The crowd at the hawker centre reveals Singapore’s cosmopolitan culture, from the elderly to the office crowd and even families of different races and religion. But it’s a hawker centre we’re talking about, it’s only right that food takes centerstage, not just the type of patronage. Step into one of Singapore’s popular hawkers and inevitably, scents from the Indian, Malay, Chinese and other fusion stalls form a unique aroma that only we know.
Amidst the diversity, we speak a common language. It may be alien to some, but for the avid hawker-goer, these terms are as common as our mother tongue. It is part of our culture. For instance, do you know any of these phrases we use to order our drinks?
“Uncle, one Michael Jackson!”
Michael Jackson is the harmonious blend of both the grass jelly drink and soymilk. You could say the comparison doesn’t do justice to Michael Jackson himself, but considering how the drink tastes so good, we say it is a compliment!
“Auntie, diao yu ah!”
Diao yu (or diao he in Hokkien) means, literally, to go fishing. This is a visual reference to how we steep our tea bags, as the act of bobbing the tea bag is similar to when you reel in a fish. That is how this slang to order Chinese tea came about. Tell this to your favourite drinks stall Auntie and she will be impressed!
“Uncle, Tak Qiu yi bei ( one cup)!”
Literally translated from Hokkien to “kick ball”, this is a slang used to order a cup of Milo. If you have not noticed, the signature design on a milo tin is of a boy playing soccer, which is where this nickname came about. But do not forget to tell Uncle if you want your Milo iced or hot!
“Auntie, one Yuan Yang, iced, please!”
Literally, yuan yang refers to a pair of mandarin ducks, which symbolises conjugal love in the Chinese culture. And conjugal love it truly is, when the aromatic tea and coffee blends harmoniously in a cup of Yuan Yang. For the caffeine lovers, this is the best of both worlds.
“Uncle, one Clementi!”
No, not the town. Clementi rhymes with lemon tea, which was how this name came about. It is a very Singaporean reference, so if you are feeling rather patriotic, try out this new way of ordering your drink. Kudos to you if you could get what you want at the first try while ordering it at a Clementi coffeeshop.
These days, traditions can prove to be inspirations for new creations. Tucked among other drink stalls and food hawkers at Sims Vista Market & Food Centre, you will find a surprising entrepreneur. May’s Cafe may seem like any other drink stall at the hawker, till you take a closer look at the menu. You will be blown away by the amount of innovation, care and attention to detail the lady boss, Auntie May, puts into her creations. Apart from the usual coffee shop drinks we are used to seeing, here are some of her unorthodox concoctions.
Technically, a Moffee is a cup of Mocha, but the proportions of the ingredients have been tweaked to be even more impactful. There is twice the amount of coffee in here than chocolate, and the blend she uses makes the flavours seem more local, in our opinion. If you like Mocha, but the American brew you get at Starbucks does not tickle your fancy, you might find yourself falling in love with Moffee.
Auntie May is more than happy to tweak the sweetness level according to your preference too, like your favourite bubble tea franchise.
Love Horlicks and tea? Charlie is your match made in heaven. Auntie May has found the perfect “golden proportion” of iced tea to Horlicks so that you can get that flavour blast of tea at the first sip, and then the lingering fragrance of malt from the Horlicks as the flavour of the tea subsides.
And the proper way to order this is with a Hong Kong accent! (We’re just kidding.) Mixed with Horlicks, Feeling gives you the aroma of coffee but takes away the bitter aftertaste with sweet malt. As it coats your tongue and the flavours linger, the pleasant feeling derived is what gives this drink its name. Some of her caffeine averse customers say this is the only coffee drink they love!
Despite the “golden ratios” she has discovered for each drink, Auntie May gives her customers free reign to tweak the drinks to their liking. More sugar or less sugar, more tea or less coffee- state your preferences and she will whip up your favourite drink customised to your taste profile. This thoughtfulness and dedication to her craft are what makes customers more than happy to keep coming back.