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Worst menu translation ever?


Some of the comments to the blog explain how these extreme manglings may have occurred.

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  1. Funny site. Thanks.
    Our local Vietnamese restaurant hired a translation service to put their items in Spanish as well as English, Chinese, and Vietnamese. They need to get their money back. There are numerous bizarre Spanish mistakes, and this one comes to mind:
    "well-done steak" = "bistec pozo hecho."

    1 Reply
    1. re: maestra

      They must have been cheap and used a web translator. I don't speak Spanish, so I just translated "bistec pozo hecho" at dictionary.com and the result was "steak well done". Guess you get what you pay for!

    2. A joke amongst my friends is that a Chinese restaurant is not good unless there are some mistakes on the menu.

      1. many years ago my (ex) husband and I went to a newly opened Indian restaurant in north London.

        the menu was so badly worded and the spellings so funny we cried with laughter thoughout the meal, chicken was kitchen a number of times, peppers were pippers, sauce was source, and the descriptions were hilarious with badly worded flowery English along the lines of flavered with garam masala the king of spices which reaches your nose with glee.
        There was hardly a dish without a spelling mistake or malapropism. I don't think I have laughed so hard. I wonder why they didnt have somebody English just run over the menu before it went to the printers.

        1. Sometimes local words can also be funny. Once in Haryana state in India, we were asking--as usual--about local rice varieties. A farmer mentioned what turned out to be a rather widespread and known variety: farmbuggery.

          1. I once saw a menu describe hummus as chick "pee" dip. Yummy...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Philly Ray

              I saw on a menu, a conflict of duck.

                1. re: Gary Soup

                  I've seen that, too, Gary Soup -- but do you think it's legit? It's almost too funny and incomprehensible, you know?

                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    Can anyone here read the Chinese? Is it legitimate? Are the translations even close?

                    1. re: salutlemonde

                      This is the most hilarious thing I've ever read in my life. Whoever did the translation must have no knowledge of English at all. He/she obviously looked up each single word from a dictionary without taking into consideration of context. While word by word the translation is close (except for a few vulgar words), the meaning of the menu items are totally lost when all the individual words are pieced together.

                      1. re: salutlemonde

                        There was once a discussion of this menu on one of the language related-forums (which I can't find right now) at chinese-forums.com. It appears that there was a logical reason for the mistranslation. One of the cooking terms (dry-frying?) is the same word in Chinese as a slang term for sexual intercourse.

                        1. re: Gary Soup

                          Yeah, the Chinese word for dry-frying sounds the same as 'having/forcing sex with a woman' in Mandarin. Hence the funny translation. The menu looks very legit. Every Chinese character is translated into an English word.

                      2. re: Gary Soup

                        Thanks for that. I laughed so loud I woke up my husband, who has already gone to bed, and then I sent it to my kids. A classic suitable for framing.

                      3. from a local Japanese restaurant:

                        Boiled Blocks of Pork berry in sweat Shoyu sauce topped with Japanese hot mustard.


                        2 Replies
                        1. re: tobycat

                          Hot Japanese mustard makes me sweat, so that one seems logical.

                        2. hilarious thanks for the giggles

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: smartie

                            I walked into a butcher shop on Mott Street in NYC Chinatown and found a thin cut of beefsteak labeled, "frank steak." I laughed myself hoarse.

                            My son pointed out that a nearby restaurant, "The Italian Chalet," was like calling a Japanese restaurant, "The Nippon Hacienda."

                            1. re: rruben1

                              I remember seeing a sign in Spain for drought beer.

                              1. re: smartie

                                While In spain I was perusing a thick menu with many languages (german, french, japanese, english etc)

                                They translated -
                                Pollo con Judias Verdes (chicken with green beans)
                                as ....
                                Chicken with Green Jews.

                                I told the manager (politely) that this was a mis translation, and that some people might actually find this offensive. He stood firm, saying that he translated the menu himself from the most reputable dictionary. I tried to explain that there may be various meanings for one word but he didn't budge.

                                Despite the horrible translations - the food was quite good.

                                1. re: Marianna215

                                  if he had added "beans" at the end it would have been correct.

                          2. Used to be a place here with a sign on the door proudly advertising STIR FRIED VEGETARIAN WITH TOFU

                            I miss that sign, a pox on the person who told them about it.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              Yeah, we used to be able to order fried vegetarians at Thai Beer in West LA.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                Just had an order of green curry with chicken and an order of mango and sticky rice delivered from Thai Beer last Sat. Not bad at all.

                            2. In Biarritz: Jumped potatos. Saute is the past participle of to jump!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Gratin

                                In Spanish a salteado (toss in a hot pan) is also legit, also past part of saltar, to jump.

