kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Kake ([personal profile] kake) wrote2010-11-24 12:30 am

Reading Chinese Menus: Characters: 絲 — sī — thread/fibre/shred

絲 (sī) is a bit of a tricky one to translate succinctly in the context of the Chinese menu; "sliver" is probably the best single-word translation, though "shredded" seems to be used quite a lot too. When used as a single character, 絲 usually refers to an ingredient's being julienned, or sliced into long, thin strips. Among other things, pork (肉/ròu), ginger (薑/jiāng), potatoes (土豆/tǔ dòu), tripe (肚/dǔ), and pig's ears (豬耳/zhū ěr) commonly get this kind of treatment.

One thing to look out for is that 絲 doesn't always appear as a single character, but also forms part of a few words that tend to turn up on menus. 粉絲 (fěn sī) are a type of clear vermicelli made from mung bean starch; I've mentioned these before, in my post on 粉/fěn. 粉絲 are known by several names in English, including glass noodles, cellophane noodles, and bean thread noodles, and they're the primary ingredient in 螞蟻上樹/mǎ yǐ shàng shù/ants climbing a tree.

Another word that includes 絲 is 絲瓜 (sī guā), or loofah/luffa (see my post on 瓜/guā). You may also see it as 絲苗白飯 (sī miáo bái fàn), which as [identity profile] sung and I figured out a few months ago seems to be a way of specifying long-grain (絲苗) plain-cooked rice (白飯).

Here are some dishes with 絲 in the name:

魚香肉絲yú xiāng ròu sīfish-fragrant slivered/shredded pork
京醬肉絲jīng jiàng ròu sīslivered pork in Peking sauce (see [personal profile] john's explanation of how 京醬肉絲 is served in a comment thread on my post on 醬/jiàng/sauce)
涼拌三絲liáng bàn sān sīthree-sliver salad (one of the "slivers" is usually 粉絲; the others may be julienned carrot, kelp, spinach, etc)
or 熗拌土豆絲
or 酸辣土豆絲
tǔ dòu sī
or qiáng bàn tǔ dòu sī
or suān là tu dòu sī
various forms of stirfried shredded potato (unspecified, pungent, hot-and-sour)
蘿蔔絲酥餅luó bo sī sū bǐngdeep-fried puff pastry filled with shredded daikon
涼拌海帶絲liáng bàn hǎi dài sīshredded kelp salad
紅油耳絲hóng yóu ěr sīshredded (pig's) ear in chilli oil
酸菜粉絲湯suān cài fěn sī tāngpickled vegetable and glass noodle soup

絲: radical 120 (糸/糹) 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.
nanila: me (me: ooh!)

[personal profile] nanila 2010-11-24 08:43 am (UTC)(link)
A bit of a tangent, but one I thought you might find interesting:

I participate in a conversation project at Imperial that matches native English speakers with students who want to improve their English. A lot of the non-native speakers are Chinese. Last year, one of my Chinese students made a PowerPoint presentation - with photos! - showing me how he cooks his favourite meal. It involved a lot of julienned vegetables, and he described this process to me as "making the silk".