Translation musings: Cat ears on the menu

Nov 3, 2015 | Uncategorized

Translating restaurant menus is not as straightforward as it might seem at first. All countries have unique, local dishes, so translating the names of those can be tough and a bad translation can actually lose some money for the business!

Well, now, would you try this intriguing Chinese dish?

Chinese food


Don’t worry, there is NO cat in it, at all. Although the Chinese text literally means “fried cat ears”, it has nothing to do with feline meat. The base of this dish is pasta and the name refers to the shape of the main ingredient. Fried cat ear is a traditional pasta from Shanxi province and there are many different dishes made with it. (None of which includes actual cat ears.)


No kittens were harmed.

As the example above shows, nonsensical machine translations or awkward literal translations just won’t do for menus (or anything else!). It might be easier to put your menu through a machine translation software or translate it word by word but the end results might be, khm… quite interesting. It’s better to ask a professional translator who has thorough knowledge of both the source and target culture’s cuisine.

P.S.: Oh, and all musilim diners, be aware that the dish is not halal. (One cannot stress the importance of proofreading enough!)


Image credit: R. C. and Iva Villi