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
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 hu?ji?o 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!
Lanrou (??) dishes have small bits of softened pork, stir-fried with the following differences:
???? Lànròu Ji?ngdòu has cow-peas and possibly a few dry red chilly peppers.
???? Lànròu F?ns? has glass noodles made from sweet-potato starch.
???? Lànròu Dòuf? has soft tofu.
???? Lànròu Qiézi has Chinese eggplant.
Rousi (??) 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:
???? Yúxi?ng Ròus? 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.
???? Qíncài Ròus? has celery.
???? Q?ngji?o Ròus? has anaheim peppers.
???? T?dòu Ròus? has potatoes.
???? Suàntái Ròus? has crispy garlic stalks.
???? Jíuhuáng Ròus? has yellow leeks.
???? Tiánji?o Ròus? has sweet pepper.
(?)??? (J?ng) Ji?ng Ròus? is fried in duck sauce with fresh spring onions on top.
???? Q?ngji?o J?s? is a chicken version of Q?ngji?o Ròus? (see above).
???? Suàntái Làròu is the bacon version of Suàntái Ròus? (see above).
???? Suàntái J?s? is a chicken version of Suàntái Ròus? (see above).
????? Suàntái Níuròus? is the beef version of Suàntái Ròus? (see above).
Rou (?)and Roupian (??) dishes have a small serving of lean pork slices, fried with a lot of the following vegetables:
???? Gu?b? Ròupiàn starts with a large plate of dry, unflavored, rice-crispy-treat shaped squares of glutinous rice. A starchy stew of pork, mù’ér, q?ngs?n 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.
??? Yánji?n Ròu is fried with garlic sprouts (#5), with a name implying that this dish is on the salty side.
???? K?gu? Ròupiàn is mostly bitter melon.
???? Mu’er Ròupiàn has mu’er. (#3)
???? Xióngzh?ng Dòufu has firm tofu, garlic sprouts (#5) a little black vinegar and dòubàn sauce.
Huiguo (??) means fatty, bacon-like, slices of pork that have been pre-boiled, and then fried with the following differences:
??? Huígu? Ròu has garlic sprouts (#5) and dòubàn sauce (#4). This is another of the “Big Four Sichuan Dishes.”
???? Xiáncài Huígu? has a chopped, brown, pickled mustard stock (#6).
???? Ji?nji?o Huígu? has green Anaheim peppers.
Gongbao (??) “Kung Pao” dishes have fried peanuts and a little douban sauce (#4)
???? G?ngbào J?d?ng is another of the Big Four Sichuan Dishes, with tender little cubes of chicken meat and red and green anaheim peppers.
???? G?ngbào Ròud?ng is a pork version of G?ngbào J?d?ng (see above).
1 Sichuan ‘prickly ash’ peppercorn (??) gives your mouth a numbing, tingling sensation (Mandarin: ?? mawei)
2 Mandarin: “Don’t want spicy”: ???? buyao lade, “Don’t want MSG”: ???? buyao weijing
3 Wood-ear/tree fungus (??)
4 Broadbean Paste/Chili Bean Sauce (???)
5 Long-flat green garlic leaves, cut (Mandarin: ?? suanmiao)
6 Xiancai includes meicai (??) and yacai (??)
- ???? cowpea with minced meat
- ???? mungbean with minced meat
- ???? fish-flavored shredded pork
- ???? celery with shredded pork
- ???? green pepper with shredded pork
- ???? potato with shredded meat
- ???? garlic bolt with shredded pork
- ???? shredded pork with chives
- ???? sweet pepper with shredded pork
- ???? balsam pear with sliced meat
- ???? edible tree fungus with sliced meat
- ??? double-cooked pork slices
- ??? fried pork slices
- ???? double-cooked pikles
- ????? double-cooked dry cowpea
- ???? double-cooked noodle skin
- ???? double-cooked chilli pepper
- ???? kung pao flower-shape pork
- ???? kung pao diced meat
- ???? kung pao chicken
- ???? kidney with pickled pepper
- ???? fried kidney and liver
- ???? minced chicken with bean sprouts
- ???? minced pork with bean sprouts
- ???? “bear paw” with bean curd
- ??? sauteed shredded pork in sweet bean sauce
- ???? green pepper with shredded chicken
- ???? garlic stems with shredded chicken
- ???? garlic stems with preserved ham
- ????? garlic stems with shredded beaf
- ???? chicken giblets with pickled pepper
- ???? douhua prince
- ???? minced meat tofu
- ???? 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?