Archive for Language and food

Wok talk: enlarging the scope

Following up on "Wok talk: a real-life retronym!" (10/16/23), Jim Millward remarks:

My wife (Punjabi background) and her family call the "wok-shaped pan" they use for cooking vegetable or meat dishes "kurai" (that's my phoneticization–it could be aspirated or unaspirated k / g, I'm not good at hearing the difference).  I've seen these and we've got a couple–they are indeed parabolic curved-sided heavier metal pans, though some have small diameter flat bottoms for convenience.   Other pots and pans are called patila.   The dishes, generally, are bartan.  The kurai, she just told me, is specifically the "wok-shaped pan." 

I don't have the tools to look into this, but kurai may be Hindi with Sanskrit origins, possibly related to 锅?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)

Wok talk: a real-life retronym!

From François Lang:

Since you're a Sinologist, I thought you might be amused by a retronym that I had to coin.
My wife (59 YO) was born and grew up in Beijing, and came to the US in the 80s to do her PhD at Cornell. Since she's Chinese, the only stovetop cooking vessel she'd ever known was a wok, so she calls any such vessel a wok — whether it's a sauté pan, sauce pan, dutch oven, or stockpot. They're all woks to her.
So…when she uses what we Westerners call a wok, she calls it a "Chinese wok", as opposed to a Western wok!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Occitan and Oenology

[This is a guest post by François Lang]

Picpoul (AKA Piquepoul, or Picapoll) is a white wine grape best known in the south of France.  The grape is known for its intense acidity, and many wine references claim that its name derives from the Occitan for "lip stinger". But I can't find any justification for this derivation, at least not in online Occitan dictionaries that I've consulted.
Occitan picapol is indeed the name of the grape in question
Pique clearly means "sting", as in modern French piquer and piqûre, but I don't see any link between poul and lip.
"Lip" in Occitan is labia, lavia.
Occitan pọl == Fr poule (hen, chicken)
No entry in the dictionary for poul

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Kimchee is Korean

Not Chinese.  Do you understand?

This has long been a cabbage of contention, but make no mistake about it:  fermented kimchee / kimchi  (gimchi 김치 (IPA [kim.tɕʰi]) (lit., "soaked [in their own juices of fermentation] vegetables") is not the same thing as pickled paocai / pao tsai 泡菜 (lit., "soaked [in brine] vegetables").

Kimchee and paocai are made differently, have different ingredients and spices, and taste different.  To call "kimchee" "paocai" would be like calling "wine" (pútáojiǔ 葡萄酒) "beer" (píjiǔ 啤酒).

Linguistically, kimchee has its own pedigree, of which I will here give an extended account.

Borrowed from Korean 김치 (gimchi), ultimately composed within Korea of Chinese-derived morphemes (chén, submerged, soaked) and (cài, vegetable), i.e. "fermented vegetable". Doublet of kimuchi.


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

"Don't speak Japanese loudly outside!"

Advisory to staff of the embassy of Japan in Beijing:

ALPS shori mizu no kaiyō hōshutsu kaishi ni tomonau chūi kanki (2023-nen 8 tsuki 25-nichi)


Warning regarding the start of ocean discharge of ALPS-treated water (August 25, 2023)

Kinō (24-nichi), fusoku no jitai ga hassei suru kanōsei wa haijo dekinai tame chūi shite itadaku yō onegai shimashitaga, ika no ten ni tsuite ryūi shite itadakimasu yō aratamete onegai itashimasu.

(1 ) Gaishutsu suru sai ni wa, fuhitsuyō ni nihongo o ōkina koe de hanasanai nado, shinchōna gendō o kokorogakeru.
(2 ) Taishikan o hōmon suru hitsuyō ga aru baai wa, taishikan shūi no yōsu ni saishin no chūiwoharau.



"Yesterday (24th), we asked you to be careful because the possibility of unforeseen circumstances cannot be ruled out.

 (1) When going out, try to be cautious in your behavior, such as not speaking Japanese in a loud voice unnecessarily.
(2) If it is necessary to visit the embassy, pay close attention to the surroundings of the embassy."

(source) (GT romanization and translation)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

The car hit cheese bacon mushroom face, part 2

Todd Wilbur shared this menu item on Facebook:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Pork Lion Bone

Seen by François Lang at the meat counter at The Great Wall in Rockville, MD:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

Ta Mother Noodle

Sign on a noodle shop in Xindan, Taiwan:

(Via Google Street View)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Chinese and Japanese Terms for Food Textures

Catching up on some oldish e-mail, I came upon this interesting one from Francois Lang dated 5/9/23:

According to an article in yesterday's NYT, "A 2008 report in the Journal of Texture Studies lists 144 Chinese terms for food texture".
The NYT article also says "In Japan, such terms number more than 400. 'Too many,' a team of Japanese scientists demurred in a paper presented at the 2016 International Conference on Knowledge-Based and Intelligent Information and Engineering Systems".
It sure beats the old discredited trope about 100 Eskimo Inuit terms for "snow"!

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

Stir-fried stones

Comments (4)

Oil separator / cooker

When I entered the Airbnb where I'm now staying, one of the first things that caught my attention was the following utensil:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (12)

More savory Chinglish from Dunhuang

More savory Chinglish from Dunhuang:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Tasting History

That's the name of a viral YouTube channel that I had never heard of, and now a popular book that Barbara Phillips Long called to my attention:

My son gave me a copy of Tasting History, by Max Miller, which takes very old recipes and gives modern approximations of them. The book is handsomely printed, well illustrated, and fun, with a wide range of random food trivia and loads of food history. You might find it intriguing.
There's a raspberry shrub recipe from 1911; I seem to recall Language Log having a post about shrubs and their origins.
There are also ten recipes credited to the Near and Far East, including recipes from Egypt, Baghdad, the Mughal Empire, India, China, Korea, and Japan.
So far, I have only read part of the book, although I paged through the whole thing. I did like this quote:
They say "history is written by the victors," but in my experience, history is written by those who write stuff down, and food is no exception.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)