Whole wheat partially

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Package on a grocery store shelf:

There are several weird aspects of the wording on this package of noodles.  It's all such a jumble that at first I wasn't sure what language it is primarily meant to be.  For example, on the right side, we see Japanese oishī おいしい ("tasty") — the linguistic impact of the imperial era and current culture is considerable in Taiwan.  Taken all together, however, it's evidently mostly Chinese in traditional characters (but not entirely [see below]).

From a bit of digging around, though, I was able to determine that it is a Taiwan product.  Inside the red-bordered block with yellow background, it is identified as:

Táizhōng miàndàn 台中

That must mean that it is some kind of noodles associated with Taichung, Taiwan's second most populous city.  Since I don't offhand know the intended meaning of miàndàn 担, especially the dàn 担 part (much more on that below), for the moment I will not attempt a translation of the whole designation as Táizhōng miàndàn 台中担.

The bizarre English just below that is not intended as a translation, but is a separate problem unto itself (see below).

Aside from not being clear about the intended meaning of dàn 担 (as promised, more on that anon).  The form of the character for "noodles" is troublesome.  Here it is written 麺, which is the modern (shinjitai) Japanese form of the character, though elsewhere on the package it is also written in the traditional form as 麵 (I didn't spot it written anywhere on the package in the PRC simplified form 面, which would be very much out of place in Taiwan).

Now we have to tackle dàn 担.  The character by itself can mean many things.  It is generally regarded as the simplified form of one of these four characters:

1.  擔 (“to carry on a shoulder pole; to bear; to shoulder; to undertake; etc.”)

2. 揭 (“to raise; to lift up; to uncover; to unveil; to expose; to reveal; etc.”)

3. 撣 (“to dust ; etc.”).

4. 笪 (“coarse mat made of bamboo; etc.”)

In this case, I think it is standing in for 擔, which itself has the following pronunciations and meanings:

a. dān ("to carry on a shoulder pole, to bear; to shoulder; to undertake"), i.e., verb

b. dàn ("carrying pole with loads on both ends, burden; load; responsibilities, picul, a traditional Chinese unit of weight previously around 60 kg and now standardized to 50 kg"; classifier / measure word for things carried on a shoulder pole: load), i.e., noun

In the expression miàndàn 担, I believe that dàn 担 is meant to be read in the fourth tone and convey the meaning of b. dàn ("carrying pole with loads on both ends"), with the extended meaning of portable noodle shop that can be transported on such a pole.  That is to say, my surmise is that miàndàn 麺担 refers to noodle stalls or small, semi-portable noodle restaurants — something temporary, maybe just an awning set up beside a road.  Thus, 担 seems to be a Taiwanese locution where the 担 is comparable to 攤 ("vendor").  As witness, we may note that there are some noodle places in 台中 with 担 in their names.  In Taiwanese, 担 would be pronounced "mida" or the like.

Now on to "Whole Wheat Partially", which is beyond strange!

The same company also issues "proper" whole wheat (quánmài 全麥) noodles. See, for example here, where this explicit designation appears in Chinese and in English.

For a better photo of the "partially" type, see here, which affords additional specifications that enable me to hypothesize or extrapolate from the totality of the available information in Chinese and English that "Partially" refers not to the quality of the wheat (it's still "whole" wheat [quánmài 全麥], but rather to the state of cookedness of the noodles:

1. kuàizhǔ 快煮 ("fast cook")



This is not just your common, run-of-the-mill fāngbiànmiàn 方便麵  / insutantorāmen インスタントラーメン ("instant noodles").

Selected readings

[h.t. Victor Steinbok; thanks to Mark Swofford and Zihan Guo]


  1. Victor Mair said,

    April 25, 2022 @ 11:16 pm

    From Nathan Hopson:

    This is a strange package indeed.

