Posted in Chinese

Culinary Chinese: ‘Wei’ to go…

CC Wei to go 1

Today’s first picture is essentially the same as the final one in last week’s post. In that lesson, we saw that a restaurant may advertise itself as featuring   ‘Chuān cài’ (川菜), or ‘Jīng cài’ (京菜), and mean, respectively, that Sichuan or Beijing (northern) cuisine is served. As in the above picture (and our lesson 2 weeks ago), we also saw that 川味 (‘chuān wèi’) or 京味 (Jīng wèi) might be specified. If you recall, I asked you to consider what the ‘Wei’ part might mean… 

CC Wei to go 2

Here is our ‘Wei’ character along with the definition. In the context of a restaurant sign, or on a menu, it is likely to be used in the sense of ‘taste’ or ‘flavor’. Accordingly, 川味, or 京味, would mean, respectively, that the flavors of Sichuan or Beijing are represented.

By the way, when we introduced our 菜 character (grass-claw-tree), and the 京 character, we saw that both have a top-to-bottom, three component structure. Here, our new character, 味, has a left-right structure. We will be looking at character forms in more detail later but, for now, just make a mental note of the distinction.

Now that we have seen how ‘Wei’ is used in the restaurant sign context, let’s look at a couple of other situations where you may come across the character…


CC Wei to go 3

味精 – Wèijīng, or MSG, is something you may very well have in your kitchen cupboard. Even if you don’t, you can certainly keep an eye out for these two characters in grocery stores. The second character, 精, has many, many meanings but in the culinary context generally means ‘essence’ or ‘extract’. Accordingly, MSG, in Chinese, is known as ‘flavor essence’.

By the way, if you want your food to come without added MSG in a Chinese restaurant, you could try saying 不味精, or ‘Boo Way Jing’ (bù wèijīng), which translates as ‘No (or not) MSG’. It’s a bit inelegant, but it gets the point across.


CC Wei to go 4

辣味 – You will find this character combination all over the place, both on restaurant menus and product packages. The first character means ‘hot’ in the sense of ‘spicy hot’ and together the characters are pronounced làwèi (roughly, Lah Way). In a later post, we will be looking at the Chinese characters representing the various ‘tastes’ but keep an eye out for 辣 , as you will see it frequently once you begin to recognize it easily.


CC Wei to go 5

Here is a final picture showing the appearance of ‘Wei’ on two different product packages. Luckily, there is an English translation to let you know what flavor is being described but you should get used to recognizing when you see it.

In closing, I want to say that I am very conscious of the fact that, as the number of new characters increases, it will quickly become difficult for you to remember them without some means of organizing the information I give you. Next week, we will have a bit more to say about this…


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I am a lawyer by profession and my practice is Criminal... I mean, I specialize in Criminal law. My work involves travelling on Court circuits to remote Arctic communities. In between my travels I write a Food blog at

7 thoughts on “Culinary Chinese: ‘Wei’ to go…

  1. Here’s my cue for recognizing spicy: The left side of the character for spicy reminds me of a scorpion. A scorpion sting would burn (and then some I imagine). Spicy foods burn, too.

  2. I’m back from Beijing and up to date with your lessons. Great fun thanks. I’ve also started spoken Chinese classes in Dublin so slowly making progres.

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