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红烧肉、回锅肉、芹菜炒肉,肉夹馍……

Without the name of a different animal mentioned before 肉 (such as 孜然羊肉), does the word 肉 always mean "pork" without any exception?

Edit:

I have found the following counterexample:

See L21 below; 肉丝 could be beef or pork.

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  • 1
    see online dictionaries, e.g. bkrs:肉 meat flesh pulp (of a fruit) (2) 指供食用的动物肉 牛肉 猪肉 鸡肉 鱼肉 吃肉 eat meat 肉汤 meat bouillon (soup), iciba likewise provides no evidence for default meaning pork – user6065 Jan 16 at 23:11
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    @user6065 you said "no evidence for default meaning pork " but it is the default when it is on Chinese menus – Tang Ho Jan 16 at 23:13
  • Interesting question. +1 for the cultural insight. Thank you. – Enrico Brasil Jan 17 at 1:45
  • Another interesting angle would be in Chinese muslim restaurants operated by Hui or Uyghur minorities. But from memory those always write whether it's mutton or beef. – hippietrail Jan 29 at 4:03
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I worked in restaurants for many years. As I understand it, '肉' in Chinese menus only refers to pork unless it is specifically stated what kind of meat it is.

For example:

  • 時菜炒(豬)肉片 = in-season vegetable stir-fry pork slice

  • 時菜炒牛肉 = in-season vegetable stir-fry beef

  • (豬)肉絲湯麵 = shredded pork noodle soup

  • 雞絲湯麵 = shredded chicken meat noodle soup

(豬) is omitted most of the time because when no specific is given, it is the default meat.

But there are always exceptions:

  • Since the most common meat you see in 夹馍 are 羊肉 (mutton) or 牛肉 (beef), even when people reduce 羊肉夹馍 or 牛肉夹馍 to '肉夹馍', '肉' still refers to mutton or beef

  • If it is 清真食物 (Halal food) menus, you can be sure 肉 on the menus are not pork but mutton or beef instead

Outside of menus, 肉 can refer to any kind of meat, for example: 肉 in "大魚大肉" or "有酒有肉" does not refer to a specific meat.

  • AFAIK, 肉夹馍 is actually almost always pork by default, at least in Shaanxi (which is the province most commonly associated with 肉夹馍). Of course, unless you are in the Muslim Quarter (回民街) in Xi'an, where it would definitely be beef :-) – xuq01 Feb 1 at 5:00
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In Standard Chinese, 肉 means any kinds of meat, while 猪肉 means pork. This is technically correct in the standard expression.

However, in colloquial Chinese, unprefixed 肉 usually means pork, except in the “halal menu”. It is true in 99.9% of the situation.

If you are writing legal documents or contracts, use 猪肉 to refer to pork. Otherwise, just use unprefixed 肉 for pork.

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For Hans culture(in fact, there is no such things as Hans ethnics) , 肉 usually means pork. If you look at the glphy 家 (family), the script below is a PIG 豕, origin from the oracle glyph. Because all food waste can be used to feed pigs.

Historically, cow is important to agriculture, there are era that forbids people from eating cow and death penalty is imposed (to prevent people stealing cow and slaughtering cow with various excuses) .

Herding tribe in the Northen China don't rear pig, they either eat goats/sheeps, cows or horses. When adapting the Hans culture glyph, those culture will explicit specify the type of meat they are eating in mandarin language.

However, depends on popularity of particular food, when time pass, people simply omitted the type of meat name. e.g. 兰州拉面 original called 兰州牛肉拉面. Because it is a well know beef noodles dishes, everybody knows you will not find pork inside 兰州拉面.

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I would say 99% of time it is true. However, it is always better to verify with the waitress if you're not certain. For example:

肉捲 - meat roll  
碎肉 - mince meat

While mostly are pork and does not have a different animal mentioned, it could be other meat such as beef / chicken.

  • I was a waiter, if you don't state what specific kind of 肉 when you said 肉捲 or 碎肉, I would presume you meant 'pork' – Tang Ho Jan 16 at 23:21
  • @TangHo That's good for you, but i had a restaurant that provided beef for meat roll, simply because it is the restaurant's default choice of meat for meatroll – Alex Jan 17 at 23:02

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