Buying groceries at wet market

in Hong Kong / meat

Today I want to talk about buying groceries in Hong Kong. Buying groceries is 買餸 (Dummy PY: My Sung) Buying groceries in Hong Kong can be very challenging! I remember the first time trying to buy BBQ pork 叉燒 (Dummy PY Char Siu) for my mother. My mom told me to get少少(Dummy PY: Siu Siu), a little bit, I essentially got yelled at by the butcher because he said 少少(Dummy PY: Siu Siu), a little bit didn’t tell him how much I wanted. So I quickly went like, ok, please get me 二十蚊 (Dummy PY: Yee Sap Men) $20 HKD, roughly $3 USD, so I brought it home to my mom, and she said it was too much.

Couple of people in Hong Kong that are from mainland China told me when they had to go get groceries they needed to speak Cantonese because the people at the wet market 街市 (Dummy PY: Guy See) couldn’t understand Mandarin, and they were really nervous having to speak Cantonese. However, apparently people at the wet market 街市 (Dummy PY: Guy See) were very nice to them and even gave them extra goodies here and there. I was like, no way! That’s a little unfair, how come I got yelled at and they got extra goodies. Perhaps they were pretty so they got the better hand there.

Ok, so let’s talk about 買餸 (Dummy PY: My Sung), this might be helpful to people all over the world as well when you go to asian marts, some workers are Cantonese speaking, although some are Mandarin speaking. But it doesn’t matter. My husband goes to the asian groceries store and speaks cantonese with the Mandarin speaking butcher, my husband only speaks English and OK Cantonese, but for some miraculous reasons they could understand each other, and he can bring the right food back. So I just thought it was interesting.

First let’s talk a little about going to the butchers then, whenever my husband thinks of Hong Kong, the imagery of the butcher 豬肉佬(Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Low) literally means Pig meat Man, is imprinted in his mind. The butcher doesn’t have to sell pig necessarily to be called 豬肉佬(Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Low). He/ she could be selling beef as well. The typical imagery of a 豬肉佬(Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Low) would be that he, not necessarily a she here, is topless, wearing an apron, with a cigarette at the corner of his mouth and with a butcher knife in hand. Of course that’s the typical imagery. Nowadays at the wet market 街市 (Dummy PY: Guy See) you are not even supposed to smoke. Again, much like at a restaurant, you will refer to the butcher if he is male 阿哥(Dummy PY: Ah Gor) / 哥仔 (Dummy PY: Gor Jai), basically calling him bro/ brother. But don’t call him 豬肉佬(Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Low) unless you know he is ok with it. The name itself can be seen carrying a negative connotation for some who think that perhaps they should be given a more politically correct name of the occupation. Just remember he has a butcher knife in his hand and he has been butchering animals perhaps 1 - 2 times our weight, I am just kidding. Again for a female butcher, just like at the restaurant, you can call her 靚女 (Dummy PY: Lang Nui) meaning pretty lady or 阿姐 (Dummy PY: Ah Je) like sister. Ok for the different cuts, for example Pork chop, 豬扒 (Dummy PY: Chu Pa), 豬 (Dummy PY: Chu) is pork or pig, 扒 (Dummy PY: Pa) means fillet or cutlet. Also the term 豬扒 (Dummy PY: Chu Pa) in Hong Kong, not quite sure about other Cantonese speaking places, this term is used to refer to ugly girls. A little degrading, but it’s good to know so you know if someone is saying terrible things. Another pretty common cut would be 豬肋骨 (Dummy: Chu Lak Guit) Pork ribs. 肋骨 (Dummy PY: Lak Guit) is ribs, 骨 (Dummy PY: Guit) means bone. Another common cut would be 豬腩肉(Dummy Chu Lam Yuk), you remember 豬肉(Dummy PY: Chu Yuk) from 豬肉佬(Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Low) means pork. 腩(Dummy: Lam) means belly. Oh yes & 豬腩肉(Dummy Chu Lam Yuk) also can mean like people’s belly fat in Hong Kong. You know how i English sometimes we call the belly fat rolls? In Hong Kong it’s called 豬腩肉(Dummy Chu Lam Yuk). Finally, minced pork is 豬肉碎 (Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Sui) 碎 (Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Sui) means shattered or ground. Lastly, for pork knuckles, we call it 豬手 (Dummy PY: Chu Sau) Literally pig hand.

