Much ado about bak kut teh listing as national heritage dish

THE decision to list bak kut teh as a national heritage dish was questioned by Hulu Terengganu MP Datuk Rosol Wahid (PN-Hulu Terengganu).

He said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing must explain the decision as this could touch on “religious sensitivities”.

“If we are Taiwan or Hong Kong, it would not be an issue (to list bak kut teh). We have national dishes like burasak and uthappam that do not go against the religion,” he said when debating the motion of thanks on the royal address.

On Saturday, Commissioner of Heritage Mohamad Muda Bahadin listed 10 dishes including bak kut teh – a traditional pork herb soup – as national heritage foods.

He said other dishes include mee kolok and nasi ambeng; traditional desserts like burasak, kuih lapis and uthappam; and appetisers such as jeruk tuhau and the katira drink.

These were all gazetted as heritage dishes under Subsection 49(1) of the National Heritage Act 2005.

Previously, Opposition MPs had criticised the move to list bak kut teh – whose origins have been traced to Klang, Selangor – as a national heritage food.Datuk Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah (PN-Langkawi) claimed that bak kut teh is not even in the top 30 most popular local dishes.

Last year, Tebrau MP Jimmy Puah (PH-Tebrau) proposed that the government list bak kut teh as a national heritage dish after watching a documentary insinuating that the dish came from a neighbouring country.

On a separate matter, Rosol said the ministry must explain the reasons for the demotion of former Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) director-general Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar to deputy director-general.

“There were claims that he did not allow a dish containing pork to be served during a trip to Laos. Another was that he did not agree to appoint a minister’s relative as a tourism officer in Auckland, New Zealand.

“The Tourism Ministry must explain to the Dewan Rakyat why the services of an officer with experience and knowledge in tourism were cut short less than a year after he came into office,” Rosol said.

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