A colleague just returned to the office from a trip to Beijing. Before he embarked on his flight home, he did what most vacationers did: he thoughtfully bought a choice sample or two of the local confections for his coworkers; then, upon arrival in the workplace, he put the delicious candies out on a conference table so one and all could partake.
He says that in his haste to make a purchase to bring back home, he thought he might be buying some caramels or chocolates or something nutty. “Nutty” might be suggested by the packaging above. What he got instead was a species of the dense, sweet, bland, textureless red bean confection that I’ve encountered in Japan. It’s a taste I haven’t yet acquired, so I steered clear.
Still, it’s the thought that counts, and our colleague brought something that might be better than Violet Crumble, foreign-made dark-chocolate KitKats or Coffee Time bars, or 77 percent French chcocolate: a fun product label. Perusal of the packaging turned up an English-language ingredient list). What drew immediate attention:
Commodity name: Sheep thick soup
And then the ingredients:
White sugar, small red bean, malt dust, chestnut, food additive, agar
Malt dust. It’s my favorite. Most ‘specially with chestnut and melamine.
Now, in the spirit of research, I do find several references on Baidu, the Chinese-language search engine, to “sheep thick soup.” So my guess is that there’s a literal translation involved in the phrase “sheep thick soup” and that the characters actually might hold within them a zesty, clever name for this candy (“sweet mud ball,” maybe).
Anyone? (The Beijing company that makes sheep thick soup, Yushiyuan, has a sort of arty if opaque home page. Enjoy the English “About Us” page, which probably goes best with some nice thick soup of sheep.)