BEING a true Malaysian means taking pride in our local cuisine. Some people tend to plan their travel journeys based on what they want to eat rather than the places they want to see.
So, what is unique in this ethnically diverse country that attracts people? Malaysia boasts a rich tapestry of local flavours, making it a unique culinary landscape.
As the nation celebrates its 66th year of independence, let us reflect on this common love for food that unites this nation.
The Malaysian Heritage Department of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry recognises that the Malaysian breakfast plays a prominent role in identifying, preserving and promoting our cultural heritage. This recognition holds great significance for our nation.
Breakfast, as the first meal of the day, holds a special place in Malaysia’s culinary culture. It showcases the country’s ethnic diversity, with its wide array of dishes representing different ethnicities in Malaysia.
Delving into the intricacies of Malaysian breakfast practices, a team of researchers from Taylor’s University’s School of Food Studies and Gastronomy recently shared their insights in an article titled “Much More Than Food: The Malaysian Breakfast, a Sociocultural Perspective,” published in the academic journal Sustainability.
The study reveals a breakdown of the different breakfast dishes consumed in Malaysia, with each dish attributed to a particular ethnic group: the nasi lemak and nasi goreng are emblematic of the Malays, roti canai and chapati are favourite Indian dishes while the Chinese have their noodle soup, fried rice and dim sum.
This research illuminates how the Malaysian breakfast can promote a sense of shared identity despite its diversity. These distinct dishes from various culinary backgrounds exemplify the uniqueness of the Malaysian breakfast, uniting different communities through their shared love for these morning flavours.
The Malaysian breakfast serves as a canvas for expressing unique identities, allowing individuals to assert their affiliations with their respective cultures while embracing their broader Malaysian citizenship.
In this culinary landscape, a wide range of establishments, including restaurants, food courts, mamak stalls and local vendors, participate in an informal economy. They play a pivotal role in supporting this food ecosystem, which, in turn, makes a substantial contribution to the Malaysian economy.
While over 50% of the population enjoy a traditional Asian breakfast, such as nasi lemak, nasi goreng, kuih, roti canai and dim sum, 26.1% also opt for a Westernised breakfast, usually consisting of bread, cereal and milk.
One plausible explanation for this trend is the marketing of breakfast products, including cereals and biscuits, in supermarkets and restaurants across the country.
Furthermore, this preference for Western breakfast can be traced back to the influence of English colonialism, which has become an integral dimension of Malaysian breakfast culture.
Multiculturalism enriches the distinct food identities, allowing us to relish the diverse dishes that have been passed down through generations.
In this context, the acknowledgement of the Malaysian breakfast as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation) would elevate the Malaysian breakfast as one of the hallmarks of our nation’s identity.
This recognition also has the potential to propel our Malaysian breakfast onto the global stage, promoting cross-cultural appreciation and understanding while ensuring its continued relevance.
Dr Elise Mognard is the programme director of Masters and PhD Food Studies at the School of Food Studies and Gastronomy, a part of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Leisure Management at Taylor’s University and Prof Dr Jean-Pierre Poulain is the Chair of “Food Cultures and Health” and holds a double affiliation with the University of Toulouse in France and Taylor’s University. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org