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

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.

Thank you!

Date: 2010-09-08 12:43 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I love foreign languages. I'm going to follow you for the sake of the Chinese vocabulary. It'll give me more good links to echo on my blog too.

Date: 2010-09-08 12:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
Is garlic sprout (suan tai 蒜苔), the same thing as garlic spring (suan xin 蒜心)? I had garlic spring at Phoenix Palace earlier this year in a dish of minced beef & garlic spring in XO sauce or XO醬蒜心牛崧. There's a photo at:


Date: 2010-09-09 02:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
It's not my translation, it's copied directly from the menu of Phoenix Palace! They look so similar, I reckon they must be the same.


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