25 February 2010


Dear Chinese Guy.

I am Chinese myself and I watched a Chinese film The Knight of Gamblers, during a scene the hero is hypnotised by the special skill of Stephen Chow, and he imagines that he is seducing his female body guard 9 dragons. During the sequence she says "Sai bak bak," Which to my Chinese means to wash white white. While when after going to the gym and smelling awful my dad will tell me to "Chueng Leung," to wash ~ relieve.

What is the difference between these two expressions?

Gary Wong

Dear Gary

The film you are talking about is Knight of Gamblers starring Stephen Chow周星馳

You are correct about this in that there are two ways to say have a wash as follows:

洗白 xi bai bai places the emphasis on washing something very clean, thus the repetition of the word( 白)bai ~ i.e wash white white.

OTOH we have an often used expression which your dad uses when he tells you that you stink and should go for a wash.

沖涼 chong liang means to 'take a shower' to cool off or refresh yourself
沖 Rinse
涼 Relieve.

The difference is 洗白 白is sort of a cuter more infantile version of 沖涼 , some girls and women who are grown up will say this to pretend to be cuter than they really are. This works for a cute girl it may not work for a not so cute girl, but then Asian girls have this ability to look Kwai.

This if you say to your girl friend and or wife. I wouldn't say it to a wife you've been married to for years as she would think you are taking the piss or something. Chinese women are like that.

Essentially if a woman asks me to 洗白白, I reckon my chances of scoring with her are 99/100 and I will tear her clothes and do her straightaway in the shower, during and after the shower.

On the flip side if any guy a friend, colleague etc, except a parent if you happen to be 5 years old or younger tells me to 洗白白, I will probably punch him in the face as I think he is trying to as we say in the UK pull me and get me in the sack to probably pound my ass. Unless of course it was the rare situation if say I were working in a laundry and a customer came in with some white sheets then I suppose that would be acceptable circumstance to use this phrase male to male.

Of course these are not the only expressions about washing but they are the most common and you didn't ask me about those either. Like 桑拿 (sauna) but it'd take me forever and as per rule 5 or is it 6 I can't be bothered with that.

Course this only applies to Cantonese, as Mandarin speakers in Taiwan or in China outside Hong Kong and Guangzhou will instead say xi zao ( 洗 澡)

Hope to have helped you out there.

20 February 2010

Rusty Woks

Dear Chinese Guy

I cook quite alot [sic] for my wife as she loves stir fry, and I find a wok good for cooking these things. The big arse problem is that it always turns to rust real quick, what is wrong with my wok?.

Scott W.

Dear Scott W

This is a common complaint I hear when I worked in catering, on come on almost ALL chinese people have worked in catering at some point its just the way it is. Anyway, the issue is that you are not seasoning your wok and keeping it oiled. Woks are made from mild steel, stainless is too brittle for when chefs toss the food or clang the wok to clear it of food debris after cooking something. Or when chefs frequently lose their temper (it happens everywhere just look at Gordon Ramsey).

Stainless will shatter and thus we use mild steel woks. Mild Steel rusts like a bugger, with heat and moisture the process of rusting is acclerated as these act as a catalyst . Thus your shiny new wok from the shop turns into a bucket of rust before your eyes. Also as a side Stainless steel oddly enough things stick to stainless steel easier than mild steel thus needing more oil, more oil = more fat and more costs.

If you ever go to a take away place right at before they close you will probably piss the chef off immensely as he will have seasoned his woks meaning he has to do it all over again. You will see bright yellow flame reflections on the walls if the kitchen is nearby.

Essentially they do two things, they keep the wok oiled ALWAYS which means that once you wash it with detergent which carries away the oil the surface is exposed to the elements. To prevent this after washing scrubbing with detergent with a steel scouring pad we heat them up, so they go all blue let them cool a little then put some oil and pan it around so that the inside is covered with a thin layer of oil.

