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I understand the meaning of "勾芡", but I was not able to find the origin of this term. I am trying to learn why when "勾" and "芡" combine together, they mean velveting. Thank you in advance!

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    This comes from Chinese cooking where corn starch is added, (usually at the final stage), to thicken, "smoothern" dishes, resulting in a "velvety" texture, and the act of adding corn starch is termed 勾芡. Aug 22 at 7:21
  • Note other varieties of Chinese don't natively use 勾 as the verb, e.g. Cantonese uses 打
    – Michaelyus
    Aug 22 at 14:28

1 Answer 1

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The origin of the word is from acting as a soup thickener:

勾 = 调(tiáo)制 = to mix

芡 = 芡粉 = starch powder

Starch powder has often been added to soups to thicken up the soup.


Another usage of starch powder, as you alluded to in your question, is to soften meat and make it less chewy. This is more of an extension from the above usage - as the starch powder is acting more like a coating and less like something that is being mixed in.

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  • Think you so very much for your detailed explanations!
    – Maurice
    Aug 22 at 13:32
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    @Maurice Also the 芡 is the name of the plant from which the starch was originally made.. nowadays most chief use corn starch or potato starch but the word did not change. Aug 22 at 20:53
  • Got it! Thank you, Archeosudoerus 🙏.
    – Maurice
    Aug 22 at 23:45

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