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

鮮 (xiān) is one of the characters I mentioned on Monday as having a fairly regular simplified form (鲜). Its radical is 魚 (yú/fish), and its other component, 羊 (yáng/lamb), is also often found on menus. The dictionaries I've consulted say that its main meaning is "fresh", though in her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, Fuchsia Dunlop glosses it as "delicious and savoury, the Chinese equivalent of umami", and a post by blogger Red Cook backs this up.

鮮 appears on menus in a number of contexts. It's often used in connection with 蝦 (xiā/prawn), as 鮮蝦, perhaps to emphasize that the prawns are fresh rather than dried (though dried prawns are usually explicitly listed, as 蝦米/xiā mǐ). I've also seen it used in this way in connection with 魷魚 (yóu yú/squid) and 帶子 (dài zi/scallops).

It also forms part of the word for seafood: 海鮮 (hǎi xiān), literally "ocean [海] fresh"). In reference to this meaning, the term 三鮮 (sān xiān), or "three fresh things", is often used to mean "mixed seafood" (e.g. prawns, squid, and scallops). Note however that this should not be confused with the dish 地三鮮 (dì sān xiān), literally "three fresh things from the earth", which consists of deep-fried potato, aubergine, and green peppers in a savoury sauce.

Here are some dishes with 鮮 in the name:

鮮蝦韭菜餃xiān xiā jiǔ cài jiǎofresh prawn and Chinese chive dumplings
酥炸鮮魷魚sū zhà xiān yóu yúcrispy deep-fried squid
鮮帶子腸粉xiān dài zi cháng fěnfresh scallop cheung fun
海鮮酸辣湯hǎi xiān suān là tānghot and sour seafood soup
三鮮炒拉麵sān xiān chǎo lā miànhand-pulled noodles with mixed seafood

鮮: xiān radical 195 (魚) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

手 (shǒu) is the Chinese character for "hand". It appears on menus in reference to human hands, animal "hands", and figurative hands.

As 手撕 (shǒu sī), which means "hand-torn", it refers to the chef's hands. 手撕 describes a method of breaking up an ingredient, usually chicken (雞/jī) or cabbage (/bāo cài).

As 手工 (shǒu gōng), which means "hand-made", it again refers to the chef's hands. You might see this as 手工 (shǒu gōng shuǐ jiǎo/hand-made dumplings).

As 豬手 (zhū shǒu), literally "pig hands", it means pig trotters. Note that there are a number of other terms for pig trotters, including 豬蹄 (zhū tí) and 豬腳 (zhū jiǎo).

Finally, as 抄手 (chāo shǒu), which literally means "crossed hands", it refers to a type of dumpling folded in such a way as to resemble a person's arms crossed across their chest (this Flickr photo is a good demonstration of what I mean here).

Here are some dishes with 手 in the name:

紅油抄手hóng yóu chāo shǒu"crossed hands" dumplings in chilli oil ("red oil")
雞湯抄手jī tāng chāo shǒu"crossed hands" dumplings in chicken soup
紅燒豬手hóng shāo zhū shǒured-cooked pig trotter
香辣豬手xiāng là zhū shǒufragrant-spicy pig trotter
海蜇手撕雞hǎi zhé shǒu sī jījellyfish with hand-torn chicken
手撕包菜shǒu sī bāo càihand-torn cabbage

Note that the mirror image of 手 — 毛 (máo) — also appears on Chinese menus, essentially in two main contexts. The first is related to the fact that 毛 was the family name of Chairman Mao Zedong, and reportedly his favourite dish was 紅燒肉 (hóng shāo ròu), or red-cooked pork. Because of this, 紅燒肉 is often listed on menus as 毛氏紅燒肉 (máo shì hóng shāo ròu) — "Chairman Mao's red-cooked pork". The second context is related to 毛's other meaning, "hairy". As I mentioned a while back in my post on 豆/dòu/bean, the Chinese name for green soya beans (edamame) is 毛豆 (máo dòu), literally "hairy bean".

手: shǒu radical 64 (手/扌/龵) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen
毛: máo radical 82 (毛) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

One of the main contexts in which you'd see 皮 (pí/skin/leather/rind) on a menu is as 皮蛋 (pí dàn), which translates literally as "skin egg" but is more commonly translated as "century egg", "thousand-year-old egg", or "preserved egg". I've previously discussed 皮蛋 in my post on 蛋 (dàn/egg).

皮 is also used on menus in a more literal sense, as 脆皮 (cuì pí), or "crispy skin"; this could apply to fish, chicken, pork, various deep-fried things such as tofu or spring rolls, and so on.

