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Illustration: Cristal Obispo

If You Can’t Pronounce the Names of These Dishes, Are You Really Singaporean?

Singapore is home to myriad food options, some with very unique names. We order them almost every day, but how often do we actually say their names right? Take a shot every time you see the words “pronounce” or “pronunciation”. (Just make sure it’s before 10pm.)

1. Youtiao

Whether it’s from the hawker centre, Old Chang Kee or Mr Youtiao, we have all ordered the Asian churro at one point. Pronounced as “yoh-tiao”, and definitely not “yo-teo” or “yoo-tiao”.

2. Vadai

Even though you usually order your usual kosong or egg prata, you’re bound to have seen or ordered this snack that looks like a fried doughnut (accompanied with green chilli). It’s “vah-DYE”, not “wah-die” or “vah-dei” (that’s just going to annoy the uncle).

3. Begedil

Pronounced “BER-ge-dale”, not the often heard “buh-gay-dale” and definitely not “berdegil” (Malay for “stubborn”).

4. Pho

If words were pronounced the way they’re spelled, this would be pronounced “foe”, but it’s actually “fuh” (rhymes with “fur”).

5. Thosai/Dosa

Fell for this one. It’s pronounced “TOH-sey”, not “dough-say” or “dough-sigh”. The spelling throws most people off.

6. Acai

If you read this as “ah-saa-ee”, you’re on the safe side. If you read it as, “Ah Chai”, you’ve probably called the uncle downstairs by his nickname.


Guys, it’s pronounced “na-see” not “naK-see” (this means “I want to see” in Malay) and not “na-zi”, please, not that one at all.

8. Mee Tai Mak? Bee Tai Mak? Mee Tai Bak?

Honestly, you’ll never know if you said it right. Is it “mee-tie-mak”? “Bee-tie-mak”? “Mee-tie-bak”? You know what, just mumble your order. If you actually get this right, you might want to consider running for the next presidential election.

9. Briyani

A national icon. Have you ever seen anyone angry while eating briyani? It’s probably because they accidentally chewed on one of the spices. Anyway, it’s “bree-YAH-nee”. And “bur-YAH-nee” if its spelt “biryani”. Not “Brie-Larson” and not “brony”.

10. ANYTHING Goreng

It’s pronounced exactly how it is spelled, “go-ray-ng”, not “go-rang”. If you really think about it, Malay is just a remix of the English alphabet.

11. Thali

“Tha-lee”, not “dah-lee” nor Dale (feat. Pitbull) / (Pitbull wants to know your location).

12. Gula Melaka

So, here is where it gets tricky. Some people pronounce it as “goo-lah” Melaka. While it may impress their PSLE, N- or O-Level Malay oral examiners, no one actually says it like that. Stick to “goo-ler”. Otherwise, you’ll just be “gila”.

13. Abalone

Just admit it, the first time you encountered this word, you probably went, “AB-alone”. (Honestly, some of us just relate to the “alone” bit. But you might want to consider relating to the “ab” part too.) It’s “air-ber-LOH-nee”, guys.

14. Lemak

Honestly, if you got this wrong, you better be living under a rock or better be Amos Yee. It’s “LUH-mak”. Just don’t say “nazi” before it.

15. Tandoori

“Tan-DOO-ree” chicken. Not “tan-doh-rye”, “tan-tho-ree” or “TAN-COS-SIN”.



If you’re planning to bring your date to more Western places, the least you can do is impress them with proper oral.

16. Aglio e Olio

If your date pronounces the “g” or the “o”, you have to throw the entire date away, or they should be paying. It’s “AH-lee-oh ay AW-lee-oh”.

17. Croissant

If you immediately thought of the vine, congratulations, you’re cultured and so is your partner. No, it’s not “kroy-sent”. What are you trying to send (aside from signals)? It’s “KWAH-song”.

18. Parmesan

There are three types of people in the world. You either emphasise the “par” or the “zan”. But there is an in-between: the “PAR-me-zan” group. But it’s not going to impress the Pizza Hut waiter, let’s be honest.

19. Lasagna

We feel like no one gets this wrong, but you never know. Just. Don’t. Pronounce. The. G. It’s “ler-ZAH-near”, not “la-zug-na”.

20. Charcuterie

If you’re high SES enough or borrowed enough money to impress your date, you should at least get the pronunciation right. It’s “shar-KOO-ter-ree”, not “char-koo-too-ree”.

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