Tag: food


15

Jun 2017

Kevin Durant Slam Dunks a Bowl of Noodles

I’ve been noticing this mural at a noodle restaurant in Shanghai for several years at least, I think. But the Warriors’ most recent win and Kevin Durant’s performance in particular make me think I should share this odd bit of wall art:

Kevin Durant Slam Dunks a Bowl of Beef Noodles


01

Jun 2017

Hey What?

I saw this tea place in the Jing’an area and felt like “Hey Tea” was sort of an odd name:

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True, odd English names aren’t so odd in China, I know. But then I realized that this other shop was just around the corner:

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Yeah, the original “Hey Jude” pun doesn’t exactly carry over for any random drink.

(More Beatles puns here. This post is for Pete!)


UPDATE: Tom in the comments points out that Hey Tea is a big chain from Guangdong, so it looks like my theory is off.


13

Sep 2016

The only good mooncake is a MEAT mooncake

It’s almost that time of year again: China’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (or as the Chinese like to call it, “Chinese Thanksgiving,” without all the thanks giving and turkey). It’s that time of year when people eat a little snack called a mooncake.

Like many foreigners (and many modern Chinese), I am not fond of the mooncake (despite once participating in a mooncake-eating contest). Yes, I am aware there are many kinds. I have long since tried all the traditional kinds, such as 豆沙 (sweet bean paste) 莲蓉 (lotus seed paste), and 蛋黄 (egg yolk), as well as the fancy new kinds made with ice cream or Japanese mochi. Not a fan. But then I just recently had a freshly baked (not sweet) meat-filled mooncake, and I am a fan:

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Yes, it took me 16 years in China to discover a mooncake I liked. It wasn’t exactly top-priority. The filling is referred to as 鲜肉 (it’s pork).

So, if you don’t like mooncakes, I feel your pain. But this kind (fresh!) is actually decent. I hear that is the kind people line up all day to buy.


01

Sep 2015

McDonalds Getting its Pun on

I spotted a punny McDonalds ad in the subway yesterday that might not be obvious to a lot of learners:

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The ad presupposes knowledge of the word 充电宝, which is a pretty recent word, and isn’t in a lot of dictionaries yet. 充电 means “to recharge” (electricity, but sometimes metaphorically as well). means “treasure” and is also used in the common word for “baby” (宝宝), but here it just means “thing.” 充电器 already means “charger” (for electronics), but the difference here is that a 充电宝 is a battery that can be carried with you and used to recharge you smartphone. These portable chargers seem to be way more popular in China than the battery-extending cases (Mophie and the like) I’ve seen a number of Americans use.

chongdian-bao

OK, so back to the pun. It’s focused on the “bǎo” part of 充电宝 (portable charger). It uses the character , meaning “full”. It creates the sense that a meal at McDonalds is a “recharging fill” (not “full recharge”).

Anyway, you get the idea.


23

Jul 2015

Watermelon Man’s Secret

I was tempted to use a title like, “You think this guy is just selling watermelons, but you won’t believe what he does next!

Anyway, on my morning commute, I passed this dejected-looking vendor, eyes downcast, as he shirtlessly watched over his truckload of watermelons. He was staring at his scale, and I imagined he was thinking about how absurd it is that this electronic device determines his income.

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As I got closer, I saw what he was actually doing.

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Yeah, that’s an iPad. Watermelon guy was watching some kind of drama (but due to bad luck, the screen was black right when I snapped this shot).


15

Jul 2015

Steve Jobs Ice Cream in Shanghai

Passing by Chinese “Italian-style” ice cream shop “Iceason” with a friend yesterday, we were startled to see an ad featuring “3D printed” ice cream bars in the likeness of the late Steve Jobs:

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Steve Jobs Ice Cream

The surname “Jobs” is normally written in Chinese as “乔布斯,” or “Qiaobusi” in pinyin (a transliteration, where the characters are chosen for phonetic value only, and essentially have no meaning). For this ice cream bar, it’s written as “乔不死,” also “Qiaobusi” in pinyin, but with different characters so that it includes the phrase “not die” (不死).

