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!


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.


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

浸 jam3 = to soak; to immerse; to saturate; to steep; to dip

浸佢 ah 六個鐘頭喇

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.

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

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


因爲佢哋製造方式同我哋 / 有啲 (?) / 唔同


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

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

食品行 sihk6 bán2 hòhng4 = (?) food products industry


接手 jip3 sáu2 = to take over


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 (?) /


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

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:


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


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


● 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)


● 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”

Hong Kong Footpath: Interview in Cantonese with Kwan Chuk-fai (Part 1)

RTHK Hong Kong Footpath Gwaan Jak-fai Image

Among his many roles, 關則輝 Mr. Kwan Chuk-fai is currently Chairman of the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund (Labour and Welfare Bureau), a position which indicates something of his concern for social justice. In this interview with Candy 車淑梅 Chea Shuk Mui, he says some interesting things about the shape of a human life, and the need in one’s later years “to build for significance” rather than to stay rigidly focused on personal success. He even talks about the meaning of life:

噉中間叫乜嘢呢,係叫做 build for significance ,啫話有啲咩重要呢,有啲咩係我認為人生嘅, 咦,佢意義喺邊度呢?咩叫快樂呢?會問多好多呢啲嘅。噉你會諗吓,我點樣回饋社會呢?點樣去幫身邊嘅人呢?Ah 有啲咩我應該多做呢?咁樣。好啦,七十五歲以後呢,其實基本上你係留低一個人生嘅軌跡啦,嗄。 啲人諗起,呀呢個人,拜拜咗之後,其實我印象對佢係咩嘅呢咁樣。呢個係一個,啫你留低啲乜嘢精神面貌呀,嗄。噉我覺得呢, 人生係,都係約略咁樣嘅 . . .

So what is the middle stage called? It is called “build for significance”, which involves what I think is important, in what I think the meaning of human life resides. What is that thing called “happiness”? Lots of questions like this tend to get asked. And so you will begin to wonder about what you can do to give something back to society. About how you can help the people close to you. About what should do more of. Things like that. So that, OK, when you reach the age of 75, you have left a kind of track in life. When you’ve said bye-bye and shuffled off, people will think back and say to themselves, this is the impression I had of him. It’s a question of what kind of “spiritual appearance” you will leave behind you. And this is roughly what I think human existence is about.

There is plenty here for the learner of Cantonese. There are a couple of uses of that versatile aspect maker 住 jyuh6, as well as the final particle 噃 bo3. In terms of the vocabulary, you will hear the verb 湊 chau3 used in two different ways, as well as an unusual expression based on the English word “level”, 升「呢」sīng1 lē1. Other items of interest include 涉獵 sip3 lihp6 = (?) to dabble in, 司儀 sī1 yìh4 = master of ceremonies, 祖屋 jóu2 ngūk1 = ancestral home, and 均真 gwān1 jān1 = fair and just, as well as the four-character phrases 成家立室 sìhng4 gāa1 laahp6 sāt1 = to get married and establish a home, and 洗滌心靈 sái2 dihk6 sām1 lìhng4 = to cleanse one’s soul

Be sure to use the Sheik Cantonese website to check any item in this text: you can find their on-line Cantonese dictionary here. I will try to add more to the transcription in the coming weeks. In the meantime, any corrections or suggestions are welcome! This material is invaluable for learners of Cantonese, and it would be terrific if we could make it absolutely perfect.

To hear the interview, please click here.



Part 1A【1:42】

車淑梅:一個人,又或者一個嘅機構,甚至乎一個政府是否成功呢,我相信公關嗰個嘅能力是否夠強係非常非常之重要嘅。噉今日呢,呢位嘉賓,嗄 . . .【2:00】好犀利呀,嗄 . . . 噉多年嚟,大家都睇住佢,海陸空三軍,佢都係曾經涉獵過嘅,可以話呢,海陸空嘅大公關。而家呢,就係社會投資共享基金委員會嘅主席啦 , 咁 ,佢亦都係香港公共關係專業人員協會嘅會員喎, 仲係呢,就喺恆隆地產集團傳訊及投 . . . 記者關係嘅董事嚟㗎。我想大家已經知道佢係邊位喇。冇錯,係我哋嘅大公關關則輝先生,早晨!

●  公關 gūng1 gwāan1 = public relations
● 海陸空三軍 hói2 luhk6 hūng1 sāam1 gwān1 = the navy, the army and the air force; it seems that 陸海空三軍 is also used. I am not sure what the phrase means in this context; perhaps it goes with the verb 涉獵 sip3 lihp6 to suggest that he has tried a lot of different kinds of work.
● 涉獵 sip3 lihp6 = (?) to dabble in; to dip into (not always with a negative connotation)
● 踏腳石 daahp6 geuk3 sehk6 = stepping stone

Continue reading “Hong Kong Footpath: Interview in Cantonese with Kwan Chuk-fai (Part 1)”

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”

Cantonese through News Stories: The Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees

TVB Tai Po Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree Story_25 JAN 2020

In Hong Kong, it is still common practice to visit a temple to ask for help from nature spirits that dwell in a particular place, a place often indicated by an exceptionally beautiful-looking tree. The power of such spirits covers a number of aspects, including curing illness, divining future events, and helping people to make their wishes come true. Needless to say, many temples in Hong Kong are located in sites where powerful natural forces are concentrated.

