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Textures in Chinese Food


Prawncrackers
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In a kind of an interesting turn in the Chinese Eats At Home thread the discussion led to Chinese descriptions of food textures. I don't know if it's been discussed before and you will first have to forgive me because I only speak Cantonese, my written/reading skills are rudimentary at best, so if I make any glaring errors please feel free to correct!

Anyway in the thread I was describing how salting prawns makes them more "song" (爽) gives them a refreshing crispness like a juicy apple or a ripe grape. Then there was the "daan ngaa" (彈牙) feeling which literally means "bouncing teeth" and was also a good one for prawns but better for something a little more rubbery like fish balls. Pleasantly rubbery; the kind where the outside gives nice resistance to the teeth but then gives way with a nice resistance too. "Cheoi" (脆) as CFT says is best for crispy stuff like the crackling on Siu Yook - light and crispy not heavy crunch. "Cheoi" is almost onomatopoeic but better still is "bok-bok (卜卜) cheoi" which makes it even crispier!!

I think an important part of enjoying Chinese food is the "hau-gum" (口感) which translates to "Mouth-feel" (in fact is this where that horrible cheffy term comes from?). If you think about when you actually eat the two main senses are taste and feel, so why shouldn't the hau-gum be as important as the flavour?

One of my favourite textures is "waat" (滑)- smooth, moist & slippery, like the belly or collars of freshly steamed fish or steamed chicken's feet. But this is also sometimes this is the most challenging texture for Western palettes, you know the really slimy texture that most Cantonese people crave!! Like bird's nest or shark's fin, let's face it we're not eating it for the flavour but for the texture (ok partly because of perceived health benefits too I admit).

I've only mentioned a few, so which textures do you appreciate and how would you describe them?

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I don't have any knowledge of Chinese characters, so will do the best I can phonetically:

"fow"- light in texture

"num" - tender

"ss-own" flakey

"ss-an" slimey as in pig-skin spinach

"gnung" - hard

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Sorry, I can't type Chinese on this computer, plus I can read more Chinese than I can write!

Along the lines of "daan ngaa", there's "ngun" (tough & chewy), or "you jiew tou" (has a nice chew).

I think "soong" can be used to describe two different kinds of textures: one of which Dejah has mentioned, flakey; the other, to describe a tender cut of meat, as in, "Wow, this pork chop is so 'soong' ". The second one, for me, is harder to describe in English.

And to expand on "ngaang" (hard), there's "ngaang gwuk gwuk", which is even harder ("gwuk gwuk" being the sound that the hard food would make if hit against something).

Oh, one more! "Meen", to describe a cottony-softness ("meen" is actually the word for cotton). Usage: "This congee is really 'meen' ". Come to think of it, what is "meen" used to describe, other than congee?

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Oh yeah "soong" (鬆 - i think?) is good one in the sense of something is loose, airy and light - like fresh out of the steamer "ma lai go" sponge cake. Never heard it applied to pork chop, though i'd like to try one.

How about "lyun" (嫩 ?) - soft & tender like fresh tofu. Combine it with "waat" you have the ultimate "lyun waat" - soft, tender, slippery & smooth - mmmmmm it's those Chicken thighs again :smile:

Conversely you have "haai" which is rough & dry like overdone chicken breast. Yuk.

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"fow"-  light in texture ()

"num" - tender ()

"ss-own" flakey ()

Not sure about the rest.

Does anyone use the word "pun jui" (sounds like "blow out mouth") to describe the astringent taste of persimmons?

Edited by CFT (log)

Best Wishes,

Chee Fai.

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I am going to have fun with you guys and inject some negative descriptions. :biggrin:

How would you describe eating rotten fish? "Mui" 霉

"Mui Heung" 霉香, a highly sought texture in salted fish.

How would you describe some crackers that are stale? "yik" 益 (not sure if this is the right Chinese word).

Technically not a texture description. But it is a mouth feel that is hard to describe otherwise.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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How would you describe eating rotten fish?  "Mui" 霉 

"Mui Heung" 霉香, a highly sought texture in salted fish.

Opposite to "Mui", you can describe a "solid" meat texture as "sut" 实.

"sut yuk" 实肉 is the other type of salted fish with firm meat texture.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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  • 1 month later...

Hi! I am very interested in getting as complete a list of textures referred to in Chinese cooking. This thread is a good start. I have tried to find the Mandarin pinyin equivalents, but have not found all of them. Can you help me?

FOUND:

TEXTURES : "hau-gum" (kǒu gǎn, 口 感 ) feeling in the mouth

· "song" (shuǎng, 爽 ) crisp

· "soong" (sōng, 鬆 ) loose, airy and light

· "daan ngaa" (tán yá, 彈 牙 ) al dente

· "cheoi" (cuì, 脆 ) light and crispy

· "waat" (huá, 滑 ) smooth, moist and slippery

· "lyun" (nèn, 嫩 ) tender

· "num" (rěn, 腍 ) tender?

· "mui" (méi, 霉 ) moldy

· "sut" (shí, 实 ) solid

· "fow" (fú, 浮 ) light in texture, floating

· "num" (rěn, 腍 ) tender?

· "ss-own" (sū, 酥 ) flakey

NOT FOUND:

· "haai" rough & dry

· "ss-an" slimey as in pig-skin spinach

· "gnung" hard

· "ngaang" (hard), "ngaang gwuk gwuk" (very hard)

· "ngun" (tough & chewy)

· "you jiew tou" (has a nice chew)

· "meen", a cottony-softness

If you have any other "mouth-feels", please update this thread.

Thanks for your help

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Hi! I am very interested in getting as complete a list of textures referred to in Chinese cooking. This thread is a good start. I have tried to find the Mandarin pinyin equivalents, but have not found all of them. Can you help me?

NOT FOUND:

· "haai" rough & dry

· "ss-an" slimey as in pig-skin spinach

· "gnung" hard

· "ngaang" (hard), "ngaang gwuk gwuk" (very hard)

· "ngun" (tough & chewy)

· "you jiew tou" (has a nice chew)

· "meen", a cottony-softness

· "ngaang" (hard), "ngaang gwuk gwuk" (very hard) - 硬

· "ngun" (tough & chewy) - 韌

· "you jiew tou" (has a nice chew) 有嚼頭

Edited by CFT (log)

Best Wishes,

Chee Fai.

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Thanks a lot Chee Fai.

Do you happen to know any web source with info on texture, for example, concerning dishes using sea cucumber, jellyfish, pig's ears, dried sharks' fin, bird's nest, that is, gelatinous, crunchy, soft, jelly-like, etc. textures?

Edited by udscbt (log)
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  • 1 month later...
Sorry, I'm not aware of any sites like that. Probably some of the Chinese language foodie sites, but I don't visit those in general.

I post some of my own lessons on this site: www.nciku.com, under the name "sloppyzhou." I'll try to add these, as well as others to a comprehensive and easy to index list. And sorry in advance to all the non-国语 speakers and 繁体字 readers out there.

Btw, for anyone wanting to write Chinese on their computer, download either google or sogou's pinyin or stroke input apps. They are really easy to use even if your pinyin isn't so good. Don't know how they work for the 粤语 speakers - maybe hzrt8w can explain (maybe something like m'h = 霉香).

The website above also has a hand-write input function for those of you with all those mystery cans and jars you've been afraid to open.

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