Similarly, 酥皮 (sū pí) is used to mean "flaky skin", which I've only seen in the context of egg custard tarts — a dim sum dish made with flaky pastry — as 酥皮蛋撻 (sū pí dàn tà) or 酥皮雞蛋撻 (sū pí jī dàn tà). The latter variation adds the character 雞 (jī/chicken); as explained in the abovelinked post on 蛋, this is often done for reasons of euphony, and does not imply that 酥皮蛋撻 are made with non-chicken eggs!

Another manifestation of 皮 is as 腐皮 (fǔ pí), or beancurd skin. This is the skin that forms on top of simmering soya milk, lifted off the surface and dried to form a thin sheet (read more at the Soy Info Center). Beancurd skin is also used in Japanese cuisine, where it's known as yuba. On the Chinese menu, it turns up mainly in a dim sum context, where it's used to wrap various fillings into what are usually translated as something like "beancurd skin rolls".

Here are some dishes with 皮 in the name:

皮蛋豆腐pí dàn dòu fubeancurd with preserved egg
皮蛋瘦肉粥pí dàn shòu ròu zhǒucongee with lean pork and preserved egg
糖醋脆皮魚táng cù cuì pí yúcrispy sweet and sour fish
脆皮炸大腸cuì pí zhà dà chángcrispy deep-fried intestine
脆皮鍋貼cùi pí guō tiēcrispy-skinned potstickers
脆皮炸雲吞cuì pí zhà yún tūncrispy deep-fried wontons
鮮蝦腐皮卷xiān xiā fǔ pí juǎnprawn-stuffed beancurd skin rolls
百花腐皮卷bǎi huā fǔ pí juǎna more poetic name for the above, literally "hundred flowers beancurd skin rolls"
齋腐皮卷zhāi fǔ pí juǎnvegetarian beancurd skin rolls

皮: radical 107 (皮) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

I've mentioned 口 (kǒu/mouth) before, in my post on 四/sì/four. In that post, I was mainly concerned with its use as a radical (of which more below). 口 does appear on menus in its own right, though, perhaps most notably as 口水雞 (kǒu shuǐ jī), or "mouthwatering chicken", a Sichuan cold dish of poached chicken dressed with a spicy sauce. I've also seen 口水兔肉 (kǒu shuǐ tù ròu), which I assume is the same thing but with rabbit (兔/tù) instead of chicken.

Another manifestation of 口 is as 青口 (qīng kǒu), literally "green mouth", which refers to a type of mussel. You might see this as e.g. 豉汁炒青口 (chǐ zhī chǎo qīng kǒu/stirfried mussels in black bean sauce).

I've also seen 口條 (kǒu tiáo), which literally translates to something like "mouth strip" — I think this means "tongue", but it was on a Chinese-only menu, so I don't have an English translation to compare against. The specific dish was 紅油口條 (hóng yóu kǒu tiáo), i.e. 口條 in chilli oil ("red oil").

I admit to remaining somewhat confused by a dish listed on the takeaway menu of Sichuan Restaurant in Acton — in English it's number 132, "fried beef with chilies & peppers", while in Chinese it's 口口香牛肉, which as far as I can tell means something like "mouth mouth fragrant beef". I would dearly love to know what's going on there.

Finally, 口 is used in the transliteration of "Coca-Cola": 可口可樂 (kě kǒu kě lè). You might see this on the drinks (飲料/yǐn liào) section of a menu.

Here are some characters that use 口 as a radical:

dānindividual/list — used in the word 菜單 (cài dān), which means "menu" (and which you may recognise from the icon I use for this series)
pǐnproduct/commodity — often used on menus to indicate the dessert section, as 甜品 (tián pǐn), literally "sweet things"
chīto eat — often used on menus to indicate a "snack" category, as 小吃 (xiǎo chī, literally "small eats") or 小吃類 (xiǎo chī lèi, literally "small eats category")
each/every — sometimes used on menus as 各式 (gè shì) to indicate that an item is available in multiple styles (e.g. red-cooked, with black beans, with XO sauce, etc)
wèiflavour/taste, as in e.g. 怪味兔 (guài wèi tù/"strange-flavour" rabbit)
咕 and 嚕gū and lūused together on menus as 咕嚕 (gū lū) to indicate a sweet-and-sour dish, e.g. 咕嚕肉 (gū lū ròu/sweet-and-sour pork)[see footnote]

Footnote: [0] As [identity profile] sung points out in comments, this is a Cantonese name for this Cantonese dish which is often mistakenly transliterated into Mandarin as 古老肉 (gǔ lǎo ròu/"old-fashioned" pork); for example here. Update, October 2011: see Fuchsia Dunlop's article on sweet and sour pork for more on etymology.

