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I am not sure why the character "小" (small) is used here. Is there any difference between "小炒牛肉" and "炒牛肉"?

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    This is quite a specific name of a type of stir fried meat (usually pork) with peppers, commonly found in Hu'nan. 小 here has no specific meaning. It's just the way locals have been calling it. May 20 at 17:22

3 Answers 3

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To understand the meaning of 小炒, you need some more background information.
Chinese factories or companies normally employ chefs to cook for employees, and chefs need to cook with super big pot or stew. This kind of dish is called 大锅菜, literally it means big pot dish. Compared with 大锅菜, there are also dished cooked with small pot and more work. This kind of dishes are called 小炒, literally it means small stir-fry. So slowly, 小炒 is used to describe dishes that need special care and more work. Compared with 炒牛肉, 小炒牛肉 needs more care and work.

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  • This explains 小炒 as in 特色小炒 but I doubt it's the same 小炒 as in 小炒肉. May 20 at 17:16
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  • "小炒牛肉"是將牛肉絲和配料等食材(用大火)不停地在鍋內翻動的一種快速完成的烹調。

  • "炒牛肉"。是將牛肉片和配料等食材(一般用文火)在鍋內翻炒,烹調時間較小炒長。

  • 大锅菜又名熬菜,在北方地区较流行。食材多样,营养丰富,汤汁浓郁。此菜其名称的由来,首先是它有很多种菜的风味,其次就是说在早年大家是在一起吃饭一起干活,所以就叫做了大锅菜。

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@r13 is correct. 小 in this context means quicker and less intricate, i.e., 简略.

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