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For lunch today in Taipei I found a small street food place near my hostel.

On the menu was this item:

麻油Q米血

Here's a photo of the relevant part of the menu:
menu including "麻油Q米血"

麻油 is sesame oil, 米 is rice, and 血 is blood. But what is Q?

I know English/Latin/Roman alphabet letters are sometimes used in colloquial/casual Chinese, often but not always when there is not a character to represent a word or sound from language besides Mandarin, be it English or another Chinese language.

What does the Q stand for, and what is this dish?

  • Never seen Q before on a chinese menu, what did it end up being? Eg. The dish – 50-3 Jan 30 '14 at 9:40
  • I didn't order that one in case it might be something icky (-: But I'm uploading a photo of the menu. – hippietrail Jan 30 '14 at 9:48
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    If its what I think it is it's sticky pork blood rice cakes 很好吃 but no idea why the Q is there – 50-3 Jan 30 '14 at 9:50
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    Unless it was an atempt at using an ampersand I'm out – 50-3 Jan 30 '14 at 9:58
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    Q can have two meaning, cute or 嚼劲. 这个面很Q 就是 这个面很有嚼劲的意思. Sorry, I can't explain 嚼劲 in English – hrzhu Jan 30 '14 at 11:22
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Q is Chinese slang for "chewy", similar to al dente in texture. You can see it in example phrases such as "Q感十足" (very chewy). You would expect foods such as tapioca pearls, gelatinous candies, pasta, or rice to be described as "Q".

From my experience, this term is more popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong and less so in the mainland. I have not seen this term in the 90's or before.

I'm not sure where this phrase came from; if I had to venture a guess I would suggest QQ candy, a gummy candy that first appeared in the late 90s which has the same kind of texture.

"Q" originated as a Taiwanese morpheme that has no agreed upon character.

This definition of "Q" is not to be confused with another definition, as a short-hand for "cute".

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    I read somewhere that there are 10 characters for Q and one is pretty much more widely used though since it's dialectal (Hokkien) is not a common character so it's easier to just use Q as a placeholder. – amateur Feb 2 '14 at 22:33
10

Q is Hokkien. The character is「食邱」and pronounced ㄎㄧㄨ (kiu, same as "Q").

The Chinese definition is 軟靭 ruǎn rèn (soft and tough) and means the texture of food being chewy.

See the post "Q(k‘iu⊦)──軟靭" on the "taiwanlanguage" blog.

  • This is the correct answer. Be aware that Victor Mair from congusbongus' link likes to claim there is "no agreed upon character" for many Taiwanese words that, in fact, has well-established characters. Mair's understanding of Taiwanese is apparently based on seeing street food signs. It is the equivalent of claiming there is no standard spelling of pronoun "you" based on text messages that says "u". – Semaphore Jun 27 '14 at 12:06
  • Be aware that Semaphore of Stack Exchange likes to claim that published professors of Sinology such as Victor Mair Ph.D. base their understanding of Taiwanese on nothing more than seeing street food signs. It is the equivalent of claiming superiority to people with decades of recognized achievements based on skimming a single blog post. Maybe both are crackpots. Maybe neither are. Investigate some of their works and judge for yourself. – hippietrail Jun 27 '14 at 14:56
  • @hippietrail I see you still have precisely zero facts whatsoever to back up your argument, apart from an atrociously blatant and fallacious appeal to authority. – Semaphore Jun 27 '14 at 16:43
  • Whatever your apparent love for Victor Mair (even though you spectacularly failed to read it last time), that is no excuse for intentionally mislead other potential readers into thinking Taiwanese words with well established characters has no written form. – Semaphore Jun 27 '14 at 16:47
  • I'm just defending somebody who seems to have credentials against an ad hominem from somebody claiming superior knowledge yet appearing to lack credentials. We now have a bizarre emotion based attack now on myself as well as this acknowledged expert in the field. You've established that you have a dislike for him and that your opinion differs. I don't find enough in this to choose either view as the correct answer. – hippietrail Jun 28 '14 at 6:18
3

There are already several good answers and one has been accepted, but last week in the October 4, 2018 New York Times' "Taiwan Dispatch" In Italy, ‘Al Dente’ Is Prized. In Taiwan, It’s All About Food That’s ‘Q.’ there is more about "Q":

Slippery? Chewy? Globby? Not exactly the most flattering adjectives in the culinary world.

