Names of Ten Things We Order In Chinese Restaurant

Alright, I am a bit lazy today. So am gonna take it easy and post something simple.

Suanne and I received a number of emails today, some from readers who we had never known before. There were many encouraging words which is very much appreciated. We want to let everyone know Suanne and I are fine. 🙂

Anyway, here is one email from a reader (TL) that ended with a question for Suanne and I. That got us stumped a bit. Maybe you guys can help. TL asked:

One thing I would like you to do is to teach us about ten names of few things we order in Chinese restaurants. Very basic things will do. Bao? comes to my mind. We catch a few words here and there but it will be wonderful if faithful Chowtimes readers can be just a little bit literate in Chinese words when eating. Being a Japanese, I can read many Chinese characters so I will never end up ordering only soups or only noodle dishes but I long to be able to say a few words in Chinese restaurants and so do many people, I bet.

Gosh, we don’t know! But here was how we answered TL:

English Cantonese Mandarin
Buns Bao 包子 Bāozi
Noodles Meen 麵 Mian
Tea Chah 茶 Char
Chicken Gai 雞 Ji
Beef Ngau Yook 牛肉 Niu Rou
Pork Ju Yook 豬肉 Zhu Rou
Rice Fahn 飯 fan
Congee Jook ç²¥ Zhou
Crab Hai 蟹 Xie
Eggs Dahn 雞蛋 Ji Dan

What do you think? Any words to add?

This Post Has 54 Comments

  1. English = lemon water
    French = l’eau de citron
    Mandarin = ning meng shui
    Cantonese = ling mong seui

    1. hrmmm… could you translate banana leaves? I recall Ben eating leaves off a plate before…

      1. I think that was pandan leaves in his Kumare post.

        1. ah yes, that!

    2. LOL! That is funny!

  2. For Pork in Cantonese, it pronounce as Chui rather than Gee….:)

    1. Hmmm … Chui doesn’t sound kind of right, Dragonfire. Jee or Gee or Juei or Jeui or Jie or … sounds better. Ben

        1. And the “mi” in rice and congee is probably not needed if you are just ordering casually in a restaurant…

          1. OK thanks for clarifying Elaine. Will remove “mi”. I think “Jook” will still be better than “Ju” for Canto Congee.

          2. Oh I meant for pork it’s Ju…

          3. Maybe it’s my Manglish. “Ju” sounds like “Joo” … “Gee” is like “Gee you are pretty”. So, “Gee Yook” sounds better than “Joo Yook” no? 🙂

          4. Iono but whenever me and my friends type in Canto we always write “ju”…”gee” just doesn’t sound right to me hahaha…

          5. OK, OK … Ju/Joo Yook it is. 🙂 I had just updated the post. I stand corrected.

          6. I’ve heard it called “mwoy,” or something like that, and thought that was Mandarin. Any thoughts?

        2. Hi Elaine: Is “ju” for Cantonese or is it for Mandarin?

          1. Jui (or juee) for pig in Cantonese. Zhu (豬) is in Mandarin (pinyin).

          2. I would use “chu” for pork in Canto. Interesting post Ben! It’s just like me trying to teach my kids how to order food in Chinese eateries!

      1. With my limited knowledge of Chinese, I think the Hanyu Pinyin of that vowel should be typed as ü. I don’t think that is a similar pronunciation in English but it’s like ‘yü’ (fish in Mandarin). Oh… by the way, I noticed the difference when pronouncing words like ngap/ap (duck), ngo/o (goose or me), ngau/au (beef). Just wondering if it’s Malaysian Cantonese vs HK Cantonese or what?

        1. Hi Belinda: You brought up a very interesting point. Here is something that we found out from the site cantonese.ca … particularly on this page: http://cantonese.ca/pronunciation.html … yeah, a Canadian site! On the page there is a section that says:

          Young or Old Speakers?

          The pronunciation on this site is based on the modern colloquial dialect. Older speakers may still retain initial ng- in words like ngo (I), where most youth nowadays would simply say o. Initial n has also disappeared, merging with l. A few speakers may still distinguish between löü (travel) and nöü (female), but young people generally pronounce both as löü. A final feature of “proper”, older Cantonese is keeping gw and kw in words like gwok (country), whereas today gok is more commonly heard.

          I am not Cantonese although I grew up in a Cantonese speaking city. This is all interesting to learn because I had never thought of the differences of pronunciation explained at all.

          Ben

  3. excuse me if i seem a little rude but shouldnt tea but chah, rice be fahn, and egg be dahn?

    1. No David. Not rude at all. With all the drama today, I hope people are not too politically correct and all. Your phonetic translations sounds better than mine. I’ll use yours and update the post. Ben

      1. And fake egg = jia dan

          1. Sorry CH, I was using Mandarin pinyin (my native language)

    2. I go with David as well. Bok fahn and yum chah is what I hear in SF.

      1. Hi Ben,
        I think 3rensho can confirm, but the Cantonese dialect in San Francisco is heavily Toishanese, which is a sub-dialect (village dialect) of Cantonese. I would be hesitant to use it for ordering in Chinese restaurant up here in Vancouver. You might get a funny look for your pronunciation, and you might get an attitude from the waitstaff thinking you just fell off the turnip truck or just got off the boat!

