Dialects and Teo Chew food


Singapore is a real melting pot… And there are four official languages : English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. So most important signs are translated in all 4 languages!! Don’t you just love it when announcements in the MRT are translated into all 4 languages? I know I do :)

To these four, you might want to add Singlish, even though it’s not a real language…

However, if you do go to a local food court or hawker center, you might be surprised to hear languages which are none of the 5 above… They are dialects!! In the streets of Singapore you might hear people talking Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese…

Most dialects would be Chinese dialects, as most of Singapore’s population is of Chinese origins. Here is a video to give you a glimpse of what the Hainanese dialect sounds like for example …

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But in Singapore dialects are more than just languages. They are a culture of their own. Which explains why some restaurants specialise in Teo Chew cuisine for instance.

In Teo Chew restaurants in Singapore, you will find very “simple” food, in the sense that ingredients are usually served without too much sauce covering it so you can really enjoy all the flavours. Teo Chew food also includes a lot of seafood (steamed fish, oyster omelet, cold crab…) and their Yam dessert is super good too !!

One of the Teo Chew restaurants I would recommend in Singapore is SWA Garden Restaurant on MacPherson Road. It’s small, local and cosy, and not too expensive either :)

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3 thoughts on “Dialects and Teo Chew food

  1. Pingback: Make a joke with Bakkwa | Hidden Singapore

  2. Hi there being a Linguistics student I’d like to say that Singlish is a real language. Sadly it has been condemned by the Sg government and perhaps some locals themselves though there are many speakers who can code switch between Singlish and ‘standard’ English depending on the social contexts and interlocutors. Singlish has its own lexis and grammar. For instance, particles like ‘lah, meh, lor’ are constrained in terms of where they can appear in a sentence and they carry their own meaning. Singlish is a result of language contact between speakers of many different languages hence it has influences from chinese, chinese dialects, malay etc etc but many a times it’s portrayed as an inferior language or some kind of language salad.

    • Thanks for the insight! Apologies if I was not really correct with my reference to Singlish. All I meant was that it is not an official language. By the way did you see my article on Singlish? What do you think about it?

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