口: kǒu radical 30 (口) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

生 (shēng) has a number of meanings — see its CantoDict entry for a list — and also appears in a number of contexts on the Chinese menu. Firstly, it forms part of the words for peanut (花生/huā shēng or 花生米/huā shēng mǐ) and lettuce (生菜/shēng cài). The literal translation of 生菜 is "raw vegetable"; I have no idea of the etymology of 花生, though 花, which I've posted about before, means "flower".

The character is also used in combination with 煎 (jiān/pan-fried) as 生煎 (shēng jiān), literally "fried from the raw", which according to blogger Carl Chu indicates that the item (usually a dumpling or 包/bāo/bun of some kind) has been cooked by frying directly in oil, without being boiled or steamed first.

生 can also indicate that an ingredient (usually fish/魚/yú) is added at the very end of cooking, in order to ensure it doesn't overcook, as [identity profile] sung noted in a comment on my post on 粥 (zhǒu/congee). I've also seen it in connection with 蠔 (háo/oyster), where I think it may mean that the oyster is cooked immediately after shucking (though this is pure speculation).

Finally, though I've never seen this on a menu, 生 appears in the name of a dish often eaten by Chinese people in Malaysia and Singapore on the seventh day of the New Year, which is today! I'll be posting more about this dish, 魚生 (yú shēng), which literally means "raw fish", on Friday.

Here are some dishes with 生 in the name that I have actually seen on Chinese menus:

腐竹花生fǔ zhú huā shēngpeanut salad with beancurd skin
芹菜花生米qín cài huā shēng mǐcelery and peanut salad
生煎鍋貼shēng jiān guō tiēliterally "fried-from the raw pot-stickers" — aka pan-fried dumplings
海鮮生菜包hǎi xiān shēng cài bāolettuce-wrapped seafood [see footnote 0]
生魚片粥shēng yú piàn zhǒucongee with sliced fish
豆腐火腩生蠔煲dòu fu huǒ nán shēng háo bàobeancurd, roast pork, and oyster claypot (see recipe on eGullet)

Footnote: [0] I wasn't actually sure before whether lettuce-wrapped seafood was a "real" Chinese dish or not, as it felt a bit like one of those invented-for-the-Westerners things, but I've seen it on several Chinese-only menus, and [identity profile] sung assures me that it's a Cantonese dish.

生: shēng radical 100 (生) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

As I mentioned on Monday, tomorrow is the first day of the New Year in the Chinese calendar. In the Chinese zodiac, this coming year is the Year of the Rabbit, so this seems an opportune time to mention the Chinese character 兔 (tù), which means hare or rabbit.

One thing to note about 兔/tù is that although its pinyin transliteration uses the same vowel character as 魚 (yú/fish), the vowel sound is different. As [personal profile] pne explains in a comment on an older post, this is because the "u" of "yú" is really "ü", and so is pronounced more along the lines of French "tu". Conversely, the vowel in 兔/tù is a plain "u", which is pronounced simply "ooh". Remember, the grave accent on the vowel means that it has a falling tone (fourth tone). There's an example pronunciation of 兔 on forvo.com.

Although many people see rabbits purely as pet animals, rabbit is a traditional source of meat both here in the UK and elsewhere. It appears on Chinese menus in various forms; here are some examples:

麻辣水煮兔má là shuǐ zhǔ tùnumbing-spicy water-cooked (水煮/shuǐ zhǔ) rabbit
魚香兔肉yú xiāng tù ròufish-fragrant (魚香/yú xiāng) rabbit
青椒炒兔肉qīng jiāo chǎo tù ròurabbit stirfried with green peppers
怪味兔丁guài wèi tù dīng"strange-flavour" diced rabbit

Rabbit can also turn up in situations where you might expect to see chicken (雞/jī); for example, while 口水雞 (kǒu shuǐ jī/mouthwatering chicken) is a fairly common dish, I've also seen 口水兔肉 (kǒu shuǐ tù ròu), which I presume is rabbit done in the same style.

Finally, I want to point out that the lovely [personal profile] fu has created a latest things Dreamwidth feed for Lunar New Year. She tells me that any new posts tagged with "lunar new year", "chinese new year", or "new year" will appear in this feed. It's looking a little bare at the moment, but hopefully will fill up soon.

兔: radical 10 (儿) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

絲 (sī) is a bit of a tricky one to translate succinctly in the context of the Chinese menu; "sliver" is probably the best single-word translation, though "shredded" seems to be used quite a lot too. When used as a single character, 絲 usually refers to an ingredient's being julienned, or sliced into long, thin strips. Among other things, pork (肉/ròu), ginger (薑/jiāng), potatoes (土豆/tǔ dòu), tripe (肚/dǔ), and pig's ears (豬耳/zhū ěr) commonly get this kind of treatment.

