Jun. 9th, 2010

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

This week's character has the same radical as last week's 菜/cài/vegetable — radical 140, 艸/cǎo/grass. As mentioned last week, this is the most common radical in general, and it's also pretty common in the set of characters used on menus, so it's worth getting used to recognising it.

花 is written in pinyin as huā, so it's pronounced with the first tone — a high, sustained tone — and it rhymes with "wah" (the pronunciation of "wah" that rhymes with "bar"). On its own, it means "flower". Flowers are not particularly common on menus per se, but 花 appears surprisingly often as part of other words. Here are some ingredients that use 花 in the name:

菜花cài huācauliflower
花生huā shēngpeanut
西蘭花xī lán huāWestern-style broccoli (calabrese)
芥蘭花jiè lán huāanother word for calabrese
五花肉wǔ huā ròupork belly (literally "five flower meat", referring to the five alternating layers of fat and meat in this cut)
花椒huā jiāoSichuan pepper (literally "flower pepper")

Note the similarities between 芥 and 花. When I first came across these characters I had trouble keeping straight which was which. I had this difficulty with a number of other pairs of characters too, such as 牛 (niú/beef) and 生 (shēng/raw), so I made myself a "Confusables" deck in Anki to give me extra practice — this worked pretty well.

Here are some dishes that use 花 in the name:

豆腐花dòu fu huāa dessert made with extra-soft tofu (sometimes just written as 豆花 without the 腐)
蛋花湯dàn huā tāngegg drop soup (a simple soup made by drizzling beaten egg into hot chicken stock)
叫花雞jiào huā jībeggar's chicken (chicken baked whole in clay)

Note that while 豆腐花 or 豆花 on its own usually refers to the dessert, there are also savoury dishes that use this extra-soft tofu, for example 酸辣豆花, which is on offer at Baozi Inn in London. The menu describes this as "tender 'flower' beancurd topped with brown rice vinegar, soy sauce, chilli oil, ground roasted Sichuan pepper, roasted peanuts, preserved mustard tuber and deep-fried dough strands" — so it actually involves three 花-type ingredients. (I tried to order this dish when I was there the other week, since it sounds awesome, but sadly it wasn't available at the time.) I have now actually succeeded in ordering this, and it was pretty damn tasty; here's a photo.

花: huā 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.

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