February 09, 2008

Thai Mystery Food

We remark from time to time on the interesting and amusing mistranslations that appear in the English versions of Chinese menus. Today's New York Times reports an example from Thailand encountered by the Olympic triathlon team:

Be Dental Alveoli Quick to Salad Bangkok Hot Paddle Fish

My very limited knowledge of Thai is not up to this. Can any of our readers make sense of this?

Posted by Bill Poser at February 9, 2008 01:39 PM

The first part appears consistent with al dente ravioli. Could paddle fish have something to do with fish roe?

Posted by: Maryanne at February 9, 2008 02:02 PM

The last part is probably Cuttlefish.

Posted by: Douglas at February 9, 2008 02:36 PM

"Paddlefish" are legitimate: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paddlefish . The fish itself seems not to be eaten, but its eggs are a major variety of caviar.

Posted by: John Cowan at February 9, 2008 02:43 PM

The Thai word for paddlefish identifies them as a variety of shark (a 'duck-billed shark', if you will: ปลาฉลามปากเปด [plaa-chalaam paak pet]), & a shark's fin is a หูฉลาม (huu chalaam), or "shark's ear". A ยำ (yam) is frequently a kind of salad, & a ต้มยำ (tom yam) is a kind of soup, but ต้ม (tom) means 'to boil'… There's a lot of maybes in this, but I could see the orifice of the ear going to the orifice of the tooth socket (tho the words aren't even remotely similar), the quick, salad, & hot being a rough way of describing ต้มยำ (tom yam), & thus this' being shark fin soup. Which is a thing that exists. I'll run my ideas by my Thai roommates this evening & see what they think.

Posted by: Pathawi at February 9, 2008 06:54 PM

I asked my Thai friend in Bangkok whose degree is in English linguistics. She considered shark fin soup for the same reasons as above, except that shark fin soup is not usually spicy nor is it a salad. As in the first comment, the "dental alveoli" led her to noodles and thus: kuaytiao yum pla (spicy noodle salad with fish).

Posted by: Rob at February 11, 2008 01:31 AM