Menu Translation

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)


  1. avatar

    Nothing worse than ordering something that you have no clue what you will get.

  2. avatar

    Its a tough job and you share us thanks for it. I want you share more examples, these are helpful for me in learning.

    • avatar

      In some cultures, being ineovvld with any kind of life or death situation makes you immidiately and fully responsible for the outcome- Regardless of you having anything to do with it other than trying to help. if any number of those people had gotten ineovvld, they would have to answer to the family, or to that authorities, as to why they got ineovvld and the child still died. In this situation, the child had sustained sufficiant injury to cause death- Even with medical attention being promptly administered, it would make no difference. Another thing that we Must take into consideration, China has the second largest population density on this planet, and there are laws restricting the number of children that may be born for a good reason. When we are talking about a country that has so many people that couples must attain a permit to bear One single child in attemt to lower population, the fact that these parents were not taking care of Thier Own child, negates any of the blame that these pedestrians percievably have at Thier Own risk.Before we can speak or act against the actions of others, we must first understand them.

  3. avatar

    Really good one about menu translation. I am quite impressed.

  4. avatar

    I am happy to find so many useful information here in the post, thanks for sharing it here. I hope you will adding more.
    Thank you for new issue, I really like this website

    • avatar

      I’ve found some blogs from Hokkaido with this phrase, they say reteapedly ????.So it seems Hokkaido dialect (like ?? instead of ??).But the meaning seems the same as ???.

    • avatar

      Call me wind baecuse I am absolutely blown away.

  5. avatar

    ??????????????????? ???~

    • avatar


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  7. avatar

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  8. avatar

    Awesome post.


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