    湯麺(tanmen タンメン)is a mostly Kanto-region specialty, according to the intertubes. Different from 担々麺(tantanmen タンタン麺), which is originally a Szechuan dish.

    Useful image comparison here, with 担々麺 (tanmen タンメン)on top and 湯麺 (tanmen タンメン) on the bottom.

    I definitely agree with the assertion that this is 新感覚 (shin kankaku ["new sensation"])! I'm not sure what that feeling is, but it's certainly new.

  2. Jenny Chu said,

    April 26, 2022 @ 2:59 am

    A little bit off topic, but I remember my kids discussing the language policy at their school when they were small. My younger son told me, "Mommy, in English class we can only speak English, not Chinese or … um … Australian." My older son quickly corrected his brother: "No, think!! Australian IS partially English."

  3. Akito said,

    April 26, 2022 @ 3:34 am

    麺担/麵担 must be a substitute for 麵攤 (noodle stall). This page uses both.

  4. Theo said,

    April 26, 2022 @ 10:16 am

    Re: "Whole Wheat Partially".

    According to the package label (high-res image available from the manufacter's website: https://ccf-noodles.com/product/vegetarian-flavour-noodles), the noodles contain "unbleached wheat flour" and "whole wheat flour".

    This is in contrast to a similar product which contains "unbleached wheat flour" but not "whole wheat flour": https://ccf-noodles.com/product/tomato-flavour-noodles-2

    Just my two cents.

  5. Philip Taylor said,

    April 26, 2022 @ 3:38 pm

    "Vegetarian-flavour-noodles" ? Wow — I have always wondered what a vegetarian would taste like, so now's my chance to find out !

  6. Mark Hansell said,

    April 26, 2022 @ 5:22 pm

    There is a traditional dish of Tainan, 擔仔麵 dànzǎimiàn "carrying-pole noodles", sold by street vendors who could pack their entire noodle stand onto one carrying pole. Quite a feat of balancing and weight-lifting: they could carry a charcoal brazier, pot, bowls and utensils, and ingredients, and a couple of stools for the customers to sit on. I'm not sure if such an "establishment" would be called a 麵擔 ("noodle carrying-pole") as opposed to the more familiar 面摊子 miàntānzi ("noodle stand"), but if so, the reference might be "here's the Taizhong version of the traditional Tainan noodles".

    (Link to photo of carrying-pole noodle stand:)

  7. Victor Mair said,

    April 26, 2022 @ 5:33 pm

    Thank you very much, Mark. That's the sort of setup I was thinking of.

  8. Jenny Chu said,

    April 26, 2022 @ 10:44 pm

    Mark, I've always wondered what the right designation is in English for such single-proprietor, pole-borne eateries. When I lived in Hanoi in the early 1990s, the women who carried various foodstuffs in two baskets hanging from a pole would usually squat at an intersection and put out a tiny stool or two for the customers to sit on as they ate. (Do they still do this?) And I recall that an English-language travel guidebook of the time referred to these as "restaurants" which seemed not to be a very correct designation. I also had a French-language travel guidebook and I don't remember what they called it, but I seem to recall it was not "restaurants" in French.

    But "food stand" seems wrong, too – they're not standing at all, not fixed in place like a kiosk. Perhaps not a food stand but a food sit? Or a food squat?

  9. Mark Hansell said,

    April 27, 2022 @ 2:52 pm

    We already have the word "snack bar", could we call this a "snack pole"?

  10. Benjamin Geer said,

    April 27, 2022 @ 2:58 pm

    This sounds like a reference to the Sichuan dish dandanmian (simplified Chinese: 担担面; traditional Chinese: 擔擔麵), described here:


    “The name refers to a type of carrying pole (dan dan) that was used by walking street vendors who sold the dish to passers-by. The pole was carried over the shoulder, with two baskets containing noodles and sauce attached at either end. As the noodles were affordable due to their low cost, the local people gradually came to call them dandan noodles, referencing the street vendors.”

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