Sweethoney dessert

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Maidhc Mac Roibin sent in this photograph of the front of a dessert shop in Cupertino from Fintano's flickr site:

201908-PSP-R4-33 Sweethoney Dessert, SJ CA

The Chinese characters on their logo read "Xìng jì tiánpǐn 杏记甜品" (as may be seen in the center panel of their front window).  While the official English translation of that is "Xingji Dessert", it more literally means "Apricot (trade)mark desserts".

This follows in our long series of posts about Chinese businesses that combine Western writing and Chinese characters in their signage, e.g.:


  1. Dick Margulis said,

    December 29, 2019 @ 9:34 am

    The association of apricots with baked sweets is interesting. Apricots have been harvested (and dried) in China since ancient times, and a sweet glaze made from cooked dried apricots was used by bakers long before the introduction of corn syrup. (Traditionalists still use apricot glaze.) So the translation makes sense.

  2. jin said,

    December 29, 2019 @ 11:24 am

    exactly as Margulis-san says, and a staple of Viennese pastry chefs. The famous Sachertorte, named for the eponymous hotel, is chocolate cake with apricot filling/glaze. My guess is that the shop owners reasoned, probably correctly, that "apricot" wouldn't have the same enticing sound as "honey" to prospective customers.

  3. Anon said,

    December 29, 2019 @ 12:26 pm

    It’s interesting to me then that Sweethoney Dessert doesn’t sell any desserts including apricot, despite the name and using a number of other fruit.

  4. Calvin said,

    December 29, 2019 @ 7:53 pm

    杏记甜品 is chain based in Hong Kong but have shops in the US (see https://www.sweethoneydessert.com/).

    Apricot kernel (杏仁) in fact is a very common ingredient in Chinese deserts, either in whole (e.g. 杏仁茶) or grounded form (e.g. 杏仁糊). You can find them in the menu posted on their web site.

  5. Mimi K. said,

    December 30, 2019 @ 12:44 am

    Especially considering that the shop is from Hong Kong, 杏 should be interpreted as the surname, not as its apricot meaning. [surname]记 is a common structure for restaurant and store names in Cantonese-speaking regions.

    Cantonese origins also likely explain the choice of "honey", as the Cantonese pronunciation of 杏 is hang6 (sounds like "hung").

  6. BZ said,

    December 30, 2019 @ 10:52 am

    I'm interested in "sweethoney", though. Using multiple words spliced together in brand names is very common, of course, but the "th" that results causes some confusion.

  7. monscampus said,

    December 31, 2019 @ 9:39 pm

    Some confusion for a non-native speaker lasting for a split second or more?
    I was once asked what *warthog* meant, *th* pronounced as *th*. I mistook it for a military term, until it was written down for me.

  8. Chas Belov said,

    January 1, 2020 @ 2:15 am

    I see from their website a San Francisco location is coming. While there's plenty of HK-style desert places in SF, mostly in the Avenues, looks like they also serve souffle pancakes, which will give Gram, a Japanese place, a run for their money if they're any good (TBD). I was aware of the 记 word in business names but in its traditional form and transcribed in English business names as "kee," which would make sense as a Cantonese transcription.

  9. Chas Belov said,

    January 1, 2020 @ 2:19 am

    Oh, and regarding their menu https://www.sweethoneydessert.com/menu-gallery/ what gives with all the "series," e.g., "Mango Lovers Series," "Durian Lovers Series"? I see "series" turn up here and there at menus in boba places as well.

  10. Victor Mair said,

    January 1, 2020 @ 8:04 pm

    From Chau Wu:

    @Calvin, Re: “Apricot kernel” for 杏仁. You touched on an interesting aspect of the Chinese term 杏仁, that is, its ambiguity. It can mean either the ‘apricot kernel’ from the fruit produced by apricot trees or the ‘almond nut’ produced by the almond trees (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E6%9D%8F%E4%BB%81#Chinese).

