Nov. 16th, 2011

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

紅 (hóng) is the Chinese character for the colour red. Red is a significant colour in Chinese culture, symbolising happiness and good luck.

It turns up on menus in a number of contexts. One that I've already discussed is red-cooking (紅燒/hóng shāo), which is a style of braising in an aromatic soy-sauce-based liquid, sweetened with caramelised sugar and scented with wine, star anise, and other spices. The braise leaves the ingredients with a rich reddish-brown colour, hence the name.

紅 also appears in one of the Chinese names for tomato: 西紅柿 (xī hóng shì), literally "western red persimmon". According to [identity profile] sung's comment on my post on 茄/qié/aubergine, in the north of China this is more common than the other names I've seen for tomatoes on menus: 番茄 and 蕃茄 (both of which are fān qié in pinyin).

Coagulated pig's blood is often referred to on menus as 豬紅 (zhū hóng), literally "pig's red". This is actually a surprisingly mild-tasting ingredient, with a consistency similar to soft tofu; in fact I've had it paired with tofu a few times, generally in soup. (Another, more literal, term for pig's blood is 豬血/zhū xuè.)

Another frequent occurrence of 紅 on menus is in the Chinese term for chilli oil, which is literally "red oil": 紅油 (hóng yóu). Chilli oil is commonly used in various cold dishes, as well as other applications.

Finally, for those who like to drink tea, it may be worth knowing that while in English we generally divide Chinese teas into green and black, the corresponding Chinese terms are literally green (綠/lǜ) and red. There's an interesting discussion of "red tea" vs. "black tea" on the Not Learning Cantonese In Hong Kong blog, including some speculation as to why the difference occurs, and some examples of languages which come down on each side.

Here are some dishes with 紅 in the name:

漢字pinyinEnglish
紅燒肉hóng shāo ròured-cooked pork
Other ingredients that can be cooked in 紅燒 style include aubergine (茄子/qié zi), beef (牛肉/niú ròu), fish (魚/yú), pig trotters (豬手/zhū shǒu or 豬蹄/zhū tí), spare ribs (排骨/pái gǔ), and winter melon (冬瓜/dōng guā).
紅油抄手hóng yóu chāo shǒuwontons in chilli oil
As [identity profile] sung pointed out in a comment on my post on 手/shǒu/hand, 抄手 (chāo shǒu), literally "crossed hands", is the Sichuan term for wontons — the Cantonese word is 雲吞 (yún tūn in Mandarin pinyin), literally "swallowing clouds".
紅油豬耳hóng yóu zhū ěrpig's ear in chilli oil
This is a cold dish. As with 紅油抄手, the 紅油 here is chilli oil, literally "red oil". You may also see this dish as 紅油耳片 (hóng yóu ěr piàn) or 紅油耳絲 (hóng yóu ěr sī), both of which make it explicit that the ear is sliced (片) or shredded (絲); in this context, these two characters mean essentially the same thing.
韭菜炒豬紅jiǔ cài chǎo zhū hóngstir-fried pig's blood with Chinese chives
As mentioned above, 豬紅 (zhū hóng) is literally "pig's red". 韭菜 (jiǔ cài) are Chinese chives, also known in English as garlic chives.
女兒紅鳳爪nǚ ér hóng fèng zhǎochicken feet in wine sauce
Literally "daughter's red phoenix claws", this is a dim sum dish. 鳳爪 (fèng zhǎo/phoenix claws) is a common name for chicken feet.
酥炸紅糟海鰻魚sū zhà hóng zāo hǎi mán yúcrispy deep-fried eel with red wine lees
This is a Fujian dish; red wine lees is a by-product of making red rice wine, and is a common ingredient in Fujian cooking.
紅: hóng radical 120 (糸/糹) 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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