Malaysian Food Vocabulary Smackdown Watch, Brinjal Edition

One of the benefits of having maintained a blog for 8½ years is that people end up looking at your old posts for all sorts of random reasons. For example, in the past 24 hours, people have found this blog by searching for

  • char kway tiauw
  • tom pepinsky causation
  • volkstellingen java
  • south vietnam what it could have been
  • roti canai using wheat flour recipe

and dozens of other weird search strings. Every month or so I get an angry comment about how we wrote something outlandish six years ago. Which leads us to today’s Malaysian food vocabulary correction.

Let’s go back to 2005—when I was still a graduate student, JMP was JM, our two kids were negative 4 and negative 7 years old, George W. Bush was early in his second term, etc.—to our post on the etymology of eggplant. We wrote that

The local Austronesian word, terung, is kept in Indonesia, but has died out in Malaysia.

However, a helpful Malaysian today commented that

No it hasn’t

Hmm. I just checked our Malay-language recipe books, Masakan Favorit Nyonya and Aneka Kerabu dan Sambal. The former has a recipe for Terung Masak Santan (eggplant with coconut milk), and the latter for Kerabu Terung (mixed veg [or however you'd translate kerabu] eggplant). If you google “kerabu brinjal” there are a couple of hits, but they are basically English-language pages. There are no results for “brinjal masak santan.”

It is clear that the Malaysian commenter is right. We stand corrected. Brinjal is one of words used for eggplant in Malaysian English. Terung is the Malay word, just like in Indonesia.