Back to the home page
Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
nam yu /nahm yuui,
n. [Cant. 南 nam the south, the
region of fire and vegetation + 乳 ü milk; to suckle; the breasts, a teat; soft (Eitel);
Mand. nán south +
rǔ milk; any milk-like liquid (Chi.–Eng.
Dict.)] A variety of
Yu (fermented bean curd) which is reddish in colour due to
having been fermented with red yeast (Monascus purpureus).
2013 Chris Tan The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 2 July, 40 Nam yee: Beancurd fermented with red yeast rice acquires a soft, creamy texture and an earthy-sweet aroma with a cheese-like funkiness. A little goes a long way. Used as a condiment and sauce ingredient, it also gives marinades complexity and depth and can temper strong-flavoured meats such as beef, mutton and pork offal. It is also crucial to the taste of certain Chinese biscuits (kai chai pang), spiral cookies, traditional hum ching pang.
nanny nanny boo
boo /na-nee na-nee boo boo,
ˈnaniː ˈnaniː buː buː/
int. [poss. f. Eng. nyah-nyah expr. the speaker’s feeling of
superiority or contempt for another + Eng. boo-boo (redupl. of boob)
a foolish mistake or blunder; foolish, inane; or booby a dull, heavy,
stupid fellow; a lubber; a clown, a nincompoop; spec. (dial. or
children’s colloq.) a cry-baby; the last boy in a school class, the dunce <
Eng. boo expr. contempt, disapprobation, aversion (OED)]
children’s colloq. An exclamation, said in a
sing-song manner to the tune sol-sol-mi-la-sol-mi, expr. the speaker’s feeling of superiority or triumph over
another; nyah-nyah. The term is often uttered during games of ‘catching’ or tag,
with the following line “you cannot catch me”.
2006 Neil Humphreys Today (from Todayonline.com), 26 August. But most importantly of all, my Singapore titles [books] are beating other Malaysian titles so nanny, nanny, booboo.
[Mal.] 1 Cooked rice.
2 With specifying word: rice as cooked in a particular way (see
[1955 R.J. Wilkinson A Malay–English Dictionary, vol. 2, 799 nasi. Rice in two senses: (i) as cooked in some particular way; and (ii) as the staple food of the Malays.]
nasi briyani /bri-ah-ni,
[poss. < Punj. ਬੜੀ
a preparation of ground dhal and curry stuffs (Panj.
Dict.)] Also ellipt. briyani. A Malay or Indian dish consisting of rice, often coloured
yellow with turmeric, which is cooked
together with curried meat or fish.
[1963 Richard Winstedt An Unabridged Malay–English Dictionary 243 n. [nasi] běriani rice cooked with oil and meat.] 2004 Justin Cheong Today (Festive Special), 10 December, 4 So, let’s get our loved ones together and bring out the nasi briyani, the steamboat and the fish head curry. 2006 Lim Wei Chean & Lee Hui Chieh The Straits Times (from Straits Times Interactive), 11 January. The visitors watched the ritual killing, skinning and distribution of the meat of the sheep to the needy after a 10-minute presentation on the meaning of the festival [Hari Raya Haji] and its rituals.. They then dined together on nasi briyani, cooked with meat from the sacrificed sheep. 2006 Wong Ah Yoke The Sunday Times (LifeStyle) (from Straits Times Interactive), 2 July. Roti prata and nasi briyani are so ubiquitous in Singapore and Malaysia that one easily falls into the belief that they originated in this part of the world. But the fact is that both dishes were brought here from India by early immigrants. The versions that most Singaporeans are familiar with, however, are slightly different from what one finds in India today as the recipes evolved separately over the centuries. This bit of information was brought to my attention recently at a lunch at Spice Junction, a six-month-old restaurant in Race Course Road. The eatery specialises in food from Kerala, a state on the south-western coast of the sub-continent.. Briyani is called biriyani here, and comes in three variations – Malabar chicken biriyani ($8.90), Malabar mutton biriyani ($9.90) and Malabar prawn biriyani ($10.90). These are what we call dum briyani, where the meat or seafood is slow-cooked with basmati rice in a small brass container. The usual briyani here has the meat and rice cooked separately. The biriyani also does not have the bright yellow colour of the Singaporean briyani that comes from turmeric. Instead, the soft and moist white rice gets its tasty flavours directly from the meat. Whatever reddish hue you see mixed into the rice comes from the meat’s spice marinade.