Some people will suggest having a small amount of water in the wok as you heat it up until it cooks off into dancing beads of water and thus cooks off, I don't like to do this as it takes longer and I am incredibly impatient. Also it costs more gas as well as the fact that the water has been known to vaporise into steam burning your face off.

An alternative method is to use some kitchen towel soaked in oil and rub it in but because the wok is hot you may burn yourself.

The back of the wok should be covered in a thin layer of carbon which seals the back of the wok too. Hence it is not exposed to the air from either side and therefore it should not rust if you do it properly. You then leave it somewhere until the next use.

There is another technique that says stick the wok in the oven, which takes ages, is dangerous costs lots of gas or electricity and requires a big oven. While my hob technique is fast and works.

Somebody might ask why not use teflon woks? The problem is teflon pans are cooler than steel woks. With steel woks I have seen oil spontanously combust and burn somebody's face off while a teflon pan I can keep on the hob for hours and the oil never bursts into flames. Also that teflon even the modern kitchen implement resistent type is no match for the cooking and the teflon will peel off and go into the food which as you may imagine would be bad.

The Chinese Guy accepts NO liability for the advice given above and if you set yourself on fire its your own fault.

Red packets?

Dear Chinese guy.

Why do Chinese people give each other red packets at new years? , When is the last day you can give them and who has to give them and why? How much has to be in them? My local Chinese take away gives them to children now and again.


Dear Jim

The custom of giving red packets is an old Chinese tradition, and in the Chinese Guy's experience it is plainly extortion from children to elders, its supposed to be giving them good luck and to buy something they enjoy and thus saving on you having to trawl through shops and buy stuff for them. Instead they go out and buy stuff for themselves which is efficient right since you may buy them I dunno last year's Ipod or something equally as uncool.

In that as with the last post

“Kung Hey Fat Choy”, meaning “Congratulations and Be Prosperous”, is something that people say to each other in Cantonese during the Chinese New Year.

Some children and even some adults, especially evil co-workers will playfully follow that with “Lai See Dow Loi”, meaning, “Give me red packet money!” Which as you may notice is rather impolite as it is a demand.

How much money you have to put them depends on how close they are in your family how wealthy YOU yourself are and also how important face is to you. In Chinese culture face is INCREDIBLY important. This might be something to do with what the Korean says in some of his posts. In that China has been an agricultural society for 1000s of years and thus were usually centred around small villages were everybody knew each other. From the dawn of time you needed to have the respect and earn the keep of your village or perish. This stuck with Chinese people through their modern lives as society and technology may change but ingrained value systems take longer. This oddly cuts two ways in asking for them is seen as cheap ass, while giving Lee see with pennies in them is also seen as cheap ass too, and thus a balance is struck that people generally do not ask (but do expect) and give out modest amounts of money $20 $50 is common in HK (about £1.50 and £3.80) as they will typically buy a nice snack.

If you look back into history in the 1954 great leap forward famine saving face contributed greatly to this. In that peasants were encouraged to exaggerate their harvests to save face, they were even encouraged to destroy their crops tearing them up from productive fields to replant them into show fields, so that when Mao came along to have a look it looked good, Mao then went off home happy that production was so great. Unfortunately the crops died and the villages starved badly. This was exacerbated by the fact that Stalin (who put Mao in power) pissed off Mao in 1951 after refusing to give him Mig Support over all of Korea that would have won the Korean War in favour of the North. And the USSR asked for its $400,000 back (a fortune in 1950) Mao thought the harvests are bumper and robbed the already starving peasants. Hence face is important. Therefore sticking a penny in them would be considered a grievous loss of face. Which is why I call it extortion.

But general guidelines are this:

  • £5-£10: For close family members more for your own children
  • £2-£5: For non-close family members.
  • 50p-£1: For children of friends depending on how close they are.
You may want to revise up or down depending on your wealth!, remember Hong Kong has no minimum wage laws, and the wages at the bottom can be very very low low as $9 an hour if you work it out on an hourly basis so don't be TOO harsh if somebody gives you a small amount.

The tactic that my dad uses is that he carries red packets of varying value in different pockets and as he walks around town meeting people he knows he hands them out from various different pockets as to different amounts.

