "rape" though? Some kind of slang term or euphemism that just happens to sound like the phrase?

  2. Charles in Toronto said,

    August 8, 2018 @ 6:02 pm

    Presumably because "rape" also refers to the plant from the Brassica family that produces canola oil (i.e. rapeseed), from the Latin "rapum" for turnip.

    Not to say that's exactly the plant in question, but it's a conceivable accidental translation for all sorts of leafy greens .

  3. Victor Mair said,

    August 8, 2018 @ 6:07 pm

    Charles in Toronto is right. I was just about to post the following comment.

    Yóucài 油菜 does mean "rape" (the plant, which is used to produce vegetable oil) or "cole". Here, though, it seems to be understood as hou4 jau4 coi3 蠔油菜 ("greens with oyster sauce").

    I should also have mentioned that the Cantonese word for "toast" is the transcription do1 si6*2 多士 (lit., "many scholars"), so that accounts for the "more" in "Cream more". Cf. si6 do1 士多 (lit., "scholars many"), which is the transcription for "store".

  4. John Rohsenow said,

    August 8, 2018 @ 10:59 pm

    And the Italian name is also "rape", but pronounced as two syllables.
    Some Americans may be familiar with "rapeseed oil", but not with rape seed itself, as it usually is used primarily as bird seed. –One should also point out that in those U.S.supermkts that do cater to Chinese immigrants and more sophisticated shoppers/cooks, the rape vegetable, like most other basic Chinese food stuffs in English, is often referred to by (an English approximation of) its Cantonese name, "yau choy', sold beside "gai choy" & "bok choy", (which is of course different from "bai cai", but that's another story.)
    Lastly, for non-Chinese readers, we should also explain that the literal meaning of the Chinese name or "rape" — you cai/yau choy — is "oil vegetable'.

  5. Chaon said,

    August 9, 2018 @ 1:11 am

    Bing Translator is currently translating 新界油菜 as Rape in the New Territories.

  6. Troy S. said,

    August 9, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

    Where are the New Territories?

  7. Scott P. said,

    August 9, 2018 @ 5:38 pm


    Britain got Hong Kong Island and a small bit of the mainland after the Opium Wars. In 1898, they pressured China to grant them a bit more territory so there would be more room for the population in the colony — these became known as the "New Territories" and they were granted on a 100-year lease. That's the reason Britain gave Hong Kong back in 1998 — technically only the New Territories were leased, but by prior arrangement the whole colony was returned to Chinese sovereignty.

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