Haven’t updated in a while since I’ve temporarily relocated to the West Coast and have minimal Internet access on my computer. But! This means that I’m no longer in Vermont and closer to sources of hilarity and epicness in lack of translations so I can actually take my own pictures and perhaps upload them once I get back to New England.

Anyway, this post is about 秋刀魚, or pacific saury. It’s a common fish in East Asian cuisine, especially so in Japanese food. The character 魚 means fish while 秋 is “autumn” and 刀 is “blade”. The origin of this rather epic name is possibly because the pacific saury looks like of like a blade and breeds during the spring. Nobody (on Wikipedia, at least) really knows for sure…


Pills of Orthodox Dew

March 23, 2010

Anyone who spent some time watching television from Hong Kong before 2000 would probably at some point encounter a TV ad for 喇叭牌正露丸, or Trumpet Brand Orthodox Dew Pills. Featuring trumpet-led marching band music and catchy advertising jingles mixed with Cantonese slang describing stomachaches that words actually cannot express it’s a pretty addictive marketing campaign. At some point they switched to smooth elevator music hip hop, which, frankly, is a whole lot less addictive.

These pills are marketed as cures for diarrhea and stomachaches. I really don’t know nothing about them besides the fact that they smell kinda funny and are supposedly sugar coated. The TV claimed they worked but I never really tried.

The name 喇叭牌正露丸 can be dissected into the brand (喇叭牌 means trumpet brand—we’ll explore this term in another post on musical instruments at some point) and the actual product name. The characters 正露丸 translate to “orthodox/right”, “dew” and “pill”, respectively. There is a small pun here: in Cantonese 露 sounds the same as 路, which means “road”. 正路 means, obviously, “the right path” or maybe “the path of good” in more religious/metaphysical contexts. So these are also pills that send you to the right path which, according to the advertising jingles, is not towards the bathroom while clutching your stomach with both hands.

Dragon Eye

February 17, 2010

More commonly known as the longan fruit, this fruit’s name actually translates directly to Dragon Eye. Because it looks like the eye of a dragon? There’s a whole tradition of Chinese names for things that take the form Dragon X (such as the previously mentioned Dragon Core processor) and this blog will attempt to bring them all to light with a series of scathing blog posts in the near future.

Wall Vaulting Buddha

January 25, 2010

Despite the fact that this sounds like a nickname for a Chinese track and field champion it’s actually the name of a famous dish: 佛跳牆, or, literally, “Buddha jump wall”. Basically it’s a couple dozen awesomely delicious things (including ham, abalone, shitake mushrooms, shark fin, quail eggs, etc.) slow cooked together for a while. The history (or legend?) claims that when this dish was originally served it had no name. But then these dudes were like, dude, this dish is totally flippin’ epic in fact if you were to cook it while Buddha himself was meditating next door he would vault over the walls of the monastery and nom on this here epic bowl of ambrosia.

Except that these guys were rich liberal arts majors so they did not just say that out loud they had to write a poem about it. The lines that the dish got its name from are


They basically mean something like “the aromatic cooking smell spreads to four grottoes away, when a buddha smells it he will abandon the state of zen and come leaping over walls”. Technically it’s “four residential units measured by the level of governance immediately below that which is designated a ‘village’ in the Chinese governmental structure” instead of “four grottoes” and also, although the word for “buddha” is used it really should be translated to “monk” or “holy man”. But then again we’re established that accurate translation is not the goal of this blog.

What is important is that, two hundred years ago, there’s this dude in China who created a dish so delicious that in theory if it was to exist centuries before his time it would prevent a major religious figure from achieving nirvana and prevent one of the largest religions on the planet from really forming. That’s pretty darn epic there.

Incomparable Paste

January 8, 2010

Otherwise translatable as Paste Without Comparison, Mopiko is actually a really awesome paste that relieves itching and swelling and stuff. And it has a name that reminiscent of long lost artifacts of great power. Isn’t modern medicine amazing in that you can get this powerful magic item for less than five dollars at your local Asian market?