The same shop also sells “3D printed” ice cream bars in the shape of the Apple watch and iPhone.


04

Nov 2014

Cooking Your Way to Vocabulary

Shrimp fried rice...

by pieceoflace photography, on Flickr

Brendan O’Kane writes on Quora in answer to the question, “What should I do in order to improve my Chinese vocabulary?“:

[…] Cooking shows are an absolutely awesome resource for studying any language, because:

  • They’re pretty focused in terms of spoken content. Sure, you get hosts who yammer on about how their grandmother used to make such-and-such a dish for holidays or whatever, but when you get right down to it, the core content — “this is a thing; this is how you make the thing” — is pretty predictable.
  • Most of the discussion involves objects that are onscreen — usually being handled or pointed at — and actions that are being performed for you. If your hypothetical host says “把整头大蒜掰开,用刀切去根部的硬结,放入碗中倒入清水,” you don’t even have to know all of the words: he’ll be picking up the 大蒜 and 掰开’ing it right in front of you, then 切去’ing the 硬结 at the 根部 using his 刀, etc.
  • At the end of it you’ll know how to cook a dish.
  • I like this idea, but I must admit I’ve never done it. There are a lot of highly-specific action verbs that might take years to master if you just learn them as you come across them, but cooking shows are one way to get exposed to a high number of them in a relatively short period of time.

    Anyone out there tried this for Chinese? What are the good Chinese cooking shows?


    21

    Jan 2014

    Call Girl vs. Cali Girl

    I saw this flyer in a Shanghai burger joint called CaliBurger. What headline do you see here?

    Cali Girl

    I literally had to read it three times before I could figure out that it doesn’t say “Vote for Call Girl of China.” It says, “Vote for Cali Girl of China.”

    Yikes. I guess typography matters! (The Chinese, “中国赛区加州女孩” is less ambiguous.)


    15

    Oct 2013

    We All Scream for Bling-qilin

    The Chinese word for “ice cream” is 冰淇淋 (bingqilin). [Somewhat annoyingly, it also has an alternate form: 冰激凌 (bingjiling), but we’re ignoring that one for the purposes of this pun.]

    So from “bīngqílín” (冰淇淋) we get this:

    bling淇淋

    Honestly, though, they could really be trying a little harder on the bling.

    Via friend and ex-co-worker Jason, who’s new doing cool things at FluentU from Taiwan.


    08

    Oct 2013

    The (Chinese) Alcohol for (Chinese) Alcoholics

    Here’s another one for the “I can’t believe they named the product that” file (see also “Cat Crap Coffee“). This one has more of a cultural differences angle, with a little bit of translation difficulty thrown in for good measure.

    There’s a brand of Chinese rice wine called 酒鬼酒. Here’s a picture of it:

    酒鬼酒

    in Chinese, while often translated as “wine,” more generally means “alcohol.” Traditionally, it’s some kind of grain alcohol, like 白酒 (Chinese “white wine“).

    A person who routinely drinks to excess is called a 酒鬼 in Chinese, which literally means “alcohol demon” or “alcohol devil” or “alcohol ghost,” depending on how you want to translate . It sounds pretty negative, but in fact, in Chinese culture this type of alcohol abuse is not nearly so stigmatized. Although the police forces of many regions in China have begun cracking down on drunk driving in recent years, alcoholism in China is not as closely linked in the public consciousness to vehicular manslaughter, domestic violence, child abuse, and the host of other evils as it often is in the west. In fact, regular heavy drinking is closely linked to some of China’s greatest poets, most famously 李白 (Li Bai).

    Here’s 李白 getting his drink on:

    Li Bai drinking

    So it’s more in the spirit of historical drunken poetry (as opposed to inebriated abusiveness) that this brand of Chinese rice wine is called 酒鬼酒.

