A Sichuan Restaurant Menu Translated: Stir Fry Dishes

Most of us have had a situation where we’d like to try some new dishes but can’t read everything on the menu. To fix this problem and learn some new Chinese, we’ve translated the menu of a local restaurant in Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital city. If you find yourself always ordering the same dishes because you can’t read the menu entirely, start learning this vocabulary and try these dishes out!

note: Because this particular restaurant offers more than 150 dishes, content is divided among six posts each covering one type of dish. If you’re using Firefox, install this plugin and you’ll be able to mouse over Chinese characters and see their English translation and pinyin romanization

This restaurants delivery menu is printed on an oversized business card

This restaurants delivery menu is printed on an over-sized business card. Click to enlarge the image

Stir Fried Dishes

In contrast to “Szechwan Cuisine” served outside China, in Sichuan Province, most dishes are stir-fried in lots of vegetable oil with garlic, ginger, either green or red huājiāo and a small amount of sugar, salt and MSG.

Spiciness and M.S.G.

You’ll have to specify to your server if you want your food non-spicy or without MSG (see #2 at the end of the article for these phrases). Unfortunately, chances are fifty-fifty that your message will be forgotten or ignored due to the rarity of special requests made in Chinese restaurants.

The categories below each assume the above ingredients, plus their preparation as further described. So you can pronounce these as correctly as possible, we’ve included tone indicators on the pinyin. Listed as well are three of the “Big Four Sichuan Dishes,” below. The fourth just wouldn’t fit into any of our categories. See if you can get your name first with the name of the dish on the comments list below!

Categories

Lanrou (烂肉) dishes have small bits of softened pork, stir-fried with the following differences:

烂肉豇豆 Lànròu Jiāngdòu has cow-peas and possibly a few dry red chilly peppers.
烂肉粉丝 Lànròu Fěnsī has glass noodles made from sweet-potato starch.
烂肉豆腐 Lànròu Dòufŭ has soft tofu.
烂肉茄子 Lànròu Qiézi has Chinese eggplant.

Rousi (肉丝) dishes are pork cut into short shoelace-thick strings, stir-fried with the following other vegetables, all of which are cut into the same string-shape:

鱼香肉丝 Yúxiāng Ròusī has mu’er (#3 below), qingsun lettuce stalks, pickled red chillies, pickled ginger and douban sauce (#4 below). It is one of the Big Four Sichuan Dishes.
芹菜肉丝 Qíncài Ròusī has celery.
青椒肉丝 Qīngjiāo Ròusī has anaheim peppers.
土豆肉丝 Tŭdòu Ròusī has potatoes.
蒜薹肉丝 Suàntái Ròusī has crispy garlic stalks.
韭黄肉丝 Jíuhuáng Ròusī has yellow leeks.
甜椒肉丝 Tiánjiāo Ròusī has sweet pepper.
(京)酱肉丝 (Jīng) Jiāng Ròusī is fried in duck sauce with fresh spring onions on top.
青椒鸡丝 Qīngjiāo Jīsī is a chicken version of Qīngjiāo Ròusī (see above).
蒜苔腊肉 Suàntái Làròu is the bacon version of Suàntái Ròusī (see above).
蒜苔鸡丝 Suàntái Jīsī is a chicken version of Suàntái Ròusī (see above).
蒜苔牛肉丝 Suàntái Níuròusī is the beef version of Suàntái Ròusī (see above).

Rou (肉)and Roupian (肉片) dishes have a small serving of lean pork slices, fried with a lot of the following vegetables:

锅巴肉片 Guōbā Ròupiàn starts with a large plate of dry, unflavored, rice-crispy-treat shaped squares of glutinous rice. A starchy stew of pork, mù’ér, qīngsūn and other vegetables are then poured over squares to start a snap-crackle-and-pop sound. This is another of the Big Four Sichuan Dishes.
盐煎肉    Yánjiān Ròu is fried with garlic sprouts (#5), with a name implying that this dish is on the salty side.
苦瓜肉片 Kŭguā Ròupiàn is mostly bitter melon.
木耳肉片 Mu’er Ròupiàn has mu’er. (#3)
熊掌豆腐 Xióngzhăng Dòufu has firm tofu, garlic sprouts (#5) a little black vinegar and dòubàn sauce.

Huiguo (回锅) means fatty, bacon-like, slices of pork that have been pre-boiled, and then fried with the following differences:

回锅肉     Huíguō Ròu has garlic sprouts (#5) and dòubàn sauce (#4). This is another of the “Big Four Sichuan Dishes.”
咸菜回锅  Xiáncài Huíguō has a chopped, brown, pickled mustard stock (#6).
尖椒回锅 Jiānjiāo Huíguō has green Anaheim peppers.

Gongbao (宫暴) “Kung Pao” dishes have fried peanuts and a little douban sauce (#4)

宫暴鸡丁 Gōngbào Jīdīng is another of the Big Four Sichuan Dishes, with tender little cubes of chicken meat and red and green anaheim peppers.
宫暴肉丁 Gōngbào Ròudīng is a pork version of Gōngbào Jīdīng (see above).

