< Writing Feedback: What Is Your National Dish?
By John Russell
04 April 2024

In today's Everyday Grammar, we will take a delicious trip to East Asia. We will taste wonderful and perhaps unfamiliar foods - if only in our imagination.

We will also learn about some of the details of writing, including common spelling and punctuation mistakes.


In a recent Everyday Grammar, we explored how to talk about a national dish.

We asked our listeners and readers around the world to write to us about their national dish.

In today's lesson, we give feedback on some of that writing.

Japan - chirashi-sushi

Let's start with Japan.

Here is part of what Kaori wrote:

Chirashi-sushi is the national dish of Japan.

It is a sweet and sour dish that consists of rice, shrimp, eggs, dried gourd, vinegar, salt and sugar...

In May 5th, we eat the traditional sweet called Kashiwa-mochi. It is a sweet and sticky small snack that consists of rice powder, small red beans and sugar.

Kaori used the structures that we discussed in our previous lesson. The writing included adjectives such as sweet and sour, the phrasal verb "consist of," and nouns such as rice, shrimp, and eggs. We were especially interested to read about dried gourd – an ingredient that is not common in America.

Our main suggestion is to replace the short word "in" with "on," as in "On May 5th, we eat the traditional sweet..."

Remember: we use "on" for exact dates. So, we say, for example, "On January 1st," or "On September 27th."

China – chicken soup

Next, we go to China to learn about two popular dishes.

Here, we notice a similarity between the United States and China. If you asked Americans to write about a national dish, you would likely get different answers. In the same way, we received different answers about a national dish of China.

Here is part of Jon's message:

Chicken soup is a national dish of China, it's a light soup that consists of hens and medicine plants.

Most part of chicken soup is hens' meat, because it tastes finer...the other ingredients of it are Chinese medicine plants such as DangGui. Of course we need some flavorings to make it tastes more delicious, soybeans, peppers, ginger and garlic are necessary to the soup.

Jon's message is clear and easy to understand. That said, we have a few suggested changes.

In terms of grammar, we should remove the noun form "medicine" and instead use the adjective "medicinal," as in "medicinal plants." We could also use a more exact noun such as "herb," as in "medicinal herbs."

We should also replace the short word "to" with "for," as in "necessary for the soup."

We could also make a few small stylistic changes. For example, in the first sentence, we could use the noun "chicken" in place of "hen" although a hen makes it clear that the bird is a female.

Here is one way we might update the message:

Chicken soup is a national dish of China. It is a light soup that consists of chicken and medicinal herbs.

Most of the chicken soup has meat from the female chicken, or hen, because it tastes finer and softer than meat from the male chicken.

The other ingredients of chicken soup are Chinese medicinal herbs such as dang gui. Of course, we need some flavorings to make it taste more delicious. Soybean, peppers, ginger and garlic are necessary for the soup.

China - meicai kourou

Next, here is part of what Ming wrote to us:

Meicai Kourou is the national dish of China. It is a salty dish that consists of pork belly, fermented red tofu source, dry mizuna, soybean source, salt and species, such as Sichuan Peppercorn and star anise. Mei Cai is the mizuna's pronunciation in Chinese....

Ming wrote a nice message that is clear and easy to understand.

We suggest a few changes for some of the nouns. Instead of "source," we want to use the word "sauce." And instead of "species," we would use "spices."

So, the second sentence might say: "fermented red tofu sauce," "soybean sauce," and "salt and spices."

The final sentences might go like this:

It is a salty dish that consists of pork belly, fermented red tofu sauce, dry mizuna, soybean sauce, salt, and spices, such as Sichuan peppercorn and star anise. Mei cai is the Chinese pronunciation for mizuna.


We can take a few lessons from the messages that we received. The first is that writing does not need to be perfect to be understandable. All the messages had nice, clear structures and were easy to understand for a native English speaker.

The main issues were in the details – the spelling of nouns and adjectives, punctuation, and other small things. Our recommendation is to carefully look over these details several times in future writing efforts.

We will give more writing feedback on messages from our fans around the world in coming lessons. We will learn more about national dishes from other areas of the world including Europe and Africa.

If you have a question or comment about today's lesson, feel free to send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com

I'm John Russell.

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

punctuation – n. the marks (such as periods and commas) in a piece of writing that separate it into sentences, clauses, etc.

feedback – n. helpful suggestions for improvement

gourd – n. any one of several types of fruits that have a hard shell

fermentedadj. describing a food that has been processed with edible bacteria or yeast to change its flavor and to preserve it

phrasal verb n. grammar: a group of words that functions as a verb and is made up of a verb and a preposition, an adverb, or both

stylistic –adj. related to the way that language is used in writing and what it says about the writer

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