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October 5, 2015 / 22 Tishri, 5776
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How Do You Say Horseradish In Cantonese?


It is late in the day before the first Seder. I am not having guests until the next evening and I stop to marvel at how organized my kitchen looks. Nearly everything is ready. I climb onto my kitchen counter to get our Seder plate from the cabinets up top (life in Hong Kong often means finding interesting ways to deal with space).

I place it on the table in the dining room and my son asks if he can place the small dishes around it. As he does, he reads the words out loud while I climb on yet another counter top to rescue my Passover placemats.

I hear him in the background: karpas, charoset, zeroah, marror… When suddenly it occurs to me, I have forgotten horseradish!

Now in my defense, I have returned from a quick work-related trip to New York in the last week, celebrated my older son’s bar mitzvah and am entertaining my parents and my husband’s parents who are both in town.

I leap down from the countertop and yell to our amah (housekeeper), “I’ve got to run. I have forgotten the horseradish.”

To which she responds, “The JCC closes early today. You can get marror at the wet market.”

If I had time, I would stop to marvel at the fact that, though she isn’t Jewish and is from the Philippines, she has just referred to horseradish as marror.

I put on my running shoes which are kept outside the door as this will need to be a literal run down Central and back.

I head straight to the Graham Street Market. Unfortunately, I run into a friend along the way and lose five minutes. I opt to run down a cross street to avoid some of the pedestrian congestion in the outdoor street market in order to make up for my lost five minutes.

My running looks strange but as a Westerner in Hong Kong, I have given up on not looking strange long ago.

While my choice to avoid the area most congested by old ladies overladen with plastic bags who slowly saunter down the road, inspecting goods and haggling over prices, was wise but risky. I have to run through the narrow street where the butcher shops are. A large battered truck roles by forcing me onto the sidewalk and into the line of fire of men who hack away at unidentifiable meats and carelessly send splatters of bits into the air, which I take care to avoid. Twelve years here and I am still not sure why there are black chickens but now is not the time to ask.

The truck door springs open as I pass. I can’t help but glance in. That was a mistake. I am vegetarian, kosher and have read Charlotte’s Web more than once.

My gasps, shock and horror at seeing the giant carcasses inside has now cost me another two minutes. A man inside one of the stalls reaches for a hose and begins to wash away the waste from his shop. Brackish water and bits begin to race towards me. I regain my focus and leap over the water in the direction of Graham Street.

Hose water from the other direction quickly gets me back on track while the two butchers duel it out.

On Graham Street and away from the meat, I head to the stall I usually stop at first. I race in and grab a fistful of parsley (it can’t hurt to have more). I glance around at the produce. I don’t see horseradish anywhere.

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4 Responses to “How Do You Say Horseradish In Cantonese?”

  1. Guy Peters says:

    Boo jing taÕ (?)

  2. Me too. Vegetarian, kosher, and love the book.

  3. Pam Wong says:

    That’s awesome. I speak cantonese and I sympathize how difficult to translate that world in cantonese and have local people know what one is looking for! :) Glad she got it. Now she knows it for next year!! :)

  4. What a rush. I would have been lazy, asking for wasabi instead. Then again, I only eat horse-radish with beef and turkey, and I can't imagine a vegie dish with it. Charlotte's Web is a good book too…I loved that bit.

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