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

白 (bái) has a number of related meanings, with the most relevant to the menu context being "white", "pure", and "plain".

Here are some common menu terms that include 白:

白菜bái càibok choy or Chinese leaf (literally "white vegetable" — see my post on 菜/cài)
白肉bái ròuplain boiled pork (see below)
白灼bái zhuóblanched/poached in plain water (see below)
白椒bái jiāowhite pepper
白飯bái fànplain rice (i.e. just boiled or steamed) — you may also see 米飯 (mǐ fàn) used for this

白肉 (bái ròu) is often served as 蒜泥白肉 (suàn ní bái ròu), a pungently garlicky cold dish. Other names I've seen used for this dish are 蒜茸白肉 and 蒜蓉白肉, both of which pinyin-ise as suàn róng bái ròu. 蒜泥白肉 is more common though, in my experience. This really is a tasty dish — thin slices of tender pork coated in a light sauce with an abundance of mashed/minced raw garlic — though you'll stink of garlic for hours afterwards.

白灼 (bái zhuó) confuses me slightly. I've seen it variously translated as "plain braised", "quick boiled" or "quick boiled in soy sauce", "scalded", and "boiled". A thread on the CantoDict forums sheds a little more light — apparently the main characteristic of the 白灼 cooking method is that the items are cooked in water or stock at high rather than low heat (boil rather than simmer). This is perhaps a minor quibble, though — the important thing as far as the diner/menu-reader is concerned is that the item is cooked in liquid rather than fried, baked, etc.

白 is its own radicalKangxi radical 106, which isn't a particularly common one. The only other character with this radical that you're likely to see on a menu is 百 (bǎi/hundred), which as [personal profile] superpitching recently informed me appears in the rather poetic name 牛百葉 (niú bǎi yè, literally "cow's hundred leaves") for third-stomach/omasum beef tripe, also known as leaf or book tripe, a common dim sum dish. I've also seen 百 in the name of another dim sum dish — 百花腐皮卷 (bǎi huā fǔ pí juǎn), which is literally "hundred-flowers beancurd skin rolls" (and is actually stuffed with minced prawns, rather than flowers).

白: bái radical 106 (白) 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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