It always pays to look a little deeper when translating and localising – sometimes the problem isn’t what you think.

When translating Asian recipes from Japanese into English, I was also asked to check what the ingredients were called in Asian food shops in the UK. The assumed problem was that Chinese, Korean or other ingredients might have different names in ethnic food shops in the UK than in a Japanese recipe, and the proposed solution was that if an ingredient couldn’t be found then a generic name or description could be given instead.

It wasn’t long before a slightly different problem emerged. An ingredient in one of the recipes, although a normal if seasonal vegetable in its country of origin, was on further investigation found to be banned in the UK as a possible carcinogen.

Even for something as innocuous as a recipe, it pays to mind the gap between cultures.