kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
2011-11-16 04:30 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 紅 — hóng — red

紅 (hóng) is the Chinese character for the colour red. Red is a significant colour in Chinese culture, symbolising happiness and good luck.

It turns up on menus in a number of contexts. One that I've already discussed is red-cooking (紅燒/hóng shāo), which is a style of braising in an aromatic soy-sauce-based liquid, sweetened with caramelised sugar and scented with wine, star anise, and other spices. The braise leaves the ingredients with a rich reddish-brown colour, hence the name.

紅 also appears in one of the Chinese names for tomato: 西紅柿 (xī hóng shì), literally "western red persimmon". According to [identity profile] sung's comment on my post on 茄/qié/aubergine, in the north of China this is more common than the other names I've seen for tomatoes on menus: 番茄 and 蕃茄 (both of which are fān qié in pinyin).

Coagulated pig's blood is often referred to on menus as 豬紅 (zhū hóng), literally "pig's red". This is actually a surprisingly mild-tasting ingredient, with a consistency similar to soft tofu; in fact I've had it paired with tofu a few times, generally in soup. (Another, more literal, term for pig's blood is 豬血/zhū xuè.)

Another frequent occurrence of 紅 on menus is in the Chinese term for chilli oil, which is literally "red oil": 紅油 (hóng yóu). Chilli oil is commonly used in various cold dishes, as well as other applications.

Finally, for those who like to drink tea, it may be worth knowing that while in English we generally divide Chinese teas into green and black, the corresponding Chinese terms are literally green (綠/lǜ) and red. There's an interesting discussion of "red tea" vs. "black tea" on the Not Learning Cantonese In Hong Kong blog, including some speculation as to why the difference occurs, and some examples of languages which come down on each side.

Here are some dishes with 紅 in the name:

漢字pinyinEnglish
紅燒肉hóng shāo ròured-cooked pork
Other ingredients that can be cooked in 紅燒 style include aubergine (茄子/qié zi), beef (牛肉/niú ròu), fish (魚/yú), pig trotters (豬手/zhū shǒu or 豬蹄/zhū tí), spare ribs (排骨/pái gǔ), and winter melon (冬瓜/dōng guā).
紅油抄手hóng yóu chāo shǒuwontons in chilli oil
As [identity profile] sung pointed out in a comment on my post on 手/shǒu/hand, 抄手 (chāo shǒu), literally "crossed hands", is the Sichuan term for wontons — the Cantonese word is 雲吞 (yún tūn in Mandarin pinyin), literally "swallowing clouds".
紅油豬耳hóng yóu zhū ěrpig's ear in chilli oil
This is a cold dish. As with 紅油抄手, the 紅油 here is chilli oil, literally "red oil". You may also see this dish as 紅油耳片 (hóng yóu ěr piàn) or 紅油耳絲 (hóng yóu ěr sī), both of which make it explicit that the ear is sliced (片) or shredded (絲); in this context, these two characters mean essentially the same thing.
韭菜炒豬紅jiǔ cài chǎo zhū hóngstir-fried pig's blood with Chinese chives
As mentioned above, 豬紅 (zhū hóng) is literally "pig's red". 韭菜 (jiǔ cài) are Chinese chives, also known in English as garlic chives.
女兒紅鳳爪nǚ ér hóng fèng zhǎochicken feet in wine sauce
Literally "daughter's red phoenix claws", this is a dim sum dish. 鳳爪 (fèng zhǎo/phoenix claws) is a common name for chicken feet.
酥炸紅糟海鰻魚sū zhà hóng zāo hǎi mán yúcrispy deep-fried eel with red wine lees
This is a Fujian dish; red wine lees is a by-product of making red rice wine, and is a common ingredient in Fujian cooking.
紅: hóng radical 120 (糸/糹) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
2011-10-25 01:00 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 東 — dōng — east

東 (dōng) is the Chinese character for "east" or "eastern". I've mentioned this character before, as it forms part of the name 東北 (Dōngběi), a region which is home to a couple of dishes I've posted about previously: 地三鮮 (dì sān xiān) and 東北拉皮 (Dōngběi lā pí).

Dōngběi was once known as Manchuria. It includes the three northeastern provinces of China: Jílín, Liáoníng, and Hēilóngjiāng. 北 (běi) means "north", so Dōngběi is literally "east-north" — the opposite way around to how we'd say it in English.

Another context in which 東 appears on menus is as 東風螺 (dōng fēng luó), literally "east wind snail". According to Baidu Encyclopaedia, this refers to a number of sea snails in the Babylonia genus. I've seen these on dim sum menus, as 沙爹東風螺 (shā diē dōng fēng luó), which are sea snails in satay sauce, and as 咖哩東風螺 (kā lī dōng fēng luó), which are sea snails in curry sauce ("shā diē" and "kā lī" are phonetic transcriptions of "satay" and "curry" respectively).

Probably the most common dish with 東 in the name, however, is 東坡肉 (Dōngpō ròu). This is a dish of wine-infused pork belly, cooked using multiple methods (blanching, frying, braising, and steaming) over several hours. 東坡肉 is named after the 11th century poet and politician Sū Shì (蘇軾), who is more commonly known as Sū Dōngpō (蘇東坡); according to Wikipedia, he took this name from a farm he lived on, called Dōngpō (東坡), literally "eastern slope".

Other place names you might see on a menu are 廣東 (Guǎngdōng), the southern province which is the home of Cantonese cuisine (including dim sum), and 山東 (Shāndong), an eastern coastal province whose cuisine, like Cantonese cuisine, is considered one of China's eight culinary traditions.

