Chinglish Restaurant Menus are THE BEST

Living in the hustle and bustle of China, one often needs comedic relief in order to cope with the sensory overload. Luckily this often comes in the form of bizarre Chinglish that seems to defy rhyme, reason, or description.

Fortunately, some kind souls will provide a thorough description because the Chinglish is JUST.THAT.PECULIAR.
See below:
Chinglish menu
“Seldom does one encounter so many delectable Chinglishisms in such small space. Furthermore, several of the items, especially the last, are both rare and challenging, so I take particular delight in explaining how they came about.

Starting at the top:

The name of the dish is mala quanjiafu 麻辣全家福. Mala 麻辣 is often rendered as “spicy,” but it more specifically refers to the “numbing” effect of Szechwan peppercorn and the “hot” quality of chili peppers. Quanjiafu 全家福, literally “whole family welfare / blessing / happiness / good fortune,” is a colloquial term referring either to a “portrait of a whole family” or something quite different, “a hodgepodge.” Unfortunately, the person who drew up this menu made the wrong choice between the two meanings. The correct translation should be something like “Spicy Combo,” not “Hot family photo.”

yuanliao 原料 should be “ingredients,” not “stuff”

zhangzhong bao 掌中宝 literally, “treasure in the palm”; depending on the context, this could means lots of different things (e.g., certain portable electronic devices go by this name), but in recipes it usually signifies the cartilage or gristle of chicken claws

haixia 海虾 “sea lobster,” not “crayfish”

bazhuayu 八抓鱼 literally, “eight claw fish,” but referring to “octopus”

jichi 鸡翅 this is pretty hard to mess up: literally, “chicken wing”

niurou wan 牛肉碗 this one is also difficult to get wrong: literally, “beef meat ball.”

All right, that’s the end of the ingredients. Now we move on to pengtiao 烹调, which refers to how all the above will be cooked, and that is:

zhà 炸 means to “scald in hot oil or water”; unfortunately, because it also enters into the word for “explode,” viz., bàozhà 爆炸, it often gets mistranslated on Chinese menus and in Chinese cookbooks as “explode,” which is not exactly what one wants to happen while cooking

chao 炒 is “stir fry,” the usual way to cook most vegetables and meats

Enough for the cooking process. What about the results? Well, the menu informs us that the weixing 味型 (“flavor type”), what is rendered on it as “taste,” is “Kim Possible.” A Google search for “味型” + “Kim Possible” yielded a fairly large number of occurrences of “麻辣女孩 Kim Possible OP,” where the “OP” could appear at various places in the string of characters and letters, or even separated from the string. I guessed that “mala nuhai 麻辣女孩 Kim Possible” must mean “Spicy Girl Kim Possible” (not “Spice Girl Kim Possible”!) — Kim Possible being a popular Disney cartoon character. The chat rooms are full of youths who confess to being in love with her.”

Although it is a quickly-disappearing art form, we have a hilariously good fun Chinglish tour that will delight the linguistically curious, slightly immature, and academics who need a bit of an etymological explanation. Guests should come hungry, because we’ve got a Chinglish menu to put all other Chinglish menus to shame- luckily it’s just an all around delicious joint as well, so the Chinglish is just an added bonus. Or join our Flavors of China restaurant tour for a walking culinary tour that features more than its fair share of Chinglish menus! Contact us for even more info!

Cooking With Jean Georges
Hand Pulled Noodles in Shanghai (拉面)

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