nasi campur /chahm-poor, ˈtʃɑmpʊə/ n. [Mal. campur, (formerly) champor, champur mixing up, compounding, blending (Wilkinson); mix, knead. mingle (Winstedt)] Rice served with a variety of Malay-style meat and vegetable dishes.
fry in a pan] Malay-style fried rice.
[1963 Richard Winstedt An Unabridged Malay–English Dictionary 243 n. [nasi] goreng rice fried sometimes along with curry.]
nasi goreng istimewa /is-ti-me-wə,
n. [Mal., ‘special fried rice’: istimewa even more so,
particularly so (Wilkinson);
special, specially, apart from (Winstedt). Wilkinson
says that the word is derived from Arab. while Winstedt
says it is Skt.; however, the word has not been found in
Perh. it is related to Skt. इष्ट
ishṭa sought; wished;
desired; liked, beloved; agreeable; cherished; worshipped, reverenced,
respected; regarded as good, approved; valid < Skt.
to endeavour to obtain, strive, seek for; to endeavour to make favourable;
desire, wish, long for; to request; to be willing; to be about to do anything,
to intend; to strive to obtain anything from any one; to expect anything from
any one; to assent; to be favourable; to ask anything from any one; to
acknowledge, to regard; or Skt. ईिशत
īśi-tvam superiority, supremacy: one of the eight attributes of Śiva <
īś to own, possess; to belong to; to dispose of; be valid or powerful, to
be master of; to command; to rule, reigh; to behave like a master, allow (Monier-Williams)
+ Mal. mewa, mewah plenty, prosperity, wealth (Wilkinson)]
Nasi goreng topped with a fried egg and served together with
2006 Eveline Gan Today, 31 July, 27 [T]here are also a number of Malay dishes, such as nasi goreng istimewa ($15) – fried rice with sambal chicken and chicken satay topped with fried egg and prawn crackers – which can be enjoyed as a meal or as a staple to complement side dishes.
a town in Thailand] Malay-style fried rice wrapped in an egg omelette.
2002 Michelle Ho & Ruby Pan The Straits Times (Life! This Weekend), 12 April, L27 Items to check out here include the.. bee hoon or nasi goreng pattaya (egg-wrapped fried bee hoon or rice).
n. [Mal. kuning yellow (Wilkinson)]
[1955 R.J. Wilkinson A Malay–English Dictionary, vol. 1, 626 kuning. Yellow. .. Nasi k[uning]: rice stained with saffron; = nasi kunyit. 1963 Richard Winstedt An Unabridged Malay–English Dictionary 191 kuning.. yellow, light brown (of shoes).. nasi k[uning] saffron rice..]
n. [Mal. kunyit turmeric, Curcuma longa (Wilkinson)
or Curcuma domestica (Winstedt)]
Malay-style rice flavoured with coconut milk and pandan leaves and coloured
yellow with turmeric.
[1955 R.J. Wilkinson A Malay–English Dictionary, vol. 2, 800 rice boiled in water: .. with saffron (n. kuning, n. kunyit).. 1963 Richard Winstedt An Unabridged Malay–English Dictionary 244 n. [nasi] kunyit glutinous rice (pulut) steamed and coloured by turmeric (for court or other festivities)..]
fat, grease, rich oiliness (Wilkinson);
Johor & Penang Mal., fat (of meat), grease; greasy, oily; rich, savoury (Winstedt)]
Minyak. 2 A Malay dish consisting of
Nasi Minyak, usu.
served with omelette, fried fish (often
Ikan Kuning) or
Ikan Bilis and
sauce, and traditionally wrapped in a banana leaf.
