Saturday, February 14, 2009

Yu - Something Fishy

You've learned about seafood with legs and shells, which tend to use the bug radical. Now we move on to those with fins or tentacles. Yu is just plain fish, but like meat and bird, it is both a radical and a character. It's often used to modify another character, for various kinds of fish and squids and things.

This one is tricky, though. While it certainly means fish, you will see it often on the regular menu on dishes that clearly don't have any fish in them, as Yu Xiang 魚香. The English translations usually say "garlic sauce" on them. What's going on? Does Yu also mean garlic? Nope. What those characters mean is "Fish Fragrant (Sauce)". It's a tasty sweet garlic sauce that goes really well with fish. Kinda like "steak sauce" tastes good on steak, but isn't made of steak.

How to recognize: to me it looks like a Chinese junk boat with the laddered sails, and an extra sail sticking up on top, and oars splashing down below. However, there are a few other characters that look kind of like that. It also looks kind of like a fish tail, with the finny part sticking down. (And sometimes it looks to me like the Darwin symbol people put on their cars -- you know the fish with legs?)

The Pinyin spelling is yú, or yu2 (second tone).

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