The organised chaos

A post about being Hainanese

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.

18 thoughts on “A post about being Hainanese”

  1. as you know (i think), i’m half hainanese. and i loooooove chicken rice. πŸ™‚

    i only know one hainanese boy that you know too! wahahahaha


  2. Hey, I’m Hainanese too, on my father’s side. I have an interesting story about my surname – Heng (Xing in Mandarin) – but it’s too long to elaborate. Your surname is probably the coolest one I’ve come across!

    My Chinese teacher once told me that Hainanese girls are supposed to be ugly. Rather strange…I prefer your take on it.

    Perhaps your son could take the husband’s surname and your daughter yours. That’s what a friend of mine did (in the US, though).


  3. The chilli for Boon Tong Kee is manufactured but nice. Any match for the Hainanese ones?

    I am Hakka. And I don’t adore the food they are known for.


  4. Tsk tsk. Let another 100% hainanese product speak. I think of delicious “koi bui” (chicken rice)when I read your entry.
    Yes, hainanese girls are sposed to be pretty according to many old folks (any noisy)
    And well said about the chilli. Non-hainanese wld never understand how standard our chilli is.
    You forgot western food dearie. Hainanese are known for western food also.
    Lastly, I love to scold you buay lor mai!


  5. Hucks – err, I don’t know who you are talking about.

    VK – Haven’t eaten BTK for v long, forgot how the chili tastes like. =P

    Monoceros – hey, Xing is quite a cool name too! My fellow comrade!

    AKM – it’s in Amoy Street market. Yummy and cheap food galore!

    Ash – haha, yes Hainanese people talk as if they are fighting! Like my mother and all my aunties.


  6. Just wanted to say I enjoy reading your blog. I was searching for anything about Hainanese that doesn’t include chicken rice in the same breath. It is an impossible task – Perhaps the shadow of the chicken rice and Singapore sling is too great to escape.

    In any event, I think you write very well, And hopefully, in the future, Hainanese can be proud of something other than chicken rice – perhaps, after reading your blog, we can add indomitable, artistic and free-thinking amongst some of the more positive attributes.

    Keep up the good work.


  7. im half-Hainanese but i have no idea how to speak hainainese is there any website that teaches you how to speak it?


  8. Hi, I am following your blog, just happened that I saw this particular post appeared under Most liked and realised that you posted this so long ago. I am a Hainanese too πŸ™‚ and my surname is Tong (is chi is Tang). Yeah, like you i like being a Hainanese. It was coincidental that I met my hubby who is also a Hainanese, so we have produced 100% hainanese kids. But we dont really understand or speak the language in the family.


  9. I am full bred 100% hainanese, both parents are from Boon Shu carried an English name but speak fluent Hainanese althought 5 generation removed from Hainan province. My Hainanese English son speaks hainanese too. I had hainan koi bui from my mother’s kitchen the day I was born. Only Coapon coconut fed from my mother farm what this fuss all about my koi bui does not costs a cents my mother makes the best koi bui that nobody can challenge. I am proud to be a full bred overseas Hainanese.


  10. My mothers Hainanese and my dads Cantonese. I’m from Australia. I was always constantly surrounded by different chinese dialects as a kid. They say Hainanese is similar to hokkien and teochiu. I must admit Hainanese is a difficult dialect to learn.


  11. I am a proud pure hainanese living in Australia. My surname has a dragon in it. Get excited when ever I find someone with that surname which is very rare.


  12. i am a 100% pure hainanese too! my grandparents live with us and the “adults” (aka my parents and my grandparents) will communicate with one another in hainanese. Hence, I’m good in listening and understanding hainanese, but not too much on the speaking part though.. i used to speak good hainanese when i was really young, but not anymore πŸ˜₯ Nonetheless, i am very proud to be one! Although we are a minority dialect group in singapore but we definitely made our presence known! πŸ˜‰


  13. Wow… I’m very proud being a Hainanese myself too :). Dad Hainanese, mom Cantonese and I speak both dialects. Actually that vulgar Hainanese word is “buoy lu moh mai” (meaning “F your mother”) lol.


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