No, that’s not the name of an alternative rock group that plies the underside of Beijing night-life. It’s a term that I spotted numerous times on the menu of a restaurant I was in earlier this evening. As is not usually the case in that part of town, this menu was in both Chinese and English. There was one whole page of naked oat dishes. Naked oats in soup. Naked oats with tofu. Naked oats with mutton ribs. Naked oat noodles. And I can’t figure out for the life of me what naked oats are!!!!
Whenever a Chinese menu is translated into English, there’s sure to be something funny. I don’t know who names Chinese dishes or what the process is, but the naming process must involve a struggle between poetry and realism; between not enough information and too much information. For example, the name of a dish might be "The Emperor is Taking a Swim," which definitely doesn’t give the eater any clue as to what he/she might be about to eat. On the other hand, you might spy on the menu "crab ovaries and fungus," which, in my opinion is way too much information! Other fun entries might be "fish balls and duck lips," or, well, "naked oats."
I think I’ll stick with the gongbao jiding (kung pao chicken—which, if directly translated comes out "palace exploding chicken cubes")