東: dōng radical 75 (木) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
2011-08-15 07:00 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 蝦 — xiā — prawn

I've mentioned 蝦 (xiā) in several posts already, so I thought it was time I gave it a character post of its own. 蝦 on its own means "prawn" or "shrimp" — though don't ask me what the difference between a prawn and a shrimp is, since it seems to vary by country.

You may also see 大蝦 (dà xiā), or "big prawns", i.e. king prawns. However, a lack of 大 in the name of a dish doesn't necessarily mean that the prawns are small ones. In addition, 球 (qiú), which means "ball", is sometimes used as a reference to the way prawns tend to curl up into balls: 蝦球 (xiā qiú). 蝦仁 (xiā rén) are peeled prawns; 仁 means "kernel" or "core".

Other prawn-related words include 蝦醬 (xiā jiàng), which is shrimp paste (belachan), and 蝦米 (xiā mǐ), literally "prawn grains", which are dried prawns. Note that another name for dried prawns is 海米/hǎi mǐ, literally "ocean grains".

Finally, although it's not a prawn, the word for lobster also includes 蝦; it's 龍蝦 (lóng xiā), literally "dragon prawn".

Below are some dishes with 蝦 in the name. (I decided to try out a new style for this "table of dishes" — what do you think? See last week's character post for a comparison.)

漢字pinyinEnglish
蝦餃xiā jiǎohar gao
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, "har gao" is simply the Cantonese pronunciation of 蝦餃, adopted into English as the name for these translucent-skinned prawn dumplings.
紙包蝦zhǐ bāo xiāpaper-wrapped prawns
紙 (zhǐ) is paper, and 包 (bāo) means "package" or "to wrap". These are deep-fried prawns wrapped in rice paper skins.
鮮蝦腸粉xiān xiā cháng fěnprawn cheung fun
I discussed cheung fun during last year's dim sum month. 鮮 (xiān) means "fresh", and is used here to make the dish sound more appealing.
芝麻蝦多士zhī má xiā duō shìsesame prawn toast
芝麻 (zhī má) is sesame and 多士 (duō shì) is toast; the latter of these is another of those words which originated as a Cantonese transliteration ("do si") of the English word ("toast"). Note that despite its reputation as an Anglicised Chinese dish, [identity profile] sung assures me that 芝麻蝦多士 is a bona fide Cantonese dish, usually served as a starter or snack.
宮保蝦球gōng bǎo xiā qiúkung po prawns
Note the use of 球 (qiú) as described above.
姜蔥龍蝦jiāng cōng lóng xiālobster with ginger and spring onion
You might also see this with the alternative word for ginger, 薑 (also pinyinised as jiāng).

蝦: xiā radical 142 (虫) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

Characters mentioned in this post:
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)
2011-08-08 05:00 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 芋 — yù — taro

Today's character is a good example of how it can be helpful to look at the Chinese names of dishes alongside the English ones! 芋 (yù) is the Chinese character for taro; strictly speaking, I believe the full word is 芋頭 (yù tóu; or, as [personal profile] pne points out in a comment, possibly yù tou), but it's often abbreviated on menus to simply 芋.

Taro, as a vegetable, confused me for ages. It's often referred to as "yam"; however, yam and taro are not the same thing. Taro is also not the same thing as sweet potato, even though the latter is also sometimes referred to as "yam". According to Wikipedia, taro is in the Araceae family, yam is in the Dioscoreaceae family, and sweet potato is in the Convolvulaceae family.

This naming confusion extends to menus, too, with dishes that are actually made out of taro referred to as, for example, "yam croquettes" or "stewed yam with chicken". So if you want to be sure, look for 芋 in the Chinese name — this pretty much always indicates taro. One possible exception is when the name includes 香芋 (xiāng yù), which usually means taro but seems to sometimes mean purple yam (which is in fact a type of yam). I don't know the general Chinese word for yam, but sweet potatoes are 番薯 or 蕃薯, both of which pinyinise as fān shǔ.

Here are some dishes with 芋 in the name:

蜂巢炸芋角fēng cháo zhà yù jiǎodeep-fried taro croquettes (more on these later this week)
芋頭糕yù tóu gāopan-fried taro cake (similar to pan-fried turnip cake/蘿蔔糕/luó bo gāo)
芋香排骨煲xiāng yù pái gǔ bāotaro [香芋] and spare rib [排骨] claypot [煲]
剁椒蒸芋頭duò jiāo zhēng yù tóusteamed [] taro [芋頭] with Hunanese chopped salted chillies [剁椒]
香芋西米露xiāng yù xī mǐ lùsago dew [西米露] with taro [香芋] (a sweet pudding made from sago, served hot or cold)

芋: 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
2011-06-30 07:00 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 酸 — suān — sour

酸 (suān) is the Chinese character for "sour". On menus, this often appears in combination with 辣 (là/spicy), for example as 酸辣湯 (suān là tāng), or hot and sour soup. Note that the Chinese is the other way around from the English, as the literal translation is "sour and spicy soup" — this also applies to other hot and sour items, such as 酸辣土豆絲 (suān là tǔ dòu sī), which is hot and sour shredded potato.

Another frequent partner to 酸 is 菜 (cài). In this context, 菜 means "vegetable", though 酸菜 is often translated as "pickled greens"; it's a tasty, sour, crunchy pickle made from 芥菜 (jiè cài), or mustard greens. Food Mayhem has a recipe for making your own, but you can buy it in jars too, either chopped or whole. I've discussed 酸菜 before, in my post on 酸菜魚/suān cài yú (fish soup with pickled greens).

酸梅湯 (suān méi tāng), despite using the character for "soup" (湯/tāng), is more of a drink. Eileen Eats has a recipe and some additional comments on the ingredients.