One thing to look out for is that 絲 doesn't always appear as a single character, but also forms part of a few words that tend to turn up on menus. 粉絲 (fěn sī) are a type of clear vermicelli made from mung bean starch; I've mentioned these before, in my post on 粉/fěn. 粉絲 are known by several names in English, including glass noodles, cellophane noodles, and bean thread noodles, and they're the primary ingredient in 螞蟻上樹/mǎ yǐ shàng shù/ants climbing a tree.

Another word that includes 絲 is 絲瓜 (sī guā), or loofah/luffa (see my post on 瓜/guā). You may also see it as 絲苗白飯 (sī miáo bái fàn), which as [identity profile] sung and I figured out a few months ago seems to be a way of specifying long-grain (絲苗) plain-cooked rice (白飯).

Here are some dishes with 絲 in the name:

魚香肉絲yú xiāng ròu sīfish-fragrant slivered/shredded pork
京醬肉絲jīng jiàng ròu sīslivered pork in Peking sauce (see [personal profile] john's explanation of how 京醬肉絲 is served in a comment thread on my post on 醬/jiàng/sauce)
涼拌三絲liáng bàn sān sīthree-sliver salad (one of the "slivers" is usually 粉絲; the others may be julienned carrot, kelp, spinach, etc)
土豆絲
or 熗拌土豆絲
or 酸辣土豆絲
tǔ dòu sī
or qiáng bàn tǔ dòu sī
or suān là tu dòu sī
various forms of stirfried shredded potato (unspecified, pungent, hot-and-sour)
蘿蔔絲酥餅luó bo sī sū bǐngdeep-fried puff pastry filled with shredded daikon
涼拌海帶絲liáng bàn hǎi dài sīshredded kelp salad
紅油耳絲hóng yóu ěr sīshredded (pig's) ear in chilli oil
酸菜粉絲湯suān cài fěn sī tāngpickled vegetable and glass noodle soup

絲: radical 120 (糸/糹) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

I mentioned 雞 (jī) in my very first ever character post, on 肉 (ròu/meat). As I pointed out there, when you see 肉 on a menu with no further qualification, it almost always means pork, since pork is the default meat in most Chinese cuisines. One exception to this, as mentioned on Monday, is Xinjiang food — 肉 on a Xinjiang menu may well mean lamb, which elsewhere is specified as 羊肉 (yáng ròu).

I'm not aware, however, of any Chinese cuisine in which the default meat is chicken. In my experience, the use of chicken is always signalled explicitly with the character 雞 (jī), which may appear either alone or in combination with 肉 as 雞肉 (jī ròu). Note however that as [identity profile] sung points out in comments, 雞肉 appears very rarely on menus — you normally just see 雞 alone.

You might also see 雞 in combination with 蛋 (dàn/egg), so remember that 雞蛋 is not the meat of a chicken, but the egg of a chicken. As [personal profile] pulchritude mentions in the comments on my 肉 post, 雞蛋 is used instead of 蛋 in situations where 蛋 alone would sound unbalanced.

Finally, note that 田雞 (tían jī), literally "field chicken", is not a chicken, but a frog. You may also see this on menus as 田雞腿 (tián jī tuǐ), or frogs' legs, but often the 腿 is omitted since it's understood that the only part of the frog you generally eat is its legs.

Here are some common chicken dishes:

口水雞kǒu shuǐ jī"mouthwatering chicken", a cold dish of chicken in a spicy sauce
宮保雞丁gōng bǎo jī dīngKung Po chicken (which may come in the original Sichuan style, or a Westernised version)
辣子雞là zi jīfried chicken with chillies; this may also appear as 飄香辣子雞 (piāo xiāng là zi jī/"drifting-fragrance chicken") or 辣子雞丁 (là zi jī dīng), or other variations
糯米雞nuò mǐ jīrice in lotus leaf/lo mai gai, a dim sum dish
怪味雞guài wèi jī"strange-flavour chicken", another cold dish
叫花雞jiào huā jībeggar's chicken — chicken baked whole in a clay (or sometimes dough) coating
醬油滷雞jiàng yóu lǔ jīchicken poached in soy sauce (see 3 Hungry Tummies' recipe)
豉油雞chǐ yóu jīthe Cantonese term for 醬油滷雞 (note that although I give the pinyin here for consistency, the Cantonese would actually be something like si yau gai, or si jau gai)

雞: radical 172 (隹) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

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

醬 (jiàng) isn't a character that generally appears standalone — on a Chinese menu, it's almost always part of a word. It essentially denotes some kind of jam-like or paste-like food, and is often translated as "sauce" or "paste".

