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chengb02

Cantonese Cooking & Traditions

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First, let me say I know this is not a food topic but I really need help with this, so to the forum host(s) I beg that you at least leave this topic here for a couple days before deleting it. :unsure:

I am starting Cantonese lessons soon :biggrin: and I need a GOOD English/Cantonese dictionary that contains traditional/orthodox Chinese characters, not a strictly Romanised/phonetic dictionary. I have done some searches but all I'm coming up with is phonetic dictionaries for Cantonese. The ones that contain Chinese characters are limited to the offical or "simplified" script with Mandarian pronounciation guides.

Can anyone recommend a good Cantonese-English dictionary that contains traditional/orthodox characters? Remember, recommended books need to still be in print. Thanks in advance!

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Sorry, I only have English to Chinese and Chinese to Chinese dictionaries at home. But I would suggest to make use of the dictionary(could input both Chinese and English, and give Chinese and English definitions) in Hong Kong Yahoo when you have lots of word to search up. Speaking of which, I forgot how to write most of the Chinese so I use the online dictionary a lot to find out how to write something. Good Luck in learning Cantonese! Actually I thought that Mandarin would be a more popular choice but.....

Edit: not Chinese to English, it should be English to Chinese.


Edited by Yuki (log)

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Yes, learning Mandarin would really be a more useful choice. Even Hong Kong is adopting the use of Mandarin (it's funny watching the translators speaking next to hosts on shows). My family is Cantonese, however, and I feel that I want to learn the first language I spoke - ever. Eventually, you'll probably need to learn Mandarin to communicate, though. I plan on learning Cantonese, and then learning Mandarin from there. I'm not too sure if I have the mental capacity to become multilingual though. English, Spanish(enough to pass me in school), Cantonese, Mandarin and various programming languages... Yikes. :wacko:

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I can listen to Mandarin and read simplified Chinese(it is usually pretty close to traditional Chinese), but the biggest problem is speaking it. There is no course available in my city for people with intermediate/advance background in other dialects of Chinese to learn Mandarin. I actually think that Mandarin would be easier to learn than Cantonese since there are more definite rules in speaking, writing, and perhaps pronounciation too. Cantonese is all about slang and there are just too many different "weird" things that are not really taught in school(I guess they just don't want us to learn the improper Chinese grammar but the slang are getting more popular these days in writing too. Although you would get an F if you write like that in an exam.).

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I actually think that Mandarin would be easier to learn than Cantonese since there are more definite rules in speaking, writing, and perhaps pronounciation too. Cantonese is all about slang and there are just too many different "weird" things that are not really taught in school(I guess they just don't want us to learn the improper Chinese grammar but the slang are getting more popular these days in writing too. Although you would get an F if you write like that in an exam.).

Cantonese is my native tongue. I agree that Mandarin is easier to learn than Cantonese for non-native speakers. However, Cantonese too has standard pronounciation for every word. Though it sounds very different from Mandarin pronounciation. The Pin-Yin system can guide one to pronounce very close to standard Mandarin. But such phonetic system doesn't really apply to the Cantonese dialect.

It is true that there is a formal use of the Chinese language (with Cantonese pronounciations), and the informal use (that's the daily conversation and dialogue which cannot be used in writings).

It would be extremely hard to learn the Cantonese language/dialect by only accessing an online dictionary. Imagine how one can learn English by just given an Oxford dictionary? And again, the Cantonese pronounciations are very difficult to be represented phonetically.

This is an online dictionary I use. It is not really a dictionary, but someone's translation project. It only offer pronounciation in Mandarin Pin-Yin, no Cantonese. It does use the classic character set.

http://chinese.primezero.com/

Some gadget manufacturers in Taiwan produce some pocket English/Chinese dictionaries. I bought one in Hong Kong back in 1999. They are pretty good, with Mandarin and Cantonese pronounciations and Chinese (classic) character displays. Now it's five year later, I am sure they have more advanced/comprehensive models. Just shop for them in some big Asian shopping malls (e.g. one in San Gabriel) or online.

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Well I don't plan on learning directly from the dictionary, I'll be taking lessons. The English-Cantonese dictionary would be a resource I could access. That's why I want one with traditional Chinese characters because memorizing them would be the hardest. When I took Japanese, as long as you can remember the hiragana and the katakana, you could get by because they are phonetic alphabhets.

