Tu duo niu rou gai jiao mian
Last night, something amazing happened! I ordered my dinner entirely in Chinese without having to point at anything! I was so excited and proud of myself! Granted, it wasn’t too hard, since it was just beef fried rice (niu rou chao fan), but still. All in Chinese. And she understood! Made my day!
Today, when we went back to the noodle shop for lunch (which I affectionately call the noodleteria – Spanglish in China, of course :)), I decided that it was absurd that I could order fried rice and beef noodles (niu rou mian tiao) but not the dish that we eat most frequently. Now, this dish has a seven character name, rather than a simple four character name, but really? I can do this.
Side note: this dish is delicious! I mean, seriously fabulous. It is beef, onions, potatoes, and peppers tossed in some sauce over a bed of noodles. So, so good. Oh and it does look exactly like the menu picture (a rarity indeed!).
I pulled out my Chinese-English phrasebook and my journal with my personalized list of food translated into Chinese by one of my students, Sam. Between the two, I was able to read potatoes (the first two characters, pronounced tu duo), beef (the second set of two characters, niu rou), and noodles (mian, the final character). But I was stumped with the other two characters. It was at this point that I realized that the two girls at the table behind me were watching me attempt to decipher these characters with avid interest. I turned to them and asked them how to pronounce this dish, but they didn’t understand. So I pointed to the characters I knew and started saying them. When I got to the two characters I didn’t know, they told me how to pronounce them. They also graciously wrote the pinyin in my journal, at which point I realized that the two characters (gai jiao) mean some kind of pepper (jiao is pepper, gai is the kind, which I still need to figure out). So the actual name of this delicious food is tu duo niu rou gai jiao mian – literally translated to mean potato beef pepper noodle. Everything in this country is based on context, so I’m assuming that it translates something more like potatoes, beef, and peppers with noodles. But who knows. Maybe it really is just a string of food. Whatever it is, the food is amazing! And next time we visit the noodleteria, I will certainly try to order it in Chinese!