A few months ago, Xinran asked me to translate a famous Italian chef’s new book and sell his book to China. I felt like the Chinese market is not ready for Italian home recipe books (difficult to get hold of cooking ingredients, cooking utensils, etc). However, a job I got recently required me to translate a restaurant menu into Chinese. As a result, I am intrigued by recipe/menu translation and decide to look more into this area.
Menu translation is a subtle balance between keeping the ‘flavour’ of the original text and making sense–assure the audience of what they are actually eating. Here are a few examples in my translation:
1. ‘Black pudding’. In the famous English breakfast. The translation could be ‘???’, or ‘???’, or ‘???’. I decided that ‘??’, for a Chinese person who doesn’t have English food often, can be rather confusing, as ?? in Chinese generally refer to creamy jelly. ‘??’, even though true and faithful to its name, can look a bit too much on the paper. So I used ‘???’ in the end, knowing that most Chinese people do eat things made of blood, and if told what is in this kind of ‘sausage’, it won’t be too off-putting.
2. ‘Tomato concassè’. It’s actually just ketchup. But if I simply say ketchup, the translation loses the fanciness of the French word. So my final version becomes ????? (French ketchup) ^_^ Another example would be ‘chutney’. If I explain what it is–???, it makes more sense, but loses the exotic and foreign flavour. So a combination of transliteration and translation solves the problem–???????
3. The choice of characters can be very important in menu translation. For example, ‘Halloumi’ is a kind of cheese, so in transliteration, ?(rice) shouldn’t be used for ‘mi’ sound, just to avoid confusion. Another one, ‘toffee crackling’, ??? definitely sounds better than ???.
More interesting examples will be added to this blog when I encounter any in future translations.
This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)