Chickee cakes

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Taken at a restaurant in Hangzhou:

The big Chinese characters say:

Cant. gai1zai2 beng2  MSM  jīzǎi bǐng


"phoenix cookie"

This is a type of chewy biscuit made with lard, originating in Guangzhou / Canton.  (source)  Its original name was Cant. siu2fung6 beng2  MSM xiǎofèng bǐng 小鳳餅 ("little phoenix cake").

Here are some recipes for "phoenix cookies".  I noticed plenty of fat and sesame, peanuts, walnuts, etc., but no chicken.

In Cantonese gai1zai2 mui4jan4*2 雞仔媒人 means "busybody", where mui4jan4*2 媒人 by itself would ordinarily mean "matchmaker".


Cf. niúzǎikù / niúzǐkù 牛仔褲 / Cant. ngau4zai2 fu3 / Hakka ngiù-chṳ́-fu / Minnan [Hoklo / Taiwanese]  gû-á-khò͘ / Wu [Shanghainese] 3nyieu-tse-khu ("jeans; denims; dungarees", lit. "cowboy pants").  (source)

Because the Cant. zai2 / Taishan doi2 /  Hakka zai3 / Minbei ciě 仔 suffix is so essential for grasping the nuances of words containing this morpheme, it will be useful to look at the extensive list of definitions with example sentences in Wiktionary:

  1. (Cantonese, dialectal Hakka, Shehua) son (Classifier c c)
    真係。[Cantonese, trad.]

    真系。[Cantonese, simp.]

    nei5 go3 zai2 zan1 hai6 hou2 gwaai1. [Jyutping]
    Your son is very well-behaved.
  2. (Cantonese) child
     [Cantonese]  ―  saang1 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  to give birth (to a child)
  3. (Cantonese, slang) boyfriend (Classifier c)
     [Cantonese]  ―  nei5 tiu4 zai2 lai4 zo2. [Jyutping]  ―  Your boyfriend came.
  4. (Cantonese, slang) (youngmale (Classifier c c)
    。 [Cantonese, trad.]

    。[Cantonese, simp.]

    ngo5 hai6 zai2 lai4 gaa3 wo3. [Jyutping]
    I'm a guy, though.
  5. (Cantonese, dialectal Hakka, Min Bei) Diminutive suffix.
    1. Denotes a young male of a particular trait.
       [Cantonese]  ―  fei4 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  fatty
      後生后生 [Cantonese]  ―  hau6 saang1 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  young man
    2. Denotes a young male of a particular occupation or background, often demeaningly.
      打工 [Cantonese]  ―  daa2 gung1 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  young worker
      拔萃 [Cantonese]  ―  bat6 seoi6 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  DBS kid
      日本 [Cantonese]  ―  jat6 bun2 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  Japanese guy
    3. Used to call somebody affectionately. (For names, it is only used for males.)
       [Cantonese]  ―  ming4 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  Little Ming
       [Cantonese]  ―  koeng4 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  Little Keung
      老婆 [Cantonese]  ―  lou5 po4 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  wifey
    4. Demeaningly denotes somebody of a particular occupation or position.
      秘書秘书 [Cantonese]  ―  bei3 syu1 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  a mere secretary
    5. Denotes a young animal.
       [Cantonese]  ―  gau2 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  puppy
       [Cantonese]  ―  joeng4 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  lamb
    6. Denotes something that is small in size.
       [Cantonese]  ―  dang3 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  small stool
       [Cantonese]  ―  zoek3 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  birdie
       [Cantonese]  ―  ngaan5 zai2 luk1 luk1 [Jyutping]  ―  little eyes rolling
    7. Denotes the younger sibling of one's spouse.
       [Cantonese]  ―  suk1 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  brother-in-law (husband's younger brother)
       [Cantonese]  ―  ji4-1 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  sister-in-law (wife's younger sister)
    8. Used with single-syllable nouns without denoting a specific meaning.
       [Cantonese]  ―  ji5 zai2 [Jyutping]  ―  ears
  6. (Cantonese) Used after a classifier to indicate that something is small in size and/or quantity.
    廿嘢食?[Cantonese, trad.]

    廿嘢食?[Cantonese, simp.]

    dak1 go2 jaa6 man1 zai2, bin1 gau3 cin2 maai5 je5 sik6 aa3? [Jyutping]
    With just a mere twenty bucks, how do we have enough to buy food?
  7. (Cantonese, slang, neologism) Suffix placed after a verb or adjective to sound cute and affectionate.
    聽日返學。[Cantonese, trad.]

    听日返学。[Cantonese, simp.]

    ting1 jat6 zau6 jiu3 faan1 hok6 zai2 laa3. [Jyutping]
    Tomorrow, you've got to go to school.
    今日開心![Cantonese, trad.]

    今日开心![Cantonese, simp.]

    ngo5 gam1 jat6 hou2 hoi1 sam1 zai2 aa3! [Jyutping]
    I'm really happy today!

The word "chickee" actually means something in English (borrowed from a Native American term), but it does not have anything to do with chickens, little or otherwise):

Chikee or Chickee ("house" in the Creek and Mikasuki languages spoken by the Seminoles and Miccosukees) is a shelter supported by posts, with a raised floor, a thatched roof and open sides. Chickees are also known as chickee huts, stilt houses, or platform dwellings.


Tiny though it may be, 仔 is protean and powerful in its implications.

Selected readings


  1. Xtifr said,

    May 28, 2023 @ 12:09 am

    I'm not sure if (or how) it could be related, but there is a peanut-based candy in the US named Chick-O-Stick. It has almost exactly as much to do with chicken as these cakes do, though. So that's something (other than peanuts) they have in common. :)

  2. SlideSF said,

    May 28, 2023 @ 1:06 pm

    @Xtifr –
    To further the threadjack, you bring to mind the now defunct Chicken Dinner candy bar. I am old enough to still remember it on grocery store candy shelves

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