1 [1955 R.J. Wilkinson A Malay–English Dictionary, vol. 2, 673 Nasi l.: rice boiled in coconut-milk. 1963 Richard Winstedt An Unabridged Malay–English Dictionary 243 n. [nasi] daging, n. lěmak rice steamed in coconut-milk.] 2006 Wong Ah Yoke The Straits Times (Life!) (from Straits Times Interactive), 3 April. [H]e cooks the coconut fragrant seafood fried rice.. with nasi lemak. The aroma of the coconut milk hits you the moment the dish arrives at the table. 2 2000 Sylvia Tan The Sunday Times (Sunday Plus), 13 February, 7 The cry of the nasi lemak seller echoing up and down the HDB corridors must be a part of many older Singaporeans’ childhood.. If you hailed him, he would dip into that battered basket and bring out a banana leaf-wrapped packed of coconut rice, topped with fish or a piece of omelette and a dollop of sambal. 2001 Tee Hun Ching The Sunday Times (Sunday Plus), 8 April, P8 From a simple dish that Malays cobbled together from the kangkong in their backyard and the coconut trees dotting their kampung, nasi lemak is now a staple in every hawker centre and many glitzy hotels. .. According to veteran television cook-show host BJ Kadir, 49, the traditional version consists of rice topped with sambal chilli, kangkong, ikan bilis, fried fish (kuning) and maybe half an omelette. ‘It was very basic. There were no peanuts, chicken wings or otak.’ These extras, adds food consultant and writer Violet Oon, came about only in the last 15 to 20 years as competition heated up and creative juices flowed faster. 2009 Elizabeth Looi The Straits Times, 12 December, C10 Nasi lemak is a coconut rice dish served with condiments such as spicy sauce, anchovies and chicken and is popular in Malaysia and Singapore. A similar dish in Indonesia is called nasi uduk. .. [Malaysian tourism minister Ng Yen Yen] said it was high time that Malaysia claimed laksa and nasi lemak as its own, and stop other countries from “hijacking” such food.
nasi minyak /min-yahk, ˈmɪnjɑk̚/ n. [Mal. minyak oil, grease (Winstedt)] Rice cooked with coconut milk.
[Padang, the capital and largest city of West Sumatra, Indonesia (see
quot. November 2006), poss. < Mal. padang
treeless wasteland, (loosely) treeless plain (Wilkinson);
plain, (playing) field (Winstedt)] Rice served with a variety of Malay-style meat and vegetable
2001 Neil Humphreys Notes from an Even Smaller Island 59–60 The Malays enriched their spicy dishes with coconut milk sauces. Their nasi padang, which is a choice of spicy meat, such as mutton or chicken curry, served with various vegetables on a banana leaf, is my favourite. 2001 Teo Pau Lin The Sunday Times (Sunday Plus), 8 April, P5 Steaming plates of nasi padang and nasi lemak. 2006 Teo Pau Lin (quoting Iain Ewing) The Sunday Times (from Straits Times Interactive), 12 February. I love nasi padang. I could eat it until I die. Haja Maimunah restaurant in Joo Chiat Road near my office is one of the best nasi padang places here. 2006 Leong Su-lin The Straits Times (Life!) (from Straits Times Interactive), 3 April. Tucking into a styrofoam box of nasi padang as he sits in the hairdresser’s chair.. 2006 Teo Pau Lin The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 30 July, L26 Nasi padang.. Owner Jumrin Isrin, 52, has taken over the family business from his father, who opened the restaurant in 1948. They are famous for their barbeque chicken and fish, beef rendang and achar – all made with fresh ingredients. 2006 Sukri Kadola Today (from Todayonline.com), 21 September. My father, a quiet and gentle man by nature, fell in love with a true “Padang woman” whom he met at my maternal grandmother’s nasi padang stall along Bussorah Street in 1949. Together, since the 1960s, they have made a livelihood selling nasi padang at a little coffee shop in Toa Payoh. 2006 Wong Ah Yoke The Sunday Times (LifeStyle) (from Straits Times Interactive), 26 November. What may strike those not used to Indonesian nasi padang, though, is how different some of its dishes are from the Singapore variety. Nasi padang originated from Padang, a region in Sumatra, but it is commonly found here, especially in the Sultan Mosque vicinity where immigrants have set up eateries over the past few decades.
