Aug. 8th, 2011

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

Today's character is a good example of how it can be helpful to look at the Chinese names of dishes alongside the English ones! 芋 (yù) is the Chinese character for taro; strictly speaking, I believe the full word is 芋頭 (yù tóu; or, as [personal profile] pne points out in a comment, possibly yù tou), but it's often abbreviated on menus to simply 芋.

Taro, as a vegetable, confused me for ages. It's often referred to as "yam"; however, yam and taro are not the same thing. Taro is also not the same thing as sweet potato, even though the latter is also sometimes referred to as "yam". According to Wikipedia, taro is in the Araceae family, yam is in the Dioscoreaceae family, and sweet potato is in the Convolvulaceae family.

This naming confusion extends to menus, too, with dishes that are actually made out of taro referred to as, for example, "yam croquettes" or "stewed yam with chicken". So if you want to be sure, look for 芋 in the Chinese name — this pretty much always indicates taro. One possible exception is when the name includes 香芋 (xiāng yù), which usually means taro but seems to sometimes mean purple yam (which is in fact a type of yam). I don't know the general Chinese word for yam, but sweet potatoes are 番薯 or 蕃薯, both of which pinyinise as fān shǔ.

Here are some dishes with 芋 in the name:

蜂巢炸芋角fēng cháo zhà yù jiǎodeep-fried taro croquettes (more on these later this week)
芋頭糕yù tóu gāopan-fried taro cake (similar to pan-fried turnip cake/蘿蔔糕/luó bo gāo)
芋香排骨煲xiāng yù pái gǔ bāotaro [香芋] and spare rib [排骨] claypot [煲]
剁椒蒸芋頭duò jiāo zhēng yù tóusteamed [] taro [芋頭] with Hunanese chopped salted chillies [剁椒]
香芋西米露xiāng yù xī mǐ lùsago dew [西米露] with taro [香芋] (a sweet pudding made from sago, served hot or cold)

芋: radical 140 (艸/艹) 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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