The Wishing Trees of Lam Tsuen are located in a village called 放馬莆 Fong Ma Po, near the local Tin Hau Temple there. People have been going there for centuries at the time of the Lunar New Year to ask the trees to make their wishes come true, and a variety of ritual practices have arisen to cater for the needs of people seeking to bolster their fortune for the New Year.

There’s a lovely description of this tradition by Barbara Ward in Chinese Festivals:

Many traditionally minded people also make New Year expeditions to one of the several sites at which so-called “nature spirits” are believed to reside. A good example is in the Lam Tsuen Valley in the New Territories where a huge banyan tree is visited at this time by scores of black-clad Boat Women from Aberdeen, more than twenty miles away on the far side of Hong Kong island. In the evening when they have left, the banyan tree looks like a strangely off-centre Christmas tree festooned with paper gifts. (p.28)

Apart from a good deal of specific New Year vocabulary (all of it useful in its own way), the report also makes use of some other very handy items, including the idiom 再接再厲 joi3 jip3 joi3 laih6 and the often heard 人情味 yàhn4 chìhng4 meih6 = human interest.

Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: The Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees”

香港帶上面罩 / Hong Kong Face Masks

29750B75-E32F-4248-913E-AAEBBC41E229_White Moth_11 FEB 2020

其實最近我出街時都有諗,而家香港人一出街就帶口罩,將我哋嘅面部表情都遮住曬,唔知會唔會對我哋嘅文化、表情動作帶嚟影響,真係人人都帶住口罩做人,好奇怪嘅,你明知自己嘅表情,對方未必睇到,咁你使唔使表現出嚟,定會選擇別無表情。同時,我哋又好難睇到對方嘅反應,總覺得怪怪… 人與人之間嘅關係好似有小小影響咁…(不過可能係我諗多咗啦。)

Actually, just recently, whenever I’ve gone out, I’ve had the feeling that because we people in Hong Kong have to put on a face mask whenever we leave our homes, thereby completely hiding the expressions on our faces, there might be some effect on our culture, our facial expressions, on the gestures we use. Imagine if we all wore these masks: of course, you know what your own expression means, but the weird thing is, the person you might be talking to can’t necessarily see it. That being the case, is there any need to try and express something on your face, or should you choose to remain absolutely expressionless? By the same token, we cannot see the reactions on the face of the person we are talking to and that’s a strange thing, too . . . It seems as if it must have a small impact on our interpersonal relations . . . (Or perhaps I am just over-thinking things!)


Cantonese through News Stories: Joshua Wong Disqualified from November Elections

Joshua Wong Speech_29 OCT 2019


District council elections are (at the time of writing) still expected to go ahead in Hong Kong this Sunday, on 24 November. Joshua Wong Chi-fung, the young politician who has played an important role in the advocacy of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in America has, not surprisingly, been prevented from contesting. The reason for his exclusion? Perhaps the Orwellian word 思想警察 sī1 séung2 gíng2 chaat3 is a hint to us all . . .


13 new words:

裁定 chòih4 dihng6  = to rule (in a legal sense); ruling
曲解 kūk1 gáai2 = to misinterpret
政治理念 jing3 jih6 léih5 nihm6 = political belief(s)
審查 sám2 chàah4 = to investigate; to examine
政治篩選 jing3 jih6 sāi1 syún2 = political screening
理據 léih5 geui3 = argument
摒棄 bing3 hei3 = to discard; to reject; to abandon
綱領 gōng1líhng5 = programme
提倡 tàih4 chēung1 = to advocate; to promote
迫不得已 bīk1 bāt1 dāk1 yíh5 = have no other choice; have no alternative
詮釋 chyùhn4 sīk1 = to elucidate
擁護 yúng2 wuh6 = to endorse; to support

效忠 haauh6 jūng1 = to devote oneself heart & soul to; to pledge oneself to

*For correct jyutping romanization, you can cut and paste any Cantonese vocabulary in this post onto the Sheik Cantonese website.



Joshua Wong, a candidate in the district council elections for South Horizons West has had his nomination ruled as invalid by the returning officer. He is the only person running in this round of elections to have had his nomination ruled as being invalid on account of [his] political position.
Note: 屆 gaai3 is a measure word used with activities that occur on a regular basis. It is reminiscent of the English word “round”. In Cantonese 今屆 gām1 gaai3 = “this round”. It is also used in the sense of “this year’s . . .”, as in 今屆嘅香港小姐 = “this year’s Miss Hong Kong” and 今屆「狀元」 = “this year’s [crop of] ‘number one scholars’”.

Wong said he suspected it was political examination (? = witch-hunt), and was of the opinion that the returning officer had misinterpreted his political beliefs.
Continue reading “Cantonese through News Stories: Joshua Wong Disqualified from November Elections”