Zolima City Mag’s “Silk Smooth Tofu Pudding” and the Art of 荳腐花

Silky Smooth Tofu 1

On 2 April, Zolima City Mag posted another short video in its Forgotten Hong Kong Icons series. This one is about the 荳腐花 dauh6 fuh6 fāa1, a kind of dessert, made by the 公和 Kung Wo Beancurd Factory. Once again, the combination of spoken word, refined imagery and sensitive music result in an artistically-compelling micro-documentary.

You can watch the video here, with subtitles in English and Standard Written Chinese.

If you are interested in Cantonese, the main interest is in the vocabulary and a few Cantonese-specific verbs, such as 煲 bōu1 and 幫襯 bōng1 chan3. The expression 老中青 lóuh5 jūng1 chīng1 = “the elderly, the middle-aged and the young” was also new to me.

Be sure to use the Sheik Cantonese website to check any item in this text: you can find their on-line Cantonese dictionary here.

The owner of the concern, 蘇崇廉 Sōu1 Sùhng4 Lìhm4 is a bit soft-spoken, so there are a few gaps in the transcription, indicated by “/ ? /”. If you can help fill any of them in (or correct any errors you spot), please leave a comment: I greatly appreciate any contribution to the cause of Cantonese learning!

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荳腐花係
The term 荳腐花 dauh6 fuh6 fāa1 refers to a “soybean dessert” (Sheik); in this video, the term “silk smooth tofu pudding” is used. The character 荳, written with the grass radical or 草字頭 chóu2 jih6 tàuh4, is a variant of the more commonly used 豆.

我覺得應該可以代表香港嘅一種地道小食呀

首先係黃荳啦
There is a change of tone in the pronunciation of 荳 dauh6 in the combination 黃荳 wòhng4 dáu6*2 = soybean; soyabean.

噉我哋會浸呀
浸 jam3 = to soak; to immerse; to saturate; to steep; to dip

浸佢 ah 六個鐘頭喇

跟住就會擺落個石磨中磨
In Cantonese, the verb 擺 báai2 is used with the meaning “to lay; to put; to place; to arrange”. After the verb, 落 lohk6 is added. 落 is similar to 到 dou3 in its expression of “arrival”, but suggests that the movement is vertically downwards rather than horizontal.
石磨 sehk6 mó6*2 = stone mill. When it is used again, 磨 is a verb meaning “to grind; to mill” and is pronounced mòh4.

磨完就會煲滾佢
煲 bōu1 is used in Cantonese with the meaning of “to cook; to stew; to boil”. Here, 滾 gwán2 = “boil; boiling, boiled” is added as a kind of result particle: “to heat something to boiling point”. 滾 also suggests the idea of “rolling”. In other words, a full, rolling boil.

煲滾, 噉我哋會加石膏
石膏 sehk6 gōu1 = gypsum

令佢凝固
凝固 yìhng4 gu3 = to congeal; to coagulate; (?) to set (firm)

出邊嗰啲呢

因爲佢哋製造方式同我哋 / 有啲 (?) / 唔同

唔係用石膏呀

係用 ah 第種機器去代替
In Cantonese, 第 daih6 can express the idea of “another; different”, hence the compound 第種 daih6 júng2 = (?) another kind. You will also find it in 第日 = another day, 第樣 = another kind and 第度 = somewhere else; some other place.

所以做出嚟呀,就係同我哋 / 係少少 (?) / 出入
出入 chēut1 yahp6 = discrepancy; inconsistency; divergence

佢都係滑
The adjective 滑 waht6 usually means “slippery”, hence all those notices you see about 小心地滑! Here, however, it seems to refer to the silky smooth texture of the tofu pudding.

但係佢 / 冇嗰種嘅 (?) / 口感
口感 háu2 gám2 = how food feels in the mouth; texture or taste of food (Sheik)

/ 冇嗰種嘅 (?) /荳香味
荳香味 dauh6 hēung1 meih6 = (?) the appealing/sweet taste of soybeans

最主要我本人對呢啲嘅食品行好有興趣
食品行 sihk6 bán2 hòhng4 = (?) food products industry

咁啱去到96年呢,就有個機會

噉我就接手做咗呢一間公和荳品
接手 jip3 sáu2 = to take over

一路做到而家

我哋呢度呢,就老中青都有㗎
老中青 lóuh5 jūng1 chīng1 = the elderly, the middle-aged and the young; people of all ages

甚至乎/ ? / 近十年八年亦都有好多游客嚟度幫襯
幫襯 bōng1 chan3 = patronage; (?) to patronize (a particular shop or business)

好多都話,好食過當地 / 嗰啲 (?) /

又佢哋有啲每次嚟香港旅游呢

都會專程嚟呢度
專程 = jyūn1 chìhng4 = special-purpose journey; (?) to make a special trip

Ah 食 / ? / 次或者兩次先至會搭飛機返去

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (3)

Audrey Heijns_Tai Po Lam Gei Chaa Siu CROPPED_30 MAR 2020

83, Winter

When the weather is cold, a plate of lap-mei rice can make you particularly warm. After such a meal, you feel a warmth all over. If it’s even colder, you’ll see hotpot and claypot rice for sale in the street. The flickering flames resist the cold.

