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).

Tā bǎ wéiqiáng fěnshuā hǎo le.
He has finished whitewashing the fence.

粉碎 (fěnsuì) means smashed or shattered.

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.

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.

Jīntiān wǎnshàng wǎnshàng wǒmén yào zuò niúròu chǎo fěn.
We are making stir-fried rice noodle with beef for dinner tonight.

Learn Chinese word radical – Claws



The Chinese character, (zhuǎ), stands for claws or talons. Does it not look like a drawing of a chicken’s foot? Some people pronounce this word as (zhǎo). Colloquially we say 爪子 (zhuǎzi) or 爪子 (zhǎozi). Either way is fine. Just make sure that you don’t confuse (zhuǎ) with (guā melon or gourd). 瓜子 (guāzǐ) are dried melon seeds that people enjoy eating as a snack.

We know that (yá) are teeth. Literally, 爪牙 (zhǎoyá) are talons and fangs. However, this term refers to a bad guy’s minions.

张牙舞爪 (zhāngyáwǔzhǎo) is to bare fangs and brandish claws, i.e. making threatening gestures.

魔爪 (mózhǎo) means the devil’s talons or a monster’s grip. 鸡爪 (jī zhuǎ) are chicken claws or chicken feet. (I know which Chinese dish you are thinking of.) 鳞爪 (línzhǎo) are fish scales and bird claws, or bits and fragments. It often appears in the phrase 一鳞半爪 (yīlínbànzhǎo one scale and half a claw).

Wǒ duìyú zhè jiàn shì zhǐ zhīdào yīlínbànzhǎo.
I only have scrappy information about this matter.

In the character, (zhuā), you see both the “hand” radical and the “claws” radical. Therefore it should not surprise you that this word means to grab, to clutch, to scratch, to catch or to arrest.

Tā zhuā dào yī zhī jī.
He caught a chicken.

Dìdi zhuā le yībǎ guāzǐ qù kè.
Younger brother grabbed a handful of melon seeds to munch on.

The blog post at this link discusses a Chinese children’s song about an eagle trying to catch little chicken. There you will learn the word for wings. Then you will know how to say chicken wings in Chinese.

(pá) means to crawl or to climb.

Nǐ xǐhuān pá shān ma?
Do you like to climb mountains?

Many words contain the “claws” radical in a squashed form.

(yǎo) is to ladle up, spoon up, or scoop up.

Tā yǎo le yī wǎn tāng gěi wǒ.
She ladled up a bowl of soup for me.

(ài) is love (noun), to love, to treasure, or to enjoy doing something.

(mì), or 寻觅 (xúnmì), is to look for or to seek.

(shòu) means to give or award, to vest power in someone, or to instruct (i.e. to confer knowledge). 教授 (jiàoshòu) is a professor.

Lǎo jiàoshòu jīntiān yòu chídào le.
The old professor is late again today.

(yuán) means to help or to rescue. For example, 援助 (yuánzhù) is to help or to provide support. 援救 (yuánjiù) is to rescue or to save someone.

(nuǎn) means warm or to warm up. 暖和 (nuǎnhuo) means nice and warm. You can use this term to describe a balmy day or a warm jacket.

(shùn) is a wink or a blink. 瞬间 (shùnjiān) means a moment, momentary or momentarily.

Nèi kē liúxīng shùnjiān jiù bùjiànle.
That shooting star disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Soup, anyone?

Soups are an important part of Chinese meals. Whereas in western countries soup is usually served at the beginning of the meal, at a formal Chinese dinner the large soup bowl is normally presented as the last course. Sometimes, more than one soup would be served. In some Chinese provinces, people take so much pride in their soups that, when they invite a friend over for dinner, intead of saying:

Lái wǒ jiā chīfàn.
Come to my home to have a meal.

they would say:

Lái wǒ jiā hē tāng.
Come to my home to drink soup.

(fàn) is cooked rice. (mǐ) is raw, uncooked rice.
(chī) means to eat. (cháng) means to taste. 尝尝 (chángchang) is a colloquial way of saying “to taste a bit of”.
吃饭 (chīfàn) literally translates to “eat rice”, but this term genearlly means to have a meal.
(hē) means to drink. 喝水 (hē shuǐ) means to drink water.
(tāng) is a soup. Do you like 馄饨汤 (húntun tāng wonton soup)? (gēng) or 羹汤 (gēng tāng) is a thick soup, like a clam chowder or a bisque. (nóng) stands for thick, dense or creamy (when referring to a bisque).
(guō) is a pot or a pan used for cooking. So, 饭锅 (fàn guō) is a rice cooker, and 汤锅 (tāng guō) is a pot for cooking soup .
掀起 (xiān qǐ) is a verb that means to lift up.
(gài) is a cover or a lid. 锅盖 (guō gài) is the lid of a pot or pan. (gài) also serves as a verb that means to cover an object.
(ràng) means to let or to permit.
(xiāng) means good-tasting or good-smelling.
餐厅 (cāntīng) is a restaurant. 餐厅的 (cāntīng de) means “that which pertains to a restaurant”.
好像 (hǎoxiàng) means “seems like” or “be like”. 一样 (yīyàng) means the same, or equally alike. These two terms are often paired together when likening one thing to another.

Now, read the following sentences. Do you recognize our Sentence Patterns I and IV? If you would like to sing these lines to the tune of the lively “Lift your Veil” song, then repeat the last two lines.

Xiān qǐ nǐ de guōgài lái.
Lift up the lid of your wok.

Ràng wǒ chángchang nǐ de tāng.
Let me have a taste of your soup.

Nǐ de gēng tāng nóng yòu xiāng ya,
Your soup is so creamy and tasty.

Hǎoxiàng nà cāntīng de yīyàng hǎo.
It’s as good as that from a restaurant.
(Your soup is like that from a restaurant, both being equally good.)

When you watched the video for the 泥娃娃 (Ní Wáwa Clay Doll) song referred to in my last post, did you not wish that pinyin were displyed along with the Chinese lyrics? The good news is that, with a little work, you can make your own lyrics sheet to use when singing along with that song. So, here is your homework assignment for this week: Create a lyrics sheet for the 泥娃娃 (Ní Wáwa Clay Doll) song by putting all the relevant Chinese characters into a Windows Notepad file. Follow the above format for placing the lines of Chinese characters and the corresponding pinyin. Type in your own English translation as well. As I mentioned before, you will need to use the Save As function to save the text file in the UTF-8 format. With the printout laid before you, it will be easier for you to practice writing the Chinese characters and sentences by hand.

For the above exercise, you can find all the needed characters in my previous posts, except for (zhe). This character has multiple meanings and uses. What concerns us now is its function to help indicate the progressive tense. For example, 喝著 (hē zhe) means “to be drinking”, and 爱著 (ài zhe) means “to be loving”. Therefore, 我永远爱著她. (Wǒ yǒngyuǎn ài zhe tā) translates to: “I’ll be loving her always”.

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