Decoding Chinese Food Pt.1

Hi!!! It’s officially the New Year, well it’s been for about a week. School started last Tuesday and nothing’s been too busy. Last post, I wrote about my disappointing experience at Chow Kee Dim Sum and I realized that I made a few mistakes reading the menu.

This week, I’ll decode some of the most misinterpreted or mistranslated menu items,

1. 鲜 (xian) and 香 (xiang)

These terms roughly translate to unami and aromatic respectivitely. However, like most Chinese terms, one translation does not suffice. Most menus will actually leave these terms out of the translation, but here are some common uses:

鲜:describing the taste of fresh seafood, bright (when referring to sweets), well seasoned


香:fried or at least cooked in a lot of oil, pungent, savoury


2. 肉 or meat

Whenever 肉 or meat is used without the name of an animal before it ie 牛肉- cow meat (beef), it’s always pork. On menus, you will usually see items such as 回锅肉 (twice cooked meat) or 红烧肉 (red braised meat). Just know it’s always pork. This is usually not a big problem because translations usually clarify this; however, if you’re going to a local joint without English menus, this is good to know. Simple? well it gets more confusing. At dim sum places, some items will say 虾肉 (shrimp meat) or 鱼肉(fish meat). Do not be fooled, these items contain pork.

I hope everyone enjoyed this installment. I’ll be back next week with Pt. 2: Cooking methods and foods. Have a great week!!!!




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