Ban on foreign cooks should go nationwide, says minister

13-Aug-2014 Intellasia | The Malaysian Insider | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The tourism and culture minister has suggested that the Penang’s proposed ban to prohibit hawkers from hiring foreigners as main cooks be extended throughout the nation to uphold local food standard.

Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said this was to ensure that the taste and standard of street food, which was part of Malaysia’s heritage, were not compromised.

He said the reason he agreed with Penang Chief minister Lim Guan Eng’s proposal was because there was a genuine concern that non-locals may not be able to uphold local food standard.

Last month, Lim proposed to revoke hawker stall licences if the owners hired foreigners as the main cooks as a move to preserve the street food culture in Penang.

“Our street food must reflect Malaysia’s multicultural identity. So, in order to preserve this authenticity, such dishes should only be handled by locals,” said Nazri today at the launch of the 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Festival.

“One hundred and seventy-three dishes have been enlisted under Section 645 of the National Heritage Act 2005 as part of our national identity as they carry the significance of society’s culture and beliefs, hence we must not have non-Malaysians preparing local street food.”

He added that delicacies, such as cendol, mee mamak, laksa asam and Penang char kuey teow have all been enlisted as part of Malaysia’s food heritage in 2009.

“Hawker food, especially Penang’s, needs our help to be preserved, because even CNN has declared it as a food haven,” he said.

“How then can a foreigner prepare Malaysian food? Even if the cook is from India, a foreigner is still not attuned to our taste. By hiring them, we will end up tarnishing Penang’s street food culture and reputation.”

While urging state governments to consider implementing the ban, he said, for starters, foreigners should not be brought in as main cooks.

Using Kuala Lumpur as an example, he said the influx of foreigners as main cooks had eroded the taste and originality of the city’s street food.

“I have received complaints that the quality and standard of Kuala Lumpur’s hawker food has gone down the drain because we have non-Malaysians preparing the dishes. Hence I think it is important that other states join in the effort of preserving and protecting our local heritage.”

Meanwhile, Nazri said as of April, 9.27 million tourists visited the country. The target for Visit Malaysia Year 2014 is 28 million.

“We are still on track in terms of the reception of tourists despite the two Malaysia Airlines tragedies,” he said.

Nazri said Malaysia has seen a steady growth of international tourists with a 2.7 percent increase in 2013 from 2012, at a figure of 25.72 million visitors, generating RM65.44 billion receipts.

Singapore remains the source of the largest number of international tourists.


Category: Malaysia

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