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How to say "I'm allergic to peanuts" in Chinese

Das Ubergeek Jun 11, 2008 10:07 AM

The Chowhound Team split this very useful linguistic tangent from the L.A. board.
* * * * * * * * *

If you get to 888 by 10:30 or 10:45 there will be no line.


我花生,堅果敏感 -- aw doy faa sang, ging gwaw mun gum. [I am allergic to peanuts and nuts.]

  1. d
    Diana Jun 11, 2008 10:56 AM

    Thanks! You are my savior! Hooray!

    aww doi fah sang ginh moon gun? Is that the correct pronunciation?

    15 Replies
    1. re: Diana
      Das Ubergeek Jun 11, 2008 01:25 PM

      It's got tones in it, so it's pretty hopeless to try and explain how to actually say it, but "aww doy fah sahng ghing gwaww munn gumm?" is closer.

      1. re: Das Ubergeek
        ipsedixit Jun 11, 2008 01:50 PM


        What dialect is this? Cantonese? It's definitley not Mandarin. It doesn't sound like anything I'm familiar with ... maybe it has something to do with the inflection ...

        1. re: ipsedixit
          Das Ubergeek Jun 11, 2008 02:37 PM

          Canto. With HK inflection.

      2. re: Diana
        PeterL Jun 11, 2008 02:22 PM

        You should print this out on a card and show it. If it's a health related issue you shouldn't rely on your pronounciation.

        1. re: Diana
          PeterL Jun 11, 2008 02:24 PM

          Also what Ubergeek says can also mean I am sensitive to peanuts, not necessarily allergic to peanuts. It may not convey the urgency you want.

          1. re: PeterL
            Das Ubergeek Jun 11, 2008 03:10 PM

            You could also say:

            aw mm ho ji sik faa sang, ging gwaw.

            Mandarin, for ipsedixit: 我不可以吃花生,堅果 (wo bu ke yi chi hua sheng, jian guo)

            English, for everyone else: I cannot eat peanuts and nuts.

            1. re: PeterL
              Das Ubergeek Jun 11, 2008 03:18 PM

              This disappeared from the thread... you can also say "I cannot eat peanuts and nuts":

              Mandarin: 我不可以吃花生,堅果 (wo bu ke yi chi hua sheng, jian guo)
              Cantonese: 我唔可以食花生,堅果 (aw mm ho ji sik faa sang, ging gwaw)

              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                ipsedixit Jun 11, 2008 03:41 PM

                Might also want to throw in a "ming gan" ... which literally means "allergy"

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  cecilia Jun 11, 2008 04:14 PM

                  "ming gan" is just the mandarin version of "mun gum". It can mean sensitive or allergic depending on the context.

                  1. re: cecilia
                    ipsedixit Jun 11, 2008 04:27 PM

                    Yes, I realize that.

                    I was just suggesting that adding "ming gan" to what Das has for "I cannot eat peanuts and nuts" would add extra oomph to the message of peanut allergy.

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      Blueicus Jun 11, 2008 06:25 PM

                      For sure. Adding "mun gum" will allow them to sort of try to isolate the food from potentially touching peanuts and maybe prevent them from using peanut oil.

            2. re: Diana
              raytamsgv Jun 11, 2008 05:40 PM

              If you don't know how to pronounce Cantonese, I wouldn't even try to pronounce it. I speak Cantonese; with just a few incorrect tones, you can mangle that sentence beyond recognition. Also, it is possible that not all the staff members speak standard Cantonese. The best bet would be to print out the characters on a card and show it to the wait staff.

              Here is link that contains more phrases for you:

              1. re: raytamsgv
                Das Ubergeek Jun 11, 2008 07:14 PM

                Good find, raytamsgv. The "dak" in 我唔食得花生 (fourth character in the preceding "aw mm sik dak faa sang") lends a bit more urgency to the statement about not eating peanuts. (My original sentence literally said "I am not able to eat peanuts".

                And agree -- don't try to pronounce Cantonese if you are starting from scratch. Just show to the cart.

                And to the OP (diana) -- at 888, the cart ladies speak English pretty well.

                1. re: raytamsgv
                  chowser Jun 12, 2008 12:15 PM

                  I agree--even when words are carefully pronounced to non-speakers, they often can't get it right.. I would never trust a deadly allergy to phonetics. Print it out in big words and carry it with you.

                  1. re: chowser
                    Diana Jun 12, 2008 12:27 PM

                    I just printed out two copies!

              2. d
                Diana Jun 12, 2008 07:07 AM

                This is all so cool! Thanks, everyone. I guess I ahve to print out the characters!

                1. s
                  soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 07:10 AM

                  how would you say "i am allergic to shellfish" (shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab, clams, oysters)????

