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ham in China


As I was researching how to say 'ham' in Chinese, I learned it was 火腿 (huǒtuǐ). That literally translates to "fire leg". Now most ham I have encountered here in the USA is either Butterfield Ham (kindof sweet) or Virginia ham (very salty). So, I was wondering how ham got the name in Chinese. I then learned about 金华火腿 (jīnhuá huǒtuǐ) which is a dry-cured ham from the Zhejiang province of eastern China. This sounds very similar to Smithfield Virginia ham. So, is this what people think of ham in China? If so, I can see why this time of ham might taste like fire. Is this perhaps the reason why China's largest meat processor wants to acquire Smithfield Ham?


if you are looking for an exact translation for things, names, brands etc. you will be constantly disappointed. For example there are many Chinese products that is impossible to have an exact translation and vice a versa. Here in Australia we have many variations of Ham that you could not find an American translation for.


Well, very good. Interestingly, I had originally responded to someone's post but that post has since been removed. I am guessing that the funny translation for ham, 火腿 (huǒtuǐ), is because ham is not indigenous to China. Similarly, turkey is 火鸡 (huǒjī) or "fire chicken". I have never seen ham or turkey served in Chinese restaurants here in Southern California.


Hello, I live in China and if you ever have the chance to visit the country you should. You will find the Chinese food here is a lot different than that of America.

David K

Interesting discussion.  In the China towns of San Fransisco and Los Angeles I noticed a lot of meat shops with various kinds of birds and ham that had been dry cured hanging from strings and they are often bright red, perhaps, due to whatever was used to cure them.   Maybe some smoking process like jerky.

This made sense to me since refrigeration is a technology of the last century after electrification.

So I wonder if Fire Ham could be due to the fire-like red color, some spicy red curing powder, or perhaps the fire of a smoking process.  Now you have me curious, so I'm going to have to look it up.

David K

Oh, and another possibility.  Someone told me once that the reason tropical countries often have such spicy cooking style was to had the flavor of rotting meat before refrigeration.  I do not know if the really hot red pepper based spices have any preservative value, but they can certainly mask any taste.


Well, in the Guangdong province (which is tropical) the food is not that spicy. My wife is Cantonese so I know that for a fact. However, the Sichuan province has very spicy food. I always order things extra (geng ma la) spicy (跟麻辣).

David K

Nǐ hǎo Robert
你好 Robert
Hi Robert,

I looked up Chinese Fire Ham on google and found a couple clues, however, for some reason my FireFox browser will not let me link to the first.  BTW, your comment above comes up under the search as well.  So you are in the top 10 references for "Chinese Fire Ham."  And, I was pleased to see a picture of a dozen smoked hams hanging in a window just like I described in Chinatown , however, they are a different kind of famous hams with a reddish color.

A typical local food: Jinhua ham - China culture - Kaleidoscope
The salted pig legs were red as fire and thus referred to as “Fire Leg” (ham). ... Beijing cuisine, one of the eight most famous regional cuisines in China, not only ...
Anfu ham - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Anfu ham is a Chinese dish from Anfu, Jiangxi. Anfu is famous for ham. In Anfu, there is a special company producing it. Anfu ham is made of ham which is smoked by fire.
Good bye

kuàilè chī huǒtuǐ
Happy Fire Ham Eating. ;-)

fēicháng gǎnxiè nǐ duì yǒu zhège duìhuà wǒ. Wǒ zuì hǎo de xuéxí fāngshì zài zuò, ér bùshì xuéxí. Suǒyǐ, wǒ xiànzài kěyǐ shìbié zàijiàn de zhōngguó fúhào, gānggāng cóng wǒmen lùntán de wénzì jiāoliú shǐyòng tāmen. Zàicì gǎnxiè. Dà wèi

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