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.
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