Suit your taste? Learn “你是我的菜 (Nǐ shì wǒ de cài)” to let them know!

Food is an important part of Chinese culture and lifestyle. Meals in China are so important that they also influence the daily language. Greetings such as “你吃了吗?(Nǐ chī le ma?) Have you eaten yet?” is used to break the ice and say hello. A more recent example of food influencing Chinese language is the phrase “你是我的菜。(Nǐ shì wǒ de cài.) You’re my dish.” It’s a fresh and popular way to pay compliments to someone that fits your style, your type,  or your personal taste. Also, we can use the negative form of “你不是我的菜。(Nǐ bú shì wǒ de cài.)” to express that someone is not your style, or your cup of tea, as we say in English. Using the phrase in a negative is not a put down, just a more polite way to express disinterest, or more literally, personal preference.

The literal meaning of “菜(cài)” is “dish.” However, it has been applied to mean “taste” or “style” as well in casual conversation. Join in the fun and let your friends know what you like!

When and How to Use “你是我的菜。 (Nǐ shì wǒ de cài.)”

Like many recent, trendy expressions, “你是我的菜。(Nǐ shì wǒ de cài.)” will endear you to your Chinese friends when having fun conversations about personal preferences. You can use this when discussing food, a travel destination, a celebrity or anything else you may have an opinion on (as long as it’s fun and playful!)


Wǒ tóngyì Leonardo zhǎng de hěn shuài, bú guò tā bú shì wǒ de cài.
我    同意  Leonardo    长      得  很    帅,   不 过   他 不 是  我  的 菜。
I agree that Leonardo is handsome, but he is not my type.

Tā rén zhēn de hěn hǎo, dàn bú shì wǒ de cài.
他  人   真    的  很    好,但   不 是  我  的 菜。
He’s nice enough, but not really my cup of tea.

Bù hǎo yìsi,    Mǎ Lì,    nǐ bú shì wǒ de cài.
不 好 意思,马 丽,你 不 是  我  的 菜。
I’m sorry, Mary, you’re not my type.

HSK 3 quiz
1. The literal translation of “菜 (cài)” is _____.
A. type
B. style
C. dish
2. You can use “你是我的菜。(Nǐ shì wǒ de cài.)” when talking about your _____.
A. personal information
B. history
C. personal preferences
D. past experiences

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