HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
What's your latest food project? Get great advice
TELL US

Chinatown HELPFUL TERMS OF FOOD (english/pinyin/chinese)

jonkyo Feb 14, 2012 07:50 PM

I just thought I would post this separately. It is copied and pasted from a reply I wrote for my Lao San 老三 review (26 East Braodway Fuzhou Style Restaurant) along with some cut and paste from the review itself.

SOME HELPFUL TERMS OF FOOD IN CHINESE; simple chinese / complex chinese (complex is mostly often used on Chinatown menus)

ORDER DRINKS FIRST:

BEER PIJIU 啤酒
BUDWISER BAIWEI 百威(啤酒)
QINGDAO 青岛
FRENCH WINE: FAGUOHONGJIU 法国红酒
CHINESE WHITE WINE: BAIJIU 白酒
TEA CHA 茶
SODA: KELE 可乐
COFFEE: KEFEI 咖啡

FLAVORS:

SOUR suan 酸

BITTER ku 苦 such as BITTER GOURD kugua 苦瓜 GUA: 瓜 is melon

SWEET TIAN 甜 sweet taste tiantiande 甜甜的

SALTY XIAN 咸 (complex: 鹹)salty xianxiande 咸咸的 (鹹鹹的)

TOO SALTY: TAI XIANDE 太咸的

PEPPER: HUJIAO 胡椒

SALT: YAN 盐 / 鹽

SUGAR TANG 糖

KATCHUP FANQIEJIANG 番茄酱

***************************FOOD BASICS *******************:

MEAT: ROU 肉

VEGETABLE: CAI 菜

TOMATO FANQIE 番茄

CABBAGE BAICAI 白菜

POTATO MALINGSHU 马铃薯

EGGPLANT QIEZI 茄子

FISH: YU 鱼

SEAFOOD; HAIXIAN 海鲜

RICE: MIFAN 米饭 WHITE RICE: BAIMI FAN 白米饭

BROWN RICE CAOMI 糙米

BOILED DUMPLINGS: SHUI JIAO 水饺; FRIED DUMPLINGS GUOTIE 锅贴

STEAMED DUMPLINGS ZHENGJIAO 蒸饺

BREAD MIANBAO 面包

MILK NAI 奶 COW MILK NIUNAI 牛奶

**************PREPARATIONS********************************

FRIED: CHAO 炒

DEEP FRIED: ZHA 炸

BRAISED: SHAO 烧、

BARBACUE: SHAOKAO 烧烤

STICKS OF BARBACUED MEAT OR VEGETABLE: CHUAN 串

EX: beef on stick 牛肉串 niurouchuan

BOILED: ZHU 煮

RAW: SHENG DE 生的

***************************BASE ITEMS ON THE MENU***********************:

Shrimp is 'XIA' 虾 / 蝦

Lobster is 'LONG XIA' 龙虾 / 龍蝦

Oyster Sauce 'HAO YOU' 蚝油 / 蠔油

Oyster 'HAO' 蚝 / 蠔

Squid: youyu 鱿鱼

Pig Liver: zhugan 猪肝

Pig Kidney: zhuyao 猪腰

Pig Intestine: zhuchang 猪肠 da chang 大肠

clam: bang 蚌 or ge 蛤

***************************MEAT ROU 肉 APPEARS AFTER ANIMAL NAME COW MEAT: NIUROU 牛肉***************

Beef: nuirou 牛肉

Pork: zhurou 猪肉

Rabbit TU ROU 兔肉

GOAT: YANGROU 羊肉

CHICKEN: JI 鸡肉

*****************TOFU豆腐 Tofu dishes 'doufu' 豆腐

鱼 Fish dishes 'yu' 鱼

鱿鱼 Squid 'youyu' 鱿鱼

蚌 Clam bang 蚌 or ge 蛤

SEAFOOD: HAI XIAN 海鲜

SOUP: TANG 汤

HOT POT: HUOGUO 火锅

FROM 88 DIVISION STREET REACH HOUSE REVIEW:

蛤蜊 (ge-li)clam

Rabbit is not properly translated so look for the roman letters TU MI YAN 兔米面 (tumimian): Rabbit with Rice Noodles $5.50.

