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

Having covered meat and fish, it's time to turn to the other protein staple of the Chinese menu — tofu, or beancurd. The full name for beancurd is 豆腐 (dòu fu), which is made up of the character for "beans/legumes" (豆) charmingly combined with the character for "gone off/rotten" (腐). Needless to say, beancurd is not actually rotten, and it's not even fermented; it's a fresh product made by coagulating soya milk. Wikipedia suggests that 腐 can also be translated as "curdled", but I have no idea how accurate this is.

Translation of 腐 is much easier in the context of the Chinese menu. If you see 腐 on a menu, it simply means "beancurd" — it's a commonly accepted and widespread abbreviation for 豆腐.

Given that the pinyin for 豆 is dòu, readers of my post on 肉 (ròu) should be able to deduce that it's pronounced like "dough", with a falling (fourth) tone. 腐 is pronounced as "foo". On its own, it's spoken with the third tone (falling-then-rising), but when combined with 豆 to make 豆腐, 腐 is spoken with the "fifth tone" (also known as "neutral tone"); this basically means that the syllable is a toneless one. For more on the fifth tone, there are some useful hints from [personal profile] pulchritude in a previous comment thread.

Other words which use 豆:

máo dòu green soya beans (edamame) — literally "hairy bean"
土豆 tǔ dòu potato or peanut — literally "earth bean"
豆苗 dòu miáo pea shoots/pea sprouts/mangetout leaves
荷蘭豆 Hélán dòu mangetout (snow peas) — literally "Dutch bean" (may be abbreviated to 荷豆/hé dòu)
雪豆 xuě dòu another word for mangetout

Note that I've never seen 豆苗 used to refer to what we call "beansprouts" in English! A different "sprout" character (芽/yá) is used in that context — beansprouts are 銀芽 (yín yá, literally "silver sprouts"), 豆芽 (dòu yá), 大豆芽 (dà dòu yá), or 芽菜 (yá cài).

Approximate pronunciations (in my British accent): máo rhymes with "cow", tǔ is as "two", hé is as "her", lán rhymes with "man", miáo is as "meow" (one syllable, not two), yín rhymes with "in", yá and dà rhyme with "ah", and cài is like "sigh" but with "ts" instead of the "s".

xuě is a little trickier. The consonant, "x", is like the "ch" in German "ich" (at least, as taught in British schools) or a bit like a softer version of the "ch" in "loch". [personal profile] pne suggests that the vowel sound, "ue", is as if it was spelled uè in French, but my French isn't good enough to confirm this, so if yours isn't either, check out this YouTube video at the 3:50 point.

豆: dòu radical 151 (豆) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen
腐: radical 130 (肉/⺼) 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.


December 2012


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