Plate of Wander

ellis’ China Glossary

After food glow–a look of complete happiness and utter satisfaction after a wonderful meal. Also referred to as ‘the itis.’

And so on—a replacement for the Chinese 等等,which means et cetera et cetera. Except my students use it when there is no more to be said, they just don’t know how to finish a sentence.

Baijiu (白酒)—literally, white alcohol/wine, but this stuff is a 150-ish-proof devil. It’s made from rice and it tastes how I imagine grape-flavored gasoline would taste.

Da Run Fa (大润发)– a supermarket in Huzhou, sometimes referred to as ‘DRF’ or ‘The Da.’

Hanification-the increasing or total domination by the majority Han goverment that strips a city of its character and makes it virtually indistinguishable from any other city

Jia you(加油)—Literally, ‘add oil,’ this phrase can mean filling up one’s gas tank, but is commonly used as an expression when cheering for a person or team. So when rooting for someone, you yell ‘Jia you!” to express your support.

Jiaoz (饺子)—boiled dumplings, usually stuffed with ground pork or chopped greens.

Jinging or to jing–to toast with alcohol, usually beer or baijiu

Jiu (酒)–the Chinese word for alcohol, which is also sometimes translated as ‘wine.’


Laowai –foreigner. Literally, ‘old outside,’ it carries a slightly more respectful tone than waiguo ren.

Mafan(麻烦)—annoyance or trouble, as in “I’m sorry to trouble you.” [ In Chinglish: I don’t want to mafan you but…”]

Mala tang(麻辣汤)–a do-it-yourself type of spicy soup. You pick the meats, vegetables and carbs, they make you your soup.

Mantou(馒头)—a delightful concoction of rice flour steamed into bready bun form, it is my soul mate. Generally bland in taste, mantou can also be made from corn meal or with black sesame. It can also be filled with anything from sweet beans to, in its most orgasmic form, pure sugar.

Nian gao(年糕)—white rice compressed into rectangular blocks or coin-sized discs of chewy, high-density carbohydrates. Eaten especially on the Chinese New Year, nian gao is fairly bland and goes with any sort of sauce or soup. Nian gao can also refer to a steamed, sweet, bready sort of snack.

‘Orange’ ‘juice’—a noxious orange-tasting concoction made of little or no orange at all. The primary ingredients are water and sugar (I checked the label), and if you don’t want to drink alcohol, chances are you’ll end up drinking this.

Ruxiang suisu(入乡随俗)–a Chinese saying that literally means, ‘when you enter a village, follow the customs.’ Basically, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’

Taobao–the Chinese eBay.

Ting bu dong(听不懂)–very useful Chinese phrase that means “I don’t understand.” This is used in reference to audible things, not written things.

Waiguo ren(外国人)—foreigner. Literally, ‘person from outside the country.’

Waiguo Ren stare—the look I get the moment I step out of my apartment. It begins with an astonished stare right into my eyes. The starer’s eyes promptly drop to my feet, just to make sure that I’m not wearing high heels, then flit back up to my face. The stare follows me until I’m out of sight with varying degrees of neck-craning. The Waiguo Ren Stare may or may not be accompanied by exclamations of “Waiguo ren!” “Laowai!” or “Hello!”

Welcome Spread– a table full of oranges, nuts or seeds (usually peanuts and/or pumpkin seeds), and small snacks like preserved plum, offered to guests in Chinese homes. Accompanied by tea and bad Chinese television.

Youzi—a large citrus fruit that looks like a mega-grapefruit but tastes much less bitter than an actual grapefruit. Highly addictive.

Zai lai yige(再来一个)–my favorite Chinese phrase, it means “bring another.” Usually used in reference to edible foodstuffs.

Zhenzhu naicha(珍珠奶茶)–bubble tea, or milk tea with chewy tapioca balls. Though it’s called ‘milk tea,’ there’s actually very little in the way of tea. It’s mostly sweet milk powder mixed with a little hot water. And it’s lovely. And very fattening.