Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fried Enema at a Restaurant in Beijing

Yesterday, I saw a response to this tweet:

In my travels across China, I usually don't see many menu mistranslations. One reason for this is simple: many restaurants in the locations I visit don't even have a non-Chinese language menu. However, in cities such as Beijing there are many more English language menus available, probably in no small part due to its large number of foreign residents and visitors (there can be other motivating factors though).

Nonetheless, mistranslations in Chinese menus are not surprising to me, and usually I would not give them a lot of attention. However, recently in Beijing I saw a menu deserving a photo. So I was able to add to the responses to Chao's tweet with the following example:

Chinese menu with 'fried enema', 'fried pseudosciaena polyactis', and 'Bean. Focus ring each set'

Mmm... fried enema. And it even comes with a garnish.

I am not the first to have noted this exceptional dish. And for those not familiar with Chinese (or English), the translation has already been explained by Victor Mair on the Language Log:
The Chinese name of the dish in question is zhá guànchang 炸灌腸, which is a kind of sausage made of wheat flour stuffed into hog casings and fried. The last two characters, pronounced guàncháng, also have a completely different meaning, viz., "enema" or "give an enema" (literally, "to irrigate the intestine").

This is a good example of the spoken language being clearer than the written language — at least when one is relying on not-very-good machine translation.

Google Translate renders 炸灌腸 correctly as "fried sausage".
Mair apparently discounted the possibility that restaurants do indeed fry up enemas and serve them to customers. Seems reasonable to me.

Despite being tempted by the fried enema, I ended up choosing another dish. The sauce somewhat reminded me of a Chinese-style sweet and sour microwavable meal from my youth. It was a bit too sweet for my tastes.

So if I visit the restaurant again I will try the fried enema... and maybe the pseuodosciaena polyactis too.

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