Chinese Miscellaneous

The Struggle is Real: A Plea to End Menu Illiteracy

December 5, 2015

Admit it.  You regret not paying a little more attention in Chinese school.  If only you just learned the Chinese characters for “chicken”, “pork”, “stir-fried”, “steamed”, “boiled”, “buns”, or the other common words on a Chinese menu, you wouldn’t have to be in this position.  Better yet, you think back to the times when you were a kid and your folks would order such delicacies with ease.

If only I paid more attention to Dad when he ordered that fish scent eggplant thing with the minced pork…

You know the feeling.  When you’re out with your friends at a restaurant and the menu is only in Chinese, but none of your friends know how to read Chinese.  The struggle is very real.

Or to those who are not Chinese venturing into this dim sum place that your co-worker recommended, but all you see is gibberish next to the ticky-boxes.

There’s nothing better than ordering chicken or pig’s feet as a surprise.

Eating chicken feet at dim sum

Damn you chicken feet!!!

Face it – when it comes to food in Markham, options are dominated with Chinese food choices.  And while most restaurants are now smart enough to include English, there are still some that do not.

What’s worse is that it’s usually the really good restaurants that don’t have English on their menus.

The restaurant owners know this and think, “Pfffttt… the food here is so good, we don’t need to waste money on English menus.”

What’s funny (and sad) is sometimes we have too much pride.  I’m sure the server can read out and translate the menu to you, but that’s lame and embarrassing, especially for someone who looks head to toe Chinese, only to not be able to order.

And trust me, I’ve personally tried to find ways around the embarrassment of asking.  In fact, I’ve gone as far as using the Google Translate app (iPhone | Android) to translate the Chinese menu:

Chinese - Google Translate App

I think I’ll have a “Making money Duck Song Pack” with a “Health and Beef Roll Soup”.

And I know we are not alone on this.  In fact there’s a category of Foursquare/Swarm/Yelp tippers who truly look out for their fellow food-comrades by phonetically spelling out different dishes:

Honestly if that’s not looking out for one another, I don’t know what is.

Seriously, we really shouldn’t have to work that hard just to get good Chinese food.  I think it’s time everyone can enjoy everything on the menu.

So as a plea to those Chinese-only menu restaurants, I challenge you to get it together before it’s too late.

As you know, in the next five to ten years it’s going to be us menu-illiterates who will be the majority patrons of your fine establishment.

So please do something before we’re all reduced to start ordering in broken phrases of, “Ngor Yew Yut Gor Hak Jeew Ngow Pa Faan, please!” (“I would like one Black Pepper Beef Steak Rice, please!”)

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  • Reply foodreviewca December 9, 2015 at 9:57 am

    I go to those places intentionally when I’m in the mood for a surprise. I order by pictures and or just point at the next table. Almost guaranteed at a dim sum place. The lady just yells at you and you hope you picked a good one.

    • mm
      Reply markhamfood December 9, 2015 at 10:15 am

      That’s actually a smart idea! You’ll almost always have something new to eat..and who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new favourite dish. 😉

  • Reply story.of.a.hurricane December 9, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Yeesss that happens to me a lot! And resulted in the accidental mistake of ordering a dish with beef tendon, stomach, and some other wierd meat. But the menu said Beef Combo! Lol but u wasn’t able to read the description of the meal it wasn’t in English. Im adventurous though so instead of sending it back I tried all of it! I don’t know if I will ever eat tendons again

    • mm
      Reply markhamfood December 9, 2015 at 10:14 am

      Bahahhaa that’s hilarious! But we actually LOVE beef tendon. Maybe you should give it another try. 😉 If eating it alone is too much, try pho with beef tendon! 😜

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