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Tuesday April 29, 2008

Giving keropok a bad name

I AM from Kuala Terengganu and have been eating keropok losong from young. True, it is a family business, passed down from one generation to the next. True, the quality of the delicacy fluctuates.

These days there is less fish meat in losong keropok. Many keropok manufacturers add more sago and use fish flavouring instead.

The species of fish originally used has been substituted with low grade fishes.

Notice how your keropok lekor swells up in the frying pan but shrivels minutes after reaching your plate? The secret of keropok lekor that does not shrivel once it is out of the pan: better quality fish, and higher fish content. In short, high protein content. This is a rarity these days.

I am not complaining about the quality of keropok lekor sold in Terengganu. These people have a right to what they’re doing, being the second poorest state in Malaysia.

However, my concern is the keropok lekor sold in Kuala Lumpur that is passed off as keropok losong. It does not in any way resemble the real deal physically. How can it claim to taste like the real thing?

These imitations are giving the Terengganu keropok industry a bad name. I once asked a keropok seller in Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur, where his keropok was from and he didn’t know. Some had the cheek to hang up “Keropok lekor Terengganu asli” labels at their stalls.

Back in the 1980s, my aunt sold keropok sent from Kuantan, in Shah Alam. These sago and fish flavoured concoctions would literally turn to stone if not consumed within 30 minutes of frying. Her husband had chipped many a tooth consuming the unsold keropok during his 10 years of selling the poor imitation.

I wouldn’t categorise his keropok as food; they looked more like weapons a hobbit would carry.

I urge the Terengganu state government to do something to ensure that imitations are not passed off for the real thing.

Please, keropok is our heritage. Don’t, because of money-hungry individuals, let our heritage be ruined by F-grade keropok. - WMR


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