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Nov 3, 2001 10:37 AM

Dictionary of Menu Chinese?

  • d

I recall that someone put out a dictionary of American Chinese Restaurant Menu Chinese -- any ideas about the author, title, and where one could possibly locate this now? (It seems like a perfect idea for a web site).

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  1. Good idea. How about reposting this on the General Topics board? More people may see it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MarkB

      the book you are referring to is Jim McCawley's. I asked about it a while ago on the chicago board (he taught at the U. of chicago). Its out of print (and very expensive used) here's the link


      1. re: zim

        McCawley's fine book is back in print as of a few years ago. Alan Hoenig also has a book on food translations, with another one promised, via

        How can people not update these threads in close to a decade?

        ~ Kiran <>

    2. This isn't a dictionary, but it's a book you might enjoy anyway. It's called "Swallowing Clouds" by A. Zee. The author covers Chinese folklore, history, poetry and philosophy, all explained through the characters of the names of Chinese dishes.

      For example, in explaining the dish "Eggplant with Fish Flavor" he talks about how tomatoes were called "foreign eggplant" and the sauce made from them called "eggplant sauce." The characters for "eggplant sauce" are roughly pronounced "ca" (eggplant)and "zhup" (sauce). I'm sure you've already heard where our word for catsup/ketchup comes from, but this illustration with characters in the book is so interesting. The back of the book also has an appendix of all the radicals and characters discussed throughout.

      By the end of the book, you will recognize thousands of characters and be able to put them together to figure out the Chinese portion of the menu! And you will have an amazing picture of Chinese culture and history.