[poss. < Eng. paprika a powdered spice with a deep orange-red colour and
a mildly pungent flavour, made from the dried, ground fruits of certain
varieties of the sweet pepper] A spicy Malay dish consisting of meat (usu.
beef, chicken or mutton) cooked in a gravy with chillies, tomato sauce and
vegetables, and served with plain rice or
2002 Michelle Ho & Ruby Pan The Straits Times (Life! This Weekend), 12 April, L27 Items to check out here include the.. nasi paprik (rice with mutton).
neh neh /ne ne, nɛ nɛ/ n. [origin unkn.] nursery 1 A woman’s nipples or breasts. 2 A man’s nipples. Also neh neh pok.
new bird see Sin Jiao.
Unnecessarily pedantic or strict. Also
2 1978 Leong Choon Cheong Youth in the Army 164 The principal, however, was very ngeow. She expelled one boy who was caught kissing and hugging a willing girl. 272 True, they [Singapore youths] grumble here and there – about tasteless army food, about loss of remuneration in doing NS, about exposure to bad habits and vulgar behaviour, about corporals and officers who are ngeow, etc. – but in the end they settle down and adapt well to the military routine. 309 ngeow.. niau. Literally, ‘cat’: Hokkien. Used to describe a superior who is unreasonably strict. See chiah hi, which is synonymous. 1985 Michael Chiang Army Daze 46 Ngeow (Hokkien) cat. Used to describe superior who is unnecessarily tough or strict. Also applies to fusspots who demand their way.
ngo hiang /no (ngo) hiahng, nɒ (ŋɒ) hiɑŋ/ n. [Hk. 五 ngo five + 香 heong fragrance; spices; Mand. wǔxiāng] Also ngo heong, ngoh hiang. 1 A type of Chinese food consisting of minced pork and prawn flavoured with Five-Spice Powder, rolled inside a beancurd skin and deep-fried. 2 A selection of various steamed and fried foods, including ngo hiang and Lupcheong, served with sliced cucumber and eaten with chilli sauce and sweet sauce.
1 2001 Raelene Tan (quoting Letty Lim) The Sunday Times (Special), 14 January, P12 Also popular is the ngo heong, which are pork and prawn rolls flavoured with five-space powder. 2005 Peh Shing Huei The Straits Times, 9 December, H13 Chinese New Year was spent at the Hos’, with Mr [C.V. Devan] Nair eager to tuck into Mrs Ho’s ngoh hiang.. 2006 Teo Pau Lin The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 13 August, L25 NGOH HIANG: This is a Hokkien dish where a meat paste that includes chestnuts, prawns and onions is wrapped in beancurd skin and deep-fried. Handmade ones are moist and meaty whereas machine-made ones are starchy. 2010 Rebecca Lynne Tan The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 25 July, 20 .. ngoh hiang, a minced pork, prawn and chestnut roll wrapped in beancurd skin.. 2 2003 Teo Pau Lin The Sunday Times, 5 October, L40 Chomp on morsels of culinary history with this stall’s selection of ngo hiang, which has been made for over 80 years. .. Items such as egg rolls, liver rolls, ngo hiang and sausages are still made by hand at the stall. 2006 Teo Pau Lin The Sunday Times (LifeStyle) (from Straits Times Interactive), 17 September. He includes a recipe that reinterprets.. ngoh hiang (five-spice meat fritters) by adding foie gras to it.
/nien gow, niɛn gaʊ/
n. [Mand. 年糕 niángāo: nián year
(a homophone for 粘 or 黏
nián sticky, glutinous) + gāo cake, pudding] A sweet, sticky,
brown-coloured Chinese cake made from glutinous rice flour that is traditionally
eaten during the Chinese New Year. It is sometimes cut into pieces, coated with
beaten egg and stir-fried before eating. Known in Cant. as nin ko.
