Malaysia Declares ‘Food War’

Malaysia is starting a food fight with neighboring countries to win rights for some of Southeast Asia’s most beloved recipes, including chili crabs and nasi lemak (coconut cream rice), according to an AP news report on Thursday.

“We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food,” The Star newspaper quoted Malaysian Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen while launching a campaign to promote the country’s cuisine. The ministry is identifying signature recipes and dishes which will be declared as Malaysian. “Chili crab is Malaysian. Hainanese chicken rice is Malaysian. We have to lay claim to our food,” Ng said. She mentioned other favorites such as nasi lemak, laksa (a spicy noodle soup) and bak kut teh (an ethnic Chinese pork rib stew).

Variations of the dishes Ng listed are available in several other Asian nations, particularly Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand and China. Some creations, such as chicken rice, were introduced to Malaysia and Singapore by ethnic Chinese workers who settled there after leaving China a century ago. Chili crab, a recipe of crabs stir-fried in tomato and chili-based sauces, is often associated with Singapore and is considered the city-state’s unofficial national dish.

Malaysia was recently entangled in another cultural spat with a neighbor. Indonesians held protests earlier this month accusing Malaysia of stealing pendet, a traditional Balinese dance, for a TV promotional campaign about Malaysia. It later turned out that Malaysia had nothing to do with the video, which had mistakenly described the dance as Malaysian. The video was broadcast on the Discovery Channel cable network, which apologized for the mistake.

Watch how Singaporeans respond to Malaysia’s claim in the following video.

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