Here are some more dishes with 酸 in the name:

酸辣豆花suān là dòu huāsour-and-hot "flower" beancurd (extra-soft beancurd)
酸菜肉絲麵suān cài ròu sī miànnoodles [麵] with shredded [絲] pork [肉] and pickled greens [酸菜]
甜酸炸雲吞tián suān zhà yún tūndeep-fried [炸] sweet-and-sour [甜酸] wontons [雲吞]
酸豆角炒肉泥suān dòu jiǎo chǎo ròu nístir-fried [炒] pickled green beans [酸豆角] with minced [泥] pork [肉]
酸: suān radical 164 (酉) 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.

kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
2011-06-22 01:00 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 三 — sān — three

三 is the Chinese character for "three". It's often used on menus in the literal sense, for example to denote that a dish has three principal ingredients. One common use is 三鮮 (sān xiān), literally "three fresh", which usually refers to mixed seafood (e.g. prawn, squid, and scallops) — though don't confuse it with 地三鮮 (see below). Another is 三燒 (sān shāo), or "three roasts", which you might see as 三燒飯 (sān shāo fàn); three types of roasted meat served on rice.

If you read my post on 五/wǔ/five, you may remember that I mentioned 五花肉 (wǔ huā ròu/"five flower meat") as a name for pork belly. [identity profile] sunflower tells me that another name for this cut of meat is 三層肉 (sān céng ròu), or "three-layer meat".

三 is also used phonetically in the Chinese word for salmon: 三文魚 (sān wén yú). Note that the correspondence with the English word "salmon" is more apparent in Cantonese, where the first two characters are pronounced "sam men" (the final character, , simply means "fish"). CantoDict tells me that the "formal" name for salmon is 鮭魚 (guī yú), but I've never seen this on a menu.

Here are some dishes with 三 in the name:

三杯雞sān bēi jīthree-cup [三杯] chicken [] (bone-in chicken braised with equal quantities of sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine)
地三鮮dì sān xiān"three fresh things from the earth" (deep-fried potatoes, peppers, and aubergines)
涼拌三絲liáng bàn sān sīthree-sliver salad (a combination of bean thread noodles/粉絲/fěn sī and a couple of shredded vegetables)
三寶滑腸粉sān bǎo huá cháng fěn"three treasures" cheung fun
三鮮炒麵sān xiān chǎo miànstirfried [] noodles [] with mixed seafood [三鮮]

Finally, just for [personal profile] superpitching, I will note the existence of 三蛇羹 (sān shé gēng), or "three-snake soup", which according to CantoDict is a "famous Guangdong dish". This blog post has a little more information.

三: sān radical 1 (一) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
2011-06-15 12:00 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 牛 — niú — beef

To follow up on Monday's post, which was aimed at encouraging other non-Chinese-speakers to learn to read Chinese menus[1], I thought today I'd go back to basics and cover one of the more fundamental menu characters that I haven't yet discussed: 牛 (niú).

In a general context, and on its own, 牛 means "ox" or "cow", but when paired with the character 肉 (ròu/meat), it means beef: 牛肉. On menus, the 肉 is often omitted, or another character is used to make the specific cut more explicit, as in 牛腩 (niú nǎn/beef brisket), 牛健 (niú jiàn/beef shank), or 牛柳 (niú liǔ/beef fillet)[2].

However, the presence of 牛 in the name of a dish doesn't always mean that it includes beef per se, as in the muscle tissue of cows; this character is also found in the names of various types of beef offal and other parts. I've collected some in the table below:

牛筋niú jīnbeef tendon
牛舌niú shébeef tongue
牛尾niú wěioxtail
牛肚niú dǔbeef tripe
牛柏葉
or 牛百葉
niú bǎi yèbeef tripe from the omasum, i.e. the third chamber of the stomach (leaf/book/bible tripe); the names literally mean "cow's cypress leaves" and "cow's hundred leaves" respectively
牛雜niú záliterally "beef miscellaneous"; I think this means assorted beef offal (and [blogspot.com profile] eatlovenoodles confirms this in comments); according to this blog post by [blogspot.com profile] buddyscottiecadet, it refers to all the offal from inside the abdomen

Note also that 牛油 (niú yóu) is neither meat nor offal, but butter (literally "cow grease")[3]. You might see this used in the name of a common dim sum item, 牛油馬拉糕/niú yóu mǎ lái gāo (steamed sponge cake).

Here are some dishes with 牛 in the name:

五香牛肉wǔ xiāng níu ròufive-spice beef
水煮牛肉shuǐ zhǔ niú ròuwater-cooked beef
紅燒牛肉hóng shāo niú ròured-cooked beef
孜然牛肉zī rán niú ròucumin beef
麻辣牛肚má là níu dǔnumbing-spicy beef tripe
姜蔥牛柏葉jiāng cōng niú bǎi yèbeef tripe with ginger and spring onions
粉蒸牛肉fěn zhēng niú ròusteamed beef with roasted rice powder
乾炒牛河gān chǎo niú hédry-fried beef ho fun

1 Although thanks to the lovely comments, it also ended up being quite encouraging to me as well!

2 See [blogspot.com profile] buddyscottiecadet's post on deciphering meat cuts for more cow-parts vocabulary.

3 While butter is 牛油 in Cantonese, [personal profile] pulchritude notes in comments that 黃油 (huáng yóu) is a more common word for butter in Mandarin, and [blogspot.com profile] buddyscottiecadet points out, also in comments, that in Taiwan butter is 奶油 (nǎi yóu/"milk oil").

牛: niú radical 93 (牛/牜) 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.
kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
2011-06-08 02:00 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 五 — wǔ — five

Earlier this week I posted about 端午 (Duānwǔ), the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese calendar. Today's character is 五 (wǔ), the Chinese character for "five".