I know Mandarin is the official language of the PRC and the simplified script is being instituted to increase literacy, but I need to pick up Cantonese to get along better in the local Chinese communities here in Canada. And here everyone speaks Cantonese. I don't think I could even find a teacher for Mandarin. :unsure:

To be honest, south-eastern Ontario is turning into one large Chinese community. Even in towns as small as Belleville (pop. 45,000) the most basic grocery stores carry pomello, chinese broccoli, daikon, bok choy (standard, Shanghai, AND baby!), and bitter melons yet do you think you could find an artichoke? Hell no! My fiancee is a teacher in a "non-asian community" of about 500 and four of her students are Chinese who speak little-to-no English. At the farmers market, in the summer, you can find locally grown chilies, Asian basil, daikon, and napa cabbage. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving the great selection and competative prices. :biggrin:

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Then a pocket English/Chinese dictionary may be handy for you. I haven't used mine for a while. I remember it has English->Chinese translations shown in traditional character set. There are different ways of inputting Chinese characters. One of which is phonetic, which means it lists out all the Chinese characters with the same pronounciations. It was handy for me because when I write Chinese essays, I could remember the sounds but not the characters. That helped. Now that I hardly write anything in Chinese any more... no need to use it...

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I recently find myself craving steamed pork patty.

I had it a lot as a kid, and I now live on the opposite coast from my grandmother and parents, none of who can articulate anything resembling recipe of course.

So I'm just trying to figure out where to start. I know there's minced pork, and water chestnuts, and other stuff.... Mushrooms? some sort of picked veg?

I don't even know... but I do know you mince it all together with some soy sauce and maybe some other stuff and then steam it, sometimes with an egg (plain or salted) on top.

Can anyone help me? Do people even know what I'm talking about?

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I assume you're talking about yook beng. No recipe, but when I was a kid I used to love haam yee yook beng - which did indeed have water chestnuts as well. Sometimes lap cheung made an appearance, or the preserved vegetable (but not often). Anyway, the stink of the haam yee would totally turn off my siblings, but for some reason I was into it. Still am.

Off the top of my head I'd guess minced pork mixed with soy, Worchestchire (sp?) sauce, sesame oil, corn starch, plus your additional ingredients, steamed for maybe 15-20 minutes? Dejah, Ben or one of the others will probably know better.

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That's right. Yook beng. I don't think I've had it with lap cheung.

Trying to think of what haam yee is. Salted something??

I've tried mincing random ingredients before, but a couple thing I get wrong are the propotions of meat to everything else, and the seasoning (often ends up either too bland or over salted). Short of soy sauce, I'm not sure what else goes in. Any oyster sauce?

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Haam yee = salt fish, those little dried yellow/golden scraps of unidentifiable fish that smell gross and (IMO) taste pretty good.

I'd guess no on the oyster sauce. Proportions - who knows, it's all eyeballing cooking anyway. I guess that's probably why your parents etc can't give you a recipe.

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Lean ground beef or pork, with pork being the heavy favourite, is the base. If you can do it, chop the meat yourself as the mouth feel is a lot nicer than commercial grinding. Chop using a food processor (electric) or the Chinese type, with a cleaver knife in each hand :biggrin: . Usually something salty is incorporated, mixed in or just laid on top of the meat. The salty component can be salt eggs, salt fish (haum yu), choong choy, jah choy, etc. Add a few drops of soy sauce (careful, because the flavouring ingredient is already salty), a scant tsp. of cornstarch, mix well, form into a flat patty in a semi-flat dish and steam till done. Just after you take it out of the steam, you may wish to add a few drops of sesame oil.

Some of the added highlighting ingredients could be:

for haum yu - slivers of ginger and scallions

for salt eggs - chives

for choong choy - a pinch of sugar

and so on.

Worcestershire sauce is N E V E R used in this very earthy home dish.

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Proportions - who knows, it's all eyeballing cooking anyway. I guess that's probably why your parents etc can't give you a recipe.

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For a silkier texture, add acouple tbsp oil along with the cornstarch, then stir the mixture with your chopsticks before adding other ingredients.

I like it with slivers of lap cheung, waterchestnut, rehydrated Chinese mushrooms and ginger. You can lay these on top of mix into the pork before steaming.

With ham yue, I mix up the pork, then lay chunks of the salted fish on top, lay some ginger on these, then a drizzle of oil on the fish and ginger.

Yoo bad I've had my supper of lap may fan...

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There you go - it's like putting out the Bat Signal. Cooking question? Ben and Dejah will come to the rescue, and right quick too.

I guessed the W-sauce for a source of "umami" shall we say. But thanks for setting it straight, Ben. I'm feeling a little proud that I guessed the rest, although Chinese marinades only deviate so far... :rolleyes:

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Thanks for the great advice. I guess maybe I just haven't made it enough times to even know where to start with the eyeballing. Maybe I'll try it this weekend and see.