Very good. The weight unit in Hong Kong, we use 斤 (Dummy PY: Gun) 兩 (Dummy PY: Leung) and克 (Dummy PY: Huck) means grams. 斤 (Dummy PY: Gun) 兩 (Dummy PY: Leung) they are our own unit system. Essentially I checked the conversion, 斤 (Dummy PY: Gun) would be 604.8 grams, and we have 16 兩 (Dummy PY: Leung) in 1 斤 (Dummy PY: Gun). for 兩 (Dummy PY: Leung) it would be 37.8 grams. But that’s probably not as helpful for Cantonese learners overseas. Where I am at, they usually go with 磅 (Dummy PY: Bong) meaning pounds. Pretty close in pronunciation in English. And 公斤 (Dummy PY: Gung Gun) will be kilograms. So, in full sentences, if you were to get pork belly for example, in Cantonese it will be:


(Dummy PY: Um Goy, Ngo Sheung Yiu Yat Gung Gun Chu Lam Yuk)

Literally: Excuse me, I want to have 1 kg of Pork belly.

唔該, 我想要一磅豬腩肉

(Dummy PY: Um Goy, Ngo Sheung Yiu Yat Bong Chu Lam Yuk)

Literally: excuse me, I want to have 1 pound of pork belly.

Perfect! Moving onto beef. Beef is 牛肉 (Dummy PY: Ngau Yuk). The word 牛 (Dummy PY: Ngau) might be hard to pronounce. To pronounce this Ng- consonant, your back part of your tongue needs to first stick to your throat, that dangling thingy inside your mouth. Then you make a ow/ au sound. Try it. Ok, for groceries, just like Pork chop, 豬扒 (Dummy PY: Chu Pa), steak is called 牛扒 (Dummy PY: Ngau Pa) like I mentioned 扒 (Dummy PY: Pa) means fillet or cutlet. And 牛 (Dummy PY: Ngau) obviously means cow/ ox/ beef. Therefore steaks are called 牛扒 (Dummy PY: Ngau Pa). let’s talk about my favourite cut, beef belly, basically the brisket. Much like 豬腩肉(Dummy Chu Lam Yuk), 腩(Dummy: Lam) means belly. For beef belly, the brisket, we simply call it 牛腩 (Dummy PY: Ngau Lam). Another one of my favourite, it’s the Ox tail. In Cantonese we call it 牛尾 (Dummy PY: Ngau May), 尾 (Dummy PY: May) means tail or the last/ tip of something. Finally, the must have for hotpot 打邊爐 (Dummy PY: Da Bean Low), I guess it’s like Shabushabu but Chinese version, you must NOT NOT have 肥牛 (Dummy PY: Fey Ngau) which is thinly sliced beef, 肥 (Dummy PY: Fey) means fat. The opposite of 肥 (Dummy PY: Fey) fat is 瘦 (Dummy PY: sau)thin, or skinny. But! Don't try to 瘦牛 (Dummy PY: Sau Ngau) skinny beef, first of all, I think they probably won’t understand what it is you are trying to buy. Secondly, perhaps if the sliced beef doesn’t have any fat, it probably will be a little tougher in texture. If you would like the slice beef to have a little less fat then you will say, 瘦啲 (Dummy PY: Sau Dee), 啲 (Dummy PY: Dee) can mean “a little more/ less”), so when you say 瘦啲 (Dummy PY: Sau Dee) you are saying “a little skinnier” for whatever you are referring to. On the other hand, when you say 肥啲 (Dummy PY: Fey Dee), you are saying “a little fatter”.

Ok, as for chicken雞 (Dummy PY: Guy) , basically ever since the avian flu in 1997, the live chicken 活雞 (Dummy PY: Woot Guy) stores in 街市 (Dummy PY: Guy See) have been reduced down to around 120 stores left in Hong Kong. 活 (Dummy PY: Woot) means alive or living. Most people just simply buy chicken in the supermarket or grocery store超市 (Dummy PY: Chiu See),It’s short for 超級市場 (Dummy PY: Chew Cup See Cheung),超級(Dummy PY: Chew Cup) means super and 市場 (Dummy PY:See Cheung)means market, for the precut ones, or the frozen ones. Over the years the technology for storing frozen chicken has improved. It’s been pretty tough for the live chicken stores to be honest. As well, the cost of handling live chickens 活雞 (Dummy PY: Woot Guy) is higher than frozen chicken 冰鮮雞 (Dummy PY: Bing Seen Guy)。冰 (Dummy PY: Bing) means ice, 鮮 (Dummy PY: Seen) means fresh, so you can understand it as frozen fresh chicken.