Note that although 五 (wǔ) is pronounced identically to the character 午 (wǔ) in 端午, it's a different character with a different literal meaning. The fifth month of the lunar year can be referred to as either 五月 or 午月, but while 五 on its own means "five", 午 on its own means "noon".

There's only one word containing 午 that I've ever seen on a Chinese menu — 午餐肉 (wǔ cān ròu), or Spam/luncheon meat — a popular ingredient in Chinese hotpot! So I've decided to cover 五 instead today. I hope this isn't too tenuous a link with Monday's post...

The two main contexts in which 五 is used on menus are 五香 (wǔ xiāng), which is "five spice", and 五花肉 (wǔ huā ròu), which is literally "five-flower meat" and means pork belly. As I mentioned in my post on 花, the name 五花肉 refers to the five alternating layers of meat and fat that should be present in this cut of meat.

Here are some dishes with 五 in the name:

五香牛肉wǔ xiāng niú ròufive-spice beef
五香牛腩wǔ xiāng niú nǎnfive-spice beef brisket
五香花生米wǔ xiāng huā shēng mǐfive-spice peanuts
五花肉燉蘿蔔wǔ huā ròu dùn luó bobelly pork stewed with daikon
五: radical 7 (二) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

Characters mentioned in this post:
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)
2011-06-01 12:30 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 腰 — yāo — kidney

腰 (yāo) is the Chinese character for "kidney" (though [personal profile] snowynight notes in comments that it may only be used to mean this in a food context, not in general). It can also mean "waist" or "middle part". It appears on menus both to indicate actual kidneys and as part of the word 腰果 (yāo guǒ/cashew nut).

When used to mean kidneys, you may see it as 豬腰 (zhū yāo), which is explicitly a pig's kidney, or perhaps as 腰花 (yāo huā), literally "kidney flowers". In the latter case, it means that the kidneys have been cross-hatched before cooking so they open up like flowers when cooked, a similar treatment to that often given to squid.

Note that the radical of 腰 is 肉 (in its ⺼ form in this case). This is pretty common for offal; 肝 (gān/liver), 腸 (cháng/intestine), 肚 (dǔ/tripe), and 肺 (fèi/lung) all share the same radical.

Here are some dishes with 腰 in the name:

火爆腰花huǒ bào yāo huāfire-exploded [quick-fried] "kidney flowers"
韮菜炒腰花jiǔ cài chǎo yāo huā"kidney flowers" stirfried with Chinese chives
蒜茸腰片suàn róng yāo piànsliced kidneys with mashed garlic
腰果西芹yāo guǒ xī qíncelery with cashew nuts
腰果叫花雞yāo guǒ jiào huā jī"beggar's chicken" (clay-baked chicken) with cashew nuts

腰: yāo radical 130 (肉) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

Characters mentioned in this post:
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)
2011-05-25 10:30 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 香 — xiāng — fragrance

I mentioned 香 (xiāng) in one of my very first posts here, on 魚香茄子 (yú xiāng qié zi). The primary meaning of 香 is "fragrant", and indeed 魚香茄子 is often translated as "fish-fragrant aubergine".

According to Gong Dan's Food & Drink in China, fragrance in Chinese cooking implies more than that which the nose can detect directly; it includes the freshness of the raw ingredients used, the blend of seasonings, and the proximity of a dish in terms of seconds from the cooking pot.

香 forms part of several words used on Chinese menus, such as 香菇 (xiāng gū/shiitake mushrooms), 香油 (xiāng yóu/sesame oil) and 五香 (wǔ xiāng/five-spice). Note that sesame oil has other, more literal names too, such as 麻油 (má yóu) and 芝麻油 (zhī ma yóu).

Here are some dishes with 香 in the name:

魚香肉絲yú xiāng ròu sīfish-fragrant [魚香] slivered [] pork [肉]
五香牛肉wǔ xiāng niú ròufive-spice beef
飄香辣子雞piāo xiāng là zi jī"drifting fragrance" chicken with chillies
香辣豆花xiāng là dòu huāfragrant-and-hot [香辣] "flower" beancurd (very soft beancurd) [豆花]
香辣豬脆腸xiāng là zhū cuì chángfragrant [香] spicy [辣] crispy [脆] pig [豬] intestine [腸]
香菇雞包子xiāng gū jī bāo zibao filled with chicken and shiitake mushrooms
香酥鴨xiāng sū yācrispy [酥] aromatic [香] duck [鴨]

香: xiāng radical 186 (香) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

Characters mentioned in this post:
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)
2011-05-18 11:00 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 蠔 — háo — oyster

蠔 (háo) is the Chinese character for "oyster", though I should perhaps say that it's a Chinese character for "oyster". There are quite a few Chinese words for this bivalve, including 海蠣 (hǎi lì), 牡蠣 (mǔ lì), and 蚵 (hé). However, 蠔 is by far the most common term I've seen on Chinese menus in London; I've only seen 海蠣 on two menus, both of them from Fujian restaurants, and I've never seen either 牡蠣 or 蚵.

I am a great fan of oysters. [personal profile] bob often brings half a dozen back for me when he goes to our local farmers' market on the weekend, and I usually just shuck them and eat them raw. I did cook some last week, though, and I'll be posting about that on Friday!

Another common menu word with 蠔 in the name is 蠔油 (háo yóu), or oyster sauce. You may also sometimes see 蠔皇 (háo huáng), which is often translated into English as "superior oyster sauce".