                              2. I lived in China for a few years in the late 80s:
                                Hot Sour Soup: 2 Yuan/Bowel
                                Dumpings (instead of Dumplings)

                                Chinese Restaurant in Clemson, SC:
                                "Human Chicken" (instead of Hunan)

                                1. In Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, in the seafood section of the menu: "Big Giant Crap". I'm assuming crab, but decided against ordering it anyways... :)

                                  3 Replies
                                    1. re: Leonardo

                                      Last summer, at a restaurant in the Outer Banks of NC, a restaurant had this sign posted in its lobby: "We stop serving breakfast at 11:00. Sorry for the INCONTINENCE." I laughed so hard the European exchange students staffing the place thought I was ill.....

                                    2. re: Mothership

                                      In the same vein, a there's a well-known Shanghai restaurant in Flushing, Queens. They serve many variations on Buffalo Carp. Except for many years each and every dish was listed as well, you know what. (If it's too late at night to think, just transpose the "r" and the "a".)

                                      I was so upset when they finally had the menus reprinted.

                                    3. I had an Argentinian Spanish professor who announced one day that he really liked restaurants that offered a "fountain of desserts." I assured him that there was no such thing. He was quite taken aback. Turns out the Spanish word for "platter" and "fountain" (fontana) are the same, and he assumed it was the same in English. Lots of laughter at this one, but he was a good sport about it.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        French friend of mine referred to wild rabbit as "Savage Rabbit"!

                                        1. re: Leonardo

                                          My French prof told me a story about having a dinner party with a student. The student asked the teacher what she could do to help. My prof was not totally comfortable in English. Since the the verb for 'to grate' in French is râper, my teacher told her she could "rape a carrot". Eekkkk!

                                        2. re: pikawicca

                                          We use "bandeja" for platter. "Fountain" depends on what kind.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Well, we also use "fuente" which does mean both a drinking type fountain as well as a platter. Just depends on context.

                                        3. This works both ways. Once in a restaurant in Seville I overheard at the next table two Americans discussing menu items. The dialogue went like this:
                                          A: What is spaghetti bolognese?
                                          B: Well, at home they would use baloney, but here they probably just use some kind of sausage.
                                          A. Oh. Well, then, what is spaghetti carbonara?
                                          B: That would mean you cooked the sauce on what we would call a barbecue grill.

                                          (I was hoping the next item discussed would be spaghetti alla puttanesca but our food came then and I couldn't hear any more.)

                                          1. This is so hilarious!!! A Chinese friend was once served by a beautiful young waitress at a restaurant in Texas. Being new to the States, he randomly ordered a "quiche" from the menu but he was puzzled by the waitress's look. Years later he finally realized that he had told the waitress: "May I have a 'quickie' ?"

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: fdb

                                              This reminds me of a story my mom told me. When she first came over to the states, she was working in our family take-out Chinese restaurant. She took a phone call and the customer asked if we had teriyaki. She was like, 'what?' and the customer repeated it. This went on 2 more times and my mom finally said, 'My Terry not yucky!" As you can assume, my dad's name is Terry.

                                              1. re: justagthing

                                                A local restaurant advertises that its steak is served with a "botched potato". Another says that its mussels are accompanied by hand-cut "frights".

                                              2. re: fdb

                                                When I lived in Seoul I was able to go on-post and eat at the Officer's Club. I brought a Korean friend along once who was very proud of his English Skills. In Korea, they order Cola or Cider (Coke or 7up). Wanting to display his familiarity with American idiom, he got tounge tied and told the waitress in absolutely clear precise English "I'd like to have a large cock." Without missing a beat she replied, "I'm sure you would, but I'll bring you a Coke."

                                              3. Here's a Baltimore Fav that always makes me laugh...when I first moved to MD I didn't get the 'crab' thing...so in the context of Baltimore...a sign I saw posted outside a crab and seafood house: Why not give your mother crabs for Mother's Day.....[LOL]... I always wished i had taken a photo to send to Letterman. Still makes me smile.

                                                1. I'm a fan of Engrish, which is why after a bowl of ramen at Santouka, I always take the time to meander down the aisles at Mitsuwa, especially the candy and the toiletries section.

                                                  Even at the Wat Thai food court, there was a giant sign selling "Robster Balls".

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: SauceSupreme

                                                    Onn the other hand, I recall that English speaking diner in a restaurant in Mexico who evidently did not know that the Spanish word for butter is "mantequilla". As a result, he asked the waiter for some "burro" for his bread.

                                                    The waiter carefully explained that in Mexico one does not usually eat donkeys, with or without bread.

                                                    1. re: ekammin

                                                      Obviously he knew some Italian, since "burro" is "butter" in Italian.

