Cha Chaan Teng Lingo
No hablar Cha Chaan Teng lingo? Then get out.
Okay, not that rude – but you may have come across a few waiters who’ve given you the death stare when you asked for a menu, or responded with “um, I’m not sure yet” when dining at a local cha chaan teng (local Cantonese restaurant).
Judging from how fast people walk and talk in Hong Kong, it’s no surprise locals order their meals in a speedy manner via abbreviations!
So fear no more – with our easy-to-remember local dishes, next time you enter a cha chaan teng you’ll have your order placed and in the system without even being seated yet.
1. ICED COFFEES
We all love our coffees a certain way and you have all the right to be picky (hey, you’re paying them right?) So, if you want your coffee with less sugar and less ice, instead of saying it in a complete sentence, abbreviate it.
Coffee = Ga Fei (咖啡)
Iced Coffee = Dong Fei (凍啡)
Less Ice = Siu Bing (少冰)
Less Sugar = Siu Tim (少甜)
Regular = Zing Seung (正常)
So if you want iced coffee with less sugar, you’ll say: Dong Fei Siu Tim (Iced Coffee, Less Sugar)
Or iced coffee with less ice, you’ll say: Dong Fei Siu Bing (Iced Coffee, Less Ice)
Not as complicated as you thought right? Once you get the hang of this, just apply the same rules to iced lemon tea (Dong Ling Cha) and iced milk tea (Dong Lai Cha)!
2. SANDWICHES (San Mun Dzi – 三文治)
As much as we love our pork cutlet rice and char siu fried rice, sometimes a simple egg spam sandwich hits the spot. Just like an outfit, a sandwich can be mixed and matched any way you like it. Toasted, with egg, no spam…you get the picture.
The easy way to do it is to know the individual ingredients first, then combine them with each other.
Take this list of sandwich ingredients:
Egg = Dan (蛋)
Spam = Chan Yok (餐肉)
Ham = Fo Tui (火腿)
Cheese = Dzi Si (芝士)
Corn Beef = Ham Ngau Yok (咸牛肉)
The thing to remember here is whatever you are ordering; you always end with the character “Dzi” which is the last character for “sandwich”.
Don’t panic – here are some examples:
Spam-Egg-Sandwich = Chan Dan Dzi,
Chan = Spam, Dan = Egg, Dzi = Sandwich
Ultimately, you’re ordering an Spam-egg-wich.
Ham-Egg-Sandwich = Tui Dan Dzi,
Tui = Ham, Dan = Egg, Dzi = Sandwich
Corn Beef-Cheese-Egg-Sandwich = Ham Ngau Dzi Dan Dzi
Ham Ngau = corn beef, Dzi = cheese, Dan = egg, Dzi = sandwich
That’s Corn beef-chee-egg-wich.
Oh, and don’t forget – if you prefer your sandwiches TOASTED, then say Hong Dai (烘底).
Now with a basic knowledge of Cha Chaan Teng lingo, it’s time to put this to the ultimate test. Do make me proud, I beg you.
Jessica Tryde, born in Australia, bred in Taiwan, is a creative English copywriter living in Hong Kong. Her job includes whipping out creative ideas and digital executions. During her spare time, you’ll find her weight lifting in the gym, training for a gladiatorial bloodbath in a Muay Thai class or attempting to perform a yoga pose. If not working out, you’ll find her mingling with the locals at the wet market or reading at a local Hong Kong café.