*   *   *

I don’t much like winter, it’s like I am more slow-witted, more sluggish in winter. Someone says: ‘you’re always sluggish, it’s got nothing to do with winter!’ When I think it over, that does make some sense.

*   *   *

No matter what, when the hot weather is gone, the cold weather comes along, and the street scene changes. Winter, whether you like it or not, always arrives on time, just like TV commercials, debt collectors, toothache, and bad luck.

Note: lap-mei rice is a traditional Cantonese dish of preserved meat with rice cooked in a clay pot.

 

83 冬天

天氣寒冷的時候吃臘味飯,特別感到暖。吃了彷彿整個人就暖和起來。再冷一點,你在街頭就可以看見火鍋和煲仔菜。晃動的火光,對抗寒冷。

我不大喜歡冬天,在冬天裡,人也好像呆一點,遲鈍一點。有人說:「你平時也是那麼遲鈍的了,關冬天什麼事?」想想又有道理。

不管怎樣,每年熱天去了冷天就來,街頭又有一番景象。冬天,不管你喜歡不喜歡,照樣準時來臨,像電視的廣告、像收賬的人、像牙痛、像噩運。

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Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste

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● Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

Photograph: Lam’s Cha-siu, Tai Po (Audrey Heijns)

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (2)

Ye Si Cover Image 1_21 MAR 2020

46, Taste

The taste of coffee has gone bland. In the past one spoon of powder was enough for one cup of coffee. Now with one and a half spoon the coffee is still weak. Has the quality deteriorated? Or am I losing my sense of my taste?

*   *   *

The taste of coffee has gone bland. The taste of films is getting salty. The words in the newspaper are getting sour. People’s talk is getting spicy.

*   *   *

As time goes by it’s getting difficult to trust your own taste buds. Have you changed or has the flavour of things changed? In the restaurant, someone is madly putting salt on everything, someone else pours a thick layer of ketchup on his steak. Take a bite and you can’t tell whether you are eating vegetables or meat, if it’s carnivorous or vegetarian.

Note: In Cantonese 鹹 hàahm or “salty” can also mean “pornographic; lecherous”.

 

46 味道

 咖啡的味道淡了。以前一匙的咖啡粉便夠味道,現在一匙半還是淡淡的。是不是咖啡粉的質素差了?還是我的口味變了?

咖啡的味道淡了。電影的味道越來越鹹了。報刊的文字越來越酸。人的說話越來越辣。

日子久了,你越來越不相信你的味蕾。是你變了,還是事物的味道變了?在餐室裡,一個人拼命灑鹽,一個人在牛排上倒下厚厚的番茄醬。嚼一口,你分不出是菜還是肉、是葷是素。

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Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

A Tea House that Makes Dim Sum with Heart

Zolima City Mag Dim Sum Image 1_13 MAR 2020

Zolima City Mag recently posted a new short video on YouTube.

Called “A Tea House that Makes Dim Sum with Heart”, the clip deals with a small dim sum restaurant called 叁去壹 (“Three Minus One”) in 西營盤 Sai Ying Pun. It’s a finely crafted piece, and is almost as satisfying as a serve of prawn haa gaau dumplings! The camera and editing by Kevin Cheung is superb, and the interviewer Zabrina Lo does a great job in bringing out the rather quietly spoken chef, 王燦枝 Wong Charn-chee. There’s also a very moody soundtrack that complements the urban imagery brilliantly ⸺ the musicians responsible also deserve recognition for their efforts!

There are subtitles in English and Standard Written Chinese, and there are some valuable language points in the Cantonese, including the use of the verb 頂 déng2; an instance of 拍檔 paak3 dong3; and a couple of uses of the colloquial numbers, 卅呀一年 and 卌呀一年.

You can view the video here.

The complete Cantonese transcript is as follows:

「叁去壹」本身就唔係我開嘅

● Both 叁 and 壹 are more formal characters representing the much more familiar 三 and 一 respectively.

就有一個朋友開嘅
就1978年嗰陣時
因爲佢本身就三個人嚟頂呢度做

● 頂 déng2 = to substitute; to replace; to take the place of

噉臨時有一個拍檔呢

● 臨時 làhm4 sìh4 = at the time when sth. happens (compare 到時 dou3 sìh4); (?) at the last minute
● 拍檔 paak3 dong3 = a partner (in a business venture)

佢就個老豆叫佢唔好幫人哋咁樣做生意啊咁
唔得啊咁
噉佢就臨時退出
噉嗰兩個咪改呢個名叫「叁去壹」喇

● The use of 咪 maih6 here is very colloquial and one that I haven’t seen explained in any textbook on Cantonese. Sheik Cantonese has “(often used with 囉) then; as a result; might just as well”. Here, it goes seem to mean more or less the same as 就 jauh6, “then”.

