KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia does not intend to patent local food but wants its citizens to know their origins, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said.
She expressed surprise over responses on her statement on local food and Malaysia’s intention to lay claim to several dishes, which were synonymous with the country’s identity and ideal as a tourism product.
“Neither did I say that no other countries can cook such food. We are not trying to compare with other countries,” she told a press conference on Wednesday.
“Malaysians must know about the origin of their food. We want them to start thinking about their food when they eat them. We also want them to improve on their dishes and be more creative.”
Dr Ng’s recent statement that nasi lemak, laksa, bak kut teh, chilli crab and Hainanese chicken rice are Malaysian dishes had sparked off a "food fight" on the Internet, including from some unhappy Singaporeans who insisted that chilli crab and the chicken rice were theirs.
Dr Ng said a study on the origins of foods in the country would be conducted and an apology conveyed if it was wrongly claimed.
“At the end of the day, tourists will go to where the food is tastiest,” she added.
The National Heritage website, www.warisan.gov.my has 100 types of food and drinks listed under its food heritage list.
These include nasi lemak, laksa, chilli crab and Penang char kuay teow.
Citing an example, Dr Ng said bak kut teh -- which is Hokkien for meat bone tea -- originated from Klang in the 1930s by a Chinese sinseh.
“Ba kut teh can be chicken or any meat because it is meat bone,” she said.
Local dishes, she said, could be part of the Malaysian tourism product branding as many were already in the heritage food list.
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Laksa and nasi lemak among our pride, says Yen Yen