                                                  2. Not quite as amusing as some of the above, but my contribution. A few years ago, a chef friend of mine and I went to a local Somali resto for dinner. The first course was a light, very flavourful, vegetable soup. It was excellent. The girl who was serving us (a mere teenager) came with the next course, and asked us how we liked the soup. We said that we loved it, but that we could could taste that it was a meat broth - what was it? She paused... Broth? Yes, broth. She looked confused, and then we realised that she didn't know the word. The water, I said, had meat cooked in it. What was it? Then the light of recognition came over her face. "Oh!" Pause. You could see the tumblers turning. "It is... goat water!" MMMmmm.... goat water.

                                                    1. We were in a restaurant in Cuidad Rodrigo, Spain and I order from the English menu. I ordered eggplant parm. I received a huge platter of green beans sauteed in garlic. Then they argued with me that I had ordered the green beans and their menu couldn't be wrong since it was translated by a professor who spoke English.
                                                      At the new Mega store in Morelia, a 1" USDA Choice bone-in rib eye steak is translated as a Caw Boy Steak. BTW costs about $5.00 US for the approx. 1 lb. steak.

                                                      1. I love these.
                                                        The takeout menu for a local Chinese restaurant lists "fried string." It cracks me up every time.

                                                        1. living in tokyo I see a lot of english spelling errors nearly everyday, but my brother caught one that I thought was pretty funny the other day. on a menu at an izakaya they had a "spy sea foods" section instead of spicy. hehe

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: taryn

                                                            A friend of mine used to work as a telephone service rep in the Pacific Northwest. On several occasions, when she asked a customer from where they were calling, the answer was "Boring Oregon", to which she would say something like, "Yes, I know, but where are you calling from?"

                                                            Only later did she learn that Boring is, indeed, a subuirb of Portland.

                                                            1. re: ekammin

                                                              And then there was the hotel in Germany that tried to express the idea, in English, that breakfast was included in the price of the room.

                                                              What they said was "Breakfast is compulsory."

                                                              1. re: ekammin

                                                                SF Columnist Herb Caen once reported that a traveler checked into a fancy hotel in one of the UAR countries and found a tray of fruit in his room with a card that read "All fruit served in this establishment has been washed in water passed by the management."

                                                            2. re: taryn

                                                              At the very same restaurant you can order this:
                                                              a burning condition cock skewer... sounds good huh?

                                                            3. In a Rapid City, SD Chinese restaurant: Spicy Human Beef.


                                                              1. This is possibly the funniest post ever on CH

                                                                Thanks for this.


                                                                PS, any idea how I can get my hands on that menu??

                                                                1. I've been giggling out loud for the past five minutes. My coworkers now think I'm nuts.

                                                                  A restaurant near my high school used to serve "fresh grounded coffee" and "ho-made pies". I never did get around to popping in to ask what kind of pies those were (I suspect there wasn't any cherry, though).

                                                                  Some things get lost in translation when spoken... The Boy and I still giggle over a restaurant where the waiter advised us that the special appetizer of the day was "crap cakes" in a heavy Greek accent. I took about 10 minutes for us to figure out that he meant "crab cakes".

                                                                  1. When in Laos last year, I was presented with a drinks menu offering Franta, Popsi and Bleak Coffee. Classic!

                                                                    1. I used to go to a japanese restaurant in midtown manhattan which served a fish soup containing "been cake". I guess it once was cake and now was...? (yes, bean cake...I hope)
                                                                      and there is a thai place we go to which has a "vegetarian lover's" section...I am a vegetarian, so I assume this section is meant to have choices for my husband (who loves me) or...possibly.... the items are made from those who love vegetarians as the other sections are noodles, fish and meat and not people.

                                                                      1. How about the funniest case of a waitress mis-pronouncing the daily special?
                                                                        Several years ago, I was out with 2 girlfriends for an early Sunday dinner. We had all been up very late at a party the night before, so we were tired, punchy, and a little silly.
                                                                        The waitress came to tell us the specials, and ended with the entree special: Shrimp Fra Diavolo....except she pronounced it Shrimp Fra Di-vulva. I thought I was hearing things, so I made her repeat it. Sure enough, she said Shrimp Fra Di- vulva once again.
                                                                        We all just about wet outselves laughing and snorting about this. Every now and then when we are out one of us will bring up the subject; and it always gets the same big laugh.

                                                                        1. Not a menu, but a restaurant name: there's a chain in the Canadian Maritime provinces temptingly named "Lick-a-Chick"


                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Gary Soup

                                                                            There used to be a restaurant on Bloor Street in Toronto named "Lickin' Chicken". For some reason, when it was sold, the seller put a clause in the contract that the name not be changed, nor the sign removed. Since the new owner did not have chicken on the menu, he had to post a sign "Sorry, out of chicken.".

