Malaysia’s 48th National Day was celebrated with much gusto in London despite the lack of activities following the recent bombings.
Although the traditional Malaysia Day Carnival at the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre in Hertford was scrapped due to security concerns, the Merdeka mood was still evident among the Malaysian community.
Malaysian High Commissioner Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamed, for instance, will be hosting a National Day reception at the high commission in Belgrave Square on Thursday.
As for the private sector, some Malaysian restaurants such as Malaysia Kopi Tiam offered Merdeka discounts while the Oriental City Shopping Complex held a Merdeka Pasar Malam.
Taking advantage of the three-day Bank Holiday weekend, the complex in Colindale, north-west London, used the occasion to promote Malaysian food, culture and handicrafts.
After several rainy weekends, the English summer finally warmed up on the last bank holiday of the year, attracting large crowds to the event. More than 6,000 people turned up at the three-day carnival, which had stalls offering authentic Malaysian food, handicraft and games.
Apart from Malaysians, the multi-ethnic crowd of Singaporeans, Indonesians, Filipinos and even Arabs had a great time savouring Malaysian hawker delights.
The wide variety of exotic food included sizzling nasi briyani, irresistible nasi lemak, freshly barbecued satay, steaming hot teh tarik and mouth-watering ais kacang.
The crowd also had a chance to sample the rich Malaysian culture and handicrafts such as batik sarung and traditional products.
T. Balu, from Macallum Street Ghaut in Penang, said he sold more than 300 boxes of nasi briyani as well as numerous thosai.
“We had very good sales. It’s all in the Merdeka spirit as we don’t earn much,” said the Masters of Science (Msc) student from Middlesex University.
Balu, together with his wife Yamuna and cook Mala Gayathiri, was kept busy serving an endless stream of customers.
Balu declared that their home-cooked nasi briyani was prepared Penang-style, attracting even their English neighbours with its rich aroma.
Husin Long, from Kampung Duyong in Malacca, said he ran out of food by 4pm due to the overwhelming response from the crowd.
“More than 500 curry puffs were sold out while our Penang laksa and nasi lemak were also snapped up pretty fast,” he said.
Husin, who has been staying in the UK for 34 years, said his nasi minyak and rendang ayam as well as Malay delicacies such as kuih ubi, ondeh-ondeh, kuih bakar and kuih lapis were equally popular.
“Besides Malaysians, our customers included Singaporeans, Indonesians, Filipinos and Arabs who found our home-cooked food delicious,” he said.
Husin, together with his wife Zauyah Embi, usually takes part in the Malaysia Day Carnival in Hertford during National Day celebrations every year.
“But the Merdeka crowd is just as good here. We’ve had brisk sales throughout the event,” he added.
Indeed, newly-appointed Oriental City chief executive officer K.C. Ng could not have asked for a better opportunity to help promote Malaysia to the mainly Oriental crowd.
“As a Malaysian myself, Merdeka Day is close to my heart and a significant event for me. Thus, we felt we should do something to help introduce Malaysia to the people of UK,” he noted.
More importantly, he said, the event could also promote better understanding of each other’s cultures and heritage among the multi-ethnic communities.
The pasar malam, a brainchild of Ng, was only conceived a week before the event.
“Despite the short notice, we received very encouraging response from the Malaysian community. The event was also an excellent opportunity for participants, especially housewives, to showcase authentic Malaysian cuisine to the locals,” said Ng, who is from Kuala Lumpur.
Oriental City director Lillian Swan said this was the first time the complex had organised such an event in conjunction with Malaysia’s National Day celebrations. She said that apart from promoting Malaysian culture and home-cooked food, it also enabled the community to converge and interact with one another in one place.
No doubt, the occasion helped to raise Malaysia’s profile among the cosmopolitan population of the British capital.
Perhaps the complex and other Malaysian organisations should consider holding more events for the public during major Malaysian festivals such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali to help promote the country’s multi-ethnic culture to Britain.
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