The radical of 醬 is 酉 (yǒu/wine); note that it appears on the bottom of the character, rather than on the left as in most other characters with this radical. Characters with the 酉 radical are usually associated with alcohol or fermentation in some way, which certainly fits with 醬, as many Chinese pastes/sauces involve fermentation.

Here are some types of 醬 you might see mentioned on a menu, or used in a recipe:

豆瓣醬dòu bàn jiàngchilli bean paste
海鮮醬hǎi xiān jiànghoisin sauce (literally "seafood sauce")
沙爹醬/沙嗲醬shā diē jiàngsatay sauce (transliteration)
沙茶醬shā chá jiàngshacha sauce
醬油jiàng yóusoy sauce [see footnote]
XO醬XO jiàngXO sauce
黃醬
or 黄豆酱
or 磨豉醬
huáng jiàng
or huáng dòu jiàng
or mó chǐ jiàng
yellow bean sauce

And here are some specific dishes that use the character 醬:

醬牛肉jiàng niú ròubeef braised in soy sauce then sliced and served cold (see Su-Lin's post on 醬牛肉)
炸醬麵zhà jiàng miànnoodles with pork and fermented bean sauce, literally "fried sauce noodles" (see my post on 炸醬麵)
XO醬煎腸粉XO jiàng jiān cháng fěngrilled cheung fun with XO sauce
京醬肉絲jīng jiàng ròu sīshredded pork in Peking sauce (a sort of sweet bean-based sauce)

醬 is also used in the Chinese names of various Western sauces/condiments such as peanut butter, mayonnaise, etc — see the CantoDict entry for 醬 for a list.

Footnote: [0] [identity profile] sung points out in comments that the Cantonese term for soy sauce is different: 豉油 (si-yau) is the term used for soy in general and 生抽 (san-cao) for light soy and 老抽 (lao-cao) for dark soy.

醬: jiàng radical 164 (酉) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

菇 (gū) is the Chinese character for mushroom. It doesn't cover all types of fungi — for example, wood ears/tree ears/black fungus would be 木耳 (mù ěr, literally "wood ear") — but it does cover a number of species that are commonly used in Chinese food.

Here are some types of mushrooms you might see on a menu:

香菇xiāng gūChinese black mushrooms (shiitake mushrooms, literally "fragrant mushrooms")
冬菇dōng gūanother name for the above (literally "winter mushrooms")
huā gūhigh-quality shiitake mushrooms (literally "flower mushrooms", referring to the crackled top pattern that appears on the good quality ones — photo)
北菇běi gūdried shiitake mushrooms
金菇jīn gūenoki mushrooms (literally "golden mushrooms")
金針菇jīn zhēn gūanother name for the above (針/zhēn, which means "needle/pin", refers to their shape)
樹菇chá shù gūtea tree mushrooms

And here are some dishes with 菇 in the name:

茶樹菇炒臘肉chá shù gū chǎo là ròustirfried tea tree mushrooms with Chinese ham
茶樹菇炒豬舌chá shù gū chǎo zhū shéstirfried tea tree mushrooms with pig's tongue
香菇雞飽仔xiāng gū jī bǎo zisteamed buns stuffed with chicken and shiitake mushrooms
臘味冬菇雞飯là wèi dōng gū jī fànrice with preserved meat, chicken, and shiitake mushrooms
香菇帶子腸粉xiāng gū dài zi cháng fěncheung fun with scallops and shiitake mushrooms
香菇雞絲粥xiāng gū jī sī zhǒucongee with shiitake mushrooms and shredded chicken
蠔油三菇háo yóu sān gūthree types of mushroom in oyster sauce

NB: this week's dish post will be up tomorrow rather than Friday, since I'm off to Glasgow for a long weekend and won't be taking my laptop.

菇: radical 140 (艸/艹) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

According to my vocab lists, 茄 (qié) was one of the very earliest Chinese characters I ever learned; this doesn't really surprise me, since it's the character for my favourite vegetable — the aubergine, or eggplant.

There are a few other characters that 茄 often appears on menus in company with: 子 (zǐ), 條 (tiáo), and 蕃/番 (fān). I wondered if perhaps 茄子 was an emphasis of the egg-like nature of the aubergine, since one of the meanings of 子 is "seed" or "egg", but [personal profile] pne has commented with a more informed view — he says the 子 is probably being used as a mostly-meaningless suffix to disambiguate it from similarly-pronounced characters and/or to make the one character into a proper "word" (which often have two characters). 茄條 usually means that the aubergines are cut into strips — 條 refers to a long, narrow piece of something.