                                                                          2. There was a hilarious article in last October's Waitrose magazine. I had to go looking for it. I had saved it because of the articles and some great recipes by Sophie Grigson. Among the gems were:

                                                                            Our wine list leaves you nothing too hope for

                                                                            Customers who fid our waitresses rude should see the manager (Kenya)

                                                                            Cumpulsory Breakfast Buffet (Vietnam)

                                                                            If you are satisfactory, tell your friends. If you are not, warn the waitress (Bulgaria)

                                                                            As for the tripe served you at the Hotel Monopole, you will be singing it's praises to your grandchildren on your deathbed (Poland)

                                                                            You are invite to visit our restaurant where you can eat the Middle Eastern foods in a European ambulance (Turkey)

                                                                            Seafood brought in by the customer will not be entertaines (Malaysia)

                                                                            We do not re-use the food (New Zealand)

                                                                            After one visit we guarantee you will be regular (India)

                                                                            Buttered saucepan and Fried Hormones (Japan)

                                                                            Dreaded Veal Cutlet (China)

                                                                            Toes with butter and jam (Bali)

                                                                            Pork with fresh Garbage (Vietnam)

                                                                            Many more but it seemed had to top this one from France:

                                                                            Nut of Holy Jacques jumped, guniea fowl stinks to it and it's farce with cheese-topped dish, almost of cheese-dish of mould in spice.

                                                                            or this from Venezuela:

                                                                            Fried Chicken babies, fungus cream, and grilled cattle bowels.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Candy

                                                                              Oh, God, Candy! I laughed so hard reading this to the DH that I thought I was going to choke! More, please.

                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                I'lll photo copy you the article. I have been looking for the book they were excerpted from but may have to order it from Amazon UK. It is still not in the US

                                                                              2. re: Candy

                                                                                I remember a visit to an Indian restaurant and the hopes that I WOULD be regular.


                                                                                1. re: Candy

                                                                                  most of them i got, but can't help wondering what the "fried hormones" are - then again, i'm not sure i really want to know.....

                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                    I think it's either the testicles or the "rear end" of a chicken...sounds gross but I know of people who actually love them.

                                                                                2. 3. SAMBUSEH
                                                                                  CRISP DUMPLONG STUFFED WITH SIRLOINS GROUND BEET, ONIONS AND SPICES…………5.95

                                                                                  From Kabul Kabob Cuisine in Sacramento

                                                                                  1. Many years ago, in the window of a bagel factory across the street from DiFara's Pizza on Ave. J in Brooklyn, was a sign extolling the quality of their ingredients:

                                                                                    We use high Glutton flour.

                                                                                    I'm not kidding. My father pointed it out in the sixties every time we passed it.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Carl LaFong

                                                                                      A deli in lower Manhattan with a sign in the window "Toasted Groceries".

                                                                                      1. re: AntarcticWidow

                                                                                        Is it Manglish as in Mandarin/English or Mangled/English??


                                                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                                                          I interpreted Manglish as Mangled English, as opposed to:

                                                                                          Spanglish = Spanish / English
                                                                                          Taglish = Tagalog / English

                                                                                      2. evidently the chinese feel that "virgin chicken" is inappropriate for the olympics.


                                                                                        1. Of course, in the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in Manhattan, there has been a sign that their wonderful leechee and red bean ice creams have been reviewed in the Dairy News (I guess they tried to say Daily News to the reviewer).

                                                                                          1. I was a bit curious when a Brooklyn oriental restaurant offered: Special Menu for Vagetarians. I guess some customers don't eat meat.

                                                                                            1. Many years ago, in a Chinese restaurant in Boston's Chinatown, the Chinese waiter encouraged DH and me to order the special that day, which he called "people stem." We didn't understand and couldn't read Mandarin. He kept saying, "People stem. It's good." Huh? "People stem! It's good!" So we ordered it. The peapod stems were delicious. But ever since, I have called them people stems.

                                                                                              1. I live in New Orleans, and there is a Middle Eastern restaurant where their menu offers a platter with rice, veggies, and four lamb shops. I just can't figure out how they can get all that onto one plate! But that's not the punch line -- the best part was that I pointed this out to an American-born waitress, and she had NO IDEA what the problem was, not even recognizing the typo after I made the issue explicit.

                                                                                                1. I used to eat in a sushi place that had some good ones on the menu, including dumpling mis-spelled in two different ways: dampuding and dampuling.

                                                                                                  1. Not exactly a mistranslation, but this was a recent menu discovery at a dumpling house here in LA.