Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pleasantly Surprised Fruitplate

This is a repost of a blog I wrote a while back, after our trip to Shanghai. My friend Pamela asked if I could dig it up. I'm all aflutter that she would remember it. :)

We are thinking of moving to China. There's backstory, obviously, but let's just start from there. To that end, my Man and I went to Shanghai to look at schools and housing. Actually I was there to shop and sightsee. He was there to attend business meetings. On the side we looked at schools and housing. It was sort of a weird trip for me in the sense that I had virtually no control over anything that we did. There were meetings most every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And although everyone was very nice, I didn't have much to contribute to the conversation once it turned from dumplings to capital investments. So I would just sit there, smiling, waiting for an opportunity to add something of interest to the discussion. Sometimes that opportunity did not arise. One big plus to living in China is that it would be entertaining. Just everyday life in an environment where the language is hard to crack. It appeals to my sense of the absurd. Sort of like living a continuous Lost in Translation moment.

One night some potential business associates took us out to a very nice restaurant for dinner. They talked up the restaurant quite a bit. The place was opulent and their gimmick was one special touch from a variety of European countries. The crystal Austrian, the china was Wedgewood, etc. etc. So after the initial chit chat, the discussion turned to business and I settled down to study the menu for a half hour or so. It's was a very serious meeting. In a very fancy restaurant. I opened my menu read the first page. Then I began to giggle as I read it again. I turned to the second page. I started laughing harder. The others paused in their conversation to watch me. I said, "Sorry, something on the menu made me laugh." The Chinese business men reiterated how world famous the restaurant was and how excellent the food would be. I cautiously turned to page 3. It was too much. I couldn't hold it in. I started laughing so hard that tears began to come. I held my napkin up over my mouth and tried to apologize, but I couldn't get the words out. My husband was giving me the look. You know The Look. But then I showed him what I was reading. The worst English translations to ever appear on a menu in the history of Chinese restaurants. He started laughing too and after a moment we were both giggling and gasping for breath as we turned the pages. We got The Look from everyone in the place. And so now I present to you the most entertaining menu of my life. I doubt you will be able to read the print so I typed out the translations beneath.

Highest Grade Sashimi

Braise the row wing in soy sauce

Gold metal lobster young

Ice a mouthful of abalone

Crab meatcabbage cheese grill

Drive meal shop sign fish

Jin Yao clings to time vegetables

Seafood soup noodle
Sweet product of pyramid
Pleasantly surprised fruitplate

Sashimied selection
Crab meat shredded chicken wing
Incense milk & grill shrimp
Small mint sheep row
Fragile skin double happiness
See the shop sign is fresh
Loose young pilose antler of treasure
Seafood soup noodle
Dessert (Pu Ding)
Fresh fruit in season

Braised middle shark's fin
French style fry goose liver
The crisp shrimp rolls up an incense
Jin Yao rakes the dish gallbladder
Beef rolls up gentle breeze
Fresh fish in season
Rice dumpling
Exquisite fruit is checked

Competitive product sashimi
Resist big good fortune row wings
Braised Sea Cucumber
Cheese grilled prawn
Carbon roasts the small row of sheep
Ding-Dang crop of fresh aquatic food cowry
Lively fresh fish of short stories of the Tang and Song dynasties
Fulong best quality fried rice
Be equivalent to the sweet product of level
Constitute fruit

I think the Pu-Ding might be my favorite. It's as though the translator, working as hard as he could already, was just at a total loss. The sign shop fish, who knows. Constitute fruit sounds good for your colon but not particularly appetizing. My charming husband was able to get the staff to copy only these 4 pages before they seemed to catch on that we were laughing at the expense of their restaurant's dignity. So I have to tell you one last favorite dish that didn't make it onto these pages:

Grows more dyadic with each passing day seafood

Add on: I just thought of something I didn't put in here the first time but just made me laugh to remember. Our host ended up ordering for the table and he got all excited when this one dish was served. He said, "This is my personal favorite. No other restaurant makes it as well. I promise this will be the best stinky tofu with squid that you have ever had." And strictly speaking, it certainly was. :)