        1. LOL Lily, that’s funny. I learned what little Chinese I know in the SF Bay Area from Chinese friends who were all born in Hong Kong, migrated to Canada and then to the US. I have tried it out in a restaurant just over the border in Germany and they could figure out what I meant after some hesitation. Unfortunately the restaurants here cater to the local tastes (or lack thereof) and such “exotic” dishes as jook, ho yow gai lan, etc. are not available.

  4. Tea’s pinyin is cha, not char. I would write “gai dahn” instead of just “dahn” to make it more consistent with the mandarin version.

    And as someone mention already, pork in cantonese is more like “ju yook” and not “gee yook”

  5. For TL, b/c she’s japanese, I think its easier if we gave her Romaji pronounciations. Sorry, b/c im Canto, I can only do Canto pronounciations (most of what ben put was very similar)

    Buns: Bau
    Noodles: Mien
    Chicek: Gai (similar to saying living room in japanese, ima…you go higher sound)
    Beef: Nau youku (k without the ku sound)
    Pork: Ju Youku (k without ku sound)
    Rice: fan
    Congee: joku (k without the ku sound)
    Crab: Hai
    Eggs: Dan

    1. I wonder if using romanji this way will put too heavy of a Japanese accent on the words? I think the romanji works for most of the words but chicken and crab… not so much ><

      I remember when I was learning mandarin, I was told that certain sounds were difficult for me because the cantonese way of speaking is lazy with the tongue… maybe sth to keep in mind?

    2. Hehehe … I am utterly confused now. So will not update the table. For me there are just TWO words that are important to use in a Chinese restaurant … one is JHUP and the other is Fahn. Ben

      1. LMAO !!!

        (I won’t even try to write out “LMAO” in Mandarin or Cantonese …….)

        1. LOL. I was just thinking – would you translate that to ‘siu dou ngo ge ‘loyao’ or ‘sifat’ deed lok lei’? Hahaha…

  6. shrimp – 蝦 Xiā
    Bill – 買單 Mai Dan

    I’m not sure if canto are the same of these.

    1. Ah yes, Mai Dan … that is so important!! 🙂

    2. Good one, Shirley !

      And related to that is: “mm goi dah bao” to your server, which is: “please wrap up everything for take-home” in Cantonese.

      Mandarin = “qing ni ban wo da bao” (please help me to take-out)

    3. Mandarin: You can use 结帐 Jie zhang as well.

      1. Oh yeah. I always say “qing suan zhang” / 請算帐 (please calculate the debt), is that ok ?

  7. Ben, what about “jhup” and ‘qq’?

    1. Oh I forgot about the use of the word QQ. You remembered better than me! But “jhup” is close and dear to my heart. When I retire I will open a restaurant called “Jhup and Rice” serving steamed rice with 20 different types of Jhups. No meat, no vege … pure jhup. Each bowl only $1.99, slightly cheaper than the Taiwanese-style Minced Pork on Rice. Just you see … 😉

      1. [ahem] I think I coined that name awhile back, Ben ……. [wink] OK, I’ll be nice and settle for 80% (me)/20% split of the profits, hahaha.

        Imagine, the perfect street food (via food truck) !!!

          1. LOL! OMG … look at LotusRapper! 80%? Tell you what, I will settle for giving extra scoop of Jhup on rice if you drop your 80% claim. This is for the entire of your lifetime. Think about it … lifetime of DOUBLE scoop of jhup. What more could a man want?

            If you are not taking up this great offer, I better change my food truck name to “JHAP and RICE” instead. I know of a very good lawyer from Mo. Wait one while I call my lawyer right now …

          2. Now you’re both just being silly. :p

          3. You know what Ben ? Even better idea. We do 50/50, share kitchen, supplies etc, have two separate food trucks parked opposite to each other: “Original Jhup & Rice” and “New Jhup and Rice”. True duopoly setup ….. FTW ! 😀

          4. Just got back from a long session with my lawyer. He was ticking me off for offering you the free extra scoop of jhup for life in exchange for full ownership of the “Jhup and Rice” brand. But I am a man of my word and I need to stand by what I said. As for 50/50 share, I can consider that. I can offer you complete responsibility for expenses while I handle the revenue.

            Oh … hehehe … we better stop talking like this. This is because someone was commenting that they stopped reading chowtimes because chowtimes is now a business. OMG! People takes everything so seriously. 🙂

            Ben

  8. Hi Ben,

    I try to memorize certain dishes when ordering in a Chinese restaurant or food court.

    How do u say “honey lemon water”? My standard ones are:

    Chicken with black bean sauce on rice — see jiu gai fan

    Beef with rice noodles — gon chau ngau hor

    Beef with gailan —
    hor yau gai lan

    Assorted meat hot pot — but jum dau foo bow

    Deep fried squid — jiew yeem seen yau

    Sweet n sour pork — goo low yoke

    Chicken w salted fish fried rice — hum yoo gai lup chow fun

    1. Hi Cmee8:

      A couple of suggestions:

      Chicken with black bean sauce on rice — see jiu gai (KOW) fan
      [LR]: if you say “gai kow” it implies boneless.

      Beef with gailan – (NGAU YOOK CHOW) gai lan
      [LR]: translate to beef stirfried with gai lan (default sauce would be a browny-oystery sauce anyway)

      Chicken w salted fish fried rice — hum yoo gai lup chow fun
      [LR]: better to say “chow faan” (rice) as ‘fun” will get you the broad rice noodles

  9. Hi LR,

    Doh! That was gailan with oyster sauce n urs is how we order it. Thanks for the correction n tip for ordering chicken with black bean sauce.

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