番茄/蕃茄, on the other hand, doesn't mean "aubergine", but "tomato". I don't know the etymology of this, but [personal profile] pne proposes in the same comment that it might be "barbarian's eggplant", since one of the older meanings of 番 is "barbarian", i.e. someone not Chinese (perhaps a politer translation might be "foreigner's eggplant"). Note that 蕃 is just 番 with a grass radical (艹) on top — I've seen both spellings in roughly equal proportions.

Here are some dishes with 茄 in the name:

魚香茄子yú xiāng qié zifish-fragrant aubergine
紅燒茄子hóng shāo qié zired-cooked aubergine
雙椒茄子shuāng jiāo qié ziaubergine with green and red chillies (雙椒 is literally "double peppers")
老干媽茄子Lǎo Gān Mā qié ziaubergine with Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce
家常茄子jiā cháng qié zi"home-style" aubergine
蕃茄炒蛋fān qié chǎo dànstirfried egg with tomato

Another term for aubergine is 矮瓜 (ǎi guā), which literally translates as "short gourd". As mentioned in the comments on that post, though, I've only ever seen 矮瓜 on one menu — 茄子 is much more common.

[identity profile] sung also points out in comments that the northern Chinese term for tomato is 西紅柿 (xī hóng shì), which translates literally as "western red persimmon". 蕃茄/番茄 is a more southern term.

茄: qié radical 140 (艸/艹) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

First things first — happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

This week's character isn't related to the Mid-Autumn Festival, but it is tangentially related to one of last week's characters, 蛋/dàn/egg. 粥 (zhǒu) is the Chinese character for congee (rice porridge), and one of the most popular ways of serving it is with pork and century egg — 皮蛋瘦肉粥 (pí dàn shòu ròu zhǒu). Note the 瘦 (shòu) character here — this indicates that the pork (肉/ròu) is of the lean variety, rather than the fattier cuts that are used in many other Chinese dishes.

Here are some other flavours of congee I've seen listed on menus:

生魚片粥shēng yú piàn zhǒucongee with sliced fish (生/shēng usually means "fresh" or "raw" in the context of a menu — here, it most likely means that the fish is added in at the last minute so it doesn't get overcooked)
滑牛肉粥huá niú ròu zhǒubeef congee (滑/huá means "smooth/slippery", and I'm not sure what it indicates in this context)
滑雞粥huá jī zhǒuchicken congee
豬紅粥zhū hóng zhǒupig's blood congee (literally "pig's red congee") — the translation on the menu was the rather euphemistic "Chinese red pudding congee"
蠔仔肉碎粥háo zǐ ròu suì zhǒubaby oyster and minced pork congee

Finally, while rice congee is the most common type of congee in Chinese cuisines, it's sometimes made from other grains, particularly in the north of China where rice is less of a staple food than in other regions. For example, Baozi Inn, a small Northern Chinese restaurant in London's Chinatown, offers 小米粥 (xiǎo mǐ zhǒu) — literally "small [小] grain [] porridge [粥]" — which is made from millet.

粥: zhǒu radical 119 (米) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

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

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

I'm a little surprised it took me this long to post about 蒜 (suàn), the Chinese character for garlic. Garlic is one of my favourite seasonings, and I can't think of many dishes that aren't improved by its presence. Judging by my vocab lists, though, I actually learned around 50 or 60 other characters before I got around to 蒜! I think this is perhaps because it doesn't appear nearly as often on Chinese menus as it does in Chinese dishes — it's pretty much taken for granted that a savoury dish is likely to have some garlic in.

This is good news for garlic lovers, though; if you see 蒜 in the name of a dish, you can be pretty sure that the garlic is a significant component. One example of this (or, rather, a family of examples) is provided by the mix-and-match green vegetable options I've posted about before — look out for 蒜泥 (suàn ní), 蒜茸 (suàn róng), or 蒜蓉 (suàn róng), all of which basically mean "mashed/minced garlic".

Here are some other examples:

蒜泥黃瓜suàn ní huáng guācucumber with mashed garlic
蒜蓉蝦春卷suàn róng xiā chūn juǎnminced garlic and prawn spring rolls
蒜燒肚條suàn shāo dǔ tiáotripe strips cooked with garlic
清蒸蒜蓉带子qīng zhēng suàn róng dài zisteamed scallops with minced garlic
蒜香鴨舌suàn xiāng yā shéduck tongues with garlic

Another interesting dish I spotted while compiling this post is one from the Dōngběi (東北/northeastern Chinese) section of the menu at Le Wei Xiang in Lewisham, southeast London: 蒜苔炒肉 (suàn tái chǎo ròu), which is translated as "fried pork with garlic sprouts". Presumably these are the stems of the garlic plant — I found a photo on Flickr which seems to bear this out. Sung, in comments, points out another name for garlic shoots/garlic sprouts: 蒜心 (suàn xīn), which translates literally as "garlic hearts".