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Water, I remember from somewhere that a little water is added to the meat along w/ corn starch, soy sauce, oil and a pinch of sugar. Grandma used to make it with salted egg most often, and salted fish at times. She also use a variety of preserved vegetables, too. An aunt of mine like to add mushroom, water chestnut and a little dried mandarin peel.

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Here's a recipe from a local cookbook that was put together by a group of Chinese women, including some of my relatives:

Steamed Minced Pork (Jing Ger Yook Bang)

1 lb. pork butt or pork steak, minced fine

4 fresh water chestnuts (mah tai), peeled & chopped. Can be omitted.

1 tsp. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbl. soy sauce

1 tsp. salad oil

Mix all together & put into a shallow dish. Steam for 45 minutes.

That's a basic recipe. You can add other things. I rather have salted fish (hom yue) with some shredded ginger root and a little oil on top before steaming the whole dish.

Make sure the hom yue is HOM!

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Wow, that's the first dish that my grandma taught her daughters when they got married. It is a dish that is pretty basic in Cantonese comfort food but it is hard to make a good one. Of course I still couldn't make a good one........

My family makes a version with pork, dried squid, and a bit of preserved vegetable. Grandma says that everything must be chopped by hand because the patty would be more "sticky". The patty is seasoned with sugar, salt, soya sauce, and corn starch. Also, add a bit of water to the patty. At last, grab the mixture by your hand and throw it down at a surface for a couple times.

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Dried squid...that's something new...must try that as I love the flavour and texture.

Preserved vegetables: mui choi + fresh chopped chilis+ fresh mint! or, ham choi and fresh ginger. So yummy. :wub: Must be the smell of Fall in the air.

You can also make the yook beng with chicken...same process of chopping and mixing, then adding mushroom, waterchestnut, lapcheung and ginger. Have never made it with preserved vegetables, tho'. Anyone?

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...... Have never made it with preserved vegetables, tho'. Anyone?

Of course. Use mui choy, chung choy, dai tau choy (the "big head" vegetable), or zha choy (the one preserved with chili). Steam them (choose one) with your minced pork patty.

If you make the porty patty with ham yue (salted fish), I would advise not to mix in the salted fish with the pork because it would just "dissolve" into the pork patty and you cannot feel the texture of the fish at all. Best to lay the salted fish on top of the patty when steamed.

I don't put extra water in the pork patty when marinating because during the steaming process, there will be plenty of water condensation deposit in the dish already.

I found that in modern days, using a food processor to grind/mix the pork patty is a good substitute to the traditional "throw it on the floor" method. Whether one should use double cleavers or meat grinders or food processors would depend on the preference on the "graininess" of the pork patty, from coarse to smooth.

You can also add a salted egg to the pork patty: separate the yolk and white. Mix the egg white in the pork patty when marinating. It will hold the patty better. Leave the egg yolk on top to steam with the pork patty.

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I think the important technique has not been touched on here-the fat part of the pork(should be about 20% by weight) should be chopped fine,but the meat should be trimmed, diced, salted,then pounded to a paste like texture with the back of a heavy cleaver, sprinkling with ginger and spring onion infused wine occasionally. Other ingredients are then added. I add a small pinch of soda. This is the only way to achieve a texture that is crisp and bouncy rather than mealy, which I don't like.

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I think the important technique has not been touched on here-the fat part of the pork(should be about 20% by weight) should be chopped fine,but the meat should be trimmed, diced, salted,then pounded to a paste like texture with the back of a heavy cleaver, sprinkling with ginger and spring onion infused wine occasionally. Other ingredients are then added. I add a small pinch of soda. This is the only way to achieve a texture that is crisp and bouncy rather than mealy, which I don't like.

You can achieve the crispy and bouncy texture without the baking soda. I do this by using my chopsticks and stiring the mixture vigorously round and round in the bowl after I've added all the seasonings, a little cornstarch, minimal amount of oil and stock or water. This method incorporates air pockets which in turn creates the bouncy texture. I do this with my beef dim sum balls...with my Kitchen-Aid and it produces great results.

Have to be careful with the baking soda. If not incorporated well, you could get a bitter tasting morsel. :smile:

Welcome muichoy. :biggrin: My maiden name was Choy. I have a cousin named Mui Jin...and the poor kid was was always teased and called Jin Mui Choy. :smile:

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One certainly can achieve the right texture without soda-but not without manually pounding the meat,though it's possible to use the plastic blade of the food processor.

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If I pounded the #@&* out of the pork until it is paste like, then I'd lose the desired texture: sticks together but still chopped meat rather than like the Wimpy Burgers of England.

God! I remember the first time I ate one of those...pork cardboard. :laugh::laugh:

I was happy (THEN, not now) to find McD's had an outlet in London...

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