Back to blog index

Restaurant Chinglish Goldmine

Should I run downstairs to see if that huge explosion came from my decrepit Shanghainese fusebox or use my very last towel to mop up the waterfall coming from my kitchen and living room ceilings? These were the tricky decisions thrown at me yesterday by Typhoon Haikui, which roared into Shanghai full of drama, red alerts, floods and high winds. 
Those of you who follow on Facebook and Twitter are already ahead of the curve and know campervanning has been suspended for a week while the van’s poor old cupboards, rattled off their hinges by Inner Mongolia’s roads, get screwed back on again and various work commitments and promises in Shanghai are kept in the meantime. We just hadn’t figured on being in town at the same time as a typhoon. 
It was fierce, to say the least. I got a lot of messages from the city authorities on my mobile phone, hoping I was safe and sound and warning me to stay indoors, which was very kind, but what I would really have liked was for my ceiling to stop pouring water and the power to come back on. 
Today, amazingly, it’s business as usual. And blogging as usual – so here’s the post I originally planned for today, it’ll certainly cheer up your Thursday wherever you are! (And if you’re in Shanghai, I hope you and yours are safe, sound and dry).
Restaurant Chinglish Goldmine
So we left Inner Mongolia, where the mountains, the hills, the valleys and grasslands were incomparably lovely, but where the food, interesting at first, became a bit repetitive (lamb, potatoes, lamb and potatoes, lamb and potato hotpot) – and drove into Shanxi province where untold culinary riches awaited. 
First stop was Datong, a small city in Shanxi’s north where highly rates Yonghe Gourmet City. Can I just say up front, their food was fantastic and deserved its high rating, and I owe a debt of gratitude to the genius who put their menu together. 
Yonghe’s menu is an undiscovered goldmine of the best restaurant Chinglish ever in one place. You might think China is still full of excellent unedited menu Chinglish, but thanks to a governement directive and website for naming dishes in English, restaurant Chinglish has toned down a lot in recent years. Thank goodness for places like Yonghe, still flying the Chinglish flag high!
The first dish to catch my eye let me know we were in for a treat:
Just like lemon juice on a papercut, if you have been shot in the head, cucumber stings like blazes.

Who wouldn’t immediately go for a casserole dish full of baked colon sand nest? Just like a pot full of gritty colon donuts, it sounds exotic, looks mouth-watering, and goes for only eighty eight yuan. Add it to the order, waitress.

This is a euphemism for something, isn’t it, for those in the know. I’m just not sure what it’s a euphemism for, there are just so many buzz words in there piled together. But I think if you’re a straight animal liberationist who never does drugs, this dish could really hold some surprises.

Sometimes, in the restaurant business, it’s better to forgo simple descriptions for something more flowery and….anatomical. Why not just call it brain soup and be done with it?? Everyone finds brain soup delicious, right?
Page three of the menu threw up this cheery cherry-eyed fellow, apparently Popular of all Piglets. 
Personally, I don’t like eating socially awkward piglets, or piglets-no-friends, so thank goodness there were none of those on offer.
Being an equal opportunity restaurant, able-bodied clams and clams with disabilities were both available. Think it’s an easy life being a clam? Try being a clam with a disability.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen prep area there had been violent scenes: 
Looking at those wafer thin slices of cucumber, a very sharp knife has been involved here. I’d say the salmon won. 
Then after the cucumbers were all dead, the salmon turned on each other…..
This one’s harder to call. I mean, when goose fights goose, who can say which goose’s neck or leg ends up on the platter??
And for this dish they just got a whole menagerie of ragtag donkeys together, and waited for one to start picking arguments. There’s always one.
At the height of its powers, and thanks to a single match and a room full of leftover fireworks, the Krustacean Kingdom was gone, just like that. A tragedy.
Now hold on just a sweet second here: clearly, you cannot be Popular of all Piglets if you are, in fact, a dead chicken. We’ve already eaten the Popular Piglet. I’m not that stupid.

But I might be stupid enough to pay 888 yuan for a Mexican/Chinese fusion dish (please note, the Chinese translates as ‘Hong Kong style fried sharkfin’. Use of the word ‘burrito’ is just a bit of artistic embellishment, like a carrot carved as a phoenix).

It’s a mess. What can I say? Moving on….

There’s no better pinnacle to any meal than a plate full of assorted bacteria, nicely arranged. It does seem a lot to pay for food poisoning, but I’ve paid more… least these guys are up front about it. And a big thanks to Jane for supplying the bacteria.

More Chinglish…

For You! A Box of Assorted Chinglish

Small steps only please around the vintage car. Walking is OK, running is OK, goose-stepping is also OK, but kind of silly.
Thanks to the many requests from you over the last few months, here’s another grab bag of China’s best Chinglish to brighten up your Wednesday! The final, convincing request came from my eldest daughter, who would love it if her mum’s blog could have something more ‘awesome’ than vegetables on it. Okay. 

You always wondered how they got those bears into the bile farms, right? 
Naive bears! This way please! Here’s a Bear Paradise where you can drink honey juleps all day long!
All the wordly-wise and street smart bears gave this place a wide, wide berth. 
Pete used to be allowed in, before he embarrassed himself by soiling the carpet.
With more lumber choices than Bunnings or B&Q, the well was enormously popular with home handymen and carpenters alike. Then one day – the timber just stopped.
I once had a dog….they say he was playing by the edge of the pond when an iron pillar leapt out of the water and grabbed him. Never seen again.
By an open window with a very low ledge. Four floors above the ground.
We’ve met this busy bee before, and it turns out he’s helpful on all sorts of signs. 
What exactly is he doing here though? Is he throwing a small black bee poo onto the ground? And is that scrunched up used toilet paper in his hand??
Danger! Dress watches falling from above!
In Yunnan they grow the world’s most sensitive grass. Coddled like a baby, everyone has to tiptoe around  the park at grass nap time.

Unlike the grass in Shanghai, where the neglect is obvious.
My own favourites are the Chinglish-ified shop names all over the country. Some are mystifying, some are just this side of a lawsuit, although I can’t imagine any of the big names spotting their doppelgangers in far-off places like Harbin (above) or Kaili (below).
And yes, that’s the shop owner frantically waving at me to stop taking photos. He fears copyright infringement – he’s worried I might be a retail spy planning to open my very own Boebofry store in Shanghai.

Clever. No-one would ever know this place in downtown Kaili isn’t the real thing.

Other shop names are not exactly wrong, they’re just….not quite right. Who names their store ‘Very Nice Woman’?
Or Densecity? (every time I see this shop I think of Back to the Future and George McFly saying to his future wife Lorraine – ‘I’m your density. I mean, destiny’)

Or why not pick some lotus seeds while shopping?
But the prize goes to this place. And no, it’s not that kind of shop – it sells socks.
I mean, Gina is a pretty name and everything, and the cherry blossoms and love hearts are a nice touch, but if you’re going to do something clever, it should never involve placing anything that looks remotely like the letter V before the name Gina. Just saying….

More Chinglish here: