A Red Bean Pun

Traditional Taiwanese dessert stand (flickr/sun_line)
Traditional Taiwanese dessert stand (flickr/sun_line)

Let’s end November start December on a light note. 🙂

In southern Taiwan, the Indian summer has at last faded away, the sun is still gracing us with his presence, but come the evening, and cold temperatures are blowing in. Desserts shops have also switched their menu to offer hot items, mostly sweet soups to keep us warm and fuzzy inside.

When it comes to desserts in Taiwan, flavors usually revolve around the same usual suspects, namely, the notorious taro and red bean. As much as I can appreciate all the different ways red bean can be turned into a dessert, I feel like I am sometimes reaching a saturation point, yet, I’ll always end up gladly gobbling whatever red bean dessert is put in front of me.

This week, I stopped by a friend’s place for an evening catch-up, we usually just drink tea while chatting, but on this frisky evening, lo and behold, a warm pot of red bean soup had also made its way onto the coffee table. I mentally sighted as my friend handed me a bowl of it, but was quickly grateful for the warmth the soup spread in all parts of my body.  Snapping me out of my red bean thoughts, my friend quizzed me:

紅豆,哪裏人?

紅豆,哪裏人? Where is the red bean (referred as a human) from? I look at him, wide-eyed, and my brain started churning. Is that yet another play on words with the Taiwanese dialect? He’s asking me the origin of red bean, but ask about it as if it was a person, wt#?! Is that a joke, if so, where is it?!! He repeats the question without giving any hint that it’s a joke, so I also continue giving some serious thoughts to the answer, until he finally puts me out of my mental misery, and gives away the answer:

紅豆,嘉義人。

紅豆,嘉義人。Red bean, he’s a guy from Chiayi. Chiayi, right, I know, it’s the city in the center in Taiwan, the must-go through place before heading to the Alishan mountain, and as far as I know, certainly not known for its red bean. But if my Taiwanese friend says so, then it can only be true, but still, I can’t help being suspicious… are you too? 😉 Taking pleasure at seeing my puzzled face, he repeats the answer, and then, it finally clicks:

紅豆,加薏仁。

Get it? See,「嘉義人」and「加薏仁」have the same pronunciation 「jiā​ yì rén」, and respectively mean 「someone from Chiayi city」and 「Job’s tear grain」. Job’s tear grain is another popular ingredient in sweet dessert, and pairs pretty well with red bean, so when ordering both, you simply say  「紅豆,加薏仁」meaning 「Red bean, plus Job’s tear grain」

I know, it’s a cheap joke, but that’s all I can offer on this beautiful Sunday, which I should probably enjoy before the cold evening comes around.
My dear readers, have a swell end of the week-end as well, and keep warm!

薏仁 Job's tear grain (flcikr/BroAngel)
薏仁 Job’s tear grain (flcikr/BroAngel)
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5 thoughts on “A Red Bean Pun

    1. Hehe, unsurprisingly, I had had some red bean soup again today, but with some 湯圓 to break the monotony. I hope you were able to satisfy your craving ^^

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  1. This is the first time I see 薏仁 in English is called Job’s Tear grain. Why is it called “Job’s tear grain? Is there a history or story to that? 😛

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