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

Here's the second of this week's two character posts (and some people may now be able to guess what Friday's post will be about).

餅 (bǐng) doesn't really have a precise equivalent in English. As far as I can tell, it basically refers to some kind of cake, pastry, or pancake. While it often implies that the item is disc-shaped, this isn't a cast-iron rule. Similarly, while in my experience 餅 as listed on menus are usually (a) savoury and (b) stuffed with some kind of filling, this isn't always the case.

Here are some dishes that use 餅 in the name. I'm using paragraphs here rather than my usual tabular format, to give me room to discuss their characteristics at greater length.

蘿蔔絲酥餅 (luó bo sī sū bǐng). These are often translated as something along the lines of "deep-fried shredded turnip puffs"; they're basically a puff pastry shell stuffed with shredded daikon/mooli. My post on 蘿蔔絲酥餅 has a photo, recipe links, and more info.

蔥油餅 (cōng yóu bǐng). While a common translation for these is "scallion pancakes" or "spring onion pancakes", this may be a little misleading for those familiar with Western pancakes/crepes. 蔥油餅 aren't made from a batter, but from a wheatflour dough; the chopped spring onions are layered into the dough by a process of rolling and coiling, before it's formed into a disc and fried in oil. Family Styles has a good recipe for 蔥油餅, including photos.

北京煎餅 (Běijīng jiān bǐng). This, on the other hand, is based on a very crepe-like kind of pancake, which is stuffed with egg, fresh coriander, spring onions, various sauces and flavourings, and a deep-fried wonton skin for crunch. I've never eaten one of these; it's a typical Beijing street food, and the only Beijing-style restaurant I know of in London closed down a few weeks before I got around to trying to go there. Quirky Beijing has an informative post on 北京煎餅, though.

炸墨魚餅 (zhà mò yú bǐng). These are deep-fried cuttlefish cakes; I don't have a photo of my own, but here's one I found on Flickr. This illustrates the "cake" meaning of 餅 — it's not cake as in sponge cake (you'd use 糕/gāo for that — see my post on 馬來糕/mǎ lái gāo).

百花腐皮餅 (bǎi huā fǔ pí bǐng). The literal translation of these is "hundred flowers beancurd skin cakes", while a more useful one might be "beancurd skin cakes stuffed with minced prawn". 百花 seems to be a fairly common way to refer to minced prawns — I've seen it on lots of dim sum menus. 腐皮 is actually made from soya milk rather than beancurd; it starts life as the skin which forms on top of warm soya milk when left to sit. I think a more common English term for it comes from the Japanese one, yuba. I'm not sure this is a particularly common way to use 餅, though, since the vast majority of the references on the web seem to be to the restaurant where I took this photo.

餅: bǐng radical 184 (食/飠) 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: 2010-09-15 07:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
You must be fed up of me sticking my oar in!

A few more common usages include biscuit 餅乾 bing gan. And growing up, my Mum would make rou bing 肉餅, a steamed chopped pork patty.

BTW the basic term for pancake is 薄餅 bo bing, commonly transliterated as baobing literally meaning thin 'bing'.

Date: 2010-09-15 01:36 pm (UTC)
shuripentu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shuripentu
I was also going to comment that I most often encounter 餅 in the context of sweet biscuits (or cookies). The second most common usage that I encounter is 西餅, which is what we would call cake. So if someone talked about beng without further specification, I would assume that it was something sweet; I can't think of any instance in my (limited) experience where it was used to refer to something savoury. This may of course simply reflect my family's culinary preferences. :)

Date: 2010-09-15 08:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
Yes! The first recipe is one like my Mum used to make. It's classic Cantonese home cooking and there are loads of different variations. My favourite is with water chestnuts to give it a bit of crunch.

I also think I've eaten something like the Youtube rou bing in Beijing.

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