kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake

三 is the Chinese character for "three". It's often used on menus in the literal sense, for example to denote that a dish has three principal ingredients. One common use is 三鮮 (sān xiān), literally "three fresh", which usually refers to mixed seafood (e.g. prawn, squid, and scallops) — though don't confuse it with 地三鮮 (see below). Another is 三燒 (sān shāo), or "three roasts", which you might see as 三燒飯 (sān shāo fàn); three types of roasted meat served on rice.

If you read my post on 五/wǔ/five, you may remember that I mentioned 五花肉 (wǔ huā ròu/"five flower meat") as a name for pork belly. [identity profile] sunflower tells me that another name for this cut of meat is 三層肉 (sān céng ròu), or "three-layer meat".

三 is also used phonetically in the Chinese word for salmon: 三文魚 (sān wén yú). Note that the correspondence with the English word "salmon" is more apparent in Cantonese, where the first two characters are pronounced "sam men" (the final character, , simply means "fish"). CantoDict tells me that the "formal" name for salmon is 鮭魚 (guī yú), but I've never seen this on a menu.

Here are some dishes with 三 in the name:

三杯雞sān bēi jīthree-cup [三杯] chicken [] (bone-in chicken braised with equal quantities of sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine)
地三鮮dì sān xiān"three fresh things from the earth" (deep-fried potatoes, peppers, and aubergines)
涼拌三絲liáng bàn sān sīthree-sliver salad (a combination of bean thread noodles/粉絲/fěn sī and a couple of shredded vegetables)
三寶滑腸粉sān bǎo huá cháng fěn"three treasures" cheung fun
三鮮炒麵sān xiān chǎo miànstirfried [] noodles [] with mixed seafood [三鮮]

Finally, just for [personal profile] superpitching, I will note the existence of 三蛇羹 (sān shé gēng), or "three-snake soup", which according to CantoDict is a "famous Guangdong dish". This blog post has a little more information.

三: sān radical 1 (一) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

Characters mentioned in this post:
Other related posts:
If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Date: 2011-06-22 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
By the way, 三文魚 only makes sense in Cantonese. 三文魚 is an English loan word that is read phonetically in Cantonese as sam-men-yu i.e. salmon fish. In Mandarin 三文魚 doesn't make sense, as 文 = wen and not men.

Date: 2011-06-22 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] floating_coffin
Not true. Here in Heilongjiang 三文鱼 is the term I always hear for salmon, though it probably comes directly from the Cantonese transliteration. Either way, that's what people say up here.

Date: 2011-06-22 02:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
Floating coffin - please read my comment more carefully. I didn't actually state that 三文鱼 isn't used in Mandarin, or that it was an exclusive Cantonese term.

What I actually wrote is that 三文鱼 only makes sense in Cantonese, as the pronounciation of 三文鱼 does not resemble the English word salmon when spoken in Mandarin. That's unless the word salmon has an alternative English spelling of salwon.

Date: 2011-06-22 03:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] floating_coffin
Please explain to me how "三文鱼" wouldn't make sense to a Mandarin speaker, as any Mandarin speaker who saw that word would know exactly what fish that was.

"the pronounciation of 三文鱼 does not resemble the English word salmon when spoken in Mandarin"

No? "Sanwen" sounds close enough to "salmon" to me.

Date: 2011-06-22 03:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
Floating Coffin - perhaps I'm not making myself clear. To reiterate, I have no doubt 三文鱼 is understood as a term for salmon by Mandarin speakers.

But I am sure you agree that in terms of phonetics, the 'm' sound does not resemble the 'w' sound in English, which is the point I am trying to get across.

Date: 2011-06-22 03:26 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] floating_coffin
"I have no doubt 三文鱼 is understood as a term for salmon by Mandarin speakers"

In other words, you're saying that it makes sense in Mandarin (because if it didn't make sense Mandarin speakers, obviously, wouldn't be able to understand it). That contradicts what you said earlier about it "not making sense" in Mandarin, but whatever.

"I am sure you agree that in terms of phonetics, the 'm' sound does not resemble the 'w' sound in English"

You're right, it doesn't. So what? Plenty of Chinese words are like that. 三文 doesn't sound exactly like "salmon," 加拿大 doesn't sound exactly like "Canada."

Date: 2011-06-22 03:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
Floating coffin - as the youth say, whatever! I'm signing off at this point, as I really I don't want to clog up Kake's point with a tedious argument that is going round and round in circles.

Date: 2011-06-25 12:04 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] floating_coffin
Upon re-reading my comments I see that they were rather arrogant and annoying...confrontational, even. I apologize to my dear kake and ELN for being a jerk. It's my biggest character flaw, actually (I'm working on it, though!).

@kake: how's that book?

Date: 2011-06-26 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
floating coffin - no worries. It isn't easy to discuss concepts in two Chinese languages, Cantonese and Mandarin, in a third, very different, language such as English. With hindsight, I could've got my points across more clearly.

Date: 2011-06-22 05:11 pm (UTC)
shuripentu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shuripentu
I recall that in Hong Kong, at least several years ago, 三文治 (saam1 man4 zi6) was what people would call a sandwich. First thing that came to mind when I saw this post. :)

Date: 2011-06-22 05:14 pm (UTC)
shuripentu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shuripentu
Oh, and here is the relevant entry from the ever-helpful CantoDict. :D


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