Large Pig Intestine:

大肠 (da-chang) on the menu as Contry Style Bowels

啤酒鸭 '(Pi Jiu Ya) DUCK with BEER :

炒面 (chao mian) STIR FRIED NOODLES:

STIR FRIED NOODLES section 炒粉类 (chao fen lei),

and have representation of all from

米粉 (mi-fen) to

白粿 (bai-guo): soft white noodles, and the yellow Chinatown factory delivered fresh noodles that on the menu go by

切面 (qie-mian) but are termed Egg Noodles in English. They are yellow.

egg noodle 蛋面 (dan mian)

蛋 (dan) is egg

麵 (mian) is noodle: simplified: 面 (mian)

  1. Chemicalkinetics Aug 2, 2013 02:13 PM

    Alternatively, the golden rule: Money speaks.

    1. Tripeler Aug 2, 2013 06:23 AM

      Don't forget 白乾, (baigan?), a great Chinese liquor made from sorghum. Normally about 35% alcohol, fantastic with very garlicky pot stickers.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Tripeler
        j
        jonkyo Aug 2, 2013 02:18 PM

        白酒 is a favored drink of mine only in Mainland China. My Chinese friends would get gifts from people of expensive stuff from North China.

        我中國大陸的朋友總受到白酒的禮物。 常常那是黑龍江的白酒。

        白乾 I am sure I have had this. Your choice of food with such is quite different than mine, though 慢慢吃 to you.

        1. re: jonkyo
          Tripeler Aug 3, 2013 05:58 PM

          I have only had it in Japan, and it was popular (along with a few other Chinese liquors) at places that serve gyoza (餃子), which is why the good stuff is from Northern China. Anyway, there was a small company in Tokyo making it, and the company was bought out by Kirin, which shut production down and started importing the same liquors from China. They weren't nearly as good as the Japanese-made versions, but were a bit cheaper. So I don't have it much any more, but am sure that good stuff from Northern China is certainly worth looking for.

      2. m
        madeliner Jul 31, 2013 12:24 PM

        you can get anything in pinyin with the tones here http://chinese.yabla.com/chinese-engl...

        e.g. dumpling is jiǎo

        1. DarthEater Jul 20, 2013 05:16 AM

          Without the correct tones, it's easier if the person just say it in english. It annoys me when when people try to talk to me in chinese straight off the paper and expects me to guess what they're trying to say.

          7 Replies
          1. re: DarthEater
            Phil Ogelos Jul 20, 2013 06:34 AM

            "It annoys me when when people try to talk to me in Chinese straight off the paper and expects me to guess what they're trying to say."

            The annoyance works the other way, too, Darth -for Chinese ordering 'straight off the paper' in English; I suppose that equivalence calls for tolerance at dining establishments everywhere.

            1. re: Phil Ogelos
              DarthEater Jul 20, 2013 09:12 PM

              I truly mean no offense. I'm just trying to say the slightest change of tone can change the meaning entirely. In English, you can say "beef' in 7 different accents and everyone will understand what your trying to say.

              1. re: DarthEater
                j
                jonkyo Jul 31, 2013 11:57 AM

                Beef actually has more than one meaning in English.

                "Beef it up."

                "This is the beef of the issue."

                Once you see this, one can see that foods and their differing manifestations, can become metaphors.

                This is cultural. A Hindi or a person from continental Africa would not know this. But this example and others like it are present in English language learning material.

                Chinese has many metaphors regarding food. Most I have learned from the Chinese people I engaged with a regular basis.

              2. re: Phil Ogelos
                j
                jonkyo Jul 24, 2013 01:07 PM

                I only have problems when the Cantonses person has limited English and no Mandarin.

                It is not the younger folks, they can catch what I am saying, as they are perhaps here longing in life, and exposed to more Mandarin speakers. The older people grew up here, and speak mostly Cantonese, and some so little English, and no Mandarin.

                Like Hong Kong circa 1995, minus the English (or a bit of it) that was known to most. More like canton circa 1780.

                Hong Kong these days has become bilingual. That is in the Main business districts that are international.

                I recommend patience. I never get impatient with speakers who are trying their hardest, to be understood. If I were table waiting, even more patient.

                Some restaurants are not about that. Get them in get the food, and get the charge. Like Machine waiting.

                As for tonal designates for pronunciation, canton shares much with Taiwanese (hokklo) and south east asian languages in this regard. There are more tones, so to speak, many more.

                1. re: jonkyo
                  b
                  BuildingMyBento Aug 2, 2013 05:22 AM

                  Bilingual Cantonese and Mandarin? When I'm in HK, I use more Mandarin than English, but I'm not exactly wandering around the "usual" 'hoods either.

                  1. re: BuildingMyBento
                    j
                    jonkyo Aug 2, 2013 02:11 PM

                    Not much spoken Mandarin before the turnover, from my experience only. I did not do most of my visiting and extended stays until after the handover.

