Twin Ducks in a Teacup

I just published an article in praise of the cha chaan teng and my favorite Hong Kong beverage, yun yeung coffee-tea.

Eating In Hong Kong: the Cha Chaan Teng

by Daisann McLane


Twin Ducks in a Teacup: Hong Kong’s yun yeung coffee-tea

The Eskimos, so they say, have 12 different words for snow. Well, in Hong Kong, we have a dozen or more ways to say: Eat Here!

The variety of Cantonese words that mean “place to eat” is pretty amazing. Jau ga, jau lau, sihk sat, mihn sik, chaan teng, cha chaan teng.
Years ago, when I was studying Cantonese in New York’s Chinatown, I
remember how bewildered I was by it all. “But Mr. Wen,” I would ask my
septuagenarian teacher from Canton, “The lesson book says that a jau ga is a restaurant. But then it says jau lau also means restaurant?

“Yes, same,” Mr. Wen sighed patiently.

So, then, what about the chaan teng, I’d ask him. And the mihn sihk and mihn ga–are these restaurants, too?

“Yes,” he would nod, “Also restaurants.”

By this point, feeling like the dimmest student on the planet, I’d
stop with the questions. For years, I believed that the Cantonese
language had numerous ways to say “restaurant”, all of them more or
less interchangable.

Then I moved to Hong Kong.

Where I discovered that Hong Kong has as many different types of eateries as there are Cantonese words to describe them. …….

Read the full article on the International Herald Tribune’s website.

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