What’s The Chinese Word For Granola?

Filed Under: Hotels, Travel

I think we all have certain “rituals” in our travels. As I’ve explained before, I do everything in my power to be awake and online during most of the US East Coast business day, since that’s when most stuff in our “hobby” seems to happen.

Yesterday I landed in Beijing at around 8PM, got to the hotel shortly before 10PM, slept until 2AM, and then woke up to “start” my day. And I always start it the same way when waking up in the middle of the night in Asia — a pot of coffee with skim milk and granola. At least that’s what I aim for.

The idea is that I need caffeine and I want something to tide me over until it’s time for the over-the-top Asian breakfast buffets which my elastic waist pants I’ve gotten so accustomed to.


So like every other “first” morning I have in Asia, I phoned 24 hour room service to try and get coffee and granola.

The coffee part wasn’t a problem.

Associate: “You want… gra…?”
Me: “Granola. It’s listed under cereals on the menu.”
Associate: “Granra?”
Me: “No, granola. I can spell it for you.”
Associate: “Yes.”
Me: “G.”
Associate: “G.”
Me: “R.”
Associate: “R.”
Me: “A.”
Associate: “A.”
Me: “N.”
Associate: “N.”
Me: “O.”
Associate: “O.”
Me: “L.”
Associate: “L”
Me: “A.”
Associate: “A.”
Me: “Yes, that’s it. So graaaanoooolllaaaa.”

The associate put me on hold for a moment to check. At this point I figured I had it in the bag, and was being as clear as this lady was in teaching her students how to pronounce “Coke” in Korean:


Associate: “Ah okay granola you want.”
Me: “Yep, perfect!”
Associate: “Okay, so to confirm your order, coffee with milk and granra.”
Me: “Sounds good to me.”

20 minutes later there’s a knock. I got the coffee as ordered, though it was accompanied by this:


Honey, I already travel with metamucil, so this tasteless all bran cereal seems kind of redundant.

Anyone know the Chinese word for granola?

  1. I don’t think there is a Chinese equivalent for granola yet, but it’s one kind of Yan Mai.
    Enjoy your Beijing stay as I am doing my Shanghai one now. Don’t like park Hyatt in sh

  2. What makes granola tasty is extra nuts, sugar and other “goodies”. The cereal itself is not the primary attraction here.
    Obviously that’s not how we Chinese understand this. Cereal is cereal and there’s just one kind of it….

  3. Granola is rare in China and so there is no such a word equivalent to it… Asking how to say granola in Chinese is like asking how to say 煎饼果子 in English. Next time, maybe you could show him a picture of what it looks like on your phone?

  4. I don’t think asking for Yen-Mai will gives the result you want(my will get some cereal tho). Show them the picture might be better.lol

  5. YEN MAI or Gu Pian definitely won’t give you the result you want. You might get a bowl of oatmeal or cereal instead. Showing them the picture probably is the best. Lol

  6. Ahh, youth. Wants granola.

    Ohhh, age. Wants bran twigs.

    I’m in the ohhh category.

    Maybe you can get a crunchy doughnut? Similar nutritional value.

  7. Since you are at at Beijing Lucky, I encourage you to try breakfast at vendors along the roads. Just kindly ask for advice from people around you. You will enjoy wonderful but cheap food in China. If you really love bread, you can also try it. Furthermore, the KFC and McDonald in China taste much better than in the US. Try them and you will feel how unhealthy people are eating KFC and McDonald in the US.

  8. well. it is not because there aren’t people who can speak good English in China, in face, China have so many people speak good English, the problem is , those people who are fluent do not want to work in service industry (hotel, airline), but wish to work in industries like finance or international trade. In fact, Marriotts have to expat interns to China because they can’t find enough Chinese interns speak fluent English. People who are fluent in English expect to work as managers or marketing team instead of associates who have to face demanding customers everyday.( Some of these people think occupation serve people make them feels like as servants)

  9. You know, people who have really good English skills want to be travel writers like you, Lucky. Instead of cabin crew or hotel associates that have to hear customer’s complaints.

  10. Nice. Well, at least they tried. Oh, your comment on elastic waistbands got me thinking: Where are the best hotel breakfast buffets in Asia? I’ve heard that some are pretty belt stretching.

