Whether you are making a steamed vegetable or fried rice, learning Chinese vegetables is a must. Chinese cuisines are delicious and if you are planning to visit China anytime soon, learning these Chinese vegetable names will make your tour memorable.
Your trip to China can surely become more exciting if you know how to order your favorite food. Learning Chinese vegetable names will give you the confidence to order your food publically without any mistakes.
These basic vegetable words will help you improve your vocabulary list. Plus, you will also get to know some interesting facts about these food items. So let’s get started!
Some common vegetables available in China
白菜 (Báicài) — Chinese cabbage
There are many different types of Asian green foods that you can use in your cooking. Chinese cabbage, one of the most popular, is also well-known in Western culture. It doesn’t have a strong flavor, but it gives a very crunchy texture and complements main dishes when steamed.
白菜 (Báicài) has so many health benefits. It is also low in calories and is considered to be one of the most delicious dietary foods.
大豆 (Dàdòu) — Soybean
Soybean is a widely used vegetable used in a large number of recipes. The major reason for their wide use is the fact that they are rich in fiber. Soybean is highly beneficial for digestion.
If we break the word 大豆 (dàdòu) in two, it means “big bean.”
花生 (Huāshēng) — Peanut
It is an edible seed just like peas and beans. Chinese people love using peanut oil in their dishes. In fact, peanut oil is used in China much more as compared to other western countries.
Peanut in Chinese is formed by breaking two words i.e. 花 (huā) — flower and 生 (shēng) — to be born/raw.
茄子 (Qiézi) — Chinese eggplant
The English translation of this particular vegetable includes ‘Chinese’ but the Mandarin version only includes ‘eggplant’. The term is the same whether we’re talking about the larger, darker Chinese eggplant or the one you’re used to seeing in your neighborhood grocery store.
冬瓜 (Dōngguā) — Winter melon
Winter melon, like zucchini or cucumber, is commonly used in Chinese stir-fry dishes. Winter melon soup is a popular Chinese dish. In this soup, winter melon is mixed with meat broth. Not surprisingly, Chinese melon differs greatly from watermelon.
小白菜 (Xiǎo báicài) — Bok choy
Bok choy is closely related to Chinese cabbage. They are often considered the same vegetable in Western culture, which isn’t entirely incorrect. Bok choy is prepared similarly to Chinese cabbage, usually by stir-frying or steaming it before adding it to another dish.
Interestingly, the English word is bok choy, but in Chinese, it literally means “small white vegetable.” It’s worth noting that bok choy uses two of the same Chinese characters as Chinese cabbage.
白萝卜(Bái luóbo) — White radish
White radish may be considered too bitter when eaten raw. Most Western people are familiar with the pickled version. Pickled white radish salad is a popular side dish in Chinese cuisine. It contains no fat and has very few calories. Here again, the word is broken down into two words i.e. 白 (bái) ‘white’ and 萝卜 (luóbo) ‘radish’.
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韭菜 (Jiǔcài) — Garlic chive
Garlic Chive is found in Southwestern China. Garlic chives are grown not only for culinary purposes but also as ornamental plants. People normally keep them indoors to decorate their homes and living areas.
绿豆 (Lǜdòu) — Green bean
Green beans, often fried in sesame oil, are a Chinese vegetable eaten as a side dish or as part of the main dish (mostly stir-fried). Green beans are not an exception in Western culture when it comes to sides, but the Chinese usually add soy sauce, garlic, and ginger to enhance the flavor and taste.
Here again, the word is broken down into two i.e. 绿 (lǜ) ‘green’ and 豆 (dòu) ‘bean’.
笋 (Sǔn) — Bamboo shoot
Bamboo is known for its incredible strength. The Chinese use it to construct skyscrapers. It is also very popular in Chinese cooking.
The cooking time for bamboo shoots is lengthy, but that doesn’t stop the Chinese from using this mild-flavored vegetable in their dishes. Bamboo shoots, along with other vegetables and meat, are often served as a tasty side dish to stir-fries.
Western vegetables in Chinese
土豆 (Tǔdòu) — Potato
土豆 (tǔdòu) literally means “earth beans.” The interesting fact is that China is the largest producer of potatoes.
甜玉米 (Tián yùmǐ) — Sweet corn
甜 (tián) means sweet and 玉米 (yùmǐ) means corn. Sweet corns are delicious and they are widely used in a large number of Chinese cuisines.
胡萝卜 (Húluóbo) — Carrot
If we break down 胡萝卜 (húluóbo) into separate characters, we can see two words:
胡 (hú) means nations north or west of China (in ancient times) and 萝卜 (luóbo) means radish.
番茄 (Fānqié) — Tomato
In Chinese, the word “tomato” is made up of characters that are rarely used together:
番 (fān) — something that is not Chinese
茄 (qié) — eggplant
小洋白菜 (Xiǎo yángbáicài) — Brussels sprout
In China, Brussels sprouts are considered a foreign vegetable, which explains why the word is broken down as follows:
小 (xiǎo) — small
洋白菜 (yángbáicài) — cabbage or foreign white vegetable
西兰花 (Xī lánhuā) — Broccoli
This is an interesting one.
西 (xī) — west
兰花 (lánhuā) — orchid
So broccoli, whether we like it or not, has a lovely word in Chinese. It’s an orchid from the west!
甘薯 (Gānshǔ) — Sweet potato
While 甘薯 literally translates to “sweet potato,” 薯 (shǔ) by itself is a little more precise and means “yam.”
菠菜 (Bōcài) — Spinach
Although 菠 (bō) means “spinach,” it is not usually used separately. Rather, we see 菜 (cài), which means “vegetable,” at the end.
黄瓜 (Huángguā) — Cucumber
Although cucumber is green, the Chinese call it “yellow melon.” The split of this word is as follows:
黄 (huáng) — yellow
瓜 (guā) — melon
洋葱 (Yángcōng) — Onion
洋 (yáng) means “foreign.” Adding 葱 (cōng) makes the word refer to green onion, the type most commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
These were some of the prominent Chinese vegetable names that will help you develop your food vocabulary. While ordering Chinese food or holding any Chinese conversation, keep an eye on Chinese tones to sound like native speakers.
Next time whenever you visit a food market, use these words often. You can also generate notes for yourself if you find it difficult to memorize them all at once. Learning these words will also give you the confidence to try something new in Chinese restaurants.
If you want to get a command of the Chinese language, book your lesson plans in italki. Most of the learners wonder if Chinese grammar is easy or difficult. There is no definite answer to this question. But, if you want to learn Chinese, you need to seek guidance from an authentic resource.
Generate notes and flashcards for yourself. Be consistent and allocate at least two hours for learning every day. Setting up a set routine will keep you on track, making it easier for you to memorize Chinese words, verbs, and pronunciation.
You can also seek help from online media resources. Watching Chinese videos will help you learn Chinese faster.