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

Last Wednesday I posted about 粉/fěn, the character for rice noodles. Obviously, though, not all noodles are made from rice flour! The character for wheat noodles is 麵, or miàn.

As my friend Mr Noodles points out, "chow mein" is actually not a made-up term, but the Cantonese term for stir-fried noodles. ([personal profile] shuripentu notes in comments that the Cantonese pronunciation is approximately "tsow meen".) The Chinese characters for this are 炒麵 (chǎo miàn). 炒, which basically means "stir-fried", is a pretty common character on Chinese menus, so it's worth remembering.

Approximate Mandarin pronunciations: 炒 (chǎo) rhymes with "ow". Remember, the caret on the vowel means you use the third tone (falling-then-rising). 麵 (miàn) rhymes with 片 (piàn), the pronunciation of which I attempted to describe a couple of weeks ago. The grave accent on the vowel means it's pronounced with the fourth tone (falling tone).

Although in a more general context 麵 could also refer to wheat flour or dough made from wheat flour, on a menu it pretty much always refers to noodles; unsurprising, since menus don't generally list raw ingredients such as flour and dough!

Two types of noodle that are worth looking out for are 刀削麵 (dāo xiāo miàn) and 拉麵 (lā miàn). 刀削麵, or knife-cut noodles, are chewy, irregularly-shaped noodles cut on-the-fly from a block of dough directly into the boiling water that they're cooked in. This YouTube video shows them being made. 拉麵, or hand-pulled noodles, are pulled and stretched out by hand. This blog post has photos and a couple of videos, and there are more photos in the La Mian Flickrpool.

Approximate pronunciations: dāo rhymes with "ow", xiāo rhymes with "yow", and lā rhymes with "ah". See my post on 豆/dòu for info on how to pronounce "x" (and make sure to check out [livejournal.com profile] ajva's comment too).

Note for Londoners: there's a noodle bar at 33 Cranbourn Street (near Leicester Square) that offers both 刀削麵 and 拉麵 — I don't have a photo of the frontage, but I do have one of the writing in the window. You can also get 拉麵 at Noodle Oodle, which has branches on Oxford Street and on Queensway in Bayswater.

麵: miàn radical 199 (麥) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Date: 2010-05-28 03:17 pm (UTC)
superpitching: (Default)
From: [personal profile] superpitching
Noodle Oodle. Honestly. I arsks yer.

Will you take me to eat Chinese food in Bayswater some day? I NEVER go there and I reckon I should.

Date: 2010-05-31 01:08 pm (UTC)
shuripentu: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shuripentu
In case anyone is interested, the Cantonese is approximately tsow meen; i.e. bearing only a passing resemblance to the most common transliteration. ;)


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