Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Wok This Way

It is my sad duty to inform you of the passing away of one of my nearest and dearest companions of the last five or so years.

Last night, I was putting together my modest repast, a seafood melange stir fried with seasonal veg, when I noticed what seemed to be a pinprick of fire inside the wok. Fearing for my sanity and worried that my afternoon tea had been adulterated with mind-altering chemicals, I pushed the delicate dinner to one side and found not one, but two spots of light shining through the bottom of the wok!

Ever mindful that, if I can see the flames through the wok, then the subtle essence of deliciousness for which I have been aiming is also probably draining away through the self-same holes, I rapidly finish the dish, eat it and go into mourning for my old friend who has served me so well. Mr. Wok.

Mr. Wok was a wedding present and I cooked my first meal for Mrs LL in it. She hasn’t divorced me yet, so I must have done something right! But he is now an ex-Mr. Wok. Used for almost every meal for the last five years, he has sacrificed himself for me and my stomach.

So I chuck him out with the other rubbish and go looking for a replacement.

After carefully considering the wide range of woks on display in the local wokerie, I come home with Mr Wok Mark #2. Careful study of the label advises me that this is a

xi tie guo

Now I haven’t survived this long without picking up a smattering of the local lingo and I can understand two-thirds of this. The second character means ‘iron’ and the third means ‘wok’. But what is the first? Beats me.

So, I’m off to the dictionary to check it out. How do you look up an unknown Chinese character in the dictionary? Good question. Well after years of study and decades of banging your head against walls, it becomes relatively easy.

The first character is a combination of two other characters, which I do know.

shi + xi = xi


The shi means ‘stone’ and ximeans ‘west’

I hazard a guess that in combination  the ‘stone’ part refers to meaning and the ‘west’ part refers to the pronunciation. This is how Chinese characters usually work. See here for a more detailed explanation.

So, I head for the back of the dictionary, where characters with the appropriate pronunciation live and I find ‘xi’. Xi has many different characters, each with a different meaning. The dictionary is arranged alphabetically by pronunciation, then sub-divided by tone, then by the number of strokes required to write it. This character is the first tone, and it consists of 11 strokes. Gotcha!

I am now looking at the character and its translation. It is ‘selenium’. Whatever that is. Then  I find that in combination with the second character for iron, the two together mean ‘ferro-selenium’. So I have a ferro-selenium wok!

Whether this is a good thing or not, I don’t know. But I have spent the best part of the afternoon tracking down one Chinese character only to discover that I don’t understand the English either! Still, it keeps me out of trouble!

. This entry was posted on Saturday, March 3rd, 2007 at 8:17 am and is filed under Languages, My Dinners. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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