Hao Bu Hao Chi?



Illustration: Choc Hsu

Essential Chinese for the Night Market

Though isolated from the national scenic area’s main tourist corridor, and birdsong quiet, Alishan’s northern part presents many pleasant choices on where to roost at night, fill growling tummies, and hunt for gift and souvenir gems.

Visiting a night market (夜市; ye shi), and trying some of the exotic snack food dishes (小吃; xiao chi) on offer, is one of the essential activities on a typical Taiwan-visit itinerary. Bigger night markets that receive a fair number of foreign visitors, such as Taipei’s Shilin Night Market (士林夜市; shi lin ye shi), do have some English, Japanese, or even Korean signage; but in general night-market menus and food-stall signs are in Chinese only, so it comes in handy if you know some of the key words/Chinese characters for ordering food in the local language.

First, what are some of the most famous snack-food treats to be found at most night markets around Taiwan? Here’s a short list:

Grilled squid (烤魷魚; kao you yu)
Minced soy-braised pork rice (滷肉飯; lu rou fan)
Non-fried spring rolls (潤餅; run bing)
Oyster omelet (蚵仔煎; eh ah jen in Taiwanese; the Mandarin Chinese pronunciation ke zai jian is almost never used)
Oyster vermicelli (蚵仔麵線; eh ah mi sua; another dish rarely ordered in Mandarin, ke zai mian xian)
Pepper buns (胡椒餅; hu jiao bing)
Pig blood cake (豬血糕; zhu xue gao)
Small sausage in large sausage (大腸包小腸; da chang bao xiao chang)
Soy sauce-braised foods (滷味; lu wei)
Stinky tofu (臭豆腐; chou dou fu)

Now to the ordering. Usually, you can just point to the things you would like to order, because many food stalls have all their offerings laid out right in front of you. Here are some very basic, but helpful, phrases you can use when ordering:

[Talking to the vendor] Boss! (老闆; lao ban)
I want this (我要這個;wo yao zhege)
I want one (two, three) (我要一個[兩個,三個];wo yao yi ge [liang ge, san ge])
[Beverages] I want one (two, three) cups/glasses (我要一杯[兩杯,三杯];wo yao yi bei [liang bei, san bei])
[Rice or soup, etc.] I want one (two, three) bowls (我要一碗[兩碗,三碗];wo yao yi wan [liang wan, san wan])
How much is it? (多少錢; duo shao qian)
Thank you! (謝謝; xie xie)
I want it spicy (加辣; jia la)
I want it less spicy (少辣; shao la)
I am a vegetarian (我吃素; wo chi su)

Finally, if sitting down to enjoy an oyster omelet or bubble tea and you want to share your Taiwan snack-food experience with local diners at your table, here are some things you might say:

Tastes very good! ([很]好吃; hen hao chi / if someone asks: How does it taste? [好不好吃; hao bu hao chi])
Very sweet! (好甜; hao tian)
Very spicy! (好辣; hao la)
I am full (我吃飽了; wo chi bao le / if someone asks: Are you full? [你吃飽了嗎; ni chi bao le ma])
This night market is fun (夜市很好玩; ye shi hen hao wan / if someone asks: Do you like this night market? [你喜歡夜市嗎; ni xi huan ye shi ma])

 

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