Learning Cantonese: Lesley Mak on Wonton Noodles

Please do you best to put up with the disco soundtrack: the pain inflicted by the music is a small price to pay for the clear speech, special vocabulary (and English subtitles) you will encounter in episode No.90 of the Kong Stories series.

Lesley Mak, or 麥心睿 Mahk6 Sām1 Yeuih6 in Cantonese, runs the Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop in Jordan. Her specialty is wonton noodles, and one of the delights of this video is her use of the word 細蓉 sai3 yúng2, an insider’s term.《香港粵語大詞典》defines it as: 飲食行業術語 (“a trade term used in the hospitality industry”). You might get special treatment if you use it next time your order these prawn dumplings with 麵 noodles in clear soup. Actually, 蓉 is indispensable in another, horticultural context: it forms part of the compound 芙蓉 fùh4 yúng2 = 1. hibiscus 2. lotus.

In this episode, Mak makes several references to nostalgia or 懷舊 wàaih4 gauh6. This links with her use of the expression 難以忘懷 nàahn4 yíh5 mòhng4 wàaih4 = “hard to get out of one’s mind” and the noun 情懷chìhng4 wàaih4 = “feelings; thoughts & feelings” (observe how the character 懷 crops up again here). I sense that 情懷 doesn’t have to refer to specifically nostalgic feelings, but that it often does so.

Also of interest are the expressions 街頭街尾 gāai1 tàuh4 gāai1 méih5 = from one end of the street to the other; 後巷 hauh6 hóng6*2 = back alley; 早排 jóu2 pàaih4/páai4*2 = a while ago; a few days ago (cf. 呢排,近排 and 最排); and 心血 sām1 hyut3 = painstaking care/effort.

By the way, the character 睿 yeuih6 in Lesley Mak’s name has the meaning of “farsighted”. It’s not a very common character, but you do see it occasionally, particularly in the compound 睿智 yeuih6 ji3 = “wise and farsighted”.

Finally, I am guessing that 綠寳橙汁 luhk6 bóu2 cháang2 jāp1 is the beverage Martin Booth mentions in the following passage from his novel The Iron Tree:

‘Please,’ he went on. ‘Sit down. Take the weight off.’ That is a phrase he picked up as he did mart. ‘You wan’ a beer, soft drink? San Mig? Green Spot orange?’ Then he looked up and recognized me.

You can view the video here, but scroll down if you want the Cantonese transcript, notes and translation. Since it is on YouTube, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.


Caption: 麥文記 | Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop

麥心睿:我鍾意懷舊 | 黑白相、聽舊歌、細蓉、飲綠寳橙汁 | 種種懷舊事物都令我好難以忘懷

● 懷舊 wàaih4 gauh6 = to remember old times or past acquaintances (usu. with kindly thoughts) | ● 細蓉 sai3 yúng2 = another word meaning “wonton noodles” | ● 綠寳橙汁 luhk6 bóu2 cháang2 jāp1 = Green Spot orange | ● 難以忘懷 nàahn4 yíh5 mòhng4 wàaih4 = cf. 忘懷 to forget; to dismiss from one’s mind

Lesley Mak: I like remembering the past. Black and white photos, listening to old songs, wonton noodles, drinking Green Spot orange. All these various nostalgic things, I find it hard to get them out of my head.

舊時擔挑托麵嘅年代 | 一個仙可以食到一碗雲吞麵 | 而家已經再呢支歌仔唱喇

● 擔挑托麵 dāam1 tīu1 tok3 mihn6 = ? | ● 仙 sīn1 = cent

Note: 1. I am not sure about the exact meaning of 仙 sīn1 and whether it is still used to refer to money in Hong Kong. The implication here is that it was a fairly small sum to pay. 2. 已經再冇呢支歌仔唱喇 (if I have got it right) appears to be an idiom meaning “those days are over” or “gone are the days”.

[In] the old days, at the time when hawkers carried around their noodles on shoulder poles [擔挑托麵], you could buy a bowl of wonton noodles for one cent [一個仙], but this little song [歌仔] is no longer sung.

爸爸媽媽四十年代中期走難到香港 | 然後,喺後巷賣雲吞麵維生 | 我4歲開始已經喺鋪頭幫手包雲吞 | 食雲吞麵由細食到大到而家都未厭 【1:00】

● 走難 jáu2 naahn6 = (?) to flee from a dangerous situation | ● 後巷 hauh6 hóng6*2 = back alley | ● 維生 wàih4 sāng1 = to subsist; to eke out a living; to keep body and soul together | ● 未厭 meih6 yim3 = have not yet got sick/tired of cf.  厭 = be fed up with; be bored with; be tired of

Note: When the character 難 (usu. nàahn4) is pronounced in the low-level tone as naahn6, it means “a calamity; a disaster; an adversity” or the verb “to take to task; to blame”.

My mother and father fled to Hong Kong in the middle of the 1940s. Later, they made a living selling wonton noodles in a back alley. I was already helping in the shop making wontons [包雲吞] when I was four. I have been eating wonton noodles all my life and am not yet tired of them.

舊時嘅佐敦街頭街尾都佈滿霓虹燈招牌,但係因爲種種嘅原因 | 早排霓虹燈招牌仿佛就結束咗一個歷史任務 | 告別佐敦

● 街頭街尾 gāai1 tàuh4 gāai1 méih5 = from one end of the street to the other (lit. “street head street tail”) | ● 佈滿 bou3 múhn5 = (?) to be covered all over with | ● 霓虹燈招牌 ngàih4 hùhng4 dāng1 jīu1 pàaih4 = neon sign | ● 早排 jóu2 pàaih4/páai4*2 = a while ago; a few days ago; perhaps here “previously” | ● 仿佛 fóng2 fāt1 = seem; as if | ● 告別 gou3 biht6 = to leave; to part from

Back in the old days, Jordan Road was covered in neon signs from one end to the other but, for various reasons, the neon signs of previous times seemed to have completed an historical mission and have left Jordan.

我期望以後麥文記可以做到等於雲吞麵嘅代表 | 代表香港歷史嘅一部分 | 見證香港情懷 | 等爸爸媽媽嘅心血長流 | 令香港人嘅故事傳留

● 見證 gin3 jing3 = (?) to witness; to bear witness | ● 情懷 chìhng4 wàaih4 = feelings; thoughts & feelings | ● 心血長流 sām1 hyut3 chèuhng4 làuh4 = (?) long continue to be effective (with regard to the painstaking efforts of people who have gone before) cf. 心血 = painstaking care/effort | ● 傳留 chyùhn4 làuh4 = (?) to be handed down/passed on (to later generations)

Note: Here, in the phrase 等爸爸媽媽嘅心血長流, 等 dáng2 is used with the sense of “to let; to allow; to make”, a colloquial equivalent of the written or formal 讓 yeuhng6. On the other hand, 等於 means “to be equivalent to”.

It is my hope that the Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop might become [可以做到] an emblem [代表] of wonton noodles, of a part of Hong Kong’s history, bearing witness to [certain] Hong Kong feelings, and enabling the painstaking efforts of my mother and father to go on bearing fruit [心血長流], so that the story of the Hong Kong people is handed on [to future generations].

我叫麥心睿,香港土生土長,七百萬個故仔成就一個香 . . . 港故仔

My name is Lesley Mak, born and bred in Hong Kong. Seven million stories go to make up [成就] one [of the] Hong . . . Kong Stories.

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