Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fan - For Fans of Cooked Rice

There are two characters for rice. Mi 米 is the general word for rice as a grain or plant. It's also the radical in a lot of characters, as well as a modifier. We'll learn more about this when we learn about vegetables and other grains.

Fan 飯, however, means "cooked rice" and it's a really common Chinese menu word. You'll see it sometimes on Chinese-only menus, listing a kind of meat, and then Fan, indicating it's sliced meat served over white rice. Like this:

Which is...? You just saw the meat here in the previous post: Cha Shao 叉燒, or Fork roast. So...? That dish would be BBQ pork over rice.

Now, BBQ pork is something that many restaurants don't do for themselves. They buy it cooked by roasting specialists, who also do another famous roast meat. Or actually poultry. Look at the menu item below. The first character is Shao 燒 again, so it's a roast or BBQ. The middle character has the bird radical. It's Ya, which we saw a while ago.

Remember? The left side looks a little like the head an neck of a bird, looking straight at you, shouting "Aflac!" A DUCK! This is BBQ duck with rice!

How to recognize: The left side is the radical for eat, food or dish, which you will learn more about later. The right side doesn't help you much. It's the character for inside out, upside down or against, which makes no sense unless you realize that the word for these is "fan". It's a sound-like. The symbol basically means "the kind of fan you eat". Which doesn't make it easy to recognize until you realize that it's everywhere and it's a very common word.

Any Chinese restaurant that has any Chinese characters at all will have Fan 飯 all over the menu. I don't believe there is any Chinese restaurant in America that doesn't serve several varieties Chao Fan, which is what we'll get to next time. In the meantime, look for Fan on your local takeout menus....

The Pinyin spelling is mǐ or mi3 (third tone).


  1. I'm sorry, I'm new to this. Are the characters on your blog simplified characters or traditional characters? Thanks so much! I like your blog!

  2. The characters I use here are "traditional" because that's what I almost always find on menus. I'll probably talk about traditional and simplified later....