  11. As a Chinese I’ve lived in the US for 6 years and I don’t know what granola is, nor do I eat it for breakfast. I had to look it up.
    Expecting Chinese hotel staff to serve you the correct granola is asking for too much…I don’t think they have a wide variety of different kinds of cereal in stock at the hotel anyway. You could have asked them to list all cereal options.
    In the future if you are travelling in Asia, your best bet is to find a hotel where a western management oversees dinning services.

  12. if you are saying “yan mai” in Chinese 燕麥,they will give you the cereal only, or better sometimes the plain granola, you might have to ask them separately for honey, plain granola, fruits and nuts.

    But for your reference, last time I saw an American business man successfully order a bowl of granola in Marco Polo Jinjiang (A small town in South west China)

    All the above are not applicable to Hotel in Hong Kong, if you fail to order Granola in Hong Kong hotels, you should report it or even complain for it.

  13. We find ordering room service to often be difficult in countries where we do not speak the local language. Surprising then that you haven’t had this problem before!

  14. As always, your post is delightful. Humor is a wonderful tool.

    Please consider the previous feedback. It’s about maturity and class. Just because they screw up your engish spelling … You may be righteous, but an annoyingly “right” american.

    You may want to consider laying off english-mangling humor. For maturity’s sake.

  15. Given how often you mention the necessity of WiFi, I’m surprised you were willing to stay at a hotel in Beijing without it. That is pretty much the only reason I can come up with for you not making use of either the Google Translate app (available on both iOS and Android) or website, both of which not only can deliver a translation (“燕麦”) but also pronounce it for you.

  16. “Honey, I already travel with metamucil, so this tasteless all bran cereal seems kind of redundant.”


  17. So like every other “first” morning I have in America, I phoned 24 hour room service to try and get tea and 煎饼果子 (jian bing guo zi).

    The tea part wasn’t a problem.

    Associate: “You want… janee…?”
    Me: “Jian bing guo zi. It’s listed under Chinese snacks on the menu.”
    Associate: “Jane bean?”
    Me: “No, Jian bing guo zi. I can spell it for you.”
    Associate: “Yes.”
    Me: “J-I-A-N.”
    Associate: “J-I-A-N.”
    Me: “B-I-N-G.”
    Associate: “B-I-N-G.”
    Me: “G-U-O.”
    Associate: “G-U-O.”
    Me: “Z-I.”
    Associate: “Z-I.”
    Me: “Yes, that’s it. So Jian bing guo ziiiiiiii.”

    The associate put me on hold for a moment to check. At this point I figured I had it in the bag, and was being as clear as this lady was in teaching her students how to pronounce “Coke” in Korean.


    Associate: “Ah okay, you wanted to order Jian bing guo zi.”
    Me: “Yep, perfect!”
    Associate: “Okay, so to confirm your order, tea with milk and Jane bean kow ziii.”
    Me: “Sounds good to me.”

    20 minutes later there’s a knock. I got the tea as ordered, though it was accompanied by this.


    Honey, I already travel with metamucil, so this tasteless all bran cereal seems kind of redundant.

  18. great question Ben

    As a native Chinese speaker, I don’t think there is a Chinese equivalent for granola

    燕麥 麥片 would only give you oatmeal

    maybe show them pictures next time u order it?

  19. @colleen: I totally agree. When in Rome, do what Romans do. Foreign visitors need to lay off the condescending attitude and order some real Chinese breakfast.

    Also, ladies and gents, “yan mai” is ABSOLUTELY NOT granola. That’d be oatmeal or oats. Granola is consisted of more than rolled oats. Right now it can only be phonetically translated.

  20. @Ben: the point of asking for 燕麦 is to help the guy on the phone figure out what the 老外 wants, since he didn’t appear to have the menu handy. At the very least, rolled oats would have been a heck of a lot closer than bran twigs.

  21. @Ndkl @Lucky
    That’s so true. For example, I go to college in US right now, I will never work as a waiter or something like that in China. So the people you met you don’t speak English at all are pretty understandable.

  22. I appreciate that you’re trying to be humorous, but saying that the person was saying “granra” is not in the best taste, given that Mandarin does include an /l/ sound to start syllables.

