I just devoured a hefty plate of delectable, authentic Hainanese chicken rice by myself and I am feeling fat and satisfied. It had cost me only $2 but boy, was it good. I finished every morsel of it, from the last grain of oily rice to the last bit of fatty smooth skin.
Go to any hawker centre or food court and you will definitely find a so-called Hainanese chicken rice stall in it. Based on my personal experience, what differentiates the frauds from the real McCoy is the chili. The real thang will never come with those silly sweetish orange-red chili that you find in the Loy Kees or the whatnots. We, the real thang, will use ginger, mashed and pounded to perfection. Some might mix it with chili and others just dunk their chicken pieces into pure, pounded ginger and let the chicken roll in ginger juice.
I like being a Hainanese. I like how it’s not too common, that when people ask me for my dialect, they will exhaust their list of the usual Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkian etc. before I inform them, pertly, that I am a Hainanese. It helps, too, that people always say that Hainanese girls are pretty, that we have nice eyes (hur hur hur, no mention of the men though). I like it that the dialect doesn’t sound too coarse, and that it has not been mangled to death by expletives-spouting NS boys. This is especially important when you want to curse someone (“buay lor mai!”) and that person has no idea what you are talking about (actually, neither do I).
The best thing that I like about being a Hainanese is my empowering surname. It’s so uniquely Hainanese, I still haven’t found someone from other dialects who bears this name. When I was a kid, I used to bask in the glory of it, because everyone who had just found out about my surname would inevitably ask me, “Which Chinese word is it?” And after I had explained it to them that yes, it is Dragon (roarrr!), their eyes would widen in astonishment.
In fact, I love my surmame so much so that I wish my future offspring could take the name. This means that I would either have to marry a man with the same name (what if we share the same great-great-great-grandfather?) or persuade my husband to let the kid-that-I-had-carried-to-term-for-nine-months-and-then-subsequently-had-a-painful-labour-to-pop-it-out take my name. Hmm.
Because both my parents are Hainanese, this makes me a 100% pure product. Maybe I should go find a nice Hainanese boy to be my future partner and together, we can create more 100% Hainanese products too.