Luckily, the Taiwanese have a word for this texture. Well, actually, it’s not a word, it’s a letter — one that even non-Chinese speakers can pronounce.

It’s “Q.”

“It’s difficult to explain what Q means exactly,” said Liu Yen-ling, a manager at Chun Shui Tang, a popular teahouse chain that claims to have invented tapioca milk tea in Taiwan. “Basically it means springy, soft, elastic.”

Q texture is to Taiwanese what umami is to Japanese and al dente is to Italians — that is, cherished and essential. Around Taiwan, the letter Q can often be glimpsed amid a jumble of Chinese characters on shop signs and food packages and in convenience stores and advertisements.

However it also links to a 2010 University of Pensilvania Language Log post Is Q a Chinese Character?. This is also a lengthy post, but the section discussing this particular use of "Q" includes:

The title is from the subject line of a message sent to me a few days ago by Anne [...]. Anne was puzzled by the expression ruǎn Q (軟Q) that occurs on a package of "Japanese style" cakes (mochi) made in Taiwan:

Is Q a Chinese Character?

Here's a close-up of the relevant text:

Is Q a Chinese Character?

I told Anne that ruǎn Q means "soft and chewy," where the Q (pronounced kiu) is a common Taiwanese morpheme that no one seems to know how to write in Chinese characters.

Another challenge posed by the package is that the characters used to write the Taiwanese equivalent of mochi, 米+麻 and 糬, are both exceedingly rare, neither of them appearing in Hanyu da zidian (Unabridged Dictionary of Chinese Characters; it has 54,678 entries) or other large dictionaries of Chinese characters. In fact, the first character is so infrequent that I have had to write it in the ad hoc fashion 米+麻. This extremely rare character is not even in Unicode (unless it has been added very recently), though it is probably a variant of mí or méi 糜[U+7CDC], with the "rice" radical at the bottom instead of on the side, while the second character is shǔ 糬[U+7CEC], which might be cognate with shǔ 薯 ("sweet potato"). Neither 米+麻 nor 糜, however, can compete in frequency with má 麻 ("hemp") for writing the first syllable of the Taiwanese rendition of mochi, since Googling yields 35 matches for "糜糬" versus over seven million for "麻糬." This is clearly one of the countless cases where the sound of a character trumps its meaning. In Japanese mochi would be written with the 餅 kanji, but in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) that would be pronounced bǐng and would mean "round flatcake."

and then discussing some dried instant noodles:

[...] This Taiwanese "Q" meaning "chewy" can be intensified by doubling, hence "QQ糖" ("chewy-chewy candy" or "really chewy candy"), nougats that are also styled "mini-Q."

Thus Q is clearly well established in Taiwanese as meaning "chewy," and it has been picked up on the Mainland with the same meaning (especially in advertisements). Since I've never been able to determine a cognate for this "Q" in other Sinitic languages than Taiwanese and no one has ever been able to tell me how to write this Q morpheme with a Chinese character, I have sometimes wondered whether it might not have come from English "chewy" itself.

Incidentally, these Ah Q noodles have nothing to do with the celebrated anti-hero, also called Ah Q, of Lu Xun's famous novella, "The True Story of Ah Q" 阿Q正傳 ("Ā Q Zhèngzhuàn"), first published serially between December 4, 1921 and February 12, 1922.

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    I would not normally post an answer like this with a length like this in an SE site where I'm not very knowledgable in the topic, but since this is quite an old source and links break over time, I've tried to capture the most helpful and relevant parts here. The posts are much longer and worth reading at their original sources. – uhoh Oct 18 '18 at 12:33
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Not sure chewy is the meaning of Q, but my understand is , Q is from cute.

So explain the sample Q感十足 which @congusbongus gave, means very cute.

0

"米血" is glutinous rice in chicken blood. Q is chewy.

BTW, the original characters of "煙韌" is possibly ....

!Original characters of "煙韌"1

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