Here are some dishes with 蠔 in the name:

蠔油鮮竹卷háo yóu xiān zhú juǎnfresh beancurd skin rolls [竹卷] with oyster sauce [蠔油]
蠔皇叉燒包háo huáng chā shāo bāocha siu bao [叉燒包]; the 蠔皇 is a reference to the oyster sauce in the filling
蠔仔肉碎粥háo zǎi ròu suì zhǒucongee [] with baby oysters [蠔仔] and minced [碎] pork []
豆腐火腩生蠔煲dòu fu huǒ nǎn shēng háo bàobeancurd [豆腐], roast pork [火腩], and oyster [蠔] claypot [煲]; the 生 (shēng/raw) probably refers to the oysters being added to the claypot at the last moment
蠔油鴨掌háo yóu yā zhǎngduck feet [鴨掌] in oyster sauce [蠔油]
椒鹽炸生蠔jiāo yán zhà shēng háodeep-fried [炸] oysters [蠔] with spiced salt [鹽]
蠔煎háo jiānoyster omelette

蠔: háo radical 142 (虫) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge [No working Zhongwen entry]

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)
2011-05-11 10:30 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 包 — bāo — bun/package/bundle

As I mentioned on Monday, the Chinese character for "bun" is 包 (bāo).

Although some types of 包, such as the Shanghai 小籠包 (xiǎo lóng bāo) mentioned below, are translated into English using the term "dumpling", this is something of a misnomer, as 包 aren't really considered to be dumplings in Chinese cuisine. The generic Chinese term for "dumpling" is 餃子 (jiǎo zi), while the generic term for "bun" is 包子 (bāo zi). There's a long and somewhat confusing thread on this subject on Chowhound.

As far as I can make out, the essential difference between 包子 and 餃子 lies in the method of wrapping, though both types of wrapper start out as a flat circle of some kind of dough. 包子 are sealed by pulling up the edges of the circle evenly around and then twisting and pinching at the top, leaving a sort of characteristic "topknot". Conversely, 餃子 wrappers are folded by bringing one half of the circle to meet the other (sort of like folding it in half) and then either pleated along one side or simply sealed flat.

There is quite some variation within the 包子 type (as well as within the 餃子 type, though that's a subject for another post).

One type of 包 that you might see on a dim sum menu is the 上海小籠包 (Shànghǎi xiāo lóng bāo), often translated into English as "soup dumpling". Shanghai-style 小籠包 are sealed in the 包子 style, but have unleavened wheat dough wrappers; this type of wrapper is more commonly associated with 餃子, hence the linguistic confusion mentioned above. The best examples include a few small cubes of jellied stock along with the minced pork filling, which melt on steaming and fill the mouth with a gush of delicious hot soup on eating — this is where the English term "soup dumpling" comes from (photo [not mine] of Shanghai 小籠包).

Sichuan-style 小籠包, on the other hand, have breadier, leavened wrappers and are filled with shredded pork seasoned with soy sauce — no soup (photo of Sichuan 小籠包). These are not dim sum items as the term is generally understood in the UK, but rather snacks or 小吃 (xiǎo chī, literally "small eats").

I'm pretty sure that the first type of 包 I ever learned about was 叉燒包 (chā shāo bāo), or cha siu bao in the more common Cantonese pronunciation. These are soft, fluffy, slightly sweet buns filled with barbecued pork; many people consider them a must-have item on dim sum outings. 叉 (chā) means "fork" or "prong", and 燒 means "cook" or "roast", so the name is a reference to the traditional method of skewering the pork on a long fork before roasting it.

包 on a menu doesn't always mean "bun"; sometimes its other meaning of "package" or "bundle" is the intended one. An example of this is 海鮮生菜包 (hǎi xiān shēng cài bāo), or lettuce-wrapped seafood; a savoury mixture of chopped seafood served with lettuce leaves to wrap it up in.

Here are some other dishes with 包 in the name:

奶黃包nǎi huáng bāocustard bun (a popular dessert at dim sum)
鍋包肉guō bāo ròuDongbei-style sweet and sour pork
紙包蝦zhǐ bāo xiāpaper-wrapped prawns
手撕包菜shǒu sī bāo càihand-torn cabbage

Note that occasionally you might see 飽 (bǎo) used on menus in place of 包 (bāo), though as [personal profile] pne points out in comments, this is a somewhat inaccurate "spelling".

包: bāo radical 20 (勹) 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)
2011-05-04 09:45 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 米 — mǐ — uncooked rice/grain

米 (mǐ) is the Chinese character for uncooked rice and other grain-like things.

Note that the character for cooked rice is 飯 (fàn), though this is often used on menus in combination with 米 as 米飯 (mǐ fàn). I've seen 米飯 used to denote plain steamed rice, though in comments below [identity profile] sunflower points out that really this is just another term for cooked rice, and [identity profile] sung reminds me that 白飯 (bái fàn) is the more commonly-used term for plain cooked rice in Cantonese ( means white/pure/plain).

Other words that include 米 are:

小米xiǎo mǐmillet (literally "small grain")
米粉mǐ fěnrice vermicelli
玉米yù mǐsweetcorn
粟米sù mǐanother word for sweetcorn
蝦米xiā mǐdried prawns
海米hǎi mǐanother word for dried prawns
花生米huā shēng mǐpeanuts — also simply 花生; note that [personal profile] pulchritude mentions in comments that 花生米 is specifically the kernels rather than the whole nut, and also that 花生米 also refers to "an appetizer-ish dish containing salted peanut kernels (with the red skin left on)"

And here are some dishes with 米 in the name:

小米粥xiǎo mǐ zhǒumillet congee
糯米雞nuò mǐ jīglutinous rice and chicken in lotus leaf
蟹肉粟米羹xiè ròu sù mǐ gēngcrabmeat and sweetcorn soup
海米冬瓜hǎi mǐ dōng guāwinter melon with dried prawns
梅菜蝦米粉絲煲méi cài xiā mǐ fěn sī bàopreserved vegetable, dried prawn, and bean thread noodle claypot

Note in the last of these that the 米 is attached to the preceding 蝦 to make 蝦米 (dried prawns) rather than to the following 粉 to make 米粉 (rice vermicelli). The 粉 in turn is attached to the following 絲 to make 粉絲 (bean thread noodles). I discussed the issue of working out which word a character belongs to in my post on 鹹蛋黄玉米粒 (xián dàn huáng yù mǐ fěn (sweetcorn with salted egg yolk) — essentially, there's no substitute for experience.