But you can still get fish 魚 (Dummy PY: Yu)at the 街市 (Dummy PY: Guy See) in Hong Kong. Let me introduce some common nice fish to you. One of my favourites is pomfret 倉魚 (Dummy PY: Chong Yu). 倉 (Dummy PY: Chong) means storage. I am also not quite sure why it was named that. But pomfret 倉魚 (Dummy PY: Chong Yu) is really good when you lightly salt it and pan fry it. Next would be yellow croaker 黃花魚 (Dummy PY: Wong Fa Yu), the literal meaning for 黃花魚 (Dummy PY: Wong Fa Yu) is yellow flower fish. 黃 (Dummy PY: Wong) means yellow, 花 (Dummy PY: Fa) means flower. So you can already guess this yellow croaker 黃花魚 (Dummy PY: Wong Fa Yu) is yellowish. This fish is really good in so many cooking styles, steamed, pan fried, deep fried, you name it. Next, very famous in Hong Kong, 紅衫魚 (Dummy PY: Hung Sarm Yu), the golden threadfin bream. Literally Red shirt fish. 紅 (Dummy PY: Hung) means red, 衫 (Dummy PY: Sarm) means shirt. The base is red, it has several yellow lines running across it. Usually people either pan fry it or cook it in soup. But! Apparently, now 紅衫魚 (Dummy PY: Hung Sarm Yu) is listed as the protected fish now and it’s really expensive. Apparently it has reduced in numbers in recent years perhaps due to over catching and eating. Finally, 石斑 (Dummy PY: Shek Barn) Groupers. Usually 紅衫魚 (Dummy PY: Hung Sarm Yu) back in the days were way cheaper than 石斑 (Dummy PY: Shek Barn) Groupers, now it’s no longer the case. 石 (Dummy PY: Shek) means rock, and 斑 (Dummy PY: Barn)means pattern. So this fish likes to dig around the rocks and sand in the ocean, but not at all related to the word group in groupers. When you go to Cantonese Chinese restaurant, steamed 石斑 (Dummy PY: Shek Barn) is usually what you can get.

Perfect! That’s all I am talking about today. Let’s do some vocab.

Buying groceries - 買餸 (Dummy PY: My Sung)

BBQ Pork - 叉燒 (Dummy PY Char Siu)

Wet market - 街市 (Dummy PY: Guy See)

Supermarket - 超市 (Dummy PY: Chiu See)/ 超級市場 (Dummy PY: Chew Cup See Cheung)

Butcher - 豬肉佬(Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Low)

Brother/ Bro - 阿哥(Dummy PY: Ah Gor) / 哥仔 (Dummy PY: Gor Jai)

Sister - 阿姐 (Dummy PY: Ah Je)

Pretty lady - 靚女 (Dummy PY: Lang Nui)

Pork - 豬肉(Dummy PY: Chu Yuk)

Pork Chop - 豬扒 (Dummy PY: Chu Pa)

Pork ribs - 豬肋骨 (Dummy: Chu Lak Guit)

Pork belly - 豬腩肉(Dummy Chu Lam Yuk)

Ground / minced pork - 豬肉碎 (Dummy PY: Chu Yuk Sui)

Pork knuckle - 豬手 (Dummy PY: Chu Sau)

Beef - 牛肉 (Dummy PY: Ngau Yuk)

Steak - 牛扒 (Dummy PY: Ngau Pa)

Brisket - 牛腩 (Dummy PY: Ngau Lam)

Ox tail - 牛尾 (Dummy PY: Ngau May)

Thinly sliced beef - 肥牛 (Dummy PY: Fey Ngau)

Chicken - 雞 (Dummy PY: Guy)

Live chicken - 活雞 (Dummy PY: Woot Guy)

Frozen chicken - 冰鮮雞 (Dummy PY: Bing Seen Guy)

Pomfret - 倉魚 (Dummy PY: Chong Yu)

Yellow croaker - 黃花魚 (Dummy PY: Wong Fa Yu)

Golden Threadfin Bream - 紅衫魚 (Dummy PY: Hung Sarm Yu)

Grouper - 石斑 (Dummy PY: Shek Barn)

Hotpot - 打邊爐 (Dummy PY: Da Bean Low)

Measuring Unit for 604.8grams - 斤 (Dummy PY: Gun)

Measuring unit for 37.8 grams - 兩 (Dummy PY: Leung)

Grams - 克 (Dummy PY: Huck)

Pound - 磅 (Dummy PY: Bong)

Kilogram - 公斤 (Dummy PY: Gung Gun)

A little bit - 少少(Dummy PY: Siu Siu)

Twenty dollars - 二十蚊 (Dummy PY: Yee Sap Men)

Fat - 肥 (Dummy PY: Fey)

A little fatter - 肥啲 (Dummy PY: Fey Dee)

Thin/ skinny - 瘦 (Dummy PY: sau)

A little thinner - 瘦啲 (Dummy PY: Sau Dee)

Excuse me, I want to have 1 kg of Pork belly.

唔該,我想要1公斤豬腩肉 (Dummy PY: Um Goy, Ngo Sheung Yiu Yat Gung Gun Chu Lam Yuk)

Excuse me, I want to have 1 pound of pork belly.

唔該, 我想要一磅豬腩肉 (Dummy PY: Um Goy, Ngo Sheung Yiu Yat Bong Chu Lam Yuk)