Cooking translation


Cooking is fun, challenging, and also healthy, but attempting to interpret foreign recipes found online or in books can lead to some confusion.

Cooking has been around since the dawn of humankind, so kicking off this article by saying it’s somewhat in vogue as of late would be a bit ridiculous. But things aren’t that simple, and since the explosion into mainstream media of shows like Master Chef and their subsequent army of “celebrity chefs” plastered all over the airwaves, this popular art that had been relegated to the domain of knowledgeable housewives (and maybe some adventurous husbands too) for as long as we can remember, has become a skill now deemed as cool as a cucumber. Cooking is fun, challenging, and also healthy (unless you set the whole kitchen ablaze), but attempting to interpret foreign recipes found online or in books can lead to some confusion.  This also applies to translating the procedures that bring all the delicious meals to the table. Here are some of the main offenders.


The use of different units of measurement has always been something that has sparked so much confusion and frustration, it’s surprising nations haven’t gone to war over it. Mixing up cups, tablespoons, grams, splashes, ounces, gallons liters, and a bazillion other arbitrary measuring systems can easily lead to a curry with one grain of rice, forty chickens, and enough spicy goodness to murder a herd of hippos. There are plenty of converters online that can help you figure out even the most obscure measurements and easily sort them out, so if you don’t want your translation causing a diplomatic incident at someone’s family dinner, fire them up and the rest will flow.


Depending on the region, there are a lot of ingredients that can be hard to obtain, and in some occasions, almost impossible. Nowadays with the advent of online shopping, some of the products can be somewhat easier to obtain, but for the fresh stuff it’s pretty much back to the old ways. If you are translating a physical cookbook, try to find out in which regions it will be published, so you can attempt to find similar local substitutes that may do the trick. Also, we recommend enlisting the help of a somewhat experienced cook that can guide you through the process, as trying to guess what substitutes might work without extensive knowledge can easily lead to a culinary catastrophe.  


The good old pots and pans are surprisingly different around the world, and the recognizable Asian chopsticks and Woks are merely the tip of the iceberg. Luckily, Google is our best friend here, and a quick search will likely clear up any confusion. If you see a totally bizarre and unrecognizable utensil that is somehow essential to the preparation of a dish, there are plenty of enthusiast forums that will put a name on it and describe its function so you can avoid leaving your readers in the dark. After all, there is a good side to the whole cooking phenomena, and it’s that translating obscure recipes is far, far easier than before. If we could only find a way to avoid raiding the fridge every time we translate a tasty dish, we would be good to go.

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