Feb. 23rd, 2011

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

One of the main contexts in which you'd see 皮 (pí/skin/leather/rind) on a menu is as 皮蛋 (pí dàn), which translates literally as "skin egg" but is more commonly translated as "century egg", "thousand-year-old egg", or "preserved egg". I've previously discussed 皮蛋 in my post on 蛋 (dàn/egg).

皮 is also used on menus in a more literal sense, as 脆皮 (cuì pí), or "crispy skin"; this could apply to fish, chicken, pork, various deep-fried things such as tofu or spring rolls, and so on.

Similarly, 酥皮 (sū pí) is used to mean "flaky skin", which I've only seen in the context of egg custard tarts — a dim sum dish made with flaky pastry — as 酥皮蛋撻 (sū pí dàn tà) or 酥皮雞蛋撻 (sū pí jī dàn tà). The latter variation adds the character 雞 (jī/chicken); as explained in the abovelinked post on 蛋, this is often done for reasons of euphony, and does not imply that 酥皮蛋撻 are made with non-chicken eggs!

Another manifestation of 皮 is as 腐皮 (fǔ pí), or beancurd skin. This is the skin that forms on top of simmering soya milk, lifted off the surface and dried to form a thin sheet (read more at the Soy Info Center). Beancurd skin is also used in Japanese cuisine, where it's known as yuba. On the Chinese menu, it turns up mainly in a dim sum context, where it's used to wrap various fillings into what are usually translated as something like "beancurd skin rolls".

Here are some dishes with 皮 in the name:

皮蛋豆腐pí dàn dòu fubeancurd with preserved egg
皮蛋瘦肉粥pí dàn shòu ròu zhǒucongee with lean pork and preserved egg
糖醋脆皮魚táng cù cuì pí yúcrispy sweet and sour fish
脆皮炸大腸cuì pí zhà dà chángcrispy deep-fried intestine
脆皮鍋貼cùi pí guō tiēcrispy-skinned potstickers
脆皮炸雲吞cuì pí zhà yún tūncrispy deep-fried wontons
鮮蝦腐皮卷xiān xiā fǔ pí juǎnprawn-stuffed beancurd skin rolls
百花腐皮卷bǎi huā fǔ pí juǎna more poetic name for the above, literally "hundred flowers beancurd skin rolls"
齋腐皮卷zhāi fǔ pí juǎnvegetarian beancurd skin rolls

皮: radical 107 (皮) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen
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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