Notes:

1 Sichuan ‘prickly ash’ peppercorn (花椒) gives your mouth a numbing, tingling sensation (Mandarin: 麻味 mawei)
2 Mandarin: “Don’t want spicy”: 不要辣的 buyao lade, “Don’t want MSG”: 不要味精 buyao weijing
3 Wood-ear/tree fungus (木耳)
4 Broadbean Paste/Chili Bean Sauce (豆瓣酱)
5 Long-flat green garlic leaves, cut (Mandarin: 蒜苗 suanmiao)
6 Xiancai includes meicai (梅菜) and yacai (芽菜)

Menu List:

  • 烂肉豇豆 cowpea with minced meat
  • 烂肉粉丝  mungbean with minced meat
  • 鱼香肉丝  fish-flavored shredded pork
  • 芹菜肉丝  celery with shredded pork
  • 青椒肉丝  green pepper with shredded pork
  • 土豆肉丝  potato with shredded meat
  • 蒜薹肉丝   garlic bolt with shredded pork
  • 韭黄肉丝   shredded pork with chives
  • 甜椒肉丝   sweet pepper with shredded pork
  • 苦瓜肉片   balsam pear with sliced meat
  • 木耳肉片   edible tree fungus with sliced meat
  • 回锅肉   double-cooked pork slices
  • 盐煎肉   fried pork slices
  • 咸菜回锅   double-cooked pikles
  • 赣豇豆回锅  double-cooked dry cowpea
  • 面皮回锅   double-cooked noodle skin
  • 尖椒回锅   double-cooked chilli pepper
  • 宫暴肉花   kung pao flower-shape pork
  • 宫暴肉丁   kung pao diced meat
  • 宫暴鸡丁   kung pao chicken
  • 泡椒腰花   kidney with pickled pepper
  • 干腰合炒   fried kidney and liver
  • 鸡米芽菜   minced chicken with bean sprouts
  • 碎肉芽菜  minced pork with bean sprouts
  • 熊掌豆腐  “bear paw” with bean curd
  • 酱肉丝    sauteed shredded pork in sweet bean sauce
  • 青椒鸡丝  green pepper with shredded chicken
  • 蒜苔鸡丝 garlic stems with shredded chicken
  • 蒜苔腊肉  garlic stems with preserved ham
  • 蒜苔牛肉丝  garlic stems with shredded beaf
  • 泡椒鸡杂 chicken giblets with pickled pepper
  • 太子豆花  douhua prince
  • 烂肉豆腐 minced meat tofu
  • 烂肉茄子 minced meat eggplant

This section was translated by Jiao Jiao – thanks!

Translating the Rest of the Menu

Next time we’ll translate another section of the menu:

Which do you think we should move to first? Soups, fried rice, dumplings & noodles?

Related Posts with Thumbnails

About Reed

Reed has been studying Chinese since 2001. He moved to Chengdu in 2005, and left to work in Yangzhou and Guangzhou, before returning in 2008. He is an entrepreneur in language tutoring and a freelance translator/voice-actor. Reed loves everything Sichuanese, from the cooking to the dialect.

29 Responses to “A Sichuan Restaurant Menu Translated: Stir Fry Dishes”

  1. Thanks for the plugin, something I have needed for a long time. Good post.

  2. 宫爆鸡丁 is a common mistake for 宫保鸡丁。

  3. Good work Reid. I didn’t realize LanRou described those little bits of meat sprinkled in the dishes.

    • Thanks, I just organized it this way because I was didn’t want to repeat the same descriptions of ingredients in every dish.

  4. Also, Eli, I think you’ll be happy to know that your 100 kuai bet was well-placed at the restaurant last night–I managed to make it home before feeling sick for about two hours. After weighing the costs and benefits, I think drinking a cup of wasabe oil is worth about a hundred kuai, just not after finishing a delicious meal at 天添.

  5. How about 莲白回锅?

  6. Sascha,

    Word, that’s the one I’m talking about. The pseudo-Cantonese spot on Yulin Xilu across from the gate of Wang Fu Hua Yuan makes a mean 莲花回锅。。。

  7. Oops – we forgot to give credit to Jiao Jiao who helped us translate the list of stir fry menu items at the end of the post – thanks!

  8. This is awesome! I will order something new from here tonight.

  9. shinichi

    Oh, the picture is very familiar with the menu. Last month, often eat “新一” restaurant food, taste good
    I like to eat 宫保鸡丁

  10. Very helpful. Thanks a lot. Please tackle some other parts of the menu as well when you have a chance.

  11. Reed, awesome. Thanks for this translation. When will the other translations be ready? Maybe I will have to do it on my own because I have been told I must be able to order my own food next time I visit Chengdu in February :)

  12. I found this a great help, when is the next one going to be available?

  13. This is great! I’m visiting Chengdu for the first time in mid-September, and would like to explore Sichuanese food. Please post the translations for the rest of the menu.

    Thank you!

  14. Hi there,

    Great post! Thanks a lot!

    I (partly) converted the list of Sichuan dishes into flashcards for your Pleco App (if you have one).

    Check: http://www.thijsinchengdu.nl/Thijs_in_Chengdu/Mijn_Blog/Artikelen/2011/9/12_Pleco_-_List_of_Sichuan_Dishes.html

    Maybe useful.

    Keep up the good work with ChengduLiving, love this site!

  15. Gongbao (宫暴) — should be 宫保, http://baike.baidu.com/view/4958.html?wtp=tt it originated from the name of one official Baozhen Ding (also called Ding Gongbao)

  16. Hi, actually I am looking for Sichuan chefs. Am very keen to open a Sichuan Resturant in HK.
    Can u help or guide on how I maybe able to do this.
    Regards

  17. My wife is Muslim.
    How do I say “no pork please”?

    Chicken, beef OK.

    thanks.

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