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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Char Kway Teow (edited)

Ah yes, nothing beats the satisfaction of finding the answer to a question that has been niggling at the back of my mind.

Hong Kong visitors to our little booger-like island are known to rave about the pandan cakes, Kaya and Hainanese Chicken Rice, and yet our famed Char Kway Teow (
stir-fried rice noodle) is conspicuously missing from their food list. Yes, the same Char Kway Teow that Anthony Bourdain religiously savours whenever he steps foot on our island is snubbed by our Hong Kong friends. It's simply baffling.

Being health conscious would be a probable explanation, if not for the fact that they have an even unhealthier diet than we do. (Anyone interested in some Beef Siew Mai, Chicken intestine noodles or Stewed beef tripes?) The notion that they do not like the taste and texture of Kway Teow doesn't hold either, as it is simply a variation of the Hor Fun and Chee Cheong Fun that they are so fond of.

So why oh why then, our Hong Kong friends are so indifferent towards this dish of ours? If it wasn't for my colleague who let me in on the reason, I would probably bring this niggling little puzzle into my coffin. The answer is really simple, and it got to do with the fascinating and yet sometimes frustrating deviation of pronunciation between the Chinese language, and its various dialect subsets.

The Chinese characters for Char Kway Teow is written as 炒粿条(Chao Guo Tiao in Hanyu Pinyin), which literally means stir fried rice strips. Char Kway Teo is the Hokkien pronunciation for the words, and widely accepted as the name of the dish. Even the local Cantonese would refer to it as Tzao Kwai Diu, with the words Kwai Diu loosely modeled after the phonics of the Hokkien pronunciation. However to the Hong Kong chaps who have no inkling on the colloquial pronunciation to the words 炒粿条, they simply pronounce the words at it appears to them which ultimately causes their less than favorable perception towards the dish.

As it appears, 炒粿条 is pronounced as Tzao Gor Tiu in proper Cantonese. And with such uncanny coincidence, Gor Tiu shares the same pronunciation as a Cantonese euphemism ("that piece") for penis.
So unless the delicacy of stir-fried penises whets your appetite, I can fully empathize the indifference displayed by our Hong Kong friends towards the plate of Char Kway Teow.

Edit: Maybe the Hong Kong fellas do enjoy eating penises after all.

(Not so) Random Picture of the Day

Stir - Fried Penises with extra lards. Nice.

posted by Stormtrooper's Lackey at 10:35 PM


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