蒜: suàn radical 140 (艸/艹) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

Now my dim sum month is over, I'm going back to posting about characters on Wednesdays. I'm easing back into it by starting with a character that turns up a lot on dim sum menus — 蒸 (zhēng), which means "to cook by steaming".

蒸 confused me a little when I first saw it, since it seems to have both the grass radical (艹) and the fire radical (灬), at the top and bottom respectively, which is where these two radicals are normally placed. We've discussed the issue of multiple radicals here before, though I prefer to stick to the strict definition of a radical: the component of a character under which it's listed in a dictionary, rather than just a component which appears somewhere in a character. However, like 瓣/bàn/petal, 蒸 does appear to have two radicals; it appears in my paper dictionary under both 艹 and 灬 (though CantoDict lists it under 艹 only, and Mandarin Tools concurs).

As well as being a common character on dim sum menus, 蒸 appears in other Chinese menu contexts too. Steaming is actually a pretty common Chinese cooking method, particularly for fish — the steaming process is quite a gentle one, mechanically-speaking, so the delicate flesh is protected. I'll be posting more about steamed fish on Friday!

Here are some dishes that use 蒸 in their names (a couple of which I've mentioned before):

豉汁蒸排骨chǐ zhī zhēng pái gǔsteamed spare ribs (排骨) in black bean sauce (豉汁)
剁椒蒸鱸魚duò jiāo zhēng lú yústeamed sea bass () with minced chillies ()
清蒸鱸魚qīng zhēng lú yú"clear-steamed" sea bass (Cantonese-style, flavoured with ginger and spring onions)
醬椒蒸魚頭jiàng jiāo zhēng yú tóusteamed fish head () with chilli paste ()
粉蒸牛肉fěn zhēng niú ròusteamed beef () with coarsely-ground roasted rice (粉)
蟹黃蒸燒賣xiè huáng zhēng shāo màisteamed siu mai (燒賣) topped with crab roe (蟹黃)

蒸: zhēng radical 140 (艸/艹) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

Characters mentioned in this post:
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Eight representations of the Chinese characters for dim sum: 點心

OK, so I said I was going to replace my character posts with dish posts for the duration of August, but since I don't normally post on Tuesdays I thought I could sneak in an extra one :)

The photo above shows eight representations of the Chinese characters 點心 (diǎn xīn/dim sum), clipped from photos I've taken of dim sum menus around London. Just thought people might be interested to see the different variations. You're unlikely to see the more esoteric of these fonts used to write an entire menu, but you may well see them used on signs!

Note that the second example from the left on the bottom row uses the simplified character 点 instead of the traditional character 點. This is quite unusual in my experience; most of the dim sum menus I've seen in London are written in traditional characters. This might be at least partly because most of my dim sum menu photos were taken in London's Chinatown. I have a feeling (though no actual evidence) that many of the restaurants there were set up by immigrants from Hong Kong (where traditional characters are more common than simplified ones). Please note, though, that this is just a theory! The one that uses the simplified character was taken from a menu at the dim sum stall in Pacific Plaza in Wembley.

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.

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

茶 (chá) is the Chinese character for tea. As well as being used for tea itself, it also appears on menus as 茶樹 (chá shù gū) and 沙茶醬 (shā chá jiàng).

The English name for 茶樹菇 is a direct translation of the Chinese — "tea tree mushrooms". I've mentioned these previously, and asked if anyone knew where to get them in London. I finally found the dried version on the first floor of New Loon Moon in Chinatown, but I'm still looking for the fresh ones...

The English name for 沙茶醬 is basically a transliteration — "shacha sauce" or "sa cha sauce". I’ve also seen it translated as "barbecue sauce", but in my opinion this is so vague as to be useless. Shacha sauce is an oily, slightly granular sauce made from ingredients including garlic, shallots, spices, chillies, and dried fish — see its Wikipedia entry or PigPig's post on the joys of 沙茶醬 for more information.

Note that 沙茶 is also sometimes used to mean "satay", though in my experience (remember, my experience is mostly of menus in London), 沙爹 (shā diē) is more common. A post on the CantoDict forums suggests that 沙茶 is the Mandarin term for satay, whereas 沙爹 is more of a Hong Kong thing. I'm not sure if there's an easy way to tell whether 沙茶 on a menu refers to shacha sauce or to satay.

