In Cantonese, we use the word hahk-hei to describe when someone is being polite. But it's not the common-courtesy-kind-of-polite; rather, it's the I-need-to-be-polite-to-save-face-kind-of-polite.
Ever been out to eat with a bunch of Chinese people and experience a literal fight over the check?
"Mm-ho hahk hei, lar!" we'll say to each other as we're literally lunging over the table trying to grab the check from one another's hands. It's our way of saying, "Hey, don't be so polite, yo. Let me pay!" To which the response is always a never ending back and forth tirade of "No, no, no, let me pay!"
OK yes, we do like to be generous to our friends and loved ones. But the thing is that we don't put up a fight for that reason alone; we put up a fight because we don't want to look like we didn't. It's all about saving face.
The same situation applies to leftover food at said gatherings. No one wants to look like the greedy one who snatched all that food for themselves. "Mm-ho hahk hei, lar...you take it!"
Except when it comes to leftovers, I have no qualms about taking the shit.
Because the reality of it is, I am poor. I got a mortgage and bills to pay and a family to feed and I need anything I can get after either a) paying for your dinner to save face or b) giving away a benjamin or two inside a red envelope to a newly married couple or new baby or whatever.
Now if you're really, really poor, or really, really cheap, or perhaps a combination of both, harm ha jzing jee yook--steamed roast pork with shrimp paste--is the perfect dish for you. It reuses every bit of your leftovers, so it costs next to nothing to make, and a little goes a long, long way.
First thing you do is make sure you are not hahk hei--if there is leftover roast pork at whatever Chinese party/dinner you're attending, take it. If there are no Chinese dinner leftovers involved, that's OK. Drive yourself to the nearest Chinese BBQ shop like Sam Woo BBQ and buy yourself a pound of roast pork for under 10 bucks.
Next, add a little bit of shaoxing cooking wine, a swig of vegetable oil, a dusting of cornstarch, a dollop of shrimp paste (like the one pictured below which you can find at Asian grocery stores) and a teeny bit of water to the pork and mix it all up.
Put it in a shallow dish and steam for about 20-30 minutes. Serve with lots of hot steamed rice.
The result is juicy morsels of pork that have been both roasted and steamed and that have taken on this savory, pungent, funky-in-a-good-way flavor. My favorite part is that once-crispy pig skin that's now taken on a chewy texture after having been steamed but still retains a hint of that smoky flavor it got by roasting.
Like I said earlier, a little really goes a long way. All you need are a few pieces of the pork and maybe some of the juices to liven up an entire bowl of rice. In fact, if you use too much, your meal often becomes too salty. Rationed properly, this dish could potentially last you several days, partially offsetting the original cost of your dinner bill or gifts.