    Generally, in Taiwan and Hong Kong, 杏仁 means ‘almond’. If you go to the Website menu of 杏记甜品 (https://www.sweethoneydessert.com/menu-gallery/), you will find they translate 杏仁 as ‘Almond’, such as Item C3 – Almond Soup 生磨杏仁糊 and Item T12 – Almond Soup and Tofu Pudding 杏仁糊豆腐花. In supermarkets and grocery stores in Taiwan, you will find almonds labelled as 杏仁. In contrast, the Chinese traditional medicine stores sell 杏仁 (or more specifically苦杏仁 with the adjective ‘bitter’ attached to it because it has a slight bitter taste). These are apricot kernels and/or bitter almonds (see below) used for treating coughs and asthma. Their bitter taste comes from an active ingredient amygdalin, which upon digestion releases cyanide (hence amygdalin is called a cyanogen).

    The 杏仁/苦杏仁 in Chinese traditional medicine comes from the bitter almond (苦扁桃) Prunus amygdalus var. amara and the kernel of the apricot Prunus armeniaca var. ansu. Both contain amygdalin, therefore, both are slightly poisonous and thus not sold in grocery stores or markets. The 杏仁 in almond tea 杏仁茶, almond soup 杏仁糊, the almond drink 杏仁露, and the raw or roasted almond nuts (杏仁 in Taiwan) comes from the almond tree (扁桃) Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis, which contains no or little amygdalin. Therefore, it has no bitter taste and hence is also called 甘杏仁 (甜杏仁).

    As if it was not confusing enough, in 1970s California almond growers started exporting almonds to China, and marketed the nut as 美國大杏仁 “American big apricot kernel”. The Chinese fell for it because they are larger than native Chinese apricot kernels and not bitter at all. See this blog about “Almonds or Apricot Kernels: Chinese mistranslation leaves shoppers feeling cheated” (https://k-international.com/blog/almonds-or-apricot-kernels-chinese-mistranslation-leaves-shoppers-feeling-cheated/) and an article in the Global Times (http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/751874.shtml). China now requires almond be labeled as “扁桃仁”, “扁桃核”, “巴丹木” (from Persian badam for ‘almond’), and not as “杏仁” (https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%89%81%E6%A1%83).

    In Northern China, apricot trees are more prevalent, whereas in the south the almond prevails (which were probably brought over by the Arab traders in the medieval times), even though in Chang’an of Tang dynasty, the almonds were imported from Kucha (E. H. Schafer, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand, p. 141). Therefore, it is said that 北杏仁is 苦杏仁 (the northern variety is the bitter kind) whereas 南杏仁 is 甜杏仁 (the southern variety is the sweet kind).

    I grew up in Taiwan, and for all I knew in my formative years, 杏仁 was almond. Many years after college, I encountered a line in a famous Tang poem by 杜牧 (Du Mu), 牧童遙指杏花村 which was translated into English thus, “The shepherd boy points distantly at the Apricot Blossom Village”. I was really puzzled why “almond” got translated as “apricot”. Now I know better.

  11. Calvin said,

    January 4, 2020 @ 4:13 pm

    @Chris Wu

    I am almost certain the 杏仁 in the menu meant apricot kernel, and the "almond" in the English version is a mis-translation. At least for the 杏仁茶, when I had it I could tell the whole kernel in the liquid was apricot kernel, not almond.

    Yes, there are both north and south varieties (北杏仁 and 南杏仁). The south variety has a sweet taste and commonly used in making deserts. The north variety tastes a bit bitter and contains a natural toxin called cyanogenic glycoside. See more explanations in https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E5%8D%97%E5%8C%97%E6%9D%8F.

    Interesting enough, 北杏仁 is deemed to have nourishing effect and is used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. They can be added to 南杏仁 (in much smaller proportion) in those 杏仁 deserts (e.g. https://kknews.cc/food/823jq.html).

    In Taiwan, it could be the use of apricot kernel is less common, so 杏仁 is almost exclusively meant almond (at least according to this article: https://food43179.blogspot.com/2017/12/blog-post_48.html).

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