RESTAURANT LINGO 101...IN MANDARIN

It takes time to learn the nuance of the tonal Chinese language (saying “ma” one way means "mother" another way "horse"), so just go with the phonetic spelling in italics below, and context will generally see you through.

 

Note: Mandarin pinyin Chinese translations are used below, unless referring to Cantonese cuisine and dishes, in which case one of the many accepted Cantonese “phonetic” translations is used (the spellings are endless).

 

Basics

Thank you - xie xie - sheh sheh                                                    

Menu - cai dan - sigh dahn

Paper napkin - can jing - san jing

Chopsticks - kuai zi - kwy zuh

Knife - dao zi - dow zuh

Fork - cha zi - cha zuh

Spoon - tang chi - tahng chih

Order - dian cai - deeyen sigh   

MSG - wei jing (I don't want any MSG: bu yao wei jing) - boo yow way jing

Bill - mai dan - my dahn

Soy sauce - jiang you - jyang yo

Vinegar - cu - tsu

 

To drink

Tea - cha - cha

Tea in China is like wine in the West - diverse with huge range in quality; but you can get a basic understanding on restaurant teas here

-Dragonwell/green tea - long jing cha - long jing cha (Cantonese - lung jeng) - China's most famous tea, from Hangzhou

-Jasmine Tea - molihua cha - mo lee hwah cha. Green tea flavoured with jasmine flowers.

-Chrysanthemum tea (caffeine free) - juhua cha - joo hwah cha (Cantonese: gook fa)

-Black/musky tea - puer- poo air (Cantonese - bo lei) - most popular grease-cutting tea at dim sum

-Oolong - wu long - woo long - (Cantonese- wu long) - not as heavy as pu'er

Beer - pi jiu (Tsingtao a great brew) - pee joe - ching dow

(Mineral) water - (kuang quan) shui - kwong chwan shway

Coffee - kafei - kah fay

Milk - niunai - neo nigh

Hot/cold - rede/bingde - rr duh / bing duh

 

Meat

Pork - zhu rou  - joo row

Chicken - ji rou - jee row

Beef - niu rou - nyew row

Duck - ya - ya

 

Seafood

Fish - yu - you

Mandarin fish - guiyu - gway you

Pomfret - changyu - chong you

Yellow croaker - huangyu - hwong you

Shrimp - xia ren - sha ren

Crab - xie fen - sheh fen

 

Vegetables

Tofu - dou fu - dough foo

Mustard green - gai lan - guy lon

Bok choy - bai cai - bye sigh

Spinach - bo cai - bow sigh

Eggplant - qie zi - chyeh zuh

Broccoli - ye cai or cai hua 

Steamed rice - bai/mi fan- bye/mee fahn

 

Other

Fried rice - chao fan - chow fahn

Noodles - mian - mee yen                     

Deep fried - ganjian 

Stir fried - sheng chao 

Steamed - qing zheng