Singapore Adventure

Friday, October 14, 2005

All Things Goreng
by venitha

Despite the bafflement with which most Singaporeans greet the knowledge that Jim and I are taking a Malay class, our studies continue to provide both amusement and very worthwhile information.

Of note in the amusement category:
  • We have learned verbs one would never learn in Malay 101 at a US school: to cane and to queue
  • Exotic-sounding names like Jalan Besar, Paya Lebar, and Taman Negara translate into such creative descriptions as Big Road, Wide Swamp, and Country Park.
  • We have acquired fun new insults terms of endearment for each other: hodoh bodoh (ugly stupid) and kepala kelapa (coconut head).

While we also now know important vocabulary words such as phlegm [not pictured] thanks to a fellow student whom our entire class was relieved to learn is a nurse with Malay patients, the most practical of our newfound knowledge are the Malay words for food. We can now easily track down two favorites: sambal sotong (spicy squid) and kari ayam (curry chicken). We can choose confidently between mee (noodles) and nasi (rice). We even have an explanation for the beans lurking beneath the colorful snowcone of the iced kachang [pictured]: kachang means bean.

In the US, health-conscious, if obese, consumers supposedly gave KFC a reason to change its name. In Singapore, both slender waists and fried food are proudly flaunted; there is mee goreng (fried noodles), nasi goreng (fried rice), even pisang goreng (fried bananas), and plenty of slim diners eating it all.

My body unfortunately doesn't work that way, so I'm employing my Malay knowledge to track down more healthy options. I pass on most things goreng and have even regretfully moved sedap (delicious) nasi lemak to my only-on-special-occasions menu, along with Wisconsin's and frozen custard. Rice cooked in coconut milk, nasi lemak translates into English as fat rice. Dang!

If only they would change its name...