Food categories and example usage – Beginner Chinese

Level: Beginner

When learning about food in Chinese textbooks, a lot of the time specific dishes are focused on. While this is good if you can memorise a dish that you like so you can order it, it won’t help you in chosing anything else from the menu. So rather than look at individual dishes, today we’re going to take a look at some categories of food and how they might be seen on a menu. Once you have learnt these categories then you simply need to learn a few more food types, such as the various meats, and you can easily be on your way to knowing what you are ordering. (This represents a western influenced menu, we’ll cover more traditional Chinese food in the future)

Appetiser

開味菜(开味菜)

Pinyin: kāi wèi cài
English: an appetiser

Pizza

披薩(披萨)

Pinyin: pī sà
English: pizza

usage

義式臘腸披薩(义式腊肠披萨)

Pinyin: yì shì là cháng pī sà
English: Pepperoni (Italian sausage) Pizza

Casserole

焗烤(焗烤)

Pinyin: jú kǎo
English: casserole

usage

白醬蔬菜焗飯(白酱蔬菜焗饭)

Pinyin: bái jiàng shū cài jú fàn
English: Vegetable casserole in white sauce

Pasta

義大利麵(义大利面)

Pinyin: yì dà lì miàn
English: Italian pasta/spaghetti

usage

海鮮義大利麵 (海鲜义大利面)

Pinyin: hǎi xiǎn yì dà lì miàn
English: Seafood pasta

Fried Rice

炒飯(炒饭)

Pinyin: chǎo fàn
English: fried rice

usage

雞肉炒飯(鸡肉炒饭)

Pinyin: jī ròu chǎo fàn
English: Chicken fried rice

Risotto

燉飯(炖饭)

Pinyin: dùn fàn
English: risotto

usage

紅白醬海鮮燉飯(红白酱海鲜炖饭)

Pinyin: hóng bái jiàng hǎi xiǎn dùn fàn
English: Seafood risotto in red and white sauce

Hamburger

漢堡(汉堡)

Pinyin: hàn bǎo
English: hamburger

usage

培根起司漢堡(培根起司汉堡)

Pinyin: péi gēn qǐ sī hàn bǎo
English: Bacon cheeseburger

Sandwich

三明治(三明治)

Pinyin: sān míng zhì
English: sandwich, 三文治 (sān wén zhì)may also be used

usage

煙燻雞肉三明治(烟熏鸡肉三明治)

Pinyin: yān xūn jī ròu sān míng zhì
English: Smoked chicken sandwich

Tortilla Wrap

墨西哥捲(墨西哥卷)

Pinyin: mò xī gē juǎn
English: Mexican/Tortilla wrap

usage

墨西哥義式臘腸培根捲(墨西哥义式腊肠培根卷)

Pinyin: mò xī gē yì shì là cháng péi gēn juǎn
English: Pepperoni and bacon tortilla wrap

Vegetarian

素食 (素食)

Pinyin: sù shí
English: vegeterian, not to be mistake with 速食 (sù shí)which is of the same pronounciation but means “fast food”, something you probably don’t want if you intended to order vegeratarian food!

usage

素食炒飯(素食炒饭)

Pinyin: sù shí chǎo fàn
English: Vegetarian fried rice

Salad

沙拉(沙拉)

Pinyin: shā lā
English: salad

usage

鮪魚生菜沙拉(鲔鱼生菜沙拉)

Pinyin: wěi yú shēng cài shā lā
English: Tuna salad

Dessert

甜點(甜点)

Pinyin: tián diǎn
English: dessert, a sweet

Drinks

飲料(饮料)

Pinyin: yǐn liào
English: drinks

Set Meal

套餐(套餐)

Pinyin: tào cān
English: set menu, keep a look out for this word as often you can save money by opting for the set menu that may include a salad and drink etc.

Next time you are at a restaurant see how many of these types of food you can see and try and make out what each variation is.

7 responses to “Food categories and example usage – Beginner Chinese

      1. Thank you for your prompt action. In that way, I don’t have to keep repeating myself – 炒冷饭!

  1. I lived in Beijing for 3 months and have lived in Shanghai for 6 months, and I noticed that Western words, especially food words, differ a lot by region, or even from restaurant to restaurant, because they are phonetic approximations.

    For instance, here in Shanghai, Italy is 意大利 (yi4 da4 li4),and cheese is 起士 (chi3 shi2). I’ve also seen two versions of tuna, 金枪鱼 (jin1 qiang1 yu2) and 吞拿 (tu1na2), and two versions of salmon, 鲑鱼 (gui1 yu2) and 三文鱼 (san1 wen2 yu2).

    1. Yeah you’re right, I’m finding this more and more recently. The same is true for computers and computer parts, though I hope that people from different areas would still understand the words even though they aren’t in everyday use there. Sort of like British vs American English.

      1. I think 意大利 is the standard in China, and 義大利 in Taiwan, though I think there is growing Taiwan influence on trendy/foreign foods in China that could make Taiwanese usages appear over here too. Not certain though.

        1. China uses Simplified Chinese, whereas Taiwan uses Traditional Chinese. In Singapore, we use Simplified Chinese too.

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