Monday, April 9, 2007

how to translation chinese menu

When I browse some webs on China, I read a very interesting argument about how to translate the Chinese menu into English, translate the menu directly following its Chinese name, or elucidate the ingredients.

Foreign visitors might misunderstand what the dish is if translating directly; if just interpreting the ingredients, the derivation and legend of the dish would be omitted. Take “pearl, emerald and white jade soup” as an example. It is not really made from pearl, emerald and white jade, but from meatball, tofu, and spinach. I guess some of you might be astonished by this name, and ask why we call the soup in that way. There is a legend of the soup. The emperor lost his way when he hunted. He felt hungry and exhausted. At this point, a kindly old woman took the king to her house and cooked for him. The old woman was poor, but she did her best to serve the king. What she cooked for the king was the meatball, tofu, and spinach soup and she called it pearl, emerald and white jade soup. The king thought the soup was the most delicious food he had ever eaten, and send a lot of treasure to the old woman. After coming back his palace, he asked his chefs to do the soup for him, but he was unsatisfied what they did because he thought their tastes were less appetizing than the old woman did. Therefore, he required all the chefs to cook the soup, and if he was content with what chef did, the chef would be award the title “the best chef in the kingdom”. From then on every chef exerted his best to do the soup and “pearl, emerald and white jade soup” became very famous dish.

If you know the story “pearl, emerald and white jade soup” is the proper name, but if not, you might think the name of the soup is weird, or you might think the restaurant cheats you. Hence, the translation of the menu should include their direct translation, ingredients and the explanation of the names if they need. If illustration with pictures, it would be better to know what the dish is.