米: 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)
2011-04-27 10:00 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 椒 — jiāo — chilli/pepper

Since it's my Chinese menu blog anniversary this week, I'm letting myself off the constraint of having a theme. So today's character is simply my favourite character that I've not posted about yet: 椒 (jiāo), the Chinese character for "pepper".

I am quite keen on all kinds of pepper, including chillies (辣椒/là jiāo), bell peppers (菜椒/cài jiāo), pickled chillies (泡椒/pào jiāo), black pepper (黑椒/hēi jiāo), and Sichuan pepper (花椒/huā jiāo).

I'm not actually sure, though, how you tell if 椒 alone on a menu refers to chillies or bell peppers. For example, I'm not sure whether 雙椒茄條 (shuāng jiāo qié tiáo)[see footnote] is aubergine with red and green chillies, or aubergine with red and green bell peppers. I've even eaten it! I just can't remember whether they were relatively thick-walled mild chillies or relatively thin-walled bell peppers. (Perhaps the difference between these two isn't a hugely important one, given that they're all capsicums anyway.)

Anyway, here are some dishes with 椒 in the name:

虎皮尖椒hǔ pí jiān jiāotiger-skin chillies (large, relatively mild chillies pan-fried until the skins blister)
青椒土豆絲qīng jiāo tǔ dòu sīshredded potatoes with green peppers
椒鹽豬扒jiāo yán zhū bāsalt-and-pepper pork chop
剁椒蒸魚duò jiāo zhēng yústeamed fish with chopped salted chillies
燒椒皮蛋shāo jiāo pí dànpreserved eggs with grilled chillies
黑椒鱔球hēi jiāo shàn qiúblack pepper eel

Edit: There's a great comment from [identity profile] sunflower on another of my posts listing various words with 椒 in.

Footnote: [0] 雙 (shuāng) means "pair" or "double", so 雙椒 means two kinds of peppers, usually red and green. 條 (tiáo) means "long narrow piece" or "strip", so 茄條 is aubergine sliced into strips.

椒: jiāo radical 75 (木) 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)
2011-04-20 12:05 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 炒 — chǎo — stirfry

As you'll know by now if you followed my link to Red Cook's stirfrying series in Monday's linkspam, the Chinese character for "stirfry" is 炒 (chǎo). Kian, the author of the Red Cook blog, divides stirfrying techniques into three main types: plain stirfry (清炒/qīng chǎo), moist stirfry (滑炒/huá chǎo), and dry wok stirfry (煸炒/biān chǎo).

清炒 generally incorporates just one vegetable per dish, often a leafy green or a gourd-style vegetable. A vegetable dish described as 清炒 alone is likely to be very plain, seasoned only with salt. Other flavourings may also be used, and different characters/words are used to denote this; for an overview, see my post on mix-and-match green vegetable dishes.

滑炒 involves several different ingredients, and results in a dish with a sauce; the fourth post in Kian's series has more on this. As he points out, this is the technique used to create dishes such as fish-fragrant aubergine (魚香茄子/yú xiāng qié zi).

煸炒 uses more seasonings and more ingredients than 清炒, but ends up less saucy than 滑炒. One subtype of 煸炒 is 乾煸 (gān biān), or extreme-heat stirfry, used in dishes such as dry-fried green beans (乾煸四季豆/gān biān sì jì dòu).

Here are some dishes with 炒 in the name:

茶樹菇炒臘肉chá shù gū chǎo là ròutea tree mushrooms with Chinese ham
蛋炒飯dàn chǎo fànegg [] fried rice
韭菜炒豬紅jiǔ cài chǎo zhū hóngpig's blood [豬紅/"pig's red"] stirfried with Chinese chives [韭菜]
乾炒牛河粉gān chǎo níu hé fěndry-fried [乾炒] beef [] ho fun [河粉]
肉絲炒麵ròu sī chǎo miànstirfried [炒] noodles [] with shredded [] pork [] (a.k.a. pork chow mein)
青椒炒兔肉qīng jiāo chǎo tù ròurabbit [兔肉] stirfried with green peppers
蕃茄炒蛋fān qié chǎo dànstirfried eggs with tomatoes

Finally, don't confuse 炒 (chǎo) with 抄 (chāo), which as mentioned in my post on 手 (shǒu/hand) is used in the Sichuan name for wontons: 抄手, literally "crossed hands", referring to the way they're folded. Another similar character is 沙 (shā), which is used in combination with 金 (jīn/gold) to denote the use of a salted egg yolk coating ("golden sands"); see my post on sweetcorn with salted egg yolk for more. You can tell them apart by remembering that 炒 has the fire radical, 抄 has the hand radical, and 沙 has the water radical.

炒: chǎo radical 86 (火) 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)
2011-04-13 03:30 pm

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters — 耳 — ěr — ear

Like last week's character, 心 (xīn/heart), 耳 (ěr/ear) is used on menus both to describe the relevant part of an animal (usually pig/豬/zhū) and in the names of certain vegetables.

