Senario di suatu restoren yang boleh tahan mahalnya di metropolis manhattan,”so, ladies what will you have this lovely afternoon? Would you like to hear our specials for today?” Hot lady #1 menjawab dengan penuh konfiden nya, “oh no, its alright hun, I know what i’ll be having. Get me one roti kanai and a bowl of sarung barung sadap please. Thanks.”
HAAAAAAAAAA? Apa kau cakap ni?
I wanted to laugh out loud but my mouth was full with sweet sour shrimp, so it would be very unlady like of me to do so lah. So I chewed with ease and gracefully turned my head towards the hot ladies and smiled my sweetest smile, paused for a nano second and then, I burst into a crazed laughter. It didn’t help to make the situation any better, the fact that I was dining all by myself ‘cos I got stood up by my lunch date. Story for another day, that one.
My server hurriedly came to my table and asked if everything was okay and whether I needed any assistance. The look in his eyes betrayed his otherwise apparent concern. I can almost hear his real thoughts, wondering what the hell is the matter with this chic?
I told him that everything was okay and that I would like to check out the menu again on the pretense that I will be ordering dessert shortly. Meanwhile, the two hot ladies were eyeing me with seemingly disbelief looks, and I gave them an apologetic gesture. But I was still having too much fun, giggling silently inside as it never fails to amaze me since my arrival and first discovered the Malaysian eateries here in Manhattan, how the locals can’t seem to correctly pronounce our favourite dishes. Having looked at the menu again, sad to admit this but I can’t blame them entirely. There were plenty of typos to begin with; for instance, kelapa(coconut) was spelled kalapa and sarang burung(bird’s nest) was spelled as sarung barung. Sarung actually means to put on or to cover and I don’t know what the hell barung means. One thing that irks me most is the (in)correct pronounciation of roti canai. So, I am aware that in English, we annunciate the letter ‘c’ with the sound that replicates the letter ‘k’. I.e ‘car/kar’ or ‘cable/kable’ but come onnnnnn lah, this is roti canai for heaven’s sake! I pointed this ‘small’ matter out to the manager and he was like, “Yes maam, this is a Malaysian special appetizer, a delicacy infact”. And I curtly replied, “Yeah I know, being someone from Malaysia and we say roti canai not kanai”. Comprende? Pastu, he had the gall to feel offended by my remark. Truth be told, that was not my first encounter with both lousy customer service and misrepresentation of our delicious cuisine. How are they so ill-informed is beyond my comprehension.
Let’s be transparent here, if the roles were reversed, we Malaysians would be more consious as to whether we have gotten a certain foreign name or title correctly pronounced or the more likely case is to not pronounce it out loud altogether. The main reason is because we are afraid or unsure as to how and do not want to make a fool of ourselves in the process. I myself tend to butcher many French names but I do try to educate myself and make sure I get them right. The problem with the most of us is that we have this ‘tak pe‘ (complacent/relaxed) attitude that we are very much famed for. We should feel duty bound somewhat to right the wrongs that our foreign friends unknowingly commit. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by people of different backgrounds who are eager to know one another’s cultural diversity. There was one time, a friend of mine who is from Ecuardor went to the extend of reaching out to the table next to ours and politely corrected the mistake they made when ordering roti canai and rojak. One of the dudes said ‘rajak’ weh.
The tables in most of the restaurants here are within earshot, so what she did was justifiable plus I felt a sense of pride! Gembira!
The MalaysianKitchen in NYC will hold a Malaysian food week in collaboration with some of the city’s popular Malaysian/Asian reaturants starting June 13 onwards. Let’s hope that these restaurants will get their menus proof read and facts checked before presenting them to us customers. What is the point in boasting to have Malaysian chefs or chefs who are experts in Asian cuisine if you can’t get the basic information right?
Having said that, i’m looking forward to next’s week makan-makan special. Nothing beats Malaysian food. So i’m biased, sue me.