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I've seen 悶 being used in more than one recipe, and Google typically translates it as "stuffy", which doesn't really make sense given the context. Looking at alternative translations, "closed", "stifling" & "smothering" make a little more sense but still don't seem to quite work in the sentences I've seen it used in.

This recipe is one example: https://aillynotes.medium.com/instant-pot在手-這8道快手美食我有-貴妃醉雞-蒜泥白肉-滷味拼盤-香菇瘦肉粥-92a976b70c3b e.g. "悶熟即可是因為:剛才雞腿骨已經加壓煮過熟了、而帶皮雞腿肉已經先過水燙掉血水" and "不用全熟,等等後面還會有悶熟的動作"

Just to add, I have very limited understanding of Chinese (hence my reliance on Google Translate) so please bear that in mind when answering!

3 Answers 3

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Here, 悶 [mēn;ㄇㄣˉ]was mistaken for 燜 [mèn;ㄇㄣˋ] - simmer (cooking slowly at low temperature/fire with lid covered tightly.)

Note that it is a common mistake as 悶 does have the meaning of "closure to make airtight", and 燜 requires the lid "tightly covered". However, the main difference is that 燜 emphasizes controlling the intensity of heat/fire while 悶 emphasizes cutting off the airflow of the pot.

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  • "while 悶 emphasizes cutting off the airflow of the pot." Is 悶 really used in cooking?
    – joehua
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 1:04
  • @joehua Yes, it is the action to stop the airflow after the boiling temperature has reached, and the heat source often is distinguished. You often hear Chinese mother teaches kid - "飯煮熟了後要悶一悶才不會夾生" - The rice pot must remain covered for a while so as not to be half cooked.
    – r13
    Commented Jan 19, 2023 at 13:16
  • I suspect that one should be 燜, not 悶.
    – joehua
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 1:13
  • @joehua Cook the rice: 1) turn the fire off at boiling, 2) leave the pot covered for a few minutes, 3) lift the lid and loosen the rice. 悶 applied in step 2.
    – r13
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 15:42
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The abuse of character here may have caused you some trouble when you were using Google Translate. The exact character is 焖 (simpified Chinese) or 燜 (traditional Chinese). You may notice the text you quote used a character that lack a 火 on the left. The more often used characters come first in the Chinese input method and sometimes the writer is too lazy to scroll down just for selecting the exact characters, thinking that the Chinese audience can understand anyway.

The meaning of 焖 (燜) according to standard Chinese dictionary is:

盖紧锅盖,用微火把饭菜煮熟。

I think you may enjoy more luck if you try the correct characters or the explanation sentence in Google Translate than before. In my case, Google Translate provides:

Stew.

Cover the pot tightly and cook the food over low heat.

As a native Chinese I am satisfied with this translation, but I have reservations about that recipe article.

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According to the Dictionary of Taiwan's Ministry of Education (moedict), one definition of 悶 (mēn) is

密閉使不透氣。如:「悶飯」、「把菜再悶一會兒。」也作「燜」。

It says that 悶 (mēn) means closing up airtight, and as examples it lists 悶飯, simmer rice, and 悶菜, simmer vegetables.「燜」is listed as an alternative spelling. The entry for 「燜」 says

一種烹飪方法。緊蓋鍋蓋,用鍋內的蒸氣和溫度將食物煮熟或燉爛
A method of cooking. Closing the lid tightly, using the steam and heat in the pot to cook and stew.

But the main pronunciation for 「燜」 is given as "mèn" ("mēn" is listed as possible). I have never heard "mèn" for simmering, only "mēn". So, at least for Taiwan,

  1. Using 悶 is officially correct and not a mistake.
  2. Using 悶, readers are more likely to have the usual pronunciation of mēn in mind.

Additional info:「悶菜」 gives around 32 Mio hits on google,「燜菜」only 2,8 Mio.

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