This time, though, the vegetables are not leafy greens but rather various edible fungi. I'm not actually sure how many different types of these exist, though the most common Chinese names I see are 木耳 (mù ěr), 銀耳 (yín ěr), 雪耳 (xuě ěr), and 雲耳 (yún ěr). English names include "wood ear", "tree ear", "cloud ear", and "black fungus". There are at least two distinct types of fungi used in Chinese cuisines, one black and one lighter in colour, but I'm still a bit confused about which names go with which fungus. The one I'm most familiar with is the black one, which is sold dried, and corresponds to (at least) 木耳, "wood ear", "tree ear", and "black fungus".

Edit: [personal profile] pulchritude sets me straight in comments: there are two types of black fungus. One is quite large, has a brown back that looks fuzzy when dry, and is usually labelled as 木耳. The other is smaller and softer, and is usually labelled as 雲耳.

I've also seen 耳 used in the name of a Sichuan snack, 葉耳耙 (yè ěr pá). I ate this at Shu Castle on the Old Kent Road in London, where it was translated as "lotus leaf harrow"; I'm not entirely sure of the role 耳 plays in this name, but 葉 is "leaf" and 耙 is "rake" or "harrow".

Here are some dishes with 耳 in the name:

紅油耳片hóng yóu ěr piànsliced [片] pig's ear [耳] in chilli oil [紅油/"red oil"]
紅油耳絲hóng yóu ěr sīshredded [絲] pig's ear in chilli oil (this is essentially the same as the above; other names include 紅油豬耳/hóng yóu zhū ěr, which makes the "pig" part explicit)
豬耳朵干豆腐絲zhū ěr duǒ gān dòu fu sīpig's ear [豬耳朵] with shredded [絲] dry [乾] tofu [豆腐] (朵 means "earlobe")
麻辣木耳má là mù ěrnumbing-spicy wood ear fungus
尖椒木耳jiān jiāo mù ěrwood ear fungus with chillies
木耳肉片mù ěr ròu piànsliced [片] pork [肉] with wood ear fungus
耳: ěr radical 128 (耳) 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)
2011-04-06 10:30 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 心 — xīn — heart

心 (xīn) is the Chinese character for heart/mind/centre. In the context of the Chinese menu, it is perhaps most prominent as part of the term "dim sum": 點心. As I've mentioned before, "dim sum" is the Cantonese pronunciation; it would be diǎn xīn in Mandarin pinyin.

心 also appears in the names of various Chinese vegetables, such as 蒜心 (suàn xīn/garlic shoots). Another is 空心菜 (kōng xīn cài), literally "hollow-hearted vegetable", also known as 通菜 (tōng cài), ong choy, water spinach, morning glory, and so on.

Perhaps the most confusing is 菜心 (cài xīn), which I've seen translated not only as "choy sum" and "Chinese flower cabbage", but also as "pak choi" (example). However, "pak choi" is normally used to refer to a different vegetable; it's a Romanisation of the Cantonese pronunciation of 白菜 (bái cài). Wikipedia suggests that the reason for this apparent conflation might be that when 菜心 is used for pak choi, it's the literal meaning, "cabbage heart", that's intended — it signifies that only the tender centre of the vegetable is used in the dish.

心 can also mean a literal heart, as in 豬心 (zhū xīn/pig heart) or 鴨心 (yā xīn/duck heart). I've not seen either of these in the name of a dish, but I have seen them used on menus which give further explication of the ingredients in a dish; for example, Fuzhou restaurant in London Chinatown has a dish called 炒三味 (chǎo sān wèi), literally "stirfried three tastes", and the menu notes in brackets that these three tastes are 肚片 (dǔ piàn/sliced tripe), 豬心 (zhū xīn/pig heart), and 豬舌 (zhū shé/pig tongue).

Here are some dishes with 心 in the name:

XO醬蒜心泡帶子XO jiàng suàn xīn pào dài zigarlic shoots and scallops in XO sauce
腐乳炒空心菜fǔ rǔ chǎo kōng xīn càistirfried water spinach with fermented beancurd
香菇菜心xiāng gū cài xīnchoy sum with shiitake mushrooms

As I mentioned on Monday, 心 in some form also turns up as a radical and a non-radical component in a number of menu-related characters and words. One where 心 is actually the radical is 怪 (guài/strange), which is used in the name of the dish 怪味兔 (guài wèi tù), or "strange-flavour rabbit". (Don't confuse the 忄 form of 心 with the "squashed" radical form of 木, which appears in e.g. 梅/méi/plum/prune.) Some examples using 心 as a non-radical component are 筷子 (kuài zi/chopsticks), 燜 (mèn/stewed), and 蔥 (cōng/spring onion).

心: xiān radical 61 (心/忄/⺗) 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)
2011-03-30 11:45 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 丁 and 片 — dīng and piàn — diced and sliced

and

I mentioned in Monday's post on chopsticks that one important consideration in preparing Chinese dishes is making sure that the pieces of food are cut suitably for picking up with chopsticks. Today I'm discussing two common Chinese menu characters related to cutting up food: 丁 (dīng/diced) and 片 (piàn/sliced).

As [personal profile] john points out in a comment on my post on 雞/jī/chicken, 丁 in the name of a dish may indicate that the pieces of meat will be boneless, though in my experience this isn't a hard-and-fast rule.

片 doesn't always literally mean "sliced". For example, 魚片 (yú piàn), though literally translated as "sliced fish", may also be used to refer to whole fish fillets rather than fish slices. Also, as [identity profile] sung noted in a comment on my post on 茶/chá/tea, the Cantonese name for jasmine tea is 香片 (hong pian in Cantonese, xiāng piàn in pinyin), literally "fragrant slice".

