To follow up on Monday's post, which was aimed at encouraging other non-Chinese-speakers to learn to read Chinese menus, 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).
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 jīn||beef tendon|
|牛舌||niú shé||beef tongue|
|牛肚||niú dǔ||beef tripe|
|niú bǎi yè||beef 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 zá||literally "beef miscellaneous"; I think this means assorted beef offal (and eatlovenoodles confirms this in comments); according to this blog post by 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"). 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 ròu||five-spice beef|
|水煮牛肉||shuǐ zhǔ niú ròu||water-cooked beef|
|紅燒牛肉||hóng shāo niú ròu||red-cooked beef|
|孜然牛肉||zī rán niú ròu||cumin beef|
|麻辣牛肚||má là níu dǔ||numbing-spicy beef tripe|
|姜蔥牛柏葉||jiāng cōng niú bǎi yè||beef tripe with ginger and spring onions|
|粉蒸牛肉||fěn zhēng niú ròu||steamed beef with roasted rice powder|
|乾炒牛河||gān chǎo niú hé||dry-fried beef ho fun|
1 Although thanks to the lovely comments, it also ended up being quite encouraging to me as well!
3 While butter is 牛油 in Cantonese, pulchritude notes in comments that 黃油 (huáng yóu) is a more common word for butter in Mandarin, and 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|