¶ Nian gao is traditionally eaten at Chinese New Year because the name of the cake sounds like the Mand. phrase 年年高升 niánnián gāoshēng to ascend to greater heights year after year: gāo tall, high; of a high level or degree, above the average + shēng rise, hoist, go up, ascend; promote.
It is also associated with a Chinese ritual relating to the Zàojūn or Zàoshén [Mand. 灶君 or 灶神: zào kitchen range, cooking stove; jūn monarch, sovereign, supreme ruler; shén god, deity, divinity], the Kitchen God, who has been worshipped in China since at least the second century b.c. There are several explanations as to how the Kitchen God came to be, the most popular being that he was once a mortal named Zhāng Dān or Zhāng Zǐguō [Mand. 张单 or 张子郭] married to a virtuous woman. However Zhang Dan abandoned his wife for a young maiden. For this betrayal he was struck blind. His paramour left him and he became a beggar. One day, while begging for alms, he happened across the home of his former wife. Due to his blindness he did not recognise her. Despite the way he had treated her, Zhang Dan’s wife took pity on him and invited him in. She tended to him lovingly and cooked him a fabulous meal. He related to her his sorry tale and, as he began to cry, his eyesight was miraculously restored. Recognising his benefactress as his former wife he was overcome with shame and threw himself into the kitchen hearth. His wife tried to put out the fire but he was consumed by the flames and all that was left of him was a leg (to this day in China a fire poker is sometimes called ‘Zhang Dan’s Leg’). His wife then created a shrine to him above the hearth. Upon hearing the story, the Jade Emperor [Mand. 玉皇大帝 Yǜ Huáng Dàdì], the King of Heaven, decided to reward Zhang Dan for admitting to his wrongdoings by making him the Kitchen God and charging with watching over the behaviour of every household.
In traditional Chinese belief, the Kitchen God returns to heaven on the 23rd day of the 12th month of the lunar calendar, one week before the Chinese New Year, to render a report on the behaviour of the household during the year. An unfavourable report causes the household to suffer from bad luck during the year to come. To ensure that the Kitchen God only speaks sweet words or to prevent him from opening his mouth altogether, honey or nian gao is smeared on the lips of an image of the Kitchen God on a poster mounted in the kitchen of the house. Offerings of food and incense are also made to the Kitchen God on his birthday, said to be on the third day of the eighth lunar month, and also on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month.
2002 Leong Pik Yin The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 3 February, P13 New year cake (nian gao). Believed to represent: Improvement year after year. Its meaning its derived from a Chinese phrase “nian nian gao sheng”, which means advancement every year. 2005 Teo Pau Lin (quoting Fong Loo Fern) The Sunday Times (LifeStyle) (from Straits Times Interactive), 23 October. During Chinese New Year, my family always had nian gao (glutinous rice cake) which was soaked overnight, then stir-fried or cooked in soup. I’ve tried getting my children to eat it but they’ve always refused. I guess the chewy texture is an acquired taste. 2006 Teo Pau Lin (quoting Clara Lee) The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 13 August, L27 Whenever I go to a Shanghainese restaurant, I always order.. stir-fried nian gao (glutinous rice cakes)..
nin ko /neen goh, niːn go/ n. [Cant. 年 nín a year + 糕 kò rice gruel; cakes or dumplings (Eitel); Mand. nián year + gāo cake, pudding (Chi.–Eng. Dict.)] Nian Gao.
/nəng kah peng, nəŋ kɑ pɛŋ/
[Hk. 嫩 nng
soft, tender, delicate +
leg + 兵 peng
soldier; Mand. nèn
A soldier serving in the navy.
A soldier serving in a land-based unit as compared to a navy soldier.
1978 Leong Choon Cheong Youth in the Army 309 nng ka-peng. Soft-leg soldier: Hokkien. Used contemptuously to describe personnel in the Maritime Command. They are seen as wobbly soldiers who have no strength in their legs. The aggression could have stemmed from inter-arm jealousy. Sometimes it is insultingly directed at land-forces soldiers.
no government [Eng. transl. of Hk. 无政府 bo cheng hu: bo no + cheng hu government (cheng politics, political affairs; certain administrative aspects of government + hu seat of government, government office); Mand. wú zhèngfǔ] Bo Cheng Hu.
