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There are kinds of foods, such as malaxiangguo, that people often suspect a foreigner will not know and will not like. I can say "我吃麻辣香锅" (wo chi malaxiangguo). Is that the best thing to say? And I have used both 知道 (zhidao) and 认识 (renshi) to say I know various foods. I think I have heard both used, but I may be wrong about that.

Anyway, all have worked, but what is the best way to say this?

This was not clear enough. The common case is that I am trying to buy some kind of food and the seller is concerned that as a foreigner I do not know what I am doing and cannot like that kind of food. Seven years ago in Beijing this could happen if I just started to use the red pepper paste at the table, and 我吃辣 worked as reassurance. Spicy is a lot more common in Beijing now. But it happens a lot with 羊杂 of any kind.

If the seller asked me a question about whether I knew or wanted the food, of course I would use the same vocabulary to answer. The Chinese grammar of questions and answers is a very good system.

My problem is what to say when the seller is just visibly uncomfortable. Seven years ago some would rush over to my table as I opened the pepper paste, warning "辣!辣!“ Now if I order, say 肚 (du3, tripe, a normal ingredient in pepper pot soup and hog's maw in Pennsylvania when I was a child, though many Chinese and Americans today do not know it was ever eaten in the US) shop owners often look dubious. I did not intend that pun.

I am sure the advice against using 认识 is correct, and 知道 is not perfect. But even those poor choices have worked to reassure, which is my goal. I'd just like to say it better.

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    我會吃辣的 = 'I can eat spicy food.' Also using 過 as in 'I've eaten this before'. – neubau Sep 22 '14 at 2:30
  • @neubau That looks text bookish to me. I've had people ask me "你吃辣吗?“ but never using 会, 过, or 的 this way in a colloquial setting. Maybe my ear is missing something but is this really colloquial? – Colin McLarty Sep 22 '14 at 14:19
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    Yes, it's normal spoken Chinese. Leaving those words out strikes me as an over-simplified, pigeon-like way of speaking. It might be that people like food sellers do this when they aren't used to speaking to foreigners. – neubau Sep 23 '14 at 8:12
  • @neubau I appreciate this, but when I check on Google I get just 8 hits for "你會吃辣的吗" and 278,000 for ”你吃辣的吗“ and 643,000 for ”你吃辣吗.“ These are virtually all Chinese language sites. – Colin McLarty Sep 23 '14 at 17:35
  • If you are at the table, or viewing the picture of some dish, you may speak 我认识这道菜 when talking about a dish others don't know, that means you know the name from picture. – 賈可 Jacky May 4 '18 at 2:00
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Usually don't use 我认识 on food, if someone ask you whether you know of some kind of food, if you have eat it once or more, you can say 我吃过那个. or if you ever heard of it, you can say 我听说过,但是没吃过. If you want to eat, you can say 我们可以吃吃, if you don't, just say 我不想吃 or 我不喜欢吃那个. If you are on table, and someone show you a kind of food, and ask you do you know it, he may ask you 你知道这道菜是什么吗?Then you can say 我知道 or 我不知道,and 我认识 or 我不认识 can also use here. But, this is not a polite action, man usually don't ask others not close enough for this sentence. Ask for 吃过这道菜没有 is a more common question.

  • 认识 usually used to talk about people, or something that one familiar with. – Pete C. Sep 22 '14 at 11:30
  • @PeteC. Thanks, but does this include being familiar with a food? – Colin McLarty Sep 22 '14 at 14:21
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    @ColinMcLarty We don't usually say 我认识 with food. That sounds odd to me. – Pete C. Sep 23 '14 at 14:05
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For saying that you know a food, 我知道 is not quite appropriate — it should be used to say that you know a fact rather than that you are acquainted with something. (It's equivalent to Je sais in French, which is not interchangeable with Je connais.) However, you could say 我知道是辣的 — "I know that it's spicy."

However, 我知道是辣的 might be interpreted as "I've been warned that it's spicy", and a concerned host might still have doubts. If applicable, you could say 我试过 ("I've tried it") instead, which would end all concerns.

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I think specificity is always a positive in this type of situation. Instead of saying you know it or know of it, be more specific. How exactly do you know about it? Have you seen it before? Read about it before? Eaten it before?

In the end, it all depends on context. Typically, 我吃過___ is what askers are looking for. Can you give more information on the context you're talking about?

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    That's 羊杂面,not 样杂面 – user6365 Sep 22 '14 at 1:15
  • @user6365 Thanks. I'm just getting used to this input method. I corrected it in the question. – Colin McLarty Sep 22 '14 at 1:43
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Well the seller just wanted to know if you have any idea about 麻辣香锅. In this case, the best answer would be "我吃过麻辣香锅, 我知道它是什么样子什么味道". Here "知道" means that you have the idea. If you haven't had 麻辣香锅 before but you've seen what it looks like, you can just say "我知道麻辣香锅是什么样de (尽管我没吃过)".

"认识" here in this case is not quite common to use. Although grammatically it's correct (you could recgonize it and tell difference from others), but here the point is about the idea you have, so better use "知道".

Hope it helps!

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