I saw both 肉夹馍 (ròujiāmó) and 馍夹肉 (mójiāròu) being used in Shanxi province (photos below; neighbouring shops, with the same graphic). It seems both refer to the same food item (what's sometimes described as a "Chinese hamburger").

In this context, the hanzi are:

  • = meat (ordinarily pork)
  • = to place in between
  • = small bread

Question: Is there a distinction between 肉夹馍 and 馍夹肉?

I discussed this with my friends when we noticed this, but we couldn't identify any reason there's two different phrasings. I think 馍夹肉 is incorrect, but I'm unsure since native Chinese speakers write 馍夹肉.

肉夹馍 for sale

馍夹肉 for sale

Update: Here's another photo I took of 馍夹肉 being used in Shanxi:

Another photo of 馍夹肉 being used in Shanxi

The shop 二丫头馍夹肉 is listed at DianPing, along with reviews writing e.g. "店里馍夹肉真不错" and "馍夹肉的馍不错". It could still be a right-to-left writing style, but this makes me unsure.

3 Answers 3


Colin McLarty's answer clearly explained 馍夹肉 is just the Chinese writing direction ('right-to-left' instead of 'left -to- right' like English should) of 肉夹馍 , which is the correct name of this food item.

In '馍夹' the main noun is '' and '馍夹' is the adjectival phrase.

  • '馍夹肉' = 'flatbread sandwiched meat'(meat that is sandwiched by bread) which is misleading description of this food item.

The main noun '肉' here is in the same role as 'the sausage' in a hotdog or 'the meat patty' in a hamburger. It doesn't describe the item accurately (a sausage without the bun is not a hotdog.)

In '肉夹馍' the main noun is '夹馍' and '肉' is the adjectival noun.

  • '肉夹馍' = ' meat sandwich bread', which is the accurate description of this food item--

'肉夹馍' is a [肉(meat pile)] in [夹馍(sandwich bread)]' or simply: 'meat sandwich' (Northern China style)

Think of 'beef sandwich' (beef in sandwich bread).


From the edited question:

The shop 二丫头馍夹肉 is listed at DianPing, along with reviews writing e.g. "店里馍夹肉真不错" and "馍夹肉的馍不错".

There are many examples of huge mistakes in stores signs.

Examples of mistakes found in actual store signs:

1.錯別字:瓜 正字: 出處:大成街市熟食中心

2.錯別字:石 正字: 出處:新都城新雅海鮮酒家

3.錯別字:豬 正字: 出處: 寶林紫荊大酒樓

4.錯別字:米 正字: 出處:厚德萬有街市

5.錯別字:雞 正字: 出處:厚德萬有街市(佳寶)

6.錯別字:扖 正字: 出處:綠河茶餐廳

7.錯別字:麵 正字:麵 出處:麵包先生(麵包鋪)

8.錯別字:竹 正字: 出處:喂食貓茶餐廳外賣單張

9.錯別字:菜花 正字: 出處:喂食貓茶餐廳外賣單張

10.錯別字:痛 正字: 出處:元朗宏發徑生生保健中心.

11.錯別字:人 正字: 出處:天水圍聖腓力教堂佈道會

12.錯別字:禮 正字: 出處:衛訊PhoneShow 9月p.21

13.錯別字:拼 正字: 出處:元朗明星海鮮酒家.

May be the owner of 二丫头馍夹肉 saw a sign 馍夹肉 somewhere like you did and mistaken it was the correct term and put it in their store sign....

Also, The reviewer saw 馍夹肉 in the store sign, trusted the owner and called the 'meat sandwich bread' 馍夹肉 as well.

Finally: look at 牛肉夹馍; 羊肉夹馍, 孜然羊肉夹馍. That should clear up the confusion.


The second is just right-to-left writing. See Horizontal_and_vertical_writing_in_East_Asian_scripts . Historically, Chinese was written in vertical columns, with columns progressing from right to left. In the 20th century a shift was made so that most writing is in rows, from left to right.

Today, the left-to-right direction is dominant in [Chinese, Japanese, and Korean] ... However, right-to-left horizontal writing is still seen in these scripts, in such places as signs [and] stands selling food at festivals.

Think of the right to left horizontal writing as showing just a top character in each of a series of columns from right to left.


The point is the word "肉夹馍" comes from classical Chinese. It is a shorthand of "肉夹于馍"。 Translate "肉夹于馍" directly to English, it is "the meat is clamped by the 2 pieces of bread". "于" is used in classical Chinese for "Passive voice".

Intuitively, when do not want to use the passive voice but directly discribe the fact that "the 2 piecesof bread is clamping the piece of meat", we should say "馍夹肉".

I am a native Chinese person and actually some of native Chinese speaker do not know that why we say "肉夹馍" instead of "馍夹肉" since the latter seems more intuitively make sense. In fact, it is no harm to say "馍夹肉", it is a correct expression. But for convention, we always use the expression "肉夹馍".

  • If "肉夹馍" = "肉夹于馍" , would it mean 肉包子= "肉填入于包子" ? In reality, 肉 in 肉包子 is the adjectival noun for the main noun 包子. If '馍夹肉' is the correct term, then 包子肉 (bun meat) should be the correct term for 'meat bun' as well.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 9:02
  • I meant according to your logic, '包子填肉' or '包填肉' (bun stuffed with meat) would be an acceptable name for 'meat bun'. The point is, when naming a dish, it is norm to name it by the way it is made. For example, 牛肉炒菜 or 菜炒牛肉(beef stir fried with vegetable) . But 肉夹馍 is not a dish, it is a snack.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 9:19

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