A few days ago, a Chinese woman was bringing some packs of monosodium glutamate (MSG) when she went back to American. However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) indicated that those MSG were refused to enter the country and would be confiscated.
Why does this normal ingredient cannot pass the border check? Translation problem.
The MSG brought by the woman was called “Ji Jing” (鸡精) in China, translated as Chicken Monosodium Glutamate. The reason given by the USCBP was that it had to be treated as an animal product and shall not pass the border check because there was a “chicken” in the name. However, Ji jing is just a kind of MSG contains a much stronger chicken flavor because of the high level of nucleotides inside. It has nothing to do with those live chickens which have wings on their body. Chinese people love using it because it will add more delicious chicken flavor to the dish. My parents will use it sometimes when they cook soup.
This news was quite popular in China these days because of its interesting reason. Actually, it was not the first time that translation problem brought misunderstanding among people. Lots of comments under this news showed many interesting stories like this. Such as the “Herbal Turtle Jelly,” another a bit confused translation.
Herbal turtle jelly is called Guilinggao (龟苓膏) in Chinese. “龟” means turtle; “苓” is the abbreviation of a Chinese herb used in Guilinggao; “膏” has a meaning of jelly, but jelly is not perfectly matched with the Chinese meaning. It used to be a very precious Chinese medicine supplied for imperial family.
The most traditional Guilinggao is a mixture of a bit powdered turtle shell and amounts of medicinal herbs, such as the wolfiporia extensa (土茯苓), dried rhizome of rehmannia (地黄), and so on. However, due to the high cost of turtle shell and animal protection issues, most of the Guilinggao today are made by the herb powder and some additives that have the similar taste with the traditional one. Although the ingredients are changed, most of the companies retained the traditional name Guilinggao to show the authenticity of their products.
According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine, Guilinggao is a kind of medicinal dessert with some medical effects, including relieve the extra heat (therefore, lots of people will eat it in summer), eliminating wetness, enhancing blood circulation and the growth of muscles, easing constipation,preserving a good look and refreshing oneself, etc. Although it’s considered as a dessert, Guilinggao is not sweet at all. The best and the most simple way to make it more delicious it to add honey on top.
(Chicken MSG sales in lots of Asian markets, such as Better World Market in West Lafayette. Since some people may still have problems on accepting the ingredients of the turtle jelly, so I will not put any specific link or info of the market here. If you are interested in Herbal turtle jelly, you can find them online or at some local markets.)