Here are some types of tea that you might see on a menu:

龍井茶lóng jǐng chádragon well tea (a richly-flavoured green tea)
jú huā cháchrysanthemum tea (a caffeine-free infusion of chrysanthemum flowers)
烏龍茶wū lóng cháoolong tea (a fairly wide classification of teas, with many subtypes)
鐵觀音茶tiě guān yīn cháa type of oolong particularly suitable for drinking with dim sum
普洱茶pǔ ěr chápu'er tea (a complex, aged tea)
茉莉花茶mò lì huā chájasmine tea (see Mr Noodles' comment for an alternative name)

Many, many more teas can be seen on, for example, the tea menu of the Royal China Club on Baker Street.

Some of the characters used here appear on menus in other contexts — I've already discussed 花 (huā/flower), and 龍 (lóng/dragon) is often used in an alternate spelling of 小籠包 (xiǎo lóng bāo/soup dumplings), as well as being part of the name of my recommended brand (龍口/Lóngkǒu) of 粉絲 (fěn sī/bean thread noodles). Others generally only appear on tea menus.

I don't recall ever having seen a Chinese-only tea menu here in London, but obviously the situation may be different elsewhere. In addition, knowing the Chinese name of your favourite tea may help you locate it on bilingual menus where the English translation is nonstandard or erroneous.

As pointed out in comments, when no tea menu is apparent, the way you find out which teas are available is simply to ask. If (like me) you don't speak a Chinese language, they may need a little persuading that you really do want something other than the default jasmine, and depending on the staff member they may not know the names of the teas in English.

茶: chá radical 140 (艸/艹) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

湯 (tāng) is the Chinese character for soup. It can also mean hot/boiling water.

Soup plays many roles in Chinese cuisines — some sources claim that it's "best drunk on an empty stomach" and "often served just before dinner", others insist that it's "usually served in place of water or tea as an accompanying drink that is supped during the meal", while a book I was reading in the library yesterday afternoon states that "at banquets it is always served last, perhaps in light of the belief that taking too much liquid while eating is not conducive to proper digestion."

Regardless of the point at which it's served, Chinese soup often comes like other Chinese dishes — as a large serving to be divided between all diners, rather than in individual bowls. You'll also see individual soup portions offered on a menu, though; the price is generally a good guide as to whether it's an individual portion or not, or you can look out for the characters 小 (xiǎo/small) and 大 (dà/large).

湯 isn't the only character used to mean soup — there's also 羹 (gēng), which generally refers to a thicker type of soup than 湯. However, I've only ever seen 羹 on one menu so far, as 西湖牛肉羹 (xī xiāng niú ròu gēng), or "West Lake beef soup" (which is both the literal translation and a commonly-used name on English-language menus). 西湘牛肉羹 is a beef soup that's thickened with cornflour and drizzled egg; it also includes fresh coriander and cubed tofu.

Drizzled egg is in fact a common ingredient in Chinese soups. The egg is first beaten, and then added in a thin stream to the simmering soup at the very end of cooking. Either whole eggs or just the whites may be used. These soups are known as 蛋花湯 (dàn huā tāng) in Chinese (literally "egg flower soup") and as "egg drop soup" in American English. I'm not actually aware of a corresponding term in British English! I think we just say "[thing] and egg soup", e.g. "tomato and egg soup" (蕃茄蛋花湯/fán qié dàn huā tāng).

Here are some other soups you may see on a menu:

榨菜肉絲湯zhà cài ròu sī tāngshredded pork and preserved vegetable soup
酸辣湯suān là tānghot and sour soup (note that the Chinese reads "sour and spicy soup", the other way around to the English name)
牛肉麵湯niú ròu miàn tāngbeef noodle soup (interestingly, in Taiwanese cuisine the 湯 is left implicit, so 牛肉麵 means "beef noodle soup" even though there's no "soup" in the name)
豬血豆腐湯zhū xuè dòu fu tāngpig's blood and beancurd soup

You might also see 湯 used in the name of a soft drink — 酸梅湯 (suān méi tāng), or sour plum drink (some info here). This is more of a drink than a soup, really. There's also 上湯 (shàng tāng/consommé/"superior soup"), which I mentioned on Monday and will be posting more about on Friday. Note that 上湯 is an ingredient rather than a dish per se.

Update, March 2011: For further reading, here's an interesting Usenet post on soup in Chinese cuisines.

湯: tāng radical 85 (水/氵/氺) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)

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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