Here are some dishes with 丁 in the name:

宮保雞丁gōng bǎo jī dīngkung po diced chicken
酸辣雞丁suān là jī dīnghot and sour diced chicken
茄丁麵qié dīng miànnoodles with diced aubergine

and here are some with 片:

夫妻肺片fū qī fèi piànliterally "married couple's lung slices"; a Sichuan cold dish of sliced beef and assorted offal dressed with chilli oil
紅油耳片hóng yóu ěr piànsliced pig's ear in chilli oil
糖醋魚片táng cù yú piànsweet and sour fish fillets
熘肚片liū dǔ piànquick-fried sliced tripe
水煮肉片shuǐ zhǔ ròu piànwater-cooked sliced pork

丁: dīng radical 1 (一) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen
片: piàn radical 91 (片) 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)
2011-03-28 10:00 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Concepts/Characters: Chopsticks/筷子/kuài zi

筷子

Today's post is sort of a combined concept/character one — I'm going to talk about chopsticks, and the Mandarin Chinese word for them: 筷子 (kuài zi).

According to China Radio International, chopsticks probably evolved from the use of twigs to pick up hot food. Relatedly, Fuchsia Dunlop's blog post on chopsticks recounts a memory of a camping trip in Sichuan where her guide cut and peeled some twigs from the trees to make chopsticks for their dinner.

Gong Dan's Food & Drink in China describes how in the Zhou dynasty (11th-3rd century BC) chopsticks were used for eating meat and vegetables, while rice was still picked up with the hands. (Note, however, that [personal profile] pulchritude points out in comments that this may not be quite accurate.) These days, of course, rice is also eaten with chopsticks (assuming you're eating from a bowl — if you're given rice on a plate, often the most sensible way to eat it is with a fork and spoon).

Gong Dan also describes the etymology of the word. During the Zhou dynasty, chopsticks were known as 箸 (zhù). However, this is precisely homonymous with 住 (zhù), which means "to stop, to cease", and 住 was a taboo word aboard ships, since stopping a ship en route was considered bad luck. This problem was solved by referring to chopsticks as 快子 (kuài zi), a combination of 快 (kuài), meaning "quick", with the particle 子 (zi) as a suffix to make it into a "proper" word. Later, the bamboo radical (⺮) was placed above 快 to make 筷, since chopsticks are commonly made from bamboo, giving the modern word 筷子.

As someone who (a) didn't grow up using chopsticks and (b) was mildly teased at school for holding my knife and fork the "wrong" way, I'm reluctant to lay down any pronouncements about the right way to use chopsticks, but my preferred way of holding them is to lodge the bottom one firmly in the web between my thumb and index finger, resting it on my curled-in ring finger, and then to pivot the top one independently, pushing up with my third finger and down with my second finger as required, steadying it with my thumb the whole time.

I did find a pretty good YouTube video demonstrating this, but I've unfortunately managed to lose the link. There are lots of "how to use chopsticks" videos on YouTube, but be warned that some of them show rather suboptimal methods. Once you're holding your chopsticks in a way that you find comfortable, check out [personal profile] thorfinn's Chinese chopstick tips for what to do next.

Note also that chopsticks differ between cultures. Japanese chopsticks have pointed ends, while Korean chopsticks are made of metal and are flat rather than rounded in cross-section. Chinese chopsticks have blunt tips, and may be made from bamboo, wood, plastic, or less-common materials such as porcelain. I personally like the bamboo/wood ones because I find them more "grippy" than plastic ones.

The use of chopsticks to eat with is intimately connected with the way food is cut prior to cooking. Since there are generally no knives on the dining table, the cook must be careful to cut pieces of food in such a way that they can be picked up with chopsticks. This doesn't necessarily mean that everything must be bitesize — see for example this eGullet thread on ingredient sizing in Chinese cooking – but it's certainly something that must be borne in mind.

筷: kuài radical 118 (竹/⺮) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

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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)
2011-03-23 11:30 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 海 — hǎi — sea/ocean

海 (hǎi) means "sea" or "ocean". Fittingly, its radical is 水 (shuǐ/water), manifesting here as three strokes (氵) on the left of the character.

As I mentioned in last week's post on 鮮/xiān/fresh, 海 is commonly combined with 鮮 to form the Mandarin Chinese word for seafood: 海鮮 (hǎi xiān), literally "ocean fresh". Something I forgot to mention in that post is that this in turn can be combined with the character 醬 (jiàng/sauce/paste) to make up the name of a commonly-used Chinese sauce, 海鮮醬 (hǎi xiān jiàng), or hoisin sauce, though despite the name the sauce contains no seafood.

Unsurprisingly, 海 is used in several other words associated with the sea, such as 海帶 (hǎi dài/kelp), 海參 (hǎi shēn/sea cucumber), and 海蜇 (hǎi zhé/jellyfish). It also forms part of a couple of place names that tend to turn up on menus: 上海 (Shànghǎi) and 海南 (Hǎinán). Finally, dried prawns may be referred to as 海米 (hǎi mǐ), though note that fresh ones are always 蝦 (xiā).

Here are some dishes with 海 in the name:

海鮮生菜包hǎi xiān shēng cài bāolettuce-wrapped seafood
海帶排骨湯hǎi dài pái gǔ tāngkelp and spare rib soup
家常海帶絲jiā cháng hǎi dài sīhome-style shredded kelp
涼拌海蜇皮liáng bàn hǎi zhé píjellyfish salad
上海小籠包Shànghǎi xiǎo lóng bāoShanghai xiao long bao (soup dumplings)
海南雞飯Hǎinán jī fànHainanese chicken rice
海米冬瓜hǎi mǐ dōng guāwinter melon with dried prawns

海: xiān 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.