A Cilantro-Hater in Thailand, China, and Japan
June 25, 2013 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend who does not share my intense love for cilantro: "Can someone please translate some simple cilantro-avoidance phrases into Thai, Mandarin, and Japanese for me?"

I will be traveling to Thailand, China, and Japan soon. I hate cilantro. Seriously, a little is not ok. It's the most awfullest thing I can imagine. It doesn't not taste like soap. I would much rather eat soap. I assume this will be a huge problem in Thailand, not much of an issue in Japan, and possibly an occasional problem in China.

Please help me avoid these problems by translating the following three phrases into Thai, Mandarin (I assume, not Cantonese, is that correct? Beijing and Xi'an) and Japanese. Please modify with the appropriate cultural niceties if direct translations would seem rude or whatever.

1. I cannot eat any cilantro. Not even a little.
2. Does this have any cilantro in it?
3. Can I have this/Can this be made with absolutely no cilantro?

Ideally I would like these written in the local characters in a form that I could just print out onto a card, laminate and carry with me. If you type the characters in here, will cut and pasting into a word processor work, or do I need to install special fonts/characters or change my windows language settings to get things to display correctly?

Thank you for your any help you can offer in enabling a cilantro-free voyage.
posted by maudlin to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would just ask at the guesthouse/hotel and have them write it out on the back of a business card.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:43 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you allergic or do you just really really hate cilantro?

For Chinese, a straight translation of your three phrases would be:

1. 我不能吃香菜。一点也不能。
2. 着个菜里有香菜吗? (Does this dish have cilantro in it?)
3. 着个菜里能不能不放香菜?(Can you not put cilantro in this dish.)

I am from Beijing and locally cilantro is known as 香菜 (xiang cai), so these phrases would be understood locally. For Xi'an, I'm not sure if cilantro is known locally by another name, so you'll have to check.
posted by dragonfruit at 1:50 PM on June 25, 2013

In Japanese:

1. コリアンダーが食べられない:KORIANDAA ga taberarenai (I can't eat cilantro)
2. これは、その中にコリアンダーがありますか: kore wa, sono naka ni KORIANDAA ga arimasuka? (does this have any cilantro in it?)
3. コリアンダーなしで、お願いします: KORIANDAA nashi de, onegaishimasu (with no cilantro, please)

I don't know if cilantro is common in Japan (I never saw a dish with it), but I hate onion and as long as I asked, they would leave it out, no questions asked.

If your friend can't speak the languages, I suggest doing as TWinbrook8 suggests: writing them on a card and presenting it to the server.
posted by clearlydemon at 1:54 PM on June 25, 2013

I would agree with the above for 3. For 1 and 2 I would be more inclined to say:

1) 私はコリアンダーが全く食べれません。
2) これにコリアンダーは入ってますか?

You may also hear コリアンダー (coriander) be referred to as パクチー (pak chi). However, unless you specifically go for non-japanese cuisine, it's unlikely you'd encounter coriander in Japan.
posted by pikeandshield at 3:54 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Probably the easiest way to say it in Japanese is this:


I was a "vegetarian" when I first went to Japan speaking no language, so I was able to quickly master "NIKU NUKI".

AFAIK, it's not terrible common in Japanese cuisine, although I think it might sometimes garnish miso soup.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:16 PM on June 25, 2013

I should say that it's considered very strange in Japan for adults to express dislikes about food (or, in other words, very childish). Most people either don't eat or drink things they don't like, or pick it out and leave it on the side.

Not such a big deal to ask for special menu considerations in restaurants, but considered very rude to do it at someone's home.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:18 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Won't be a problem in Japan. Cilantro/coriander is not a flavor that is present in the cuisine and a lot of my friends over there expressed a distaste for it.
posted by Muttoneer at 5:17 PM on June 25, 2013

google translate?

also, since you don't eat cilantro, you probably don't know that heat takes away much of the flavor. so, often cilantro is served fresh as a side that you can add as much or as little as you'd like.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:28 PM on June 25, 2013


Coriander is phak chee (low and mid tones). ผักชี

I copy-pasted that from google translate, but putting your statements in gave me more formal verbiage than I would have used, particularly at small food stalls/shops. So no more Thai script from me.

"I can't eat coriander:" Gin phak chee mai dai. (Mid - low - mid - falling - falling. If you get the falling tones on mai dai, you will get your point across. Pitch it like "Oh, no...!")

You could print out the Thai for coriander above and point and say just "Gin mai dai!"

"Please don't add coriander" [to this dish]: Yah say phak chee, noy. (All low tones but chee. Be sure to start and end the sentence pitched low.)

Or you could say you don't eat coriander and ask what they suggest for you: Aht ja gin ah-rai dee. (Basically a mid-tone sentence; the Aht, ja, and ah- in ah-rai are low and short. Don't let your voice rise like an English questioning tone on dee - one of my language teachers would say you should "hear the echo" to know you haven't inadvertantly let the pitch slide. This makes more sense if you are hearing people speak and imitating the tones!)

Roughly, produce high tone and beginning of falling tone at your forehead, mid tone at the throat, low tone at the sternum.

Chok dee! (High - mid) Good luck! And have fun.
posted by jaruwaan at 5:55 PM on June 25, 2013

Cilantro is not one of the ingredients that Select Wisely already have cards for, but they do special orders, apparently.
posted by Lexica at 7:20 PM on June 25, 2013

Cilantro is extremely uncommon in Japan, so your friend is unlikely to encounter it there. I remember going to a Vietnamese place there that substituted in shiso, which was interesting in a spring roll.
posted by adamrice at 9:10 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am also a cilantro abhorrer, lifelong, as in, spit it right back out if I get some, pick it out painstakingly from my food, etc. I read someplace that bruising cilantro liberally removes the offensive aldehydes that cause the soap-like flavor. I was really, really dubious. Then I tried it. It took all the nerve in the world for me to eat fresh cilantro, but it tasted like - well, I guess what I imagine other people taste when they eat cilantro. The soap was gone! So if you find it in your food, try smashing the hell out of it before tossing out the dish completely. It might help.
posted by Addlepated at 8:58 PM on June 27, 2013

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