top menu

How to Stir Fry 怎麼炒 in Chinese

The real way to say Chinese stir fry 炒麵

The real way to say Chinese stir fry 炒麵

Most Americans have eaten “chow mein” before.



(wo3) (shi4) (nian2 qing1) (de. shi2 hou4) (wo3) (ye3) (chi1) (chao3) (mian4)

(I) (to be) (young/youthful) (person) (when) (I) (also) (to eat) (stir fry) (noodle)

When I was a young person, I also ate chow mein.


But Americans apparently pronounce it with an Italian accent,



(yin1 wei4) (ta1 men.) (bu2 dong4) (zhong1 wen2) [(pin1 yin1) (de.)] (du2 fa3)

(because) (they) (don’t understand) (Chinese) [(sound)(adjective marker)] (read method)

because they don’t understand Chinese pinyin phonetic reading❷.


I never knew before this week that


(食品)(公司)(用)(中文)(發音) [(直接)(地)] (翻譯)「(炒)」

(shi2 pin3)(gong1 si1) (yong4) (zhong1 wen2) (fa1 yin1) [(zhi2 jie1)(de.)] (fan1 yi4) “(chao3)”

(food article) (company) (to use) (Chinese) (pronunciation) [(direct)(ly)] (to translate) “(stir fry)”

The company was using the pronunciation of the Chinese word directly for stir fry.



把 「麵」字 和 「炒』字 合起來 變成「炒麵」一詞

(把) 「(麵)」(字)(和)「(炒)』(字)(合起來)(變成)「(炒麵)」(一詞)

(ba3) “(mian4)” (zi4) (han4) “(chao3)” (zi4) (he2 qi3 lai2) (bian4 cheng2) “(chao3 mian4)” (yi1 ci2)

(grammatical marker indicating direct object coming before action) “(noodle)” (word) (and) “(stir fry)” (word) (combine together come) (become) “(stir fry noodle)” (one word).

Putting the word “mian” together with the word “chao” made the one word “chow mein.”


You can use other food, too.



(you3 shi2 hou4) (ni3) (ke3 yi3) (chao3) (ge4 shi4 ge4 yang4 de.) (shu1 cai4)

(sometimes) (you) (can) (stir fry) (every + type + every + kind = variety) (vegetables)

Sometimes you can use a variety of vegetables.


There are different kinds of noodles.



(zai4) (can1 ting1) (ke3 neng2) (fu2 wu4 yuan2) (hui4) (wen4) (ni3), “(ni3) (yao4) (cu1) (mian4) (huo4) (xi4) (mian4)?”

(at) (restaurant) (possibly) (waiter) (will) (ask) (you), “(you) (to want) (thin) (noodle) (or) (thick) (noodle)?”

At a restaurant, the waiter might ask you, “Do you want thick noodles or thin noodles?”


They usually only use the main two ingredients to name the dish.



(ke3 neng2) (ni3) (hui4) (chi1) (mo2 gu.) (chao3) (niu2 rou4)

(maybe, possibly, perhaps) (you) (will) (to eat) (mushroom) (stir fry) (beef meat)

Perhaps you will eat mushrooms stir fried with beef.


Rice is also a common ingredient,



(suo3 yi3) (ni3) (da4 gai4) (hui4) (kan4 dao4) (zhu1 rou4) (chao3) (fan4)

(so) (you) (probably) (will) (see) (pork meat) (stir fry) (rice)

So you will probably see pork fried rice.


The Chinese also like a good metaphor, therefore they might say,



“(ta1 men.) (zai4)ah (chao3 xin1 wen2)!”

“(they) (adds “ing” meaning to following verb) (stir up the media)!”

“They are stirring up the media!”


And you can respond,


「(他們)(應該)(只)(炒)(食物) (就好)!」❹

“(ta1 men.) (ying1 gai1) (zhi3)  (chao3) (shi2 wu4) (jiu4 hao3)!”

“(they) (should) (only, all that) (stir fry) (food) (only good)!”

“They should only stir fry food!”


Here is the audio to the script above, recorded in the coffee shop where I often have my lessons. The Chinese is read by my tutor and the English read by me:


Notes on helpful things I learned or was reminded of while writing these sentences:

❶ This two character Chinese word is an example of how a general word, in this case 辦法 (ban4 fa3) which translates  “method, way,” is made more specific by dropping one of the original characters and attaching a more distinct one. Here 辦 (ban4), meaning “handle it, set it up, or run it” was switched out for 讀 (du2), meaning “to read,” making the word 讀法 (du2 fa3) clearly state what method is being spoken of.

❷ Although the Hanyu pinyin system (click here to see a chart comparing the 3 main pinyin systems) is currently the most standard pinyin system for Chinese, it was not always. Because of this, the Chinese names phrases that have become part of American culture and history are often spelled using archaic and less uniform spellings. “Chow mein” falls into this category, as unfortunately do many street signs in Taiwan…

❸ I may have to get more in the habit of using 當 (dang1) at the beginning of phrases telling about “when” in the opening. It is kind of like putting “when” markers at the beginning and end of the phrase, thus making it more clear from the outset. I also learned this when translating this song: Understanding the Song 當我想你的時候 Enough to Rewrite It Helps Learn Grammar and Vocabulary

❹ The sentence structure here is 。。。只。。。就好 (. . . zhi3 . . . jiu4 hao3), used commonly to say “(subject) only (this) should do.”