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten
                    ipsedixit Jun 12, 2008 09:04 AM


                    I'm not sure there is a good way to say "shellfish" in Chinese (either Cantonese or Mandarin). There very well might be a scientific term, but then most waiters wouldn't know the scientific term from you just saying "shellfish".

                    That said, a shellfish allergy is very much a different issue than peanut allergy, right? With shellfish, you could simply not order menu items with shrimp, lobster, etc. because it's obvious from just looking at the menu description whether shellfish is part of the dish.

                    With peanuts, it's not so obvious. Peanut oil, peanut flour, etc. are not main ingredients like shellfish ... so it's much more important to communicate this allegery.

                    Long response short ... just don't order anything with shellfish.

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 09:25 AM

                      oyster sauce, shrimp stock, seafood traces are not obvious or main ingredients that have made my husband very, very, very sick when he's ordered pretty benign-looking chicken dishes. in some places, whole fish dishes are cool, and in some, the "special house sauce" can contain seafood. since it makes sense for him to play it safe, it means i don't get to eat the food i want to, either! :) and i think everyone has had the pork and shrimp wonton subbed for the plain pork one at some point, hey, i'm sure 99/100 times nobody has to go to the hospital. . .

                      if there was a way to say "i am allergic to ---", it would be great-- i'd print a card that said "i am allergic to lobster, i am allergic to shrimp, i am allergic to oysters and oyster sauce. . ."

                      1. re: soupkitten
                        ipsedixit Jun 12, 2008 09:41 AM

                        Ok, try this ...

                        "Wo boo nung tzee ___" = I cannot eat __

                        "Shrimp" = "sha" or "sha rung"

                        "Lobster" = "loong sha"

                        "Crab" = "pong shei"

                        "Scallops" = "dai tze"

                        "Oyster" = "gan bei"

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 09:47 AM

                          awesome! i'm practicing right now! is there a term for "oyster sauce"?

                          1. re: soupkitten
                            ipsedixit Jun 12, 2008 09:49 AM

                            There's different variations depending on the dish, but try this:

                            "how yo" = oyster sauce

                            So, for example, "how yo gai lan" would be Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 10:18 AM

                              thanks for taking the time to tutor me, Ipsedixit, you've helped make my husband's dining experiences less fraught with peril--and my dining experiences less fraught with that same daggone kung pao chicken *again,* because we know for sure it won't make him sick! :)

                            2. re: soupkitten
                              raytamsgv Jun 12, 2008 01:33 PM

                              Please note that ipsedixit's phonetic pronunciations are for Mandarin.

                              1. re: raytamsgv
                                soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 01:37 PM

                                yup i noted that. maybe i *should* get the characters and print out a card, like Diana did. hmm.

                            3. re: ipsedixit
                              Das Ubergeek Jun 12, 2008 01:47 PM

                              English: I cannot eat _______
                              Mandarin: 我不能吃 _______ (wo bu neng chi)
                              Cantonese: 我唔能夠吃 _______ (aw mm neng gaau sik)

                              Mandarin is first, then Cantonese.

                              海鮮 (hai xian / hoi sin) is seafood
                              蝦 (xia / haa) is shrimp
                              龍蝦 (long xia / leung haa) is lobster
                              螃蟹 (pang xie / haai) / is crab
                              乾貝 (gan bei / jiu tsieu) are actually dried scallops, used in XO sauce.
                              蠔 (hao / ho) is oyster, and 蠔油 (hao you / ho jaau) is oyster sauce
                              蛤 (ge / gaap) is clam
                              蟶 / 旺菜 (cheng / wong tsoi) gets used for both mussels and razor-clams

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 02:56 PM

                                D.U. --dh could not *believe* that you did this for us. he just kept looking at the sheet of paper i printed and exclaiming that he takes back everything bad he ever said about chowhounds, that he won't have to vomit for 12 hours straight anymore, and said to tell you thank you :-)

                                without any doubt, you have his and my eternal gratitude!

                                my last question, re: "海鮮 (hai xian / hoi sin) is seafood"-- does "seafood" in this case mean finned fish, eel, and squid as well? (he can eat these, so if it *does* mean every fishy-type thing, i will take it off the copy we'll take to restaurants! thanks so much again.

                                1. re: soupkitten
                                  ipsedixit Jun 12, 2008 03:03 PM

                                  Yes, "seafood" in this instance means the whole panoply of ocean (and lake) bound critters ... even things like abalone, geoduck, sea cucumbers etc.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 03:07 PM

                                    gotcha. thank you both for all of the wonderful help. i'm sure that other people will also find this info and use it to prevent serious allergy mishaps in restaurants everywhere. thank you thank you thank you.

                                  2. re: soupkitten
                                    Das Ubergeek Jun 12, 2008 03:22 PM

                                    Glad to help if it means your husband gets to eat better.

