Hong Kong is full of foodies as well as Cantonese slang to describe all their cravings

  • As restaurants welcome back diners for dinner and you make plans with loved ones, learn local phrases to describe friends and family members who love to eat
  • Is there anyone you know who never seems to be satisfied at the end of a meal? Or who eats dessert even when they didn’t finish their main dish?
Kelly Fung |

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Hong Kong is a foodie’s haven with countless all-you-can-eat buffets, dessert shops and mpre. Photo: Shutterstock

After months of social-distancing restrictions, life is slowly returning to normal for many Hongkongers. From shoppers flooding the malls to queues circling restaurants, the city is coming back to life.

As you plan dinner dates and lunch meet-ups, is there anyone you know who never seems to be satisfied at the end of a meal? Or someone who eats dessert even though they didn’t finish their main dish? Let’s take a look at slang for all the food lovers you may know.

5 Cantonese phrases to spice up your restaurant lingo

1. Crave a snack: 口痕 hau2 han4 (hou-huhn)

Literal translation: “Itchy mouth”

Meaning: refers to the feeling of wanting to eat whenever boredom kicks in

Example: I always get hou-huhn after school and snack on whatever is available in the cupboard.

Late-night cravings are a common affliction. Photo: Shutterstock

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2. Foodie, or glutton: 餓底 ngo6 dai2 (ngaw-dai)

Literal translation: “Hungry base”

Meaning: describes someone who is hungry all the time. People use this phrase to talk about those who tend to eat a lot. Ngaw-dai is also a homophone for “spy” in Cantonese, and people often use this to make clever puns.

Example: Amy is definitely a ngaw-dai – I once saw her eat two dinners in one evening.

Some people just have a bottomless pit for a stomach! Photo: Shutterstock

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3. Meat lover: 食肉獸 sik6 juk6 sau3 (sik-yook-saau)

Literal translation: “Eat-meat monster”

Meaning: refers to people who really enjoy eating meat

Example: I don’t think Sherry would be happy if you ordered a portobello burger for her. Don’t you know she is a sik-yook-saau?

For people who are “sik-yook-saau”, meat is the only thing on their minds. Photo: Shutterstock

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4. A food “fail”: 劣食 lyut3 sik6 (luet-sik)

Literal translation: “Foul food”

Meaning: describes food that is poorly cooked and tastes awful. Despite how unappealing these dishes may seem, some people consider it a challenge to try vile food.

Example: I’ve been wanting to try the restaurant’s infamous chicken and blueberry pasta – it’s a luet-sik that many YouTubers have eaten and posted about as a dare.

We appreciate when cooks try to experiment with their dishes, but not to the point where it becomes inedible. Photo: Shutterstock

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5. Dessert stomach: 第二個胃 dai6 yi6 go3 wai6 (dai-yee-gaw-wai)

Literal translation: “Second stomach”

Meaning: a figurative way of describing how people still have room to eat dessert right after a savoury meal. Locals often say they have a “second stomach” as an excuse to eat dessert.

Example: Even though I can’t finish the pasta, my dai-yee-gaw-wai wants some pudding.

There is always room for dessert! Photo: Shutterstock
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