Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Foreign tourists not so into nasi lemak

WHILE Malaysians are obsessed with nasi lemak, roti canai and char koay teow, foreign tourists have no inkling of what is so special about them.


Some tourists even regard beer as the second most famous beverage in the country after fruit juices.

These are some of the findings of a survey by Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Culinary Arts lecturer Mohd Hairi Jalis. The survey polled more than 300 foreign tourists.

The survey also finds that nasi lemak, a national dish, is less