  23. Whats with all these morons complaining about how are they supposed to know what granola is?!? If granola is listed on the freaking menu then they should know what it is and be able to deliver it.

  24. Lucky, where did you stay in Beijing that did not have know about granola? How odd!

  25. As always, a stupid post from a stupid man. For a guy as traveled as you, I’m impressed by your lack of manners when abroad… typical american behavior…

  26. Am a fan of your blog but you are beginning to sound like one of those Americans who can’t stand the idea of eating something other than American food. *sigh*

    Anyway in case of emergencies – these lovely ladies will even deliver to your fancy 5* hotel.

  27. Haha, I had this problem the first time I tried to buy cereal after I moved to Beijing. In Chinese supermarkets which carry Western food, 麦片 (mài pìan; oatmeal, as mentioned above) will usually get you to the right aisle. Not sure this would help with ordering room service though.

    Do you have a picture of the room service menu? I’m curious to see how the hotel translated “granola.”

  28. @ LostInTranslation — Granola was listed as an option on the menu. Not sure how it makes me “one of those Americans” when I’m ordering something published on the menu?

  29. @ Bongo — So if my posts are always stupid, why do you read? Seems to say more about you than me, no?

  30. @ Edward — Not sure what’s in bad taste about it, I was transcribing the call as closely as possible. She said “granra,” not “granola,” or “glanla” (which seems to be what you’re getting at).

  31. @ Sam — That’s a real disgrace, assuming it was published on the menu in English! I’d complain on Twitter. 😉

  32. @ Christian — Tough to pick just one. I’ve experienced so many awesome buffets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Good idea for a post at some point.

  33. I hope your flight home isn’t delayed too badly, has plenty of granola and lots of coke. 😉

  34. Although I trust Lucky that it was listed on the menu, I still am a bit surprised. Cereal in general is a rather foreign concept in China, let alone variants such as granola. Like others have said, the closest you’ll get in most places is 燕麦片yàn*mài*piān, namely rolled oats. 99.9% of PR Chinese probably wouldn’t know what granola is in any language. Most of the breakfasts I’ve had with Chinese people have involved mantou, congee and/or dumplings.

  35. for god’s sake people, it’s an international hotel with international options and it was listed as granola on the freaking menu. honestly can’t believe the reactionary density of some of you commenters.

  36. Amusing story. Having lived in Beijing for years, granola is not a “rare” thing, even if it is rare for Chinese people to eat it. I would get it at the grocery store, and an international hotel chain should definitely stock it. If I didn’t find it myself, I would explain it in Mandarin by its contents.

  37. @Ben: You write:

    “Foreign visitors need to lay off the condescending attitude and order some real Chinese breakfast.”

    Isn’t it more condescending to insist that foreigners “need to” order Chinese-style breakfast?

    I, for one, find Asian-style breakfast to be revolting. Western and Eastern breakfasts are very different concepts with very different flavor profiles, and those of us who grew up with Western breakfast aren’t going to love the idea of soup or rice in the morning.

  38. Maybe you should try what the chinese are eating for breakfast. Which in my experience is generally dumplings. Baozi i believe? Or congee. Welcome to international travel, you can’t get every western creature comfort even if you are staying in western chain hotel. But that’s kinda the point of traveling, no?

  39. Guess you were also in Beijing for the W Beijing media promo recently. I’ve never heard so many fails at a media event – broken jacuzzi, bad service, moldy drinks/food left uncollected after 3 days

  40. I am a new reader on this blog but the way I read it, the underlying humor in this post is based on foreigner’s mispronunciations of English words.

    Specifically, the examples described are a Chinese hotel employee not being able to pronounce or understand “granola” (leading to the wrong order being delivered) or a Korean English teacher saying “please give me coke” but mispronouncing it “please give me cock.” (with the joke being that this young asian woman thinks she’s teaching basic English phrases to a class but instead is asking for sex?)

    No, it’s not terrible, but you have to understand why this would turn some people off – especially when the readership of this blog includes many international travelers.

  41. @ snarkattack — Again, this wasn’t breakfast, this was something to tide me over till breakfast. I don’t want a fancy Chinese breakfast at 2AM, but rather just some coffee and granola. And yes, you CAN Have “western creature comforts” when they’re listed on the menu… no?

