Russell Peters and Accents

merry park hokkien prawn noodles

First of all. My deepest apologies for missing weeks of updates. What can I say, life caught up with me. Too many things to do and too little time to do it in. Hopefully this does not happen in the future.

One of the things I planned to do this month was watching Russell Peters live in Malaysia on the 12th of May. Unfortunately for me (very good for Russell), his show sold out hours after the tickets were on sale. Looking at the bright side, I couldn’t spare the time in any case. Anyway, for those of you who are unsure of who Mr. Peters is, here is a clip of his work.

The first video had his trademark joke. The be a man joke. Nothing like an Indian guy speaking with a Hong Kong Chinese accent. He is also right about being able to tell where a person is from, via his accents. You can definitely tell the difference between an Australian, an American, a Scottish and a French accent. As a matter of fact, even various regions in England itself would have a difference in their accent. Here’s a video of a man doing 24 accents from various places around the world.

Accents does not only apply to English speakers of course. It applies to every language. You can always tell whether a person speaking Mandarin is from China or Malaysia. The accent is very clear. Even in the Malay language, there are major differences in the colloquial Malay spoken in a place like Kedah as compared to here in Sarawak. I am not a linguist so I can’t really tell whether that this should be called a dialect or an accent.

As a matter of fact, there have been studies which has shown that even ducks have accents. Yes, a duck’s quack in Cornwall is different from the ducks in Cockney London. So it should come as no surprise that I can usually tell whether a person is from Penang or Kedah just from their Hokkien accent.

The Penang Hokkien accent is definitely different from the Hokkien we speak here in Kuching. To me, their accent is very melodic, reminiscent of the Indonesian language. Besides the intonations, some common words are also different. For example, to say who in Kuching Hokkien, we say “Ha Mang” where as the Penangites will say “Chi Chui”. We would call children “say kia” while they would call them “Gee Na”.

This language difference does extend to a particular favourite dish of theirs as well. I am speaking of their “Hokkien Mee”. To us Kuchingite, Hokkien mee is a fried thick yellow noodles with a thick black gravy with pork (and at some better places pork rind). This is the KL Hokkien mee that we are all familiar with. But to Penangites, Hokkien mee is a spicy soup noodle with the yellow noodles and/or bee hoon served with prawns. To us, this is just known as “hay mee” or Prawn noodles which Penang is famous for. There is of course the Singaporean Hokkien Mee, but that is another kettle of fish altogether.

So where can we get a good bowl of Penang Hokkien Mee in Kuching? My current favourite at the moment is at Tabuan Jaya’s Merry Park Cafe, next to Siang Siang Cafe. It is the stall right at the back corner of the cafe.

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What makes this stall a bit more authentic is the fact that the owner (or his wife, I forget which, could be both of them) is/are actually from Penang. While this isn’t the only Penangite owned Penang Prawn Noodle stall in Kuching, this is certainly the better one. And I dare say better than some stalls in Penang!

Why do I rate this mee so much? Well, for one thing the soup is well spiced and very tasty. You get the nice heat from the chillies and other spices but still get the nice sweetness the prawns imparts to the soup base. The prawns are fresh and sweet and are of a decent size. And last but not least, they do give you a nice chilli sauce to go with the dish. The dish is also served with a hard-boiled egg, kangkong and slices of meat, pretty traditional ingredients in this dish.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you call it Hokkien mee, or Hae mee or even just Prawn noodles, the proof is in the pudding. And in this case, you won’t be disappointed with the result. So in the words of Russell Peters, “Be a man, do the right thing” and have a bowl today.


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