Mandarin Translation Needed!, and eager for Healthy Evolution of Chinese cuisine
Chinese, Malaysian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, love all Asian cuisines and crave the flavors daily. Being a juvenile diabetic, have had great success keeping my blood sugars down through eliminating sugars, white flours, cornstarch, and sauces which contain these ever-prevalent ingredients in most Asian cuisines. I can tell you how much sugars/ carbohydrates they have by how much my blood sugar rises -- it's astronomical -- after a typical meal consuming only a quarter of the rice, always brown rice....the sauces are loaded, as are the noodle/rice/dumpling-free soups, teriyakis, etc!
Could someone well-versed in Mandarin, Thai, Vietnamese kindly translate this: " Please, no sauces with sugar, cornstarch, flour. And less oil. Salt and abundant seasonings are welcome. Thank you."
When I order 'no sugar/ no cornstarch' in trusted NYC neighborhood restaurants, I get a sad-looking plate of chicken/ beef/ tofu with vegetables steamed or barely sauteed with a drop of soy sauce, if lucky. Would love to see some garlic, ginger, orange peel, splenda, a robust array of seasonings, and, oh, a soy-based carb-free thickener to meld all the flavors..... Sometimes have even brought in my own shirataki tofu noodles, which they've covertly accepted.
Make sure your first line is "I am a diabetic" - you'll be more likely to get an honest response about whether or not it's possible to modify a dish to your specifications if they know you have a disease, and that you're not just someone on a low-carb diet.
Honestly, your best chance at getting something delicious will be if you cook it yourself. You may be lucky enough to find a cook who will embrace this challenge with open arms (and if you do, make sure you continue to patronize that place), but the truth is that most of the places you go to will give you the sad-looking plate of protein with steamed vegetables. A lot of sauces/stocks/side dishes are premade, and a lot of meats are marinated in cornstarch (at Chinese places, at least), and thus can not be modified... given the razor-thin margin that most of these restaurants operate on, it's extremely unlikely that they will stock Splenda and carb-free thickeners.
My daughter has a college roommate who is from Hong Kong, and I could send her a E-mil and ask for a translation. I'm sure Cynthia (her English name as I cannot pronounce her Mandarin name) could do it, but it might take a day or so.
I know that she is fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese.
I don't know if this is of any use, but maybe you can jot this down and show it to the servers when you order: "請不要用含有糖, 玉米粉 (生粉) 或麵粉的醬汁, 和盡量少油。鹽和其他香料則沒有問題, 請隨便使用。謝謝。" You might need to view this with a Traditional Chinese encoding.
I'm not a very fluent Mandarin speaker (I speak Cantonese) and it's hard to get the pronunciation right, but you may try this: "Qing bu yao yong han you tang, yu mi fen huo mian fen de jiang zhi, he jin liang shao you. Yan he ji ta xiang liao ze mei you wen ti, qing sui bian shi yong. Xie xie."
Hope this helps, and good luck in your quest for healthier Chinese food.
Thank you, everyone! And Kelli, would love to see the translation in Mandarin and Cantonese -- whenever she has time. Will carry the translations in as many languages as possible in my wallet (next to my Medic Alert card). Oh, FYI can also assure you that sugar alcohols so often found in 'low net-impact carb' foods do raise one's blood sugar considerably, almost as much as the equivalent level of slower-acting carbs in foods such as brown rice.
I would advise getting down in writing and showing it to the staff. Otherwise, you may mispronounce it beyond recognition. Usually, when you ask a Chinese cook to make the dish you want it, they will assume that you want a dish that is free of just about everything. Thus, you need to know what type of dish to order so that the cook will know what do do.
Unfortunately, if you don't know what to order, it is a "chicken and egg" problem. What type of Chinese regional food is served at your local restaurant?
Try this Kamembert:
Repeat after me: "Wo Yo Tong Nhew Bing"
That's a VERY VERY ROUGH ping-ying translation of "I have diabetes". It should be start and at least give your server a heads-up that certain things are off-limits for you even if you can't articulate them in Chinese.
The other things you want translated are a bit hard to come by, but "Tsaw Tong" literally means less sugar.
Thank you, but whenever I convey that I have diabetes, I get a sad-looking plate of steamed meat and vegetables devoid of any seasoning. Trying to convey a way to get flavorful food with a distinctly flavorful sauce, appropriately roasted or sauteed meats, with a wide assortment of vegetables, no rice, maybe with shirataki tofu noodles..... Seems some restaurants might venture to feature at least one dish like this, for a higher price for the time and add'l ingredients, for a while and see how it goes....
When you tell them you have a health condition, they will cook food designed for ill people to eat: steamed, bland food. This is very traditional for any type of condition or illness. Spicy or flavorful food are considered harmful to your body's internal balance.
The only ways to get around it is to get around this are to order the correct dishes or to give them specific instructions on how to cook it. As you've already figured out, this is not easy. If you are a frequent patron to your neighborhood Chinese restaurants consider talking with the manager/owner after the lunch rush. Tell him/her that you have some dietary restrictions and would like some foods with certain ingredients and flavoring (no plain, steamed vegetables and meats). Ask them if they can cook that for you in the future and how much advance notice they would need. Make sure you order enough to make it worthwhile for them. Best of luck.