• Now YOU can order real Chinese food in real Chinese!

    by  • January 2, 2009 • China, food, language • 2 Comments

    posted by Sarah

    I once read on a blog that a good way to learn Chinese characters was to translate a menu. I undertook this task as an extra way to help foment my budding knowledge of Chinese, using the local restaurant in our courtyard as the basis. I did this in October, so a lot of the menu items have changed, but I still think it was a worthwhile experiment.

    The chalkboard menu in the restaurant. You just order from this menu at the front, tell them where you’re sitting, then wait 10-15 minutes for some great food.
    Next: my written translation. On the left are the characters (just copied from the chalkboard, so not exactly correct). The middle column is the pinyin, as best as I could make it out. I left blank spaces where I couldn’t recognize/look up the character in my dictionary, then asked one of the waitresses at the restaurant to help me fill out the rest. On the right is a loose translation into English – some dishes sound extremely strange!
    The third step was to transfer this all to an Excel spreadsheet, and then into a nice looking menu layout (I use InDesign). This step is a bit retroactive, because in order to type in chinese characters you must type in pinyin, then choose from a list of homonyms to find the correct character. Here’s the final result, all prettified (click here to download the PDF):



    Sarah grew up in Colorado but considers herself a Chinese-Malaysian-English-American. Her favorite thing to do is read in bed, or some sunny spot on a couch.

    2 Responses to Now YOU can order real Chinese food in real Chinese!

    1. sandra
      January 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm

      well done sarah!

      this summer i told frank that i would be a professional menu translator if we stayed in bulgaria. the ones the restuarants had been using weren’t doing a very good job. the strangest item we discovered there was “worm before dishes.” we never did figure out what it was!

      p.s. could you post (or email) how to make the chocolate mandarin oranges? they look delicious!

    2. J + S
      January 3, 2009 at 3:30 am

      Sandra – the oranges are SOOOOO easy! Just microwave a bowl of good chocolate (I used probably 15-20 ounces of dark Belgian for at least 30 or 40 oranges), peel the oranges (don’t break the skin or else the juice will cause the chocolate to slide off), and dip ’em in. I laid them on parchment paper to harden; you can also use plastic wrap. voila!

      If you’re feeling extra fancy you can do an extra dip in shredded coconut, chopped nuts, etc. or give them a dusting of confectioner’s sugar/cinnamon/grated citrus peel/etc. before the chocolate hardens.

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