10 Malay Idioms That are Deliciously Related to Food

Credit: blog.mohdimran.com

You know what is the most interesting thing about food? Food is basically everything, it can be an issue, a topic that can be discussed on a first date, a hobby (cooking or eating), and also, it can be idioms. Idioms, or peribahasa in Bahasa Malaysia, are used to express feelings when you don’t want to sound harsh or too straight forward whenever you are describing someone or something.

Idioms can sound hilarious, logical and surreal sometimes. However, behind every idiom, there is useful advice and lessons that can be learned. Almost every language has their own set of idioms. In this post, we’ll be exploring several Malay idioms that are strongly related to food. Here are our top 10 food idioms and their meanings:


1. Udang di Sebalik Batu

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This idiom is use to describe a person who has hidden intentions in every word and action shown/said to others. For example, we always have that one friend who’ll go “Eh, your food looks delicious lah!” whenever we have some food. From the look of their eyes and the words that came out, we always know that they want to have a taste of our food.


2. Mendapat Durian RuntuhCredit: theodysseyonline.com

Mendapat durian runtuh is probably one of most common Malay idioms that people love to hear. Why? Well, it described a person who gets a sudden and huge profit for work without having to slog himself/herself asses off. You can use this idiom when your boss suddenly gives you a big annual bonus prior to a big celebration (in Malaysia, we have too many! Choose what your heart desires) out of nowhere, just because he, your boss, also got a ‘durian runtuh’! It’s something like “Hey everyone, our company got a big project coming, so here’s 10, 000 ringgit to each and every one of you…just because!”


3. Kepit Daun Kunyit

Credit: quickmeme.com

Do you need a perfect idiom to describe a person who loves to praise himself/herself? This is the best idiom that can be used to describe them. Honestly, this is one of the idioms that we rarely use in our daily lives. The meaning of this idiom is similar with angkat bakul sendiri which is referring to someone who is so full of himself/herself. I usually use this idiom whenever my little sister cook a meal for our family because she is always praising herself; “Wah, this fried rice that I cooked is sooo delicious and also…”(she continues to praise herself, smh)


4. Ada Gula Ada Semut

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What happens when you left an uncovered piece of cake on a table? Well, you are likely to invite a colony of ants to have a party and coming back to the idiom, ada gula ada semut simply means we tend to be attracted to what most benefited them. This idiom can be used whenever there is a good opportunity that grabs people’s attention, it usually generates a huge crowd waiting to grab it,


5. Diam-Diam Ubi Berisi

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Do you ever met someone who is very quiet and at the same time very smart? This idiom suits that person perfectly! A person who usually does not talk so much represents as an “ubi” in this idiom. But why an “ubi”? Is it because quiet people are a cute patootie potato? Ubi or potatoes grow underground and the only way the farmer can know the potato is, well, grown, by digging for them. Therefore, a quiet person usually seemed chill and shy on the outside but very chaotic and talkative on the inside. People who are very smart tend to have conversations in their heads with themselves and they usually think about a lot of things such as issues, solutions to certain problems and even things that you do not even bother to think of.


6. Ada Kerak Ada Nasi

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First of all, let’s find out what exactly kerak means. Kerak is basically a crust, whenever you cook rice there is usually crust at the bottom of the rice cooker. Which bring us to the meaning of this idiom which basically means every action has its consequences. When cooking a meal for your mother in law, there are two possible outcomes you can get from it. It’s either she is gonna love it or HATE it hmm… but either way, at least you tried!


7. Bagaimana acuan begitulah kuihnya

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You’ve probably have heard of this idiom since you were a little kid, and the meaning of this idiom is actually really interesting. It basically means that children inherit characteristics of their parents. You can be a parent that is passionate in baking and your children probably going to be exactly like you, love to bake (or at least, love to eat cakes).

P/s: Intelligence comes from the mother. If your kid is acting up, it is definitely coming from his/her dad.


8. Garam jatuh ke gula
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Garam jatuh ke gula is and idiom referring to a very open-minded and positive person. The idiom defined someone as easygoing and don’t mind being on the receiving end criticisms that is given to them. Given this example situation, a chef is criticized for a dessert made by him but he accepts every criticism given with an open heart and calmly.


9. Berjagung-jagung dahulu sementara menunggu padi masak

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This idiom is suitable for people who are hardworking and dislike wasting their time! Berjagung-jagung dahulu sementara menunggu padi masak means while you waiting for something good, you do something productive/useful for the future. For instance, a student can be working during a semester break to earn extra cash that can be used to pay their college fees!


10. Nasi tak dingin pinggan tak retak

Credit: polka.id

There are actually several idioms that are related to rice. Do you ever think it’s because Malaysians love rice so much that they even made idioms about it? Maybe, YES. Rice is the staple food that Malaysians love to eat. You can eat it with anything, name it, sambal, egg and even with salt! For this idiom, nasi tak dingin pinggan tak retak refers to someone who is very careful when doing something. Take an example of a person who is very close to us…our MOMS. I am sure all mothers are practically the same, very careful when doing house chores and whenever they ask for help, especially with the dishes, you need to make sure you wash it carefully WITHOUT the SOUND of plates clinking because if you make too much of clinking noise they’ll go “ Eh, careful with the plates, okay” :’)




Ili Sakinah

Ili Sakinah loves to lepak at mamak and definitely go with teh anytime, anywhere!

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