My friends and I asked around the neighborhood on “how to say delicious” in our region. We got mixed responses. Some gladly helped and some outright attacked us saying “Whadda heck do you wanna know?! My country speaks English anyway and 'delicious' would be understood”. *my eyeballs rolled 3 times and my left eyebrow challenged the Petronas*
What these oh-so-high-almighty-fluent-English-speakers-with-noses-flat-as-a-pancake don’t understand is; the cultural essence of learning to speak another language. I don’t know about you but here in Thailand, when a foreigner makes an effort to speak our language, we treat them with high esteem.
One time, I was in another country *which I won’t name even if you stick a fork up my nostrils* and made an effort to speak their language. You know what I got? – “Why are you talking in *toot toot*? Don’t you know everybody here speaks English and we are the best English speakers in the whole of Asia yaddi-yadda-yadda-blah-blah?” *OMG! What a culture-less human being!*
Anyways, enough of the ranting…here’s how to say delicious in Southeast Asia and express your appreciation for the delicious food your hosts are serving you:
You say “sedap” in Malaysia and Brunei. Remember that the ‘e’ is pronounced like a soft ‘a”. You would surely harvest nice praises from the Malays and the Bruneians and who knows? – They might give you more food to munch on.
“Sedap” is also applicable in Malay speaking Singapore. And ‘delicious’ in Mandarin is “Hen Hao Chi” or “Hen Mei Wei” or if you really want to impress your hosts, say "Jin Ho Jiek" in Hokkien and "Ho Sek" in Cantonese.
In Vietnam, “Ngon” means delicious. "Rất ngon" means very delicious. If you wanna compliment your hosts’ effort of preparing a dish for you, you say "Ngon quá" for appreciation.
“Sarap” is the root word for ‘delicious’ in the Philippines. You can use it as it is or add a prefix like “masarap” (delicious), “napakasarap” (very delicious) or the overacting “Ang sarap-sarap!” – please note that the Malay ’sedap’ is pronounced like ‘sarap’ too. If you’re in Cebu or Mindanao Island; you say “Lami kaayo”.
Indonesia has a lot of terms for it – “bagose makan”, “enak”, “sedap”, “nikmat” or simply “maknyuss”. And if you wanna max it up -- you can add “sangat” or “sekali” or “banget”. Although the most appropriate term for delicious food is “Lezat”. You can also use these in Timor Leste.
They say “Chi-ang” in Cambodia. In Laos it’s “Saep” (like ‘sehp”) and add “lai lai” after it to say it’s very delicious. I was told its “Lum tair tair” in Burma but I’m not really sure because it sounds Northern Thai to me. *Help me out, Dawn?*
Here in Thailand (เมืองไทยน่าอยู่ที่สุดในโลกเลย) -- we say “aroi” (อร่อย) for delicious and “aroi mak” (อร่อยมาก) for very delicious.
I don’t need to note that you don’t say “delicious” each and every time you stuff your face, should I? Once is enough -- on the first bite usually and maybe repeat it again when you finish eating for the best effect.
These little cultural/language exchange brings us closer together. After all, we are one big family anyway that happens to speak different languages.
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