“Mee Siam Mai Hum” and other food faux pas

By: Obbana Rajah

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With the recent backlash at Masterchef UK judges who commented that a Malaysian-born contestant’s chicken rendang was not “crispy”, it might be good to bring to light some common mistakes made in the pronunciation of various food names. After all, more inclusivity and less ignorance is always a good thing.

(Be warned, food pictures ahead)

  1. Curry Puff

With its roots from the 1300s and Cornish meat pasties, curry puffs have been around for a long time.

With its Malay name being ‘epok-epok’, the curry puff is often pronounced ‘curry pup’ or ‘kali pap’ as you’d hear many old-timers calling it.

Faux pas : kali pap

2. Briyani

This famous traditional Indian dish, with Malay versions as well, is a combination of rice, spices and meat. Similar to Spanish Paella, this dish could have varying names because of all of its different versions.

Faux pas: biriyani, biriyani, birani

3. Pho

A Vietnamese noodle dish with a clear broth, herbs and usually meat, there are generally few who can actually get the name of this dish right. It is supposed to be pronounced as ‘fuh’

Faux Pas: fo, foh

4. Mee Siam

Not so much anything to do with its pronunciation, more so a reference to PM Lee’s National Day Rally in 2006 where he was explaining how politics is serious business.

He said (with reference to a funny podcast made by blogger Lee Kin Mun, or Mr Brown), “You put out a funny podcast, you talk about bak chor mee, I will say mee siam mai hum”.

Translation: Mee Siam without cockles

 Faux Pas: The noodle dish that is Mee Siam does not usually have cockles.