/noh spee-yuk, nəʊ
Also no spiak.
Used to indicate that one is dumbfounded or flabbergasted, or has nothing to
1978 Leong Choon Cheong Youth in the Army 310 no spee-yak. A corruption of ‘no speak’. This refers to a soldier, usually a platoon IC, who is flabbergasted, dumbfounded, lost for words – a condition usually brought about by a witty (but not insubordinate) retort from a young and clever NS soldier. 2004 Tee Hun Ching (quoting Lim Hng Kiang) The Straits Times, 3 March, H6 ‘Spiaking’ the truth.. ‘Our outlook is that we must get people to get married, must get people to have their first child. Otherwise no “spiak”.’ – On the groups the Government is encouraging to have babies. ‘No spiak’ is Singlish for ‘nothing to discuss’.
nor mai gai
/lo mı gı, lɒ mʌɪ ɡʌɪ/
no mai glutinous rice
(from which wine is made), Oryza glutinosa (mai grains of rice) +
the fowl (Eitel); Mand.
glutinous rice (nuò glutinous (cereal) +
Dict.)] Also lor mai gai.
A Chinese dish consisting of steamed seasoned glutinous rice topped with pieces
of chicken and, usu., mushrooms.
2004 Pauline D. Loh Today, 2 March 2004, 21 [T]he classic nuomi ji or lor mai gai. .. The nuomi ji, steamed glutinous rice with a chicken topping, needs a little time to prepare, but I assure you that it is worth every extra minute. 2006 Teo Pau Lin (quoting Glenda Han) The Sunday Times (LifeStyle) (from Straits Times Interactive), 2 July. .. I’d buy the lor mai kai (glutinous rice with chicken) there, which is so oily and unhealthy but I love it. It’s my favourite petrol kiosk food.
int. [Eng.] Used to indicate that a joke has fallen flat or that an
unbelievable statement has been made.
2005 Renee Tan The Sunday Times, 27 February, 38 Jianqi and his classmates often use the phrases, “not needed” and “dot dot dot”, when one of them makes a joke that falls flat. The phrases serve a dual purpose: snorting at the pathetic attempt and taking a dig at the speaker.
ɛn ɑːr aɪ siː/
n. [Eng. abbrev. for n(ational r(egistration i(dentity c(ard].
Also ellipt. IC.
An identity card issued under the provisions of the National Registration Act
1965 (No. 11 of 1965) of Singapore.
[1965 National Registration Act 1965 (No. 11 of 1965), s. 2. “identity card” means an identity card issued under the provisions of this Act, and includes an identity card issued or deemed to be issued under the Registration of Persons Ordinance 1955 [No. 32 of 1955].] 2005 Koh Gaik Joo The Straits Times (from Straits Times Interactive), 16 September. While I was living in Britain and the United States, I could buy cars, have surgery, get my motorcycle licence, rent houses, apply for utilities and telephone lines, open bank accounts, get store cards and credit cards, etc, all without having to disclose my NRIC or passport number. Here I am forced to disclose my NRIC number for all manner of mundane matters.
n. [Mal.] A durable wood from trees of the genera Palaquium
and Payena, related to the gutta-percha tree (which is one of a number of
trees, esp. Isonandra (or Dichopsia) Gutta (N.O.
Euphorbiaceæ)); the trees themselves.
1894 N.B. Dennys A Descriptive Dictionary of British Malaya 420 Nyatoh ... ... dichopsis spp. ... ... Used chiefly for planks; very durable. [1955 R.J. Wilkinson A Malay–English Dictionary, vol. 2, 814 nyatoh. Gen. name for certain trees of the genera Payena and Palaquium that produce a good class of timber (kayu ny. [nyatoh]). Esp. Payena costata and Palaquium javense.]