I love menu translation because it is one of the greatest challenges in tourism translation! It takes a lot of research but it is very satisfying when you find the right word and know that you have been able to create an enticing, attractive translation for a menu that includes culinary delights all customers would like to try.

There are many difficulties in menu translation (and translating when hungry is just one of them). Things can go terribly wrong and it takes a lot or research and a keen eye to spot subtle differences and speed mistakes.

I will give you some examples with Greek but they can really be found in other languages, too!

1. There will be words that even the most seasoned [sic] foodie translators will probably never have seen before…..

Pitsu parsley sauce (source text: Πιτσού Μαϊντανού)

Τempeh burger:  made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form.

culinary translation

2. A word even google has not seen before! (yes, that’s a thing, too): (1 hit in Google Greece), impossible to find in any latin transcription (I tried countless versions before I found the right one: salikon, salicon, chaulicon, chalicaunte…….)

source text: Σαλικόν και Ροβίτσα με γαρίδες, μάνγκο και καβουρδισμένο κουκουνάρι σε βινεγκρέτ εσπεριδοειδών

La salicorne – Ce genre comprend de nombreuses espèces de détermination difficile (according to wikipedia). It is a kind of seaweed:

3. Chefs and F&Bs sometime decide to use very gourmet source words in order to spice things up – and make menu translation even more of a challenge. 

source text: Chicken with vegetables, “pitsini” flavour, maldon salt.

[Κοτόπουλο με λαχανικά, άρωμα πιτσίνι, maldon αλάτι]

You can find Maldon crystal salt fairly easily, but the “pitsini” flavor could only be Bacon and cheese crisp flavor. How wrong is that and who would like to eat that, anyway?

And, finally, my personal favorite:

4. The untranslatable source word!

Why untranslatable? Because it does not exist in the target language. Like “koulouraki” in Greek which is a special kind of traditional deliciousness and which is not a cookie, nor a donut, it is not a scone, nor is it a crumpet or a biscuit. How would you possibly add all kinds of traditional items in a menu translation without having to constantly add parentheses and descriptions?

menu translation


Also, you can’t translate cupcakes! Nor angel food cakes or macarons. Fortunately κάπκεϊκς if transliterated are just as delicious (though ugly in spelling) !


The same goes for Greek “spoon sweets” which are various fruit pieces preserved in syrup and served as a treat all over Greece. They can be grape, sour cherry (try it if you find it, it’s really good), even tomato and walnut! 

Right, off I am to translate more yummy menus, research Mediterranean fish and if there are Scandinavian words for them and try to find inspired translations for traditional Greek home made bread and pies!

Have you ever tried menu translation? What are your favorite translation types and why? I’d love to know!