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June 04, 2006
On the menu in Portland: Shredded pig's spicy
Talk about the dangers of machine translation. I went to a Chinese restaurant in Portland's outskirts (on 82nd St. NE, for cognoscenti). Very few nods to the English-language crowd in this place, but the menu had its own special translations. The first thing we noticed was "Shredded Pig's Spicy." Hmmm. We wondered if they shredded the entire pig before salvaging the "spicy." And of course we had an interesting discussion as to what this Spicy might turn out to be.
Then we turned the page and were startled to see: Peppers with Pig's Rectum. This didn't sound all that appetizing, to be honest, but I was tempted to order it just to see the presentation. Lots of intriguing options. In the end, I concluded that some person or machine looked up the English for "rump" and settled on wrong word. My sister thought it might turn out to be a tripe dish. One way or another, you can be close to the right word in a foreign language and still be very very wrong. Of course the possibility exists that they chose precisely the right word--but I'm more comfortable trusting that they didn't.
The waiter came. I chose the Shredded Pig's Spicy without asking what it was. It only cost $3. Turned out to be a pile of pig's ear, cut into fine slivers and served cold with a subtle sauce. A little chewy for my taste, but considering the possibilities, a bit of a relief.
Don't think it was a machine issue, my friend. That's Engrish, plain and simple. Did someone set you up the bomb?
Posted by: Peter Kim at June 5, 2006 09:46 PM
Got some clarification from my sister on the two menu items I mentioned:
I told my student's parent about the restaurant's entree of Pepper with Pig's Rectum, and the Shredded Pig's Spicy. She listened, and came in the next day with the menu. She told me that the Chinese characters for the Spicy did include info about the ear. As for the other entree she told me, by way of clarification, that it was the lower part of the pig's intestines. I asked her how they usually prepare it, she said that they sterilize it and then chop in in small pieces. I forgot to ask about how the pepper is incorporated. So I'm not sure that this was a lost in translation event. She's concerned that we can't read the menu properly and is going to escort me to the restaurant and help me navigate.
Posted by: steve baker at June 8, 2006 02:47 PM