Miscellaneous bacteria

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Jeff DeMarco spotted this menu item at the Splendid China attraction in Shenzhen:

zá jūn guō 杂菌锅 ("miscellaneous / various fungi / mushrooms pot")

Alas, jūn 菌 can mean "bacteria; bacterium; fungus; mushroom; germ; mold", etc.

Its polysemy frequently throws machine translators for a loop when confronted with menu entries that contain mushrooms and edible fungi of various types.


"Braised double bacteria in abalone sauce" (2/20/15)

"'Boiled Blood Curd' and 'Semi-rotted Vegetables Cake" (9/7/18)

"Mildew Country" (8/8/16)

"Tape bacteria, risotto cowboy, burning denim, and better to die" (8/21/12)

"Braised enterovirus, anyone?" (7/16/08)

"What’s the History of the Wok? A Continuing Investigation", by Rachel Laudan (1/20/13)

"Me Old China" (1/18/13) — especially toward the end of the o.p. and in the comments


  1. Adam F said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 4:03 am

    I was looking at the multilingual ingredients lists on some yoghurt a few months ago; the German had "Milchsäurebakterien" and the Dutch had something similar, but the English and French had the euphemisms "lactic ferments" and "ferments lactiques".

  2. Theophylact said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 11:47 am

    US labels tend to name the bugs. The yogurt label I'm looking at says "Contains active yogurt cultures including L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, Bifidus, L. acidophilus, and L. casei". (The "L." is Lactobacillus, the "S." Saccharomyces.)

  3. Nick Kaldis said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 1:21 pm

    I was taught 菌 was pronounced in the fourth tone, "jün4", is it pronounced "jūn1" in the PRC?

  4. Victor Mair said,

    January 12, 2019 @ 2:02 pm

    This dictionary gives pronunciations for mainland as jūn and Taiwan as jùn:

    See also the following widely used dictionaries:

    here, here, and here.

  5. David Jones said,

    January 16, 2019 @ 6:01 am

    Something similar in a Beijing restaurant menu I came across a few years back: 'Old Man Head Bacteria'.

    I supposed 'bacteria' wasa mistranslation of fungus/mushroom and 'Old Man's Head' is an idiom, like 'Lady's Fingers' for Okra.

    I didn't try it.

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