Mar. 23rd, 2011

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

海 (hǎi) means "sea" or "ocean". Fittingly, its radical is 水 (shuǐ/water), manifesting here as three strokes (氵) on the left of the character.

As I mentioned in last week's post on 鮮/xiān/fresh, 海 is commonly combined with 鮮 to form the Mandarin Chinese word for seafood: 海鮮 (hǎi xiān), literally "ocean fresh". Something I forgot to mention in that post is that this in turn can be combined with the character 醬 (jiàng/sauce/paste) to make up the name of a commonly-used Chinese sauce, 海鮮醬 (hǎi xiān jiàng), or hoisin sauce, though despite the name the sauce contains no seafood.

Unsurprisingly, 海 is used in several other words associated with the sea, such as 海帶 (hǎi dài/kelp), 海參 (hǎi shēn/sea cucumber), and 海蜇 (hǎi zhé/jellyfish). It also forms part of a couple of place names that tend to turn up on menus: 上海 (Shànghǎi) and 海南 (Hǎinán). Finally, dried prawns may be referred to as 海米 (hǎi mǐ), though note that fresh ones are always 蝦 (xiā).

Here are some dishes with 海 in the name:

海鮮生菜包hǎi xiān shēng cài bāolettuce-wrapped seafood
海帶排骨湯hǎi dài pái gǔ tāngkelp and spare rib soup
家常海帶絲jiā cháng hǎi dài sīhome-style shredded kelp
涼拌海蜇皮liáng bàn hǎi zhé píjellyfish salad
上海小籠包Shànghǎi xiǎo lóng bāoShanghai xiao long bao (soup dumplings)
海南雞飯Hǎinán jī fànHainanese chicken rice
海米冬瓜hǎi mǐ dōng guāwinter melon with dried prawns

海: xiān radical 85 (水/氵/氺) 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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