Things You Do In China #6: Food Characters

Things you do in China #6

China is a crazy place, I’m not going to lie. However, I wouldn’t have spent almost 20 months here now if I didn’t like it. There are little quirks, just like any country, which will help you to fit in better. I hope to cover some of these in this series of topics!
#6 You learn the food characters for meat asap so you don’t end up eating cat or dog

Not that I’ve seen much cat or dog on the menu, but we all know it exists. There was a restaurant when I lived in Ordos where there was dog on the menu. Needless to say I kept away from that.

food characters

Food Characters, badly drawn on Paint!

The food characters actually look like: 牛肉, 羊肉,猪肉,鸡肉 and fish 鱼肉. Cat and dog: 猫肉,狗肉

Learning food characters was the beginning of my learning. I wanted to make sure that when the time came to branch out of restaurants with picture menus, I’d be able to confidently order something I actually wanted. Even to this day I’m still proud of that an can happily order from a completely Chinese menu.


What do you think to eating dog and cat meat?

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Author: Bennett

2 years as an expat in China and now doing the same in New Zealand, Bennett sure likes to experience "slow travel!"

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  1. I think it is great that you have learnt so many of the characters. Having dual language menus has always been a big help to me.

    I find it quite amusing that the middle character for chicken looks like somebody sitting down 😉

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    • Yes, dual language is much easier, but in the sticks of China not always possible 😉
      I remember that first character for chicken because I think it looks a bit like a chicken, what with the little comb on the top of his head!

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  2. I use “ji rou” on a regular basis as it’s the only meat I consume 🙂 Easy peasy to learn heheh

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  3. HEADS UP: Sometimes they will refer to dog meat 狗肉 as Xiangrou 香肉 (scented meat), at least in Taiwan. Not that they eat that here, just refer to it as that.

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    • Hmm, I will definitely watch out for that as we have a lot of Taiwanese food here. I know the 香 character and it’s attributed to many things!
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Meat characters were some of the first characters I learned. I got really tired of pointing at menus and ordering the same dishes all the time. Of course, then I ran into the problem of reading 田鸡–literally field chicken. But it ain’t chicken…it’s frog. Tasted pretty good, but I can’t stand the little bones.

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    • Hi Matt, thanks for stopping by!
      Frog isn’t too bad, but I agree – too bony! That’s the reason why I don’t eat chicken feet – I like them but not enough meat for the effort!
      Food is generally awesome in China though.

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