Does the name of a food truly reveal its nature?
Recently, there has been some discussion in the media about food names, their implications and consumers' expectations. Is it true that a food name is a reflection of its contents?
Many foods have names that seem to suggest their ingredients or origins but in fact have no connection with them. Food named for a certain ingredient may only bear a resemblance to the look of that ingredient but contains none of it. Food named for a certain geographical region may not necessarily originate from that place. There are also other foods named from their legendary origins.
The trade should provide information on the food ingredients. To know the actual ingredients contained in the food, consumers are advised to read the ingredient lists on the food labels when purchasing prepackaged food and to ask the staff for the information when patronising restaurants.
Here are some examples of what we frequently encounter in our daily life.
Foods in name but not in fact
- Pineapple Bun (菠蘿包) – does not contain pineapple. The checkered golden-brown top crust resembles the outer surface of a pineapple.
- Ox-tongue pastry (牛脷酥) – does not contain ox-tongue. This fried dough is elliptical in shape resembling an ox tongue.
- Hot dog (熱狗) – has its name because of its closeness in appearance to the dachshund dog.
- "Gold Coin Chicken" (金錢雞) – is actually barbequed pork layered with chicken liver, an old time favourite in Cantonese Siu-mei Shop.
- Crabmeat-style Egg (賽螃蟹) – is a dish intended to look and taste like crab but with fish and egg whites as ingredients.
- "Ants Climbing a Tree" (螞蟻上樹) – is a classic Sichuan dish of spicy pork and vermicelli. The minced pork on the vermicelli resembles ants walking on twigs.
- "Lion's Head" (獅子頭) – is a Huaiyang dish consisting of large pork meatballs stewed with vegetables. The large meatball resembles the head of the lion and the vegetables resemble the lion's mane.
Foods with regional names but not of the region
- Swiss Wing (瑞士雞翼) – did not originate in Switzerland but in Hong Kong. The chicken wings are cooked in sweet soy sauce. It is intended to be "Sweet Wing" but instead the name circulated as "Swiss Wing".
- Yangzhou Fried Rice (揚州炒飯) – is not a recipe of Yangzhou. This Cantonese-style fried rice with mixed ingredients including barbequed pork was thought to be invented by a person originated from Yangzhou.
- Singapore-style fried vermicelli (星洲炒米) – is not found in authentic Singaporean restaurants. It is a popular dish of stir-fried rice vermicelli with curry powder and chilli peppers served in local eateries in Hong Kong.
- Hainanese Chicken Rice (海南雞飯) – is not a local dish of Hainan. The recipe was said to be adapted from early Chinese immigrants from Hainan province to South East Asia.