Fellow adventurous eaters: There is now an app called Waygo, specifically designed for translating Chinese menus on the fly.That's right, now you can ask for the "real" menu at your favorite Chinese joint and be certain you're ordering something more interesting than chow mein.
Of course, being able to order off the authentic menu also leaves you open to ordering some things you might find a little adventurous. Remember, though, just because it has a scary word in it like "pork stomach" doesn't mean it isn't one of the most wonderful things you've ever put in your mouth.
Our colleagues over at OC Weekly indicate that the app is not without its flaws unfortunately. It can't read vertical text, calligraphy, or stylized text. It also seems prone to confusion is English lettering intrudes upon the Chinese characters. The app is free though so if you have have your iPhone handy you can download the app and then try it out on their sample menu.
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The app is also an iPhone exclusive so if you're living in the Android app ghetto with the rest of us, then you might have to wait to pick this up. It should be noted that Android has Google Goggles which can theoretically provide on the fly translation as well. The major difference with Waygo is that it has an internal database to draw from so you can even use it offline, unlike Google Goggles.
But given the alternative of not being able to read any Chinese off a menu versus being able to read at least some, Waygo strikes us as an excellent idea. We can only hope they'll continue to improve upon and democratize the app for Android users down the road.