- With Christmas and Lunar New Year around the corner, there are a lot of family feasts coming up
- Brush up on English idioms and Cantonese slang that are inspired by the act of putting together a meal
As the holiday season comes upon us, that can only mean one thing: more cooking! Whether it’s for a cosy family dinner or a big feast with friends, cooking is a way to show love. Here are some English idioms and Cantonese phrases to spice up your lingo.
1. Boils down to
Meaning: to be the main reason for a situation or problem
Example: Most of the crimes in our city boil down to the issue of poverty.
2. Boil over
Meaning: to reach a state of such intensity that a situation or strong emotion can no longer be controlled or contained
Example: The dispute between the two camps finally boiled over into a series of violent protests.
3. Cook up a storm
Meaning: to enthusiastically prepare a large quantity of food; can also refer to causing a disturbance by complaining or arguing
Example: Rob is in the kitchen cooking up a storm for the Christmas party.
4. Cook the books
Meaning: to falsify a company’s financial records usually for personal gain
Example: David was cooking the books for years before anyone realised.
5. Curry favour
Meaning: to try to ingratiate yourself by fawning over someone
Example: He’s always trying to curry favour with the boss by buying her flowers and fancy meals.
6. On a plate
Meaning: used to indicate that someone has achieved something with little or no effort
Example: His family has so much money that he doesn’t need to work – the whole world has been handed to him on a plate.
Meaning: incomplete; insufficiently planned or prepared
Example: I didn’t want to make things worse by offering half-baked solutions.
8. Grill someone
Meaning: to subject someone to severe and persistent cross-examination or questioning
Example: Whenever Sherry returned home late, her parents would grill her about where she’d been.
9. Simmer down
Meaning: to grow calmer or quieter after intense rage or excitement
Example: I left him alone in his bedroom until he simmered down.
10. Stir the pot
Meaning: to cause trouble or controversy, especially when one does it deliberately
Example: My father enjoys contradicting everything I say just to stir the pot.
Here is some Cantonese slang about cooking ...
生米煮成熟飯 saang1 mai5 zyu2 sing4 suk6 faan6 (sahng-mai-ju-sing-sook-fahn): “raw rice to cooked rice”
Meaning: an idiom meaning that you cannot change what has already happened or what will come to pass, so there is no use worrying about it. The Chinese phrase means that the rice has already been cooked, so you cannot revert it to its uncooked state.
In English: what has been done cannot be undone
Example: The company lay-offs are real, and you got a letter. Sahng-mai-ju-sing-sook-fahn – better to focus on finding a new job than whining about it.
大鑊 daai6 wok6 (daai-wok): “big wok”
Meaning: an exclamation used when you are in trouble or have created a big mess that is tough to clean up
In English: oh no; oh dear; not again
Example: Daai-wok! I totally forgot that I need to help my brother pick up his tuxedo before his wedding tomorrow.