Update 2014-01-07: I have updated the vocab links, as they used to from the Bing online dictionary, which keeps changing its URLs.
Im my Hiknow business English class on Food & Entertaining, I like to make one point clear: food can't always be translated. A Chinese dish might not have a name in English. So what do you say when trying to speak about Chinese food in English? What should someone say when trying to explain foreign food to someone Chinese?
If you said in English to a foreign visitor "Please eat these Acid Hot Copy Hands", they might think you were mad, maybe murderous, perhaps a plagiarist and possibly a cannibal to boot! Although they might also just laugh, realising that the food you're offering couldn't possibly contain acid and hands and that it's (probably?) just a language barrier issue.
Here are a couple of alternatives to just translating the Chinese name:
1. Give the Chinese name and a short explanation.
"These are suānlà chāoshǒu. They are large dumplings, made with wheat flour. First, pork and spices are wrapped in thin sheets of dough, then they're steamed and finally covered in a spicy sauce. They're a speciality of Sichuan. Try one! They're delicious!"
That way, not only does the visitor get the right idea about what the food is, but you're also selling them on it: describing its features and making them want to have it.
2. Give a simple explanatory name.
For example "Spicy steamed Sichuan dumplings". It's less poetic... but also less scary and less confusing!
What you imagine when you say "suānlà chāoshǒu":
What an English speaker imagines when they hear "Acid Hot Copy Hand":
G.A.L.E.S.L. / joe3
Some tips and links on learning English.