    Translating the brand name into English is a new challenge in itself, though. If you simply translate 酒鬼 as “alcoholic” and as “alcohol,” you get “Alcoholic Alcohol,” which sounds like it means “Alcohol that Contains Alcohol,” which is just plain dumb. In fact, you can’t use the word “alcoholic” as a modifier at all for that reason, so if you don’t want to ditch the noun “alcoholic” altogether you have to say something like “Alcohol for Alcoholics,” which sounds like some kind of horrible demented “charity” to my American ears.

    So what else can you do? “Booze for Boozers” and “Wino Wine” are ridiculous. “Drunk Spirits”? I’m curious what a creative translator can come up with. (Pete? Brendan?)

    Anyway, 酒鬼酒 is a real company in China, and has its own Baidu Baike page (in Chinese, obviously), and is also listed on Wikipedia under “unflavored baijiu.”


    03

    Sep 2013

    What is your staple food?

    A while ago I was asked this question by Sinosplice reader Efraim Klamph:

    > I am teaching English in a somewhat rural location in Hunan. Sometimes students ask me, “What do Americans have as their main food?” I assume by “main food” they mean 主食, which Wenlin translates as “staple/principal food”. The concept of 主食 seems very clear in Chinese cuisine; particularly at the cafeteria where I eat, you get your veggies and meat all on top of a large serving of white rice. When I think of American or Western cuisine in general, I have a hard time thinking of what could serve as the 主食. Many of the students who ask me seem to be inclined that Westerners eat bread as their 主食. But think about the meals you eat when you’re back home; at least for me, it’s not always a bunch of vegetables and tofu served on a block of rice. So I say to the students that Westerners don’t really have a 主食, we sometimes eat bread, noodles and rice, but the concept of 主食 is rather different in Western cuisine. I mean, where’s the 主食 in the classic salad, hamburger and fries? Any thoughts on this?

    I think when the Chinese think “主食,” they normally think “one kind of food,” whereas westerners often think of this as “a class of foods,” AKA what society in the States currently refers to as “carbs.” So our 主食 can be pasta, or bread, or mashed potatoes, or rice, or any of a number of things. Maybe even the hamburger bun and the fries. It depends on the meal.

    It sounds a little ethnocentric to say that Western food has a rich smorgasbord of “主食” (carbs), whereas China has only rice. In reality, China does have quite a bit more variety than just rice.

    Typical Chinese Carbs (主食):

    – rice: 米饭
    – wheat noodles: 面条
    mantou (steamed buns): 馒头
    – glass noodles: 米线
    – various “cakes”:
    – various dumplings: 饺子

    Bread

    Photo by rprata

    Typical Western Carbs (主食):

    – bread: 面包
    – pasta: 意大利面
    – rice: 米饭
    – corn: 玉米
    – potatoes: 土豆

    Neither of these lists are exhaustive, but clearly there’s variation in the carbs consumed in both regions. The difference lies in the fact that certain regions of China stick much more closely to one type (e.g. rice every day in the south, noodles every day in the north), whereas more of a variety is typical in “the west.” More than once, I’ve had Chinese friends from the south tell me that they “just don’t feel right” if they don’t have at least some rice every day. It’s a seriously ingrained (ha!) eating habit.

    Obviously, it feels kind of ridiculous to try to sum up the eating habits of “the west” so simply, even though your Chinese friends may very well expect you to do just that. So you may have to explain that in Mexico more corn tortilla and rice is eaten as the 主食, in Poland it’s more potatoes, in Turkey it’s various types of bread, etc.

    But if you’re in China for very long studying Chinese and communicating with locals, sooner or later you’re going to have the 主食 discussion. Most Chinese have heard their whole lives that western food is very uniform and boring compared to the rich culinary tapestry that is Chinese food, so you can have a little go at shattering 主食 preconceptions with this one. (Good luck!)


    23

    May 2013

    Eating Insects and Animals in China

    I recently read the article Five reasons we should all be eating insects.

