Monday, September 21, 2009
Should Koreans say 세겹살 instead of 삼겹살?
삼겹살 are cuts of pork from around the ribs, which is an area that includes layers of fat (비계). When cut into strips, the strips show what generally look to be three layers of fat and meat, which is why Koreans call it 삼겹살. The name 삼겹살 literally means "three layers of meat." It looks like bacon except that it is usually cut into thicker strips and is not cured or smoked.
Actually, the name 삼겹살 violates Korean language rules, which say that Sino-Korean numbers should not be used with pure Korean words. 삼(三) is the Sino-Korean number for "three," and 겹살 is a pure Korean word meaning "layers of meat"; therefore, the correct name should be 세겹살 since 세 is the pure Korean number for "three." In fact, up until the early eighties, Koreans commonly referred to it as 세겹살. (See this Korean ARTICLE.)
Korean dictionaries still list 세겹살 as a synonym for 삼겹살, so if you are a purist and want to mess with the minds of Korean restaurant employees, order 세겹살 the next time you visit a Korean meat restaurant.