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Mandarin Chinese is romanised as pinyin.
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The Chinese used in restaurants has its own
peculiarities that the average Westerner has no chance
of learning because no textbook or dictionary exists
that lists these differences.
Elegant names 美稱 měichēng
Many ingredients have non-dictionary names when appearing in
restaurant menus. The names are usually chosen to
make the restaurant appear more sophisticated.
The number and density of these names increases with
the stratum of society from which the restaurant hopes to attract
白果 báiguǒ 'ginko nut' is 銀果 yínguǒ 'silver fruit'
(which is the usual Japanese name and the origin of the English word)
豆芽 dòuyá 'bean sprouts' is 銀芽 yínyá 'silver sprouts'
餛飩 húntūn 'wonton' is 雲吞 yúntūn 'swallowing clouds'
(an allusion to the appearance of the dumplings in soup)
雞蛋 jīdàn 'hen's egg' is 雞旦 jīdàn 'hen-dawn' (蛋 and 旦 are homophones)
雞腳 jījiǎo 'chicken feet' is 鳯爪 fèngzhuǎ 'phoenix claws'
薑 jiāng 'ginger' becomes 姜 jiāng (a surname that is a homophone)
牛舌 niúshé 'beef tongue' is 牛脷 niúlì (only in Cantonese)
皮蛋 pídàn 'century egg' is 松花 sōnghuā 'pine flowers'
豬肝 zhūgān 'pork liver' is 豬潤 zhūrùn 'pork-smooth'
(said to be a Cantonese gambling superstition: 肝 sounds like 乾, and 「輸得乾乾淨淨」 means 'to lose everything'; 潤 on the other hand, means 'to profit')
豬腸 zhūcháng 'pork intestines' or 'chitterlings' are
豬什 zhūshí 'pork-extra' (什 can mean 'ten', 'a group' or 'additional')
Abbreviations 略寫 lüèxiě
When the waiter or waitress takes down the order,
numbers on the menu are frequently used. There
are also many non-dictionary handwritten abbreviations of common words:
鴨 yà 'duck' is abbreviated as 甲
麵 miàn 'noodles' is 面 (as in simplified Chinese)
蝦 xiá 'prawn' is 下 (compare simplified Chinese 虾)