    (I think I would totally eat insects if any of them were as delicious as shrimp, the grasshoppers of the ocean. Alas, I’ve tried eating various types of bugs in China, and they’re just not that tasty. Or… maybe they take quite a bit of getting used to?)

    Anyway, reading the article, two China-related thoughts jumped out at me:

    1. China should be eating more insects

    With this massive population and the multitude of food safety issues, it makes sense, right? And look at the abundance of edible insects in China (especially compared to the U.S.)!

    edible-insect-species

    2. What would China’s “percentage of animal edible” figures be?

    efficiencies-of-production

    I know that the U.S. and China have very different thoughts on “percentage of animal edible” for all kinds of animals, including poultry, pork, beef, and lamb. So which numbers are these, and what are the differences between the numbers of the U.S. and China?

    The Chinese have never been squeamish eaters, and as long as the cooking methods themselves were Chinese, I can imagine a China where people eat insects in larger quantities.


    29

    Nov 2012

    Japanese Fortune Cookies in China

    As most of us in China know, fortune cookies are not a Chinese thing. They’re an American thing. ChinesePod just recently did a lesson on American Chinese Food, and user he2xu4 linked to this TED talk which gives more detail on the issue: Jennifer 8. Lee hunts for General Tso. (ChinesePod also once did a lesson on the fact that you can’t get fortune cookies in China.)

    The thing is, it looks like now you can get fortune cookies in China. I took this photo in my local Carrefour supermarket:

    Chinese Fortune Cookies!

    OK, so it was in the “imported foods” section (they seem to be from Japan), but the packaging is in simplified Chinese. They come in two flavors: “cream” and “chocolate.” It says on the package: 装密语签语饼干, which means something like “Secret-containing Fortune Cookies.”

    Probably the best thing about these fortune cookies, though, is that they feature Pac-Man. The Japanese may have had the invention of fortune cookies stolen by the Chinese in the United States, but at least as they introduce fortune cookies to mainland China they’re sneaking Japan’s home-grown video game icon into the mix!


    13

    Nov 2012

    Avoiding Meat in China (video)

    Annie and the Shanghai Veggie Club have created a new video alerting vegetarians to some of the challenges you’ll face trying to eat vegetarian in China. It includes the language you’ll need to ask for what you really want:

    (Yes, I know, for a vegan-friendly club, you’d expect a video with less cheese!)

    The video is on YouTube, Youku, and Tudou.


    04

    Oct 2012

    Diaoyu Islands with Cake and Murakami

    This is an “apolitical” blog, so I won’t say much. But I was highly amused to see this cake for sale in Chengdu while I was there over the holiday:

    "Nationalist" cake

    One of my favorite authors is the Japanese master of magical realism, Haruki Murakami (村上春树 in Chinese), and I liked what he had to say on the issue:

    > “When a territorial issue ceases to be a practical matter and enters the realm of ‘national emotions’, it creates a dangerous situation with no exit.

    > “It is like cheap liquor. Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical.

    > “It makes you speak loudly and act rudely… But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning.

    > “We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage,” he wrote.

    Quote via China Digital Times.


    28

    Sep 2012

    Morphing Mooncake Madness

    As Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (中秋节) approaches (this year it’s September 30th), there is a lot of mooncake buying going on in Shanghai. It’s still a tradition to buy mooncakes (月饼), and although some people like them, a lot of the mooncake purchases are for clients, employees, etc. But exactly what the mooncakes are is changing quite a bit, and some of the new forms (like Haagen Dazs’s) have a bit more hope of appealing to younger palates. The traditional recipes are getting cast by the wayside more and more, it seems, as modern corporations muscle in on the holiday market.

    Over the past month, I’ve taken various snapshots of the current state of mooncake commercialism.

