Different kinds of “fun” in Chinese

Have you ever looked at the menu at a Chinese restaurant and wondered what “Beef Chow Fun” means? In Chinese it is written as 牛肉炒粉 (niúròu chǎo fěn). If you have studied Chapter 20 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes“, you will know that 牛肉 (niúròu) is beef. On the other hand, (fěn) can be one of many different things.

First of all, (fěn) means powder or dry finely ground material.

For example, cerus is 白粉 (báifěn), often used in whitewashing, or 粉刷 (fěnshuā). (hóng) is the red color. When you mix red color with white powder, you will get the pink color, or 粉红 (fěnhóng).

他把围墙粉刷好了.
Tā bǎ wéiqiáng fěnshuā hǎo le.
He has finished whitewashing the fence.

粉碎 (fěnsuì) means smashed or shattered.

她把花瓶摔了个粉碎.
Tā bǎ huāpíng shuāi le ge fěnsuì.
She flung the vase and shattered it.

药粉 (yàofěn) is medicinal powder. It used to be that people took medicinal powder by mixing it with some water (and perhaps some suger). Nowadays, such powders are encased in capsules or made into tablets.

Pollens are called 花粉 (huāfěn) because of their tiny size. 面包 (miànbāo) means bread, and 面包粉 (miànbāo fěn) are dried crushed bread crumbs.

面粉 (miànfěn) is wheat flour, 淀粉 (diànfěn) are starches,
and 发粉 (fāfěn) is baking powder.

粉丝 (fěnsī) are vermicelli made from mung bean starch.

你喜欢喝粉丝汤吗?
Nǐ xǐhuān hēfěnsī tāng ma?
Do you like bean thread soup?

When talking about foods, what’s referred to as “fun” are the noodles or vermicelli made from ground or pulverized rice. Of course, you know better than to call these products “fun”. Instead, you will correctly pronounce the word as “fěn”.

So, 米粉 (mǐfěn) are vermicelli made from ground rice. Like 粉丝 (fěnsī), they come in dried form and look wiry. Unlike 粉丝 (fěnsī), they are not translucent but look whitish. Before using either product, you will need to soak the vermicelli in warm water to soften them. 米粉 (mǐfěn) should only be soaked briefly as it tends to become mushy when wet.

粉条 (fěntiáo), or rice noodles, are made from a mixture of rice powder and a starch, such as corn starch, bean starch or sweet potato starch. When cooked, these look similar to noodles made from wheat flour but have a lighter texture.

粉条 (fěntiáo) and 米粉 (mǐfěn) are usually stir-fried or served
in soups. You can get them from Asian grocery stores in dried form. Some stores also carry fresh 粉条 (fěntiáo), which taste a lot better than reconstituted ones. By the way, the noodles in the Vietnamese noodle soups (called “pho”) are rice noodles. Some restaurants use rice vermicelli instead.

If you would like to make your own fresh 粉条 (fěntiáo), watch this video on YouTube.

粉条 (fěntiáo) is also knonw as 沙河粉 (Shā Hé fěn)
or 河粉 (hé fěn) because it originated in 沙河 (Shā Hé), a town in Guang Zhou, China.

今天晚上我们要做牛肉炒粉.
Jīntiān wǎnshàng wǎnshàng wǒmén yào zuò niúròu chǎo fěn.
We are making stir-fried rice noodle with beef for dinner tonight.

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