              3. re: DarthEater
                j
                jonkyo Jul 22, 2013 09:59 AM

                This is true. So, look up the characters and find the pinyin on line.

                I am lazy and do not include such as I type.

                otherwise, you'd have to hear me say it, or other native speakers. But Canton is different. They always are upset when I speak Mandarin, some are.

              4. f
                foodwhisperer Jul 18, 2013 04:49 PM

                Thanks. I like that kind of language help. Wish I could hear it though. I like Worcestshire sauce with some of my dim sum, but always have a hard time asking for it. Unless I can see a bottle and point. How to you say that in Chinese

                15 Replies
                1. re: foodwhisperer
                  j
                  jonkyo Jul 19, 2013 12:20 PM

                  you can say the following

                  你們知道一種從英國進口來的醬嗎。 那種醬是放在牛排上的。有一點黑黑的咖啡色。你知道嗎。

                  I did not add the flavor but you could say

                  不是甜的不是辣的但有一點酸酸的.

                  I am assuming from what I have seen that you have a good working knowledge of Mandarin.

                  to simplify skip 那種醬是放在牛排上的

                  you could say

                  英國的牛排醬...有嗎. ( yingguo de niupai jiang..you ma )

                  or 英國 (有一點黑黑咖啡色) 的牛排醬. That might do it.

                  Bring your own bottle as I would imagine that only places that specialize in steak have it, or the Guangzhou places around that are west of Bowery.

                  I am unable to pronounce Worcestshire properly. I have the same trouble with Worcester, Massachusetts.

                  Chat up an English bloke to find out that.

                  good luck.

                  進口(的) jinkou is import(ed)
                  出口(的) chukou is export(ed)
                  那種 nazhong that kind or use 一種 yizhong one kind of
                  醬 jiang you know, its sauce.

                  英國 is the country with 44 for it dialing code, as opposed to 1, the US. It is England. I am sure you know your countries in Mandarin. I was just having fun with English.

                  1. re: foodwhisperer
                    j
                    jonkyo Jul 19, 2013 12:25 PM

                    點心的餐應該有

                    The places that have dim sum should have (worcestshire sauce).

                    1. re: jonkyo
                      f
                      foodwhisperer Jul 19, 2013 08:13 PM

                      they all have worcestshire sauce, but no one knows the English name. Its good on har gow

                    2. re: foodwhisperer
                      s
                      SomeRandomIdiot Jul 19, 2013 12:54 PM

                      I'm gonna assume most of the waitstaff at a dim sum place will understand cantonese. I don't know the characters for it but it sounds roughly like "geep jup"

                      1. re: SomeRandomIdiot
                        j
                        jonkyo Jul 22, 2013 09:58 AM

                        They use the same characters basically, though even from the Mainland, here those characters are of complex form, the fan繁 ti 體 zi 字  or 繁體字.

                        That is opposed to 简体 (jianti), which reads like this: 簡體 in Taiwan; Hong Kong; Malaysia and the like.   

                        英國牛排醬 would do it. That is yingguo niupai jiang.

                        In Canton I have no clue.

                        Just like Kow Loon (place in HK) in Cantonese, is Jiu Long in Mandarin (9 dragon). Quite different.

                        But both read it as 九龍.

                        1. re: jonkyo
                          b
                          BuildingMyBento Jul 29, 2013 10:55 AM

                          You shouldn't say "and the like," because Singapore uses simplified characters.

                          1. re: BuildingMyBento
                            j
                            jonkyo Jul 31, 2013 11:51 AM

                            Oh, I did not know that.

                            Please forgive my ignorance about this detail regarding the Chinese language and its use in Singapore, and thank you for your enlightening information.

                            1. re: jonkyo
                              klyeoh Aug 2, 2013 04:40 PM

                              We can still understand both, so you're okay. I'm from the babyboomer generation, so I actually still prefer the more complex form myself.

                      2. re: foodwhisperer
                        j
                        jonkyo Jul 25, 2013 03:32 PM

                        This might be interest to you:

                        Title:

                        Chinese for Curious Foodies

                        "We all know there’s more to Chinese food than General Tsao’s Chicken and Sesame Beef, but where do you find it and how the heck do you order it?"

                        http://brooklynbrainery.com/courses/c...

                        1. re: foodwhisperer
                          d
                          DeppityDawg Aug 2, 2013 07:05 AM

                          There is a Chinese Wikipedia article about Worcestershire sauce:
                          http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-cn/%E8%BE%...

