Collect Fees Documents at Miss Hot Cafe

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Toni Tan writes:

I don't eat out much, but when I do, this is one of my favorite places. The food is spicy; however, I don't think it is cuisine from Szechuan because the dishes aren't oily at all.

The menu items are rather quirkily named (e.g., fish with sour cabbage). In fact, my favorite dish there is called Big Dish — just "Big Dish" — which is an enormous bowl of spicy broth with seafood, tofu, vegetables, and glass noodles.

However, the restaurant's name is what catches everyone's attention and a dead giveaway for why I like it, given my penchant for spicy food.

Their bill holder has also met with much curiosity. I took a picture of their business card and the bill holder for you.

Before delving into the peculiar name of this establishment, we should note that the Chinese characters on both the bill holder and business card are traditional, not simplified, so the owner most likely is not from the PRC.

Since the wording on the bill holder is relatively easy to handle, let us dispose of that first:

shōuyín jiā 收银夹 ("cashier clip / folder")

Now, for the name of the restaurant:

Hónghuǒhuǒ chácāntīng 紅火火茶餐廳 ("XXX tea restaurant")

"Tea restaurant" is straightforward; it comes from Cantonese caa4caan1teng1 (Language Log comment, Wikipedia). The first part — lit., "red fire fire" — is much harder (that is why I initially left it as XXX), especially because of the way it is handled in English.

If we just had hónghuǒhuǒ chácāntīng 紅火火茶餐廳, without any English on the card, it would be taken to mean "booming / prosperous tea restaurant". At one level, it probably does convey that meaning, since hónghuǒhuǒ 紅火火 is well established as signifying "booming; flourishing; prosperous", which is a good thing for a restaurant to be. Incidentally, the term hónghuǒhuǒ 紅火火 has the same meaning as hónghónghuǒhuǒ 紅紅火火, or, in its shortest form, hónghuǒ 紅火.

However, since the English name of the restaurant is "Miss Hot Cafe", the proprietor / proprietress (because of the English name and the design on the card, I'll assume that the owner / manager is a woman) must also interpret hónghuǒhuǒ 紅火火 as "hot", or, shall we say "red hot". On the one hand, "hot" refers to the spicy food they serve, but it probably simultaneously conveys a sense of the piquant character of the proprietress. Since the owners of the restaurant are also likely fairly conversant with English, there's probably a triple entendre at play here as well, the third member of which would be mirrored by the Chinese expressions làniū 辣妞 and làmèi 辣妹 ("hot girl; hot chick").

Finally, because of the English name "Miss Hot", it is conceivable that Hóng Huǒhuǒ 紅火火 could be a proper name. The family name Hóng 紅 does exist, and Huǒhuǒ 火火 occurs as a pseudonym.

Still and all, I seriously doubt that Hóng Huǒhuǒ 紅火火 is the actual name of the proprietress. After reading dozens of reviews on Yelp and Facebook, I can well believe that she does have a hot temper. Many of the customer comments speak of the appallingly bad service, and then there's this one (on the FB page):

'Nuff said.

[Thanks to Fangyi Cheng and Rebecca Fu]

1 Comment

  1. Terry Collmann said,

    November 28, 2014 @ 4:55 pm

    When my daughter came to visit me in Hong Kong, I told her she could read Chinese, and asked her which word in Chinese, on a bilingual notice by the lift in my apartment block saying "In case of fire, do not use lift", meant "fire". She was easily able to guess it was 火 – because that was the one printed in red, as "fire" was printed in red in the English version …

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