In this post, I’m going to introduce you to a few characters that you will see a lot that tell you how the dish is cooked. They all have the same part on the left 火 which means fire. You will see that in most of the characters for cooking methods.
炒 means stir-fried and is probably the most widespread cooking method for Chinese dishes. 爆means flash-fried 烤 means roasted or baked and 红烧 means braised or simmered in a dark soy sauce. It’s a popular way of cooking meat and fish.
Here are a few more characters you need to know to do with taste that you will see on almost every menu. They should be in every Chinese textbook, but often you don’t see them. 香 means fragrant or sweet-smelling, 麻 means it numbs your mouth a little bit 辣 means spicy and 酸 means sour. You will often see these characters combined, like 香辣 fragrant and spicy or 麻辣 numbing and spicy.
Beyond this, I recommend you ask a Chinese friend about characters you don’t know, or you can now look up characters by writing them into your phone wherever you are, which is so useful if you are out and about. That’s how I learnt to read Chinese menus, after a few months of looking up characters, I had pretty much cracked it!