Chinese translation question: What are "hair beans"?
February 20, 2009 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Chinese vegetable translation question: In Chinese they're called "hair beans". What are they in English? My mum is reading a Chinese newspaper article on six foods people should eat more of. And there on the list is "hair beans".
posted by storybored to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could it be a botched translation of "string beans"?
posted by SpecialK at 7:35 PM on February 20, 2009

I'm guessing she's referring to 毛豆, which are young, green soybeans (the kind used in edamame). See this Wikipedia article. They're called "hair beans" because of the fuzz on the pod.
posted by pravit at 7:40 PM on February 20, 2009

Response by poster: Hey, that's a good guess. Unfortunately when I put it through google translate, it doesn't come back with the Chinese character for "hair".
posted by storybored at 7:41 PM on February 20, 2009

Response by poster: Oops, my last post was for SpecialK.

Pravit, those are indeed the characters that were in the newspaper! Thanks! That must be it. Although when i put green soybeans through Google Translate it doesn't come up right. Not sure why.

There are some other foods listed as well. Would you know how best to obtain translations of them? How the heck do you input Chinese characters into Google Translate?
posted by storybored at 7:44 PM on February 20, 2009

You can try installing a Chinese IME (basically a program that allows you to type in Chinese, usually by typing in pinyin). Windows has a decent pre-installed one, and I really like the free Sogou IME - it's very good at guessing what you mean to type.

You can also list them here and I can translate them for you, though I guess it's difficult without being able to see the actual Chinese characters.
posted by pravit at 7:50 PM on February 20, 2009

Instead of Google Translate, try this Java-based mouse input tool.

In order to input Chinese characters, you have to either install third-party software or enable you operating system's input system. In any case you would probably need to know the pinyin of the character or deal with some radical-based input method, which would be pretty tedious.
posted by roomwithaview at 7:51 PM on February 20, 2009

Whoops. I thought you were trying to decipher Chinese characters in a newspaper. If your mother is reading them to you in Chinese, you can input the pinyin into an online dictionary. is a good one -- input maodou and you will get "毛豆 máo dòu
( n. ) very young and tender soybean".
posted by roomwithaview at 7:56 PM on February 20, 2009

How about a whole page of Chinese-English grain and bean words? Yours is towards the middle of the legume/bean section. They also give the English translation as Edamame. They are indeed cheap and delicious, and people should eat more of them.

(As far as the Chinese input: I used copy-paste here, but typically use NJStar Communicator. Trial is 30 days free, delays opening if you've used it too long. It's good enough to use, but a little glitchy (in Japanese, at least, where I use it more now.)
posted by whatzit at 8:02 PM on February 20, 2009

The mao part of maodou does translate into hair or fuzz or fur. A more literal translation would be furry bean.

Hair on humans is 'fhat' whereas hair on animals is 'mao'. Oddly, a kind of black wood fungus that resembles human hair is called 'fhat choy' (hair vegetable... even though it's recognized as a mushroom/fungus). Maybe it's also a length thing.

Do you have the pinying (curious - Cantonese or Mandarin... in Cantonese, it's closer to 'ping yum') or literal translations for the other ingredients?
posted by porpoise at 8:07 PM on February 20, 2009

Response by poster: I have the newspaper in front of me. I've got a smidgeon of reading ability in Chinese, (hey, the character for 'hair'!) but can't do any of that pinyin stuff. :(

I guess I could try the mouse-input thing, Roomwith a view.

I have to go offline now since it's getting late but will try doing something tomorrow.
posted by storybored at 8:34 PM on February 20, 2009

Could it possibly mean bean sprouts?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:55 PM on February 20, 2009

I thought mao-dou was like, lima beans or something.

Okay, just went through Google Translate and it returns "candida", which apparently is a type of yeast. I'm... pretty sure that's not right.
posted by curagea at 9:42 PM on February 20, 2009

"Hair beans" are fresh young soybeans, usually in the pod. In China, "salt-water hair beans" (盐水毛豆) are a really popular appetizer and bar snack. I found this recipe online ... sorry for the clunky translation.
After writing the salt-water peanut recipe, someone must have said, "How can you have salt-water peanuts without salt-water soy beans?" Surely everyone has had a combo plate of salt-water peanuts and soy beans to go with their drinks. A summer without salt-water soy beans isn't complete!

Hubei has a lot of recipes for soy beans: cold chopped-pepper beans, cold oil and vinegar beans, brined beans, as well as shelled soy beans with fried beef or minced pork. These recipes, no matter how fancy and complex, aren't nearly as enduring as simple salt-water soy beans.

Maybe you'll say, "Can't we just use your salt-water peanut recipe and substitute soy beans for peanuts?" Of course not, and here I want to share my personal flavor tips that make my salt-water soy beans so good that no matter how many I make they're always immediately devoured.

Ingredients: 500g fresh young soy beans, oil, salt, dried red peppers, cinnamon, star anise, cooking wine

1) Wash the soy beans and cut off the tips of the pods.
2) Put soy beans in a pot and cover with water.
3) Add 50g red peppers, a piece of cinnamon, three pieces of star anise.
4) Add salt to taste and stir to dissolve. The water should be quite salty.
5) Personal flavor tip: Add a small spoonful of oil and two teaspoons of cooking wine.
6) Turn on high heat and bring to a boil.
7) Once the water is boiling, continue to cook for about 25 minutes, or until the beans are as soft as you'd like.
8) Eat hot or cold
posted by twisted mister at 11:57 PM on February 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Pravit is right -- 毛豆 usually refers to edamame. Young soy beans.

If you're looking for mouse input tools for Chinese characters, NCiku has a pretty good online one. Or do you have a link to the article?
posted by bokane at 11:29 AM on February 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the great help everyone. The article has been translated to my mum's satisfaction through a friend of hers.
posted by storybored at 7:18 PM on February 21, 2009

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