Malaysian minister drags Singapore into Southeast Asia’s simmering culture war

By The Asia File

Just when Malaysia and Indonesia seemed ready to end their ridiculous kulturkampf over traditional dances and batik, Malaysia's tourism minister has dragged Singapore into the fray, implicitly accusing the neighbouring city-state of "hijacking" its food.

"We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food," tourism minister Ng Yen Yen told reporters at the launch of a gourmet food festival in Kuala Lumpur.

She went on to cite dishes such as chilli crab, laksa, and bak kut teh as examples of Malaysian dishes that had been hijacked by others, with Singapore presumably at the top of that list.

Without a hint of irony, she even singled out "Hainanese chicken rice" as an authentic Malaysian dish that had been stolen by interlopers, according to The Star newspaper.

All these dishes, incidentally, are listed by the Singapore Tourism Board as quintessential Singaporean fare.

Apparently this was more than idle banter as Ng explained that over the next three months, the Malaysian government would "identify certain key dishes to declare as Malaysian".

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