Learning to be an aware eater
July 22, 2005 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Mei Wah: Eating in Chinese So I started to learn some Chinese. I never did learn much. I still can't read a newspaper in Chinese, nor a non-food-related sign, nor hold a conversation in it. But I can read a menu in Chinese. And here I'm going to attempt to show you how to do it too. [via LII More New This Week]
posted by mlis (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I like this one a lot, MLIS. Excellent find, you are awarded one golden dragon (or one grassy rabbit, I'm not really sure).
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 3:25 PM on July 22, 2005

Interesting, but (s)he should really start with the food and end with the characters used in restaurant names.
posted by Bugbread at 3:29 PM on July 22, 2005

Here's a useful guide in book form. You may want to avoid relying on a Chinese restaurant's own translation.
posted by 김치 at 3:53 PM on July 22, 2005

Nice second link, 김.
posted by Bugbread at 4:01 PM on July 22, 2005

Very interesting, thanks.
posted by interrobang at 4:04 PM on July 22, 2005

totally awesome.

[Tag editorial: should be "food chinese language."]
posted by ijoshua at 4:05 PM on July 22, 2005

Wow, this is fascinating -- thanks so much!
posted by Kat Allison at 5:08 PM on July 22, 2005

Great read!
posted by gwint at 5:40 PM on July 22, 2005

This rules. Too bad I'm moving out of Chinatown next month.
posted by nev at 5:47 PM on July 22, 2005

The author seems rather dismissave of Jim McCawley, whose 248 page book is a lot more definitive than the authors efforts. (S)he winds up saying:
Perhaps the ultimate book on Chinese food language for non-Chinese hasn't been written yet. I don't think I'm the person to write it, though; that should be a task for someone who actually speaks Chinese. Like McCawley.
Maybe (s)he doesn't realize that Jim died in 1999.

Disclaimer: I have shared several meals with Jim.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:57 PM on July 22, 2005

Nice. You can also learn as much by playing The Sims or watching foreign movies on DVD.
posted by Lush at 8:00 PM on July 22, 2005

Best of web, no doubt.
posted by caddis at 11:35 PM on July 22, 2005

A pretty decent explanation of how written Chinese works, and a good brush up on all that extensive culinary vocab for me. I'm always amused that here by UPenn there's a place called Bei-jing Restaurant in English, with the far more pedestrian name of College Restaurant in Chinese.
posted by Mercaptan at 3:56 AM on July 23, 2005

Lush : "Nice. You can also learn as much by playing The Sims or watching foreign movies on DVD."

I dunno, I never picked up much Chinese from the Sims.
posted by Bugbread at 5:13 AM on July 23, 2005

This link sucked me in for hours. That's what MetaFilter's for. Thanks.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:03 AM on July 23, 2005

Does anyone see an e-mail address for the author? I'd like to tell them what the first three characters on this page mean.
posted by jiawen at 1:42 PM on July 23, 2005

Jiawen, tell us too please. It looks like the "chi ji" part is the name of a famous noodle shop in Causeway Bay or Mong Kok in Hong Kong, or perhaps a Bento place in Shibuya, but my Chinese Googlefu is unclear.

Further clarifications

the third character from the left on this page pronounced “chuan” in this context means Szechuan, so the speculation that it may be part of Mary Chung’s name is incorrect. More likely, the first two characters “Chung Yuan” means “Chung Garden” i.e., Chez Chung .

The “da jia le” on this page means “everybody happy” and is a fairly common phrase.

The author’s guess that the “du yi chu” on this page means “Number One” or Accept No Substitutes” is a good guess but is probably better translated as “the only place” or (more colloquially) “one and only”.

And the “li lai” part of the “jin li lai” on this page in this context likely means “rapid come” (i.e., quick delivery) given that they advertise delivery.
posted by mono blanco at 6:22 AM on July 24, 2005

Mono blanco, your guess about 'Chez Chung' is excellent. As for 'Jin Li Lai', I can only add that it's also a quite famous fashion brand in Hong Kong, and the coincidence could be intentional.
posted by of strange foe at 8:13 PM on July 24, 2005

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