If you’re a true-blue Singaporean, you should already know by now that the names Hua Ting, Mong Hing and Majestic are not the names of reputed fortune tellers or underground street gangs, but instead refer to the Chinese restaurants that your Singaporean parents often frequent.
The first rule of Chinese dinners is to always finish the food on your plate (which, for some funny reason, is that same white plate that you get at Chinese restaurants all over the world).
The second rule is to avoid eating the last piece of siew yoke/salted egg prawn/suckling pig, unless someone (usually your affable auntie who always has something nice to say like, “Aiyoooooh! Eat the last piece lah. Eat! Eat! So skinny.”) explicitly tells you to take it, or plops it onto your plate.
The last (and perhaps most important) rule is to eat fast, because if you don’t, you’re going to lose out on all the good stuff. Trust me – if you’re the slowpoke of the family, it is likely that you will be left with the yucky, unappealing bits of roasted chicken/steamed garoupa.
Chinese dinners are not a time to have a leisurely chat over a relaxed meal. Chinese dinners are all about being chop chop fast (as my Singaporean Dad would say). In other words, you snooze you lose.
If you’re celebrating your birthday at an old school Chinese restaurant, you can count on having a birthday song straight out of the 80’s played on your behalf (and probably on a cassette too). Holla if you’ve ever had to sit through two minutes of “祝你生日快乐… Happy biiirthday to yoooooou!” sung by a chorus of children over the restaurant’s PA system.
One time, we were at my aunt’s birthday dinner at this ancient Teochew restaurant, and they played the classic Chinese Restaurant birthday song but after the third chorus, it totally picked up a techno beat. It was really catchy, until the song started to trip and one of the waitresses shouted at someone at the back to cut the music. Who needs singing waiters from Olive Garden when you can get your birthday song played over the freaking PA system?
You haven’t lived until you’ve sat through at least one of these birthday songs. My Singaporean Mom loves to sing and clap along, while my Singaporean Dad prefers to look disapprovingly at the festivities and mutter something about “singing nonsense” and “just cut the cake chop chop let’s go”.