我 14 歲入行㗎啦,做點心

Zolima City Mag Dim Sum Image 3 CROPPED_15 MAR 2020

Continue reading “A Tea House that Makes Dim Sum with Heart”

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (1)

Audrey Heijns_Rainy Mong Kok

21, Cold after the rain

There’s a glass pane in the restaurant facing the street. The people sitting inside can see a middle-aged man walking past slowly. He turns his head to one side, and casts a slanting glance inside. From the outside one can see a man sitting in a compartment seat staring out the window.

*   *   *

Outside the delivery van is unloading soft drink. Women, who bought groceries, carry baskets passing by. A Pakistani with a turban also walks by. It’s busy in the street, and crowded, the road is wet after the rain. The humid feeling indoors is the lamp light reflected in the glass of water that is half-empty.

*   *   *

People outside can’t hear the gentle music inside. People inside can’t feel the cold after the rain.

 

21 雨後的寒意

餐室有一副玻璃,對着大街。坐在裡面的人,看見外面一個中年男子緩緩走過,側着頭,斜斜地往裡面睨一眼,在外面走過的,看見裡面卡座位上一個男子,呆呆地望着外面。

外面汽水車正卸下汽水。買菜的婦人,挽著籃子走過,一個纏着頭的巴基斯坦人走過。路上熱鬧、擠擁,下過雨的地面,濕漉漉的。室內的濕意,是燈光反映在喝剩的半杯水上。

外面的人,聽不見裡面輕柔的音樂。裡面的人,不知道外面雨後的寒意。

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● Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

 

Photograph: Rainy Mong Kok (Audrey Heijns)

Pak Tai, True Soldier of the North

Pak Tai Image 2_1 MAR 2020

I came across this excellent short video in Cantonese made by Hong Kong Taoist TV on the god 北帝 Pak Tai when searching for material about the island of 長洲 Cheung Chau. Pak Tai is an important figure in connection with the festivities that take place there every year in the Fourth Lunar Month. Unlike Gwun Yam and Tin Hau, however, he seems to be a very remote and forbidding divinity. Yet perhaps he has a more carefree side: the bare feet and long-flowing hair perhaps hint at such a possibility . . .

Grammar points to look out for include the following. Firstly, there is a good example of tone-changing involving the character 廟. The pronunciation given for this character in dictionaries is mìuh4: hence 廟宇 mìuh4 yúh5 = temple. However, as the last element in the name of an actual temple (e.g.北帝廟), it is pronounced in the high-rising tone míu4*2.

There is one sentence in which 廟 appears on its own ⸺ 喺廟入面有一座鑄於萬曆三十二年; to me this sounds as if it is pronounced HR (because it is an abbreviated form of the name of the temple?), but I may be wrong.

Secondly, there is a special Cantonese use of 落 lohk6 in the sentence 從山水流落灣仔再出大海. Here 落 is similar to 到 dou3 in its expression of “arrival”, but suggests that the movement is vertically downwards rather than horizontal.

Finally, there are some good examples of some of the less common tone combinations to listen for:

HL + ML: 北帝 bāk1 dai3; 披髮 pēi1 faat3
LF + ML: 神將 sàhn jeung3
LF + HL: 全稱 chyùhn4 chīng1; 玄天 yùhn4 tīn1; 群魔 kwàhn4 mō1; 留低 làuh4 dāi1; 民間 màhn4 gāan1; 平安 pìhng4 ōn1; 長洲 chèuhng4 jāu1
LL + ML: 上帝 seuhng6 dai3; 道教 douh6 gaau3; 護法 wuh6 faat3; 備至 beih6 ji3; 大帝 daaih6 dai3 (this also offers a good contrast between the vowel sounds aai and ai!)

Throughout the transcript, I have used brackets to show where the Cantonese voice-over differs from the subtitles in Standard Written Chinese,

Click here to watch the video. But you might like to read through the transcript first, just to get a handle on the language!

Continue reading “Pak Tai, True Soldier of the North”

Wide World of Steam (Noodle Shop, Sheung Shui 上水)

Faa Paau Tuen Tsz Wai Tuen Mun

In their perspex hutch cooks rustle up
a galaxy of dumplings and noodles.
A waitress in gumboots
gives me the stern-eye test — she softens
when I stammer out my order comprehensibly
(Sai leih 犀利, she mutters to her customer-
theatre). There’s a great big board up there on the wall
in place of a menu, badly amended
with the usual afterthoughts,
and a squeeze of round stools round thin, plywood tables
which people are forced — amicably —
to share. I get my cold cup of soy-milk
and a bowl of hot broth snaked with white hoh 河 (river) noodles;
beneath them, submerged, tight knuckles of pork
and prawn-meat wantonly glisten.
It is then I sit back at my wide rim of steam
lost in sub-animal comfort.

 

Photograph: 香港屯門屯子圍 Tuen Tsz Wai, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong (2016)