Thursday, January 29, 2009

Du and Chang - the Guts of the Matter

My favorite Thai restauranteur, Lamai, refers to variety meats as "inside parts." They might also be called guts or organ meats. Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, though, it is important to know which dishes contain them.

Du 肚, aka tripe or stomach, is the most common variety meat you'll come across. It's a mainstay at a lot of dim sum houses.

Chang 腸, aka chitlins or intestine, are the second most common.

Fei 肺, aka lung, is not so common, but is sometimes used as a generic term for offal. (For instance, a famous Sichuan dish that usually features tripe is called "husband and wife lung slices" 夫妻肺片. Someday I'll tell you about that one.)

Gan 肝, aka liver. It's very similar to the character for tripe. I have never seen this in a dish yet, but I have a friend who loves liver, so we are watching for it.

In all cases you see a little ladder shape as the left half of the character. This is the radical for rou 肉, or meat. Sometimes you will see that radical on a word that doesn't refer to inside parts. (For instance, "cashew" is yao guo 腰果, which means "waist fruit". The name may refer to the shape of the nut, or it may refer to the fact that eating a lot of them will go straight to your waist.)

Still, if you don't want to eat inside parts, and you happen to see that radical on a character, be cautious.

As I mentioned in the radicals post, this radical doesn't look much like it's main form, rou 肉. It also looks an awful lot like the character for sun 日, especially sun's radical, as in sunset 旰. Sun doesn't get used in food characters much, but just in case, here's how you can quickly recognize the difference: Just remember that meat has feet (at least the animal did before it was meat), the sun doesn't. Look at the slight difference between liver and sunset: 肝 and 旰.

The pinyin spelling of these yummy or yucky dishes are: dǔ or du3 (third tone), cháng or chang2 (second tone), fèi or fei4 (fourth tone), and gān or gan1 (first tone).

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