Hello, ho seh bo? I’m Ian, DiscoverSG’s leading Hokkien speaker.
Singapore is home to many dialect groups, but one of the most common one is probably Hokkien.
If you grew up in Singapore, you’ve definitely heard Hokkien being spoken around you, whether you’re aware of it or not.
The place where Hokkien is most prevalent is the humble kopitiam, where the elderly chatter fluently in the dialect.
If you don’t understand a single word of it, or if your Hokkien is limited to the expletives, then allow me to teach you some simple words and phrases that you can use daily.
Trust me, I spoke Hokkien before I learnt English.
1. Ai and Mai
These are your most basic words.
Ai, means “want”. Whereas, Mai, means “don’t want”.[caption id="attachment_35713" align="aligncenter" width="245"] GIF Credit: giphy[/caption]
So, in future, if you’re bombarded with a sentence in Hokkien and you’re not sure, just say Mai and spare yourself the embarrassment.
2. Ai Mai?
You’ve probably heard or even used it before.
Ai Mai, a combination of the previous 2 words, is usually used as a question to ask if you want something or not?[caption id="attachment_35714" align="aligncenter" width="320"] GIF Credit: giphy[/caption]
Example: “We’re going to have supper after karaoke. Join us ah. Ai mai?”
3. Chut Mng
Chut Mng is a term that’s used by the older generation that means “heading out” or “going out”.[caption id="attachment_35715" align="aligncenter" width="480"] GIF Credit: giphy[/caption]
Example: “Ah boy, where you going? Everyday see you chut mng, you think my house is hotel is it?”
4. Tit Toh
Stop giggling. Tit Toh is somewhat similar to Chut Mng, but its meaning is closer to “jalan jalan” or going out to have fun.
Example: “Everyday chut mng tit toh, you a lot of money to spend is it?”
5. Jiak Hong
Jiak Hong literally translates into “eating air”.[caption id="attachment_35716" align="aligncenter" width="500"] GIF Credit: giphy[/caption]
The real meaning of the word is “to travel” or “holidaying”.
Example: “Eh I saw Alex’s Instagram Story, he go to Switzerland to jiak hong or for exchange?”
6. Dng Chu
Dng Chu means to “go home”.[caption id="attachment_35717" align="aligncenter" width="480"] GIF Credit: giphy[/caption]
Example: “Eh guys I’m gonna dng chu already. Y’all have fun.”
7. Lor Hor
Lor Hor translates to “raining”.[caption id="attachment_35718" align="aligncenter" width="845"] GIF Credit: giphy[/caption]
Example: “AH BOY FASTER HELP ME KEEP THE LAUNDRY!!! LOR HOR ALREADY!!!”
8. Jiak Png
Jiak Png is probably one of the most used Hokkien phrases. It directly translates to “eat rice” but it’s used to mean “have lunch/dinner” or “to eat”.
Example: “Eh it’s 1pm already. Let’s go jiak png.”
Kun, in this case, does not refer to the Japanese honorific for boys. In Hokkien, it means “to sleep”.[caption id="attachment_35719" align="aligncenter" width="380"] GIF Credit: giphy[/caption]
Example: “This lecturer talk so slowly. I want to kun already.”
10. Ho Seh Bo?
Ho Seh Bo is a greeting which means “How are you?” However, this would be better used when speaking to someone who is of the same age, or younger.
When speaking to an elder, you should be using Li Ho Bo which means “Are you well?”
Example: “Wah bro, long time no see. Ho seh bo?”
11. Eh Sai and Buay Sai
Singaporeans who speak Hokkien love to use these. Eh Sai means “can”, and Buay Sai means “cannot”.
A: “Can I borrow your pen?”
B: “Eh sai.”
A: “Can I borrow your pen?”
B: “Buay sai, cos I only have one.”
However, if you’re using Eh Sai in the context of “can or not”, then Eh Sai needs to be complemented with “Buay” at the end. The sentence would be something like this.
A: “Eh you not using your pen. I borrow ah? Eh sai buay?
B: “Eh sai. Take lor.”
12. Kah Kin
Kah Kin means ” to hurry up”. If you’re a sloth, you might’ve heard this used on you more than a few times.
Example: “Eh you very slow, the movie going to start already. Can you kah kin anot?”
So there you have it. Hokkien words and phrases that you can use daily. Feel free to pepper your sentences when speaking with your grandparents for that bit of extra.