Notice that I do not actually make fun of medicinal products that actually do what they claim to do. As for Mopiko, well I haven’t actually found anything quite like it for itch relief so I guess it is kind of incomparable.

Also, a note: posting frequency will drop by a bit since my vacation is over, so no more daily posts from now on.

That translation is actually somewhat off. It’s just the most ridiculous sounding thing you can get from this product name. In reality it should more be like Lumberjack’s Oil of Bloodboiling.

It is clear that if the oil is good enough to get a lumberjack going it’s good enough for you. Sadly I cannot read the various poetry and wild claims on the box. If I ever encounter a better picture or a real box I’ll totally update this.

Of note: the dude who is on the box is not a lumberjack. He is the dude who manufactures and probably invented this oil. His name is Wong the Sincere and Loyal. How can you not trust a bottle of medicine from a dude named Sincere and Loyal?

(Picture from Eric So on tom.com.)

Orthodox Black Ghost Oil

January 4, 2010

This is a bottle of orthodox (or real) black ghost oil—-except that it’s really a bootleg since the genuine one says “original package” instead of “real”.

Those of you with a passing familiarity of Chinese slang would know that black ghost means nigger in Chinese. That’s right, guys, there is a chiropractic product sold in East Asia called Nigger Oil. And it’s such a common item that there are bootleg nigger oils. Seriously.

The real Singapore Golden Black Ghost Oil has a colored portrait of the South Asian looking gentleman on the cover and you can clearly see that he is black; also there are words next to the portrait saying that you can identify real golden black ghost oil by the portrait of said black gentleman.

Even more baffling: the poem on the cover of this box (reproduced from the real, genuine box) reads “Genuine, orthodox merchandise; will replace for free if it’s fake; always keep a bottle in your home and with you to ensure eternal safety”.

I forgot if this post is a commentary on racism or piracy. I guess I’ll stop now.

Oh, yeah, I don’t actually know what this is for specifically. I think it’s one of those generic random if you rub it on some aching bones it will become better kind of medicine.

(Picture from Eric So on tom.com.)

It’s a bottle of pain relievers. Its active ingredient is acetaminophen.

There is a generic kind of medicinal product known as windchaser oil, one brand of which is pictured above. More commonly they are appended with “thousand mile” as the premise of these oils is that it will rejuvenate you to such a degree that, after using it, you will be so awesome that you can chase the wind spirits for one thousand miles before you get tired again. Or something like that.

For those who do not believe the description just look at the box. As you can see from the picture if you use this oil you will look super hardcore like the people on the boxes. They look like they’re about to rip your face off because they are so to chase the wind for a thousand miles yet they are trapped in boxes so they are angry. I think the person in blue is supposed to be an old man and the person in pink an old woman given the hairstyle and the cut of the clothing; also I can tell from the pixels that they are just Photoshops of each other because the artist was cutting corners. Presumably by paying their artist half the money they can cram even more ability-enhancing goodness into each bottle.

Each brand of these windchaser oils contains a different, possibly not FDA-approved, blend of expensive, rare herbs and animal parts and technically they are for joint pains and other symptoms of old age. Each brand also has a different claim as to what marvelous feats that you can accomplish if you use it. I will do more research on these wonderful things and write about them again later; I have already found a brand with a name so obtuse that I am having a lot of trouble translating it for your pleasure.

The Essence of Taste

January 1, 2010

Buddha’s Hand Essence of Taste Gourmet Powder from the Heavenly Chef Taste Essence Company Limited (Hong Kong). Sounds tasty, right?

It’s a tin of pure MSG.

Also, there are companies such as Heavenly Chef whose sole purpose in existence is to manufacture MSG.

In the US, Buddha’s Hand MSG does in fact say what it is in English on the box, presumably so the FDA doesn’t shut them down. However it is not nearly as prominent as the completely uninformative “ve-tsin” label, which is a transliteration for “taste essence”, which means MSG.

Bonus fun fact: the word for “essence” is the same word for “semen”, so an alternative, hilarious translation of this product name is “Semen of Taste” or, if you use a brute force methods, “Taste Semen”.

You’re welcome.