                          It gives the following possible translations:
                          辣酱油 làjiàngyóu "spicy soy sauce"
                          喼汁 gip1 dzap1 (this is Cantonese)
                          乌酢 wūcù (but maybe this is also Cantonese) "black vinegar"
                          辣醋酱油 làcùjiàngyóu "spicy vinegary soy sauce"
                          英国黑醋 yīngguóhēicù "English black vinegar"
                          伍斯特沙司 wǔsītèshāsī (phonetic)
                          伍斯特郡酱汁 wǔsītèjùnjiàngyóu "Worcester county soy sauce"

                          1. re: DeppityDawg
                            j
                            jonkyo Aug 2, 2013 02:09 PM

                            Just get a teacher or take classes.

                            i could not imagine just learning a language on the internet.

                            I tried this with Polish and others, for travel purposes, and it did not work. I was taught, not officially, when engaged with locals and followed their instructional speech to me.

                            1. re: jonkyo
                              d
                              DeppityDawg Aug 3, 2013 02:09 AM

                              Are you reacting to my message? I only listed some ways of translating "Worcestershire sauce" (which was foodwhisperer's specific question in this sub-thread). I have never heard any of them used in real life, but in a restaurant situation, I'm pretty sure you will eventually get what you want if you mix and match some of these translations.

                              I wasn't saying anything about learning Chinese on the Internet.

                              1. re: DeppityDawg
                                s
                                SomeRandomIdiot Aug 3, 2013 11:31 AM

                                I mentioned earlier in the thread that you should be able to use the cantonese version at any cantonese place. sounds roughly like "geep jup" (rhymes jeep and rhymes with yup). there isn't anything else that i can think of that sounds similiar so it shouldn't make a difference even if you mangle it.

                                1. re: SomeRandomIdiot
                                  d
                                  DeppityDawg Aug 3, 2013 12:01 PM

                                  Yes, sorry, I should have referred to your message in my comment on the second item in the list of translations: 喼汁 gip1 dzap1. I don't know Cantonese at all, so that one was totally unfamiliar to me.

                                2. re: DeppityDawg
                                  j
                                  jonkyo Aug 3, 2013 12:45 PM

                                  Sorry, I was simply commenting on a secondary theme of this thread, that is not stated but comes through in those desiring to familiarize themselves more broadly with spoken Chinese in regards to food.

                                  I did post a class taught by a woman, earlier, that is just on this very subject, ie: Chinese language and food.

                                  I think that is great for your input here.

                                  I posted this earlier in the thread. Anyway, all this dialogue is great with many suggestions.

                                  This would be fun for a lot of people I think:

                                  Title: Chinese for Curious Foodies
                                  http://brooklynbrainery.com/courses/c...

                                  I could use help with Arabic and Spanish, especially Spanish, as some places no english.

                          2. alkonost Jul 16, 2013 12:01 PM

                            This is great! thanks so much. I have a question, how would one say "too sweet"?

                            would that be "tai tiantiande"? Or "tai tian?" Or???

                            this would be helpful since I'm in Dallas and they make everything too sweet there's no seasoning balance to speak of.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: alkonost
                              scoopG Jul 16, 2013 12:18 PM

                              tài tián de

                              太甜的 tài tián de means" too sweet."

                              1. re: scoopG
                                alkonost Jul 16, 2013 01:06 PM

                                Thanks Scoop!

                              2. re: alkonost
                                j
                                jonkyo Jul 17, 2013 01:58 PM

                                太 tai is extreme, most etc.

                                used with tired, and wife.

                                Wife is 太太, mostly in Taiwan.

                                Has nothing to do with extreme, or maybe it does. Depends on who is one's wife...how pretty....or .....extreme.

                                tai xian de is too salty: 太鹹的

                                But salty as flavor is 鹹 xian

                                Salt itself is 鹽 yan.

                              3. The Professor Feb 14, 2012 08:38 PM

                                Brilliant!
                                This is a keeper....Thanks, jonkyo!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: The Professor
                                  j
                                  jonkyo Feb 14, 2012 08:44 PM

                                  Your welcome. Lots of fun. Glad its helpful.

                                  1. re: jonkyo
                                    erica Jul 14, 2013 10:06 AM

                                    Very helpful..thank you, belatedly, for compiling this helpful list.

                                    1. re: erica
                                      j
                                      jonkyo Jul 15, 2013 10:17 AM

                                      It was my pleasure. Thank you for finding it useful.

                                Show Hidden Posts