                                    English: I can eat _______
                                    Mandarin: 我能吃 _______ (wo neng chi)
                                    Cantonese: 我能夠吃 _______ (aw neng gaau sik)

                                    Fish: 魚 (yu / jieu)
                                    Eel: 鰻魚 (man yu / maan jieu)
                                    Squid: 魷魚 (you yu / jaau jieu)

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                      soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 03:32 PM

                                      D.U. you are a prince among chowhounds-- thanks to you and Ipsedixit, and Diana for allowing me to totally hijack the original thread. cheers. :)

                          2. re: soupkitten
                            judybird Jun 12, 2008 04:00 PM

                            A few years ago, we travelled to China with some friends, one of whom has a serious shellfish allergy. She asked a Chinese-speaking coworker for help, and the woman wrote out a card saying, essentially, "I am allergic to shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab, clams, oysters and similar things. If I eat them, I could die".

                            My friend showed that to the waiters everywhere we went. They all responded with gasps, often called over another waiter or the manager, and took very, very good care of her. It sounded kind of dramatic to us, but it sure got peoples' attention!

                            1. re: judybird
                              Das Ubergeek Jun 12, 2008 04:12 PM

                              我不能吃蝦,龍蝦,貝,乾貝,XO油, 螃蟹,蛤,蠔, 等。 如果我吃這項,我可以死去! 請您小心。

                              I cannot eat shrimp, lobster, scallop, dried scallop, XO sauce, crab, clams, oysters, etc. If I eat them, I may die! Please be careful.

                              (I'm not currently exactly sober, so I may have @$#%ed this up -- someone else please edit as you see fit.)

                          3. k
                            k_d Jun 14, 2008 09:06 AM

                            Uber .. wouldn't it be wise to add 花生油 to the nut/peanut allergy list? I am not sure all restaurants would think immediately of their cooking oil as being "nutty."

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: k_d
                              Das Ubergeek Jun 14, 2008 03:34 PM

                              True... if peanut oil is a problem, then "faa sang jaau" (Cantonese) or "hua sheng you" (Mandarin) is a good thing to add.

                            2. d
                              Diana Jun 16, 2008 09:56 AM

                              I went with it printed it out and proudly showed my sign. I got a confused look in return. Finally they found someone who spoke enough English to tell me something was wrong. Once he understood what I was trying to get across with my sign, he wrote out something different, and then showed it to all the cart ladies, who took good care of me.

                              So, somehow, that's a little off.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Diana
                                raytamsgv Jun 16, 2008 12:47 PM

                                Which sign did you finally print out?

                                1. re: raytamsgv
                                  Diana Jun 17, 2008 06:35 AM

                                  the first one on the thread

                                  1. re: Diana
                                    Blueicus Jun 17, 2008 06:44 AM

                                    The first statement is missing a character (between the first and second words) so the first three characters literally say "I Peanut"

                                2. re: Diana
                                  raytamsgv Jun 19, 2008 04:36 PM

                                  Is there any way to scan and post the sign that you finally got?

                                3. Kajikit Jun 19, 2008 09:54 AM

                                  DH is deathly allergic to seafood... I love Chinese food, but the one time we bought takeout from a local dimsum place I interrogated them about the safety of their food (yes, she did speak English and she assured me that I was only buying pork dumplings). We brought it home, and I bit into one of the 'pork' dumplings only to find a large shrimp embedded in the center. After another incident where DH found a shrimp in the first bits of his 'pork' eggroll, I gave up Asian food entirely. It's just too dangerous, and I don't think an 'allergy card' would help since the cross-contamination is accidental.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Kajikit
                                    raytamsgv Jun 19, 2008 04:35 PM

                                    I don't believe it was cross-contamination. Some pork dumplings and pork egg rolls have shrimp in them by design. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid the problem is to know firsthand how the dish is made, which can be difficult for people who don't speak Chinese or understand Chinese cooking.

                                    In general, avoid things will fillings, such as dumplings or rolls. Even so, there are still certain sauces to avoid.

                                    1. re: raytamsgv
                                      Blueicus Jun 19, 2008 07:57 PM

                                      I agree with ray and say that it most likely wasn't cross contamination and was server/owner ignorance (I don't know what's worse). Many elements of cantonese cuisine combine pork and shrimp to give a special flavour and texture.

                                      1. re: Blueicus
                                        ipsedixit Jun 20, 2008 09:02 AM

                                        To add to what raytamsgv and Blueicus have said ...

                                        I think generally Chinese restaurants and servers just don't really give a damn about food allergies that their customers might have.

                                        If you have a food allergy, I would generally be very very cautious at Chinese restaurants and order and eat at your own risk.

                                        1. re: Blueicus
                                          raytamsgv Jun 20, 2008 11:30 AM

                                          When a dish doesn't taste right, the first instinct of most Cantonese cooks is to add some seafood.

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