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

This week's character has the same radical as last week's 菜/cài/vegetable — radical 140, 艸/cǎo/grass. As mentioned last week, this is the most common radical in general, and it's also pretty common in the set of characters used on menus, so it's worth getting used to recognising it.

花 is written in pinyin as huā, so it's pronounced with the first tone — a high, sustained tone — and it rhymes with "wah" (the pronunciation of "wah" that rhymes with "bar"). On its own, it means "flower". Flowers are not particularly common on menus per se, but 花 appears surprisingly often as part of other words. Here are some ingredients that use 花 in the name:

菜花cài huācauliflower
花生huā shēngpeanut
西蘭花xī lán huāWestern-style broccoli (calabrese)
芥蘭花jiè lán huāanother word for calabrese
五花肉wǔ huā ròupork belly (literally "five flower meat", referring to the five alternating layers of fat and meat in this cut)
花椒huā jiāoSichuan pepper (literally "flower pepper")

Note the similarities between 芥 and 花. When I first came across these characters I had trouble keeping straight which was which. I had this difficulty with a number of other pairs of characters too, such as 牛 (niú/beef) and 生 (shēng/raw), so I made myself a "Confusables" deck in Anki to give me extra practice — this worked pretty well.

Here are some dishes that use 花 in the name:

豆腐花dòu fu huāa dessert made with extra-soft tofu (sometimes just written as 豆花 without the 腐)
蛋花湯dàn huā tāngegg drop soup (a simple soup made by drizzling beaten egg into hot chicken stock)
叫花雞jiào huā jībeggar's chicken (chicken baked whole in clay)

Note that while 豆腐花 or 豆花 on its own usually refers to the dessert, there are also savoury dishes that use this extra-soft tofu, for example 酸辣豆花, which is on offer at Baozi Inn in London. The menu describes this as "tender 'flower' beancurd topped with brown rice vinegar, soy sauce, chilli oil, ground roasted Sichuan pepper, roasted peanuts, preserved mustard tuber and deep-fried dough strands" — so it actually involves three 花-type ingredients. (I tried to order this dish when I was there the other week, since it sounds awesome, but sadly it wasn't available at the time.) I have now actually succeeded in ordering this, and it was pretty damn tasty; here's a photo.

花: huā 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.

Date: 2010-06-09 10:35 am (UTC)
nanila: me (me: ooh!)
From: [personal profile] nanila
Mmm, that last dish's description made me salivate.

I like the idea of describing meat as flower-like because of its appearance. It doesn't strike me as a very natural association in English.

Date: 2010-06-09 01:52 pm (UTC)
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
From: [personal profile] ajnabieh
"tender 'flower' beancurd topped with brown rice vinegar, soy sauce, chilli oil, ground roasted Sichuan pepper, roasted peanuts, preserved mustard tuber and deep-fried dough strands"

Um. I think I'll be hacking together a version of that shortly. Fuck yeah.

I knew that Sichuan pepper corns were "flower pepper," but had no idea how much this radical was used! Cool!

Date: 2010-06-09 11:22 pm (UTC)
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
From: [personal profile] ajnabieh
I'm pretty sure my version is going to be a peanut sauce with Sichaun pepper in it, poured over silken tofu, which is going to be nowhere near as impressive as the original, but sounds tasty.

Sorry, my Chinese skills are non-existent, and I really only know ingredients from forays into Chinatown supermarkets--and, due to American labeling laws, everything's got enough English on the package for me to hack it there. I just know things from reading cookbooks.

Date: 2010-06-10 11:48 am (UTC)
pulchritude: (4)
From: [personal profile] pulchritude
I think it's really interesting that you find 芥 and 花 or 牛 and 生 similar because I can think lots of pairs that are far more easily confuseable, while these two pairs look really different to me. :P

Date: 2010-06-11 11:02 am (UTC)
superpitching: (Default)
From: [personal profile] superpitching
Intanet seems to think 山椒 is just a lesser used name (and says don't confuse it with sansho pepper as that's from a related plant - but other places say 'sure, it's sansho') - dunno about 川椒. I reckon it's all pretty much variations on the theme of prickly ash... I can tell you those first characters are mountain and river, literally! But that information doesn't help you in the kitchen does it.

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