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

生 (shēng) has a number of meanings — see its CantoDict entry for a list — and also appears in a number of contexts on the Chinese menu. Firstly, it forms part of the words for peanut (花生/huā shēng or 花生米/huā shēng mǐ) and lettuce (生菜/shēng cài). The literal translation of 生菜 is "raw vegetable"; I have no idea of the etymology of 花生, though 花, which I've posted about before, means "flower".

The character is also used in combination with 煎 (jiān/pan-fried) as 生煎 (shēng jiān), literally "fried from the raw", which according to blogger Carl Chu indicates that the item (usually a dumpling or 包/bāo/bun of some kind) has been cooked by frying directly in oil, without being boiled or steamed first.

生 can also indicate that an ingredient (usually fish/魚/yú) is added at the very end of cooking, in order to ensure it doesn't overcook, as [identity profile] sung noted in a comment on my post on 粥 (zhǒu/congee). I've also seen it in connection with 蠔 (háo/oyster), where I think it may mean that the oyster is cooked immediately after shucking (though this is pure speculation).

Finally, though I've never seen this on a menu, 生 appears in the name of a dish often eaten by Chinese people in Malaysia and Singapore on the seventh day of the New Year, which is today! I'll be posting more about this dish, 魚生 (yú shēng), which literally means "raw fish", on Friday.

Here are some dishes with 生 in the name that I have actually seen on Chinese menus:

腐竹花生fǔ zhú huā shēngpeanut salad with beancurd skin
芹菜花生米qín cài huā shēng mǐcelery and peanut salad
生煎鍋貼shēng jiān guō tiēliterally "fried-from the raw pot-stickers" — aka pan-fried dumplings
海鮮生菜包hǎi xiān shēng cài bāolettuce-wrapped seafood [see footnote 0]
生魚片粥shēng yú piàn zhǒucongee with sliced fish
豆腐火腩生蠔煲dòu fu huǒ nán shēng háo bàobeancurd, roast pork, and oyster claypot (see recipe on eGullet)

Footnote: [0] I wasn't actually sure before whether lettuce-wrapped seafood was a "real" Chinese dish or not, as it felt a bit like one of those invented-for-the-Westerners things, but I've seen it on several Chinese-only menus, and [identity profile] sung assures me that it's a Cantonese dish.

生: shēng radical 100 (生) 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: 2011-02-09 07:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
生菜包 (lettuce wraps) is a Cantonese dish. A lot of what are perceived to be 'invented for Westerners' dishes are 'real' dishes and/or have roots in 'real" dishes. For example, sesame prawn toast was actually born in China, although it is seen as a 'Anglicised dish'. I could go on a bit but I think this could be subject best explored on my own blog!


PS: Great to see you back, as I find this kind of stuff really interesting.

Date: 2011-02-09 02:57 pm (UTC)
trinker: I own an almanac. (Default)
From: [personal profile] trinker
生 is used in Japanese as "born", as in "sensei" (born before). (This is pronounced. "shenshung" in Mandarin - "mister".)

I have always glossed it as "live".


December 2012


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