  42. snarkattack,
    you can keep your international travel standard to yourself but don’t insist others do the same.
    you eat what you would, i’ll eat what pleases me.
    unless you are paying, mind yourself.

    be more subtle when trolling.

  43. My people are strange! Lucky was ordering, not a special dish, but something off the standard In-room dining menu. If it is on the menu then the hotel staff should be able to provide it with zero fuss and in the proper fashion. This, simply put, is a training failure by that W hotel.

    I would note Lucky’s problem is not one isolated to his recent experience, but one that many travellers encounter in overseas hotels (and sometimes domestic ones!) where poor product knowledge held by staff can lead to frustrating situations (it’s on your menu, so why are you so unfamiliar with what it is?).

  44. If you’re off to foreign parts and you want to have what you are accustomed to at home, like Granola, pack a container/packet of it in your luggage! Simple, no?

  45. @MissBasset Umm no. If you’re a business in the service industry and you have a menu or product list, your staff better know what is actually on that list or they shouldn’t be working for you.

  46. Clearly you have not been to China lately (yes, I have) ! The liberal use of Chinglish on any printed thing including menus can be meaningless. Granola is something of an Americanism, which the Chinese take to be any kind of breakfast cereal or approximation available locally. Again, if it’s an essential for you, take it with you, no debate!

  47. @MissBasset Granola isn’t an American thing, but it is a western thing. I don’t expect places in China to offer granola, but if they do, I expect them to have it and their employees to know what it is. If they only want to serve corn flakes, then don’t write rice crispies, granola, and oatmeal on the menu. Chinglish may be meaningless and if it happened to me i’d more understanding if it was a Chinese B&B, but I expect more from a W hotel.

  48. @ MissBasset — They had about a dozen types of cereal listed on the menu, including granola. This wasn’t an “Americanism,” but rather something specifically listed on the menu.

  49. I can only repeat: Take your favorite granola with you if it is one of life’s little essentials, which it clearly is! There is no point getting indignant about a menu item being unavailable in even the best hotels in China; that’s the way it is there, everywhere! I would imagine you would have realised that with the odd (and unacceptable) behaviour you have written about on China airline reviews!

  50. Maybe you’re just not getting it MissBasset, we don’t know that it wasn’t available, we just know that the associate had trouble figuring out what he wanted and eventually when he thought they got it, sent up something else. Granola isn’t one of life’s necessities and I don’t think Lucky will be travelling with granola anytime soon (although maybe there’s a new product for him down the line. Lucky granola!)

    Let’s try it with a different example. There’s nothing Lucky loves more when away from home than a burger and a Diet Coke with lime. The Diet Coke with lime wasn’t a problem, but the burger? That’s another story.

    Associate: “You want… bug?”
    Me: “Burger. It’s listed under main courses on the menu.”
    Associate: “Bird?”
    Me: “No, burger. I can spell it for you.”
    Associate: “Yes.”
    Me: “B.”
    Associate: “B.”
    Me: “U.”
    Associate: “U.”
    Me: “R.”
    Associate: “R.”
    Me: “G.”
    Associate: “G.”
    Me: “E.”
    Associate: “E.”
    Me: “R.”
    Associate: “R”
    Me: “Yes, that’s it. So buuuuuuuuurgerrrrrrrrr.”

    The associate put me on hold for a moment to check. At this point I figured I had it in the bag, and was being as clear as this lady was in teaching her students how to pronounce “Coke” in Korean (oh how appropriate given Lucky loves Diet Coke with lime).

    Associate: “Ah okay burger you want.”
    Me: “Yep, perfect!”
    Associate: “Okay, so to confirm your order, diet coke with lime and burga.”
    Me: “Sounds good to me.”

    20 minutes later there’s a knock. I got the diet coke with lime as ordered, though it was accompanied by Peking Duck pancakes.

    Surely if a hotel advertises a burger on their menu their associates when calling 24 hour room service should a) know what a burger is, and b) should be able to provide one. Burgers are commonplace in lots of countries and this was a W hotel and they had the burger on the menu. Should Lucky have to bring his own burgers when he travels overseas? Vote now.

  51. If you are going down the path of spelling out BURGER, letter by letter, to a person with a minimal grasp of English, you deserve to get served BUG, idiot!

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