The other tactic is just to stay in for the duration! , in that although traditionally it is something to be done i.e. go visit family and friends there is no hard and fast rule about this. In that nothing says you cannot be a hermit, if you manage to dodge your entire family for 15 days then there is no need to give them out. This is harder than it sounds as HK is a small place.

However here is the good news, in that if you aren’t married there is absolutely NO need to give out red packets, none at all. The reason for this is that marriage is seen as an act of maturity and thus only mature adults should be giving this out. This applies even if you are divorced or widowed in that you have hit that yardstick and thus are doomed forever to have to give them out.

The last day to give them out is the 15th day after new years, which is the 28th in 2010, and it is not really kosher to be giving them out other than for say birthdays and such like. I do not give them out because I am both broke and unmarried.

I would note that even if you are not married, it is seen as semi acceptable to give Lee See to people if they are broke as it is seen as a more acceptable means of charity rather than outright giving to people. However since The Chinese Guy's friends are mostly non Chinese and or are broke themselves this is pointless.

As a side note there is a variation of this, called Hell Lai See, in that you stuff hell money into lai see, which is very very bad, to make it even worse, you can singe the corners of the money.

Note the big demoninations, they obviously have a hyperinflation problem in hell you know. This money is intended to be burnt which then appears in the hands of your dead relatives, if you stuff a lai see full of these things with singed corners it is like wishing cancer on somebody. In Feb 2009 somebody sent 2000 of these things to Wong Tai Seen police station and scared the hell out of supersticious chinese folk. It is the direct opposite of normal Lai see and it is to give them bad fortune, it is incredibly rare to be given one as the giver is often seen as deserving of some bad luck too so far I have never ever been given one even though with my non immediate family I am mostly enemies with.

14 February 2010

Happy new year

Today is the new Chinese year

If you were born in : 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938, 1926, 1914.

You are a tiger, I won't beat about the bush about this because there are a million sites devoted to what this means, but since the Chinese Calendar started in 2600BC, effectively in Chinese lore it is the year 4610 or something like that.

However if you are Chinese Happy new Year .新年快乐!

As an added bit,


This is different to happy new year, in effect it means have a prosperous new year. This is often mistaken for happy new year in Chinese. However in Chinese culture money is synominous with happiness and therefore they can easily be interchanged. If you say :

.新年快乐!(San Leen Fai Lok) or Kung Hei Fat Choi, a Chinese person generally won't mind and will get the gist of what it is you are attempting to wish them.

10 February 2010

Is Hong Kong safe? (Building collaspe)

Dear Chinese Guy

Is Hong Kong Safe? in that in Hung Hom a building fell down


Dear KM

Hong Kong is semi safe, what the hell do I mean semi safe? , the below youtube video shows the damage in Hung Hom on the 29/01/2009 when a 5 story building collapsed. 5 people were killed and 5 severely injured. Oddly enough I stopped for some cup noodles at the 7-11 just to one side of the building.

Again this is related to water in that the older the building the less safe it is, concrete can last forever, however that isn't the issue. The issue is illegal renovations whereby interior load bearing walls are taken out to carve into smaller flats. Rents are high in Hong Kong $300 (US) is typical for a very small flat, greedy landlords will carve flats up into smaller units so that they can charge more for sq metre than before.

In newer districts say Olympic this is completely illegal and enforced so it is completely safe, however in older districts such as Hung Hom, Mong Kok or Kwun Tong (a nice picture is here). It is older and therefore there is a temptation to cut the flats into smaller chunks.

Although the Hung Hom building did not fall down instantly, the builders were seen and heard running away from the building 10 minutes before it collapsed and visible cracks appeared.

What is scarier is the Mong Kok acid attacker and general decay where things literally fall off buildings. My only advise is to ignore it, the odds of being killed in such an event is tiny, and Hong Kong has a world class health system. Other than perhaps Lantau and the outer lying Islands you are no more than 4 miles from a hospital.