Study Buddy (Explorer): Creamed corn’s role in Cantonese food from sweetcorn soup to Hong Kong ‘show me your love’ rice

  • These simple dishes using cans of creamed corn stir up nostalgia for many Hongkongers while also setting trends in recent years
  • Each week, Study Buddy Explorer presents an interesting story that we have adjusted to be more accessible for all English learners
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Sweetcorn egg drop soup is a popular Cantonese dish. Photo: Shutterstock

Content provided by British Council

Read the following text, and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] There are some dishes that stir up true nostalgia, even when we are not sure where they come from. For me, sweetcorn soup and sweetcorn sauce on rice bring back so many memories because these two dishes have seen me through several significant life events.

[2] Sweetcorn soup was the first dish I ever made by myself. I was about 10 or 11 years old at the time and really wanted an after-school snack. I might have been following general instructions from my dad, who was the cook of the family. I opened a can of Del Monte creamed corn and dumped the contents into a pan. I then filled the can halfway with water and poured that in. I stirred to loosen the sweet, gloopy mixture.

[3] I added a generous spoonful of Knorr’s chicken powder, which was the MSG of choice at the turn of the 20th century in Hong Kong. I also put in a three-second pour of evaporated milk to give it a creamy consistency. Don’t ask me why, but it was always three seconds’ worth of milk – no more, no less.

[4] Once the soup had come to a boil, I turned down the heat so that the pot was barely simmering. I cracked an egg, whisked it up with chopsticks, and slowly drizzled it into the gently bubbling soup from a great height. After a pause, I carefully dragged a ladle through the soup to craft wispy trails of egg and seasoned it with a dust of white pepper. And that was it.

[5] During the winter of my first year at university in London, I was far from home, and it was an expensive journey to Chinatown. I found comfort in a lukewarm plastic takeaway box of chicken and sweetcorn soup from Uncle Wrinkle, a Chinese takeaway. The shop has glowed warmly on New Cross Road since 1995. There, I bought a taste of home for £2.50 – at a time when it was almost HK$16 to the pound, unlike today.

[6] It is a dish that has found its way into homes and restaurants because of how easily it can be adapted. Around 2017, sweetcorn sauce with pork on rice experienced a mini resurgence in Hong Kong. This was because of a viral post in 2015 by a Japanese food blogger. The Hong Kong Mainichi blog explains Hong Kong food experiences for Japanese readers. This blog tells the story of an expat who thought a cha chaan teng waiter had said “show me your love”, when the waiter was actually saying the dish’s Cantonese name, pronounced “shook mai yook lup”.

[7] This sweet story gave a new purpose for sweetcorn sauce with pork on rice. It became a simple and funny dish to cook for your partner on Valentine’s Day to show your love. The phrase became so popular that New World Development even used it for a charity campaign in May. The event encouraged the public to buy and donate restaurant vouchers for the needy.
Source: South China Morning Post, October 8


1. Find a word in paragraph 1 that has a similar meaning to “an affectionate feeling one has for the past”.

2. What are TWO ways of eating sweetcorn according to paragraph 1?

3. In paragraph 2, what does the “sweet, gloopy mixture” refer to?

4. Decide whether the following statements are True, False, or the information is Not Given in paragraphs 2 to 4. Blacken ONE circle only for each statement. (4 marks)
(i) The writer described preparing their first sweetcorn soup with the help of a family member.
(ii) Fresh milk is added to the soup to make it creamier.
(iii) It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare the recipe.
(iv) The recipe calls for one egg.

5. Paragraphs 3 and 4 describe ...
A. how all Hongkongers prepare a particular dish.
B. a recipe taken from a cookbook.
C. how the writer prepares her sweetcorn soup.
D. all of the above

6. In paragraph 5, Uncle Wrinkle is the name of ...
A. the writer’s relative.
B. a shop selling food.
C. a railway station.
D. a popular street.

7. What dish mentioned in paragraph 6 experienced an increase in popularity about five years ago?

8. What confusing exchange was mentioned in paragraph 6?

9. According to paragraph 7, how did the mispronounced name of a sweetcorn dish affect how some Hongkongers celebrate a particular holiday?

Sweetcorn with pork on rice is also known as “show me your love” rice in Hong Kong. Photo: Shutterstock


1. nostalgia
2. sweetcorn soup and sweetcorn sauce on rice
3. a can of Del Monte creamed corn / a can of creamed corn (any one)
4. (i) F; (ii) F; (iii) NG; (iv) T
5. C
6. B
7. sweetcorn sauce with pork on rice
8. An expat mistook a cha chaan teng waiter’s Cantonese pronunciation of sweetcorn sauce with pork on rice as “show me your love”.
9. People started cooking the dish to show their love on Valentine’s Day. (accept other similar answers)

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