Also please don’t let Hokkien die out as a dialect. Pass it on.
(Header Image Source: Tapa Talk)
I’m not a foodie. I’m averse to too many types of food, primarily seafood, to be a foodie.
But I enjoy learning about food and different cuisines. I love learning about what goes into a dish, and how it is cooked and prepared.
I’ve spent way too many weekend afternoons watching cooking programs, from Rachael Ray to Jamie Oliver and Curtis Stone.
However, as a Chinese kid, one thing greatly annoys me about western chefs and cooks. Their version of “Asian” cuisine is always wrong. Just because a dish has fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, chilli, or sesame seeds, does NOT make it an “Asian” or “Asian-inspired” dish.
It’s a sin that’s committed by almost all western celebrity chefs. So today, with my own knowledge, I’ll educate you guys on the different types of Chinese cuisine, specifically from the different dialect groups.
Growing up, I always associated Cantonese cuisine with Dim Sum, mainly because it’s so popular in Hong Kong.
However, Cantonese cuisine is so much more than Dim Sum.[caption id="attachment_35543" align="aligncenter" width="972"] Image Credit: Image Credit: Wikipedia[/caption]
Cantonese cuisine also has very bold and strong flavours and it can be seen in the types of sauces that the dishes are usually paired and served with. Examples include Black bean sauce, Oyster sauce, Sweet and Sour sauce, and even our favourite Shrimp (Prawn) paste.[caption id="attachment_35547" align="aligncenter" width="620"] Image Credit: Lifestyle Food[/caption]
There’s also a lot of preserved and dried ingredients used to improve or layer flavours in a dish. Ingredients such as Century egg, Salted egg, Preserved radish (better known as Cai Po that we eat with Chwee Kueh), and Salted fish.[caption id="attachment_35545" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Image Credit: Image Credit: Asian Inspirations[/caption]
My encounters with Hakka cuisine are mostly thanks to my maternal grandfather. He’s proudly Hakka and we used to visit his hometown back in the Hakka province in China.[caption id="attachment_35549" align="aligncenter" width="608"] Image Credit: Beijing Hikers[/caption]
While Cantonese cuisine relies a lot on the condiments for flavour, Hakka cuisine has flavourful ingredients. The main ingredients is usually already preserved or braised, which already imparts a lot of flavour into the ingredient itself.
The garnish and condiments are usually to complement the main ingredient. One example of this is Braised Pork Belly with Preserved mustard greens.[caption id="attachment_35550" align="aligncenter" width="3216"] Image Credit: Saltalk[/caption]
One of my personal favourites is Hakka Yong Tau Foo. Unlike the one we commonly find in Singapore, the ingredients in Hakka Yong Tau Foo are stuffed with minced pork or a meat paste and served with a yellow bean stew.[caption id="attachment_35551" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image Credit: Burppler Denise Ong[/caption]
A variant I’ve tried is a dry stir-fried version of minced pork-stuffed beancurd in a peppery, starchy sauce and garnished very generously with spring onions.
Other Hakka dishes you might be familiar with include Thunder Tea Rice (Lei Cha Fan), Salt-Baked Chicken, and the famous Abacus Beads.[caption id="attachment_35552" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image Credit: Image Credit: keeprecipes[/caption] [caption id="attachment_35555" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image Credit: thedrinksbusiness[/caption]
Hokkien Bak Kut Teh is the dark, herbal version that’s usually found in Malaysia. I personally prefer the Teochew version.[caption id="attachment_35553" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Image Credit: Image Credit: Hungry Peepor[/caption]
Another famous Teochew dish is Teochew porridge. In contrast with the thicker Cantonese congee, Teochew porridge has a thinner consistency with loose grains. The porridge is usually served with salted vegetables, boiled salted egg, fried peanuts and salted fish.[caption id="attachment_35556" align="aligncenter" width="631"] Image Credit: Image Credit: Wikipedia[/caption]
Singapore’s cuisine has its roots primarily in Hokkien and Teochew cuisine, with a few influences from Cantonese cuisine. Chinese cuisine is as diverse as the provinces in China, each with its own influences, ingredients, cooking style, and flavour.
So before you go throwing sesame seeds into a dish and calling it Asian food, you might want to have PROPER Chinese cuisine first.
(Header Image Source: Burppler Denise Ong, Saltalk, Asian Inspirations)