    Just to be clear, we can see the type of traditional mooncake that young Chinese people don’t like much anymore in this Christine ad:

    Mooncake Madness

    Mooncake Madness

    The demand is still fairly strong, and there have been mooncake lines going around Shanghai’s Jing’an Temple for at least a month. But you’ll notice that most of the people buying them are middle-aged or older.

    Mooncake Madness

    Mooncake Madness

    Mooncake Madness

    Here’s a Hong Kong mooncake trying to do a more modern take:

    Hong Kong Moon Cakes

    Haagen Dazs seems to be championing the idea, “if people are going to keep buying mooncakes, let’s give them tasty, pricey alternatives.” And it’s the most visible “traditional mooncake alternative” this year:

    Mooncake Madness

    Mooncake Madness

    I’m really expecting traditional mooncakes to become something of a rarity over the next 20 years.


    25

    Jun 2012

    Dueling Flavors

    A friend of a friend recently opened a restaurant in Shanghai called 斗味.

    斗味

    That’s as in 斗争 (struggle) or 决斗 (duel), and as in 味道 (scent, taste) or 口味 (flavor).

    After dinner the other night, a friend was jokingly telling me that the name could be read 二十味 or 二十口未(口味). Ah, characterplay is always welcome… This particular example reminded me of Lin Danda (a timeless classic in character ambiguity).

    斗味 is pretty good, and has very reasonable lunch specials, if you live way out on the west side of Shanghai. (It has a Dianping page, but is too new to have any reviews, apparently.)


    Related: 味儿大


    23

    Mar 2012

    Ramen by Infographic

    I was introduced to this ramen infographic recently by the creator.

    Ramen (ラーメン) is actually Japanese, but it has (somewhat unclear) historical connections to Chinese noodles, which could possibly be either lamian (拉面) or lo mein (撈麵 / 捞面).

    We Love Ramen Infographic
    Created by: HackCollege.com


    22

    Nov 2011

    Shanghai Thanksgiving Dilemma

    Shanghai has changed quite a bit since I last blogged about Thanksgiving dinner in Shanghai in 2005. And the Thanksgiving dinner buffet business is booming. Even the Mexican restaurants are doing Thanksgiving dinner spreads. Here are some of the listings:

    Thanksgiving turkey (LOC)

    The Big List: Thanksgiving Dinners (SmartShanghai)
    2011 Thanksgiving Dinners – Shanghai (Shanghai TALK)
    Thanksgiving 2011 (Fields)

    In 2005 I called “reasonable prices” around 150 RMB per person. Now it’s difficult to find T-Day dinner deals for less than 300 RMB per person, and many are around 5-600 RMB. Kinda makes you want to stay home and be thankful you don’t have to participate in the consumption orgy.

    But what if you want to have an American-style Thanksgiving at home in Shanghai? It’s possible, but also not cheap. The biggest problem is that if you want to buy turkey, you have to buy a whole bird. I don’t quite understand this. Why can’t the birds be carved up and sold in pieces? Most Chinese people aren’t crazy about turkey, but would probably buy some to try out if it could be purchased in moderation. As for me, I’d like some turkey on Thanksgiving Day, but I’ll be staying in this year, and I’m certainly not capable of taking down a whole turkey.

    Suggestions welcome!


    08

    Nov 2011

    Units of Beer

    This topic came up in an AllSet Learning client’s lessons recently, and I’m certainly a proponent of 啤酒 education, so I thought I’d share this useful info on Sinosplice:

    Units of Beer

    Advertisement For "Alberta's Pride" Beer

    – 1 drop = 一滴
    – 1 glass/cup = 一杯
    – 1 can = 一听
    – 1 bottle = 一瓶
    – 1 6-pack = 半打
    – 1 12-pack = 一打 (same as “a dozen”)
    – 1 case = 一箱 (quantity may vary)
    – 1 keg = 一桶

    Tone Notes:

    1. Remember that for all uses of above, the tone change rule changes “yī” (1st tone) to “yì” (4th tone).
    2. 打 is normally read “dǎ,” but when it means “dozen,” it’s read “dá.”