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

No, I haven't lost track of what day it is — I know I usually do concept posts on Mondays, but this week I'm doing two character posts instead. There will be an extra-special concept post next Monday though!

蛋 (dàn) is the Chinese character for egg; you may see this on a menu simply as 蛋, or you may see additional specification in the form of 雞蛋 (jī dàn). 雞 is chicken, and I did wonder the first time I saw it whether the eggs were specified as being chicken eggs because 蛋 on its own implied e.g. a duck egg — however, [personal profile] pulchritude set me straight, explaining that 雞蛋 is used rather than 蛋 for reasons of euphony, in situations where 蛋 on its own would sound lopsided or awkward.

There are a couple of situations where 蛋 generally refers to the egg of a duck, however; specifically, 皮蛋 (pí dàn) and 鹹蛋 (xián dàn).

皮蛋 are usually called "century eggs" or "thousand-year-old eggs" in English. The literal translation is "skin egg", which refers to the traditional method of making them by covering raw duck eggs in a high-pH paste based on lime and wood ash, then leaving them to cure. When the process is over, the yolks will have become creamy and sulphorous, while the whites will have set and changed colour to a beautiful dark amber colour — see Helen Yuet Ling Pang's post on 皮蛋 for photos.

Helen also mentions a couple of ways to eat these eggs. One is 皮蛋豆腐 (pí dàn dòu fu), which is a cold dish of century eggs combined with tofu/beancurd (豆腐). Another is 皮蛋瘦肉粥 (pí dàn shòu ròu zhǒu), which is congee/rice porridge (粥/zhǒu) with century eggs and lean pork (瘦肉).

鹹蛋 are salted eggs. You can make these yourself at home, by soaking raw eggs in brine for a few weeks (here's a recipe for the Filipino version and here's one for the Chinese version). Unlike 皮蛋, 鹹蛋 must be cooked before you eat them; in Chinese cuisines, this is usually accomplished by steaming.

I've mentioned 鹹蛋 before, in my post on 鹹蛋黃玉米粉 (xián dàn huáng yù mǐ fěn) — sweetcorn with salted egg yolk. 黃 (huáng) means "yellow", and 蛋黃 ("egg yellow") means egg yolk, so 鹹蛋黃 are the yolks of salted duck eggs — it's not uncommon for the yolks to be the only part of the 鹹蛋 used in a dish, and you can actually buy the yolks separately if that's all you need.

Here are some other dishes that use 蛋 in the name:

番茄蛋花湯fān qié dàn huā tāngtomato and egg drop ("egg flower") soup
韭菜蝦仁炒雞蛋jiǔ cài xiā rén chǎo jī dànstir-fried (scrambled) eggs with Chinese chives and peeled prawns
雞蛋炒飯jī dàn chǎo fànegg fried rice
酥皮蛋撻sū pí dàn tàegg tarts — note that the 皮 here is attached to the 酥 rather than the 蛋, since 酥皮 refers to the "crispy skin" (pastry) of the tart
蕃茄炒蛋fān qié chǎo dànstirfried eggs with tomatoes

As well as these, [identity profile] sung points out in comments another use of the character 蛋, which he actually told me about before and I forgot about — the Cantonese term for fish balls (魚丸 or yú wán to non-Cantonese) is 魚蛋, literally "fish eggs", due to their being roughly egg-shaped.

蛋: dàn radical 142 (虫) 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.

Date: 2010-09-13 09:19 am (UTC)
superpitching: (Default)
From: [personal profile] superpitching
Don't neglect our Taiwanese egg-friends 鐵蛋 :)

If you manage to spot these please let me know! They are chewy and delicious and I've only ever had them brought back from Taiwan :(

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