Before the Laksa goes by the way of “chopsuey”, I would like to say my piece that I myself had been deceived that the origins of the Laksa (A rich and spicy noodle soup supposedly of Peranakan origins) came by way of Singapore and to the world. It did not come as a surprise, that when I posted my Curry Laksa lunch while working in KL, it prodded a craving for some of our netizens to go the nearest Toast Box in Manila or the nearest Singaporean restaurant. While many tourists and especially Filipinos have been initiated into the world of Singaporean street food, I would have to say that most of what we have seen is more of an audition to the real world of culinary performance that is Malaysia.
Having just recovered from cellphone bill-shock where my addiction to producing instagrammed food-porn had gotten the best of my sensibilities, I might as well make the most of out it by sharing the experience with the rest of the world. The world where food is celebrated and no other place does is so well than Malaysia. It seems like everyone there is eating all the time and everywhere. While having spent a month in KL, I came across an article which read: “Wasteful Ways of Malaysian Gluttons” The Star front page article explains that Malaysia produces some 15,000 tons of food daily; the wastage that comes with it is seen to be a problem. Placing gluttony aside, we must marvel at the sheer volumes of food being produced on a daily basis in Malaysia. Within this cornucopia, it is obviously easy for anyone to find something very good, somewhere close and at any given time.
What makes food in KL a few notches above Singapore besides the sheer volumes to work from is a greater sense of authenticity. While I consider SG to be a true cosmopolitan city that provides the most of everything, there is something about Malaysia that is still deeply ethnic. While some complain that the society is overly so, its best reflection could be seen in the food. I stayed in Brickfields where instead of gaining weight, I was actually able to shed a few pounds. With such a rich selection of Indian food, I actually had the choice of eating vegetarian throughout most of my stay. A decent meal would cost somewhere between RM 6.00 to RM 10.00 (Just don’t order the beer). That is relatively cheap even in comparison to Manila prices. The food also allows us to go deep into the country’s culture with choices of Indian (primarily Tamil), Chinese (Hokkien, Cantonese) and Malay. It is said that every region also has its specialty with Penang reaching recent renown. Richly diverse and Richly ethnic!
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Could ethnic expression be a bad thing? Certainly not when it comes to food. Not that I am downing Singapore, as a lot of Malaysia have funneled into the once island state. But in the process of funneling, some of the ingredients might have been lost? Perhaps, Malaysia is Truly Asia. Nowhere else better explored but through food. I hope to come back for some more of that Rojak!
[Photo courtesy BBCGoodFood.com.]
John is a Senior Management Consultant for Strategy and Planning and has consulted with some of the most famous local and international companies. He has a combined experience of 15 years in the area of Enterprise Development and Corporate Strategic Planning. He has been a Professional Manager, a Management Consultant a Development Economist and an NGO Executive Director.