Terrible translation makes chicken offal congee unpalatable

September 22, 2017 17:31
Chicken offal congee at the 50-year-old Ming Kee restaurant is as tasty as in the good old days. But the English translation of the dish is less than tasteful. Photo: Internet

Before going to Broadway Cinema in Yau Ma Tei, I would take a simple meal nearby, and Ming Kee restaurant on Wing Sing Lane would always come to mind. 

About 50 years ago, Ming Kee was a street stall. Later, it became so popular that it upgraded into a restaurant and settled at the premises.

Its most renowned dish is chicken offal rice porridge. What is so striking about it is that the chef took time and effort to boil the congee to a soft and glutinous texture. Besides chicken offal, pork tripe and pork uterus were also thrown in.

The pickled turnip dices gave it a certain crunchiness and some hint that the owner might have been of Shunde descent from Foshan, Guangdong province.

Recently Ming Kee changed hands and the new owner had the eatery refurbished. The dining area is nicer with better hygiene.

The restaurant sells fish balls but has kept chicken offal congee on the menu.

The new version has no more pork tripe or uterus. They have been replaced by two pieces of white cut chicken, which makes the dish a conventional interpretation of porridge.

I found the congee quite good, especially the intestines. In its older version, it was almost tasteless after having been overly washed with alkali.

The new shop surprises diners, too, with its menu in Chinese and English, presumably to cater to tourists.

Unfortunately, the menu contains some of the most ridiculous translations I have ever encountered. I thought someone simply used a translation device and decided to be done with it.

Flat rice noodle soup with beef tripe, lungs and intestines (牛三寶 [牛肚牛肺牛腸] 河) is called “cattle sanbao river”, which is nonsense.

“Clear soup and beef” (清湯牛腩飯) ends without mentioning it is a rice dish. Flat rice noodle with homemade fish balls (自製魚蛋河) is “homemade fish eggs river”.

Worst of all is beef tendon noodle soup (牛筋麵) which became “pig giblets with noodle”. Muslims and Jewish people would not order it, thinking it contains pork, while some Buddhists who cannot take beef might.

I couldn’t help but ask the waitress about the menu. It turns out the job was handled by a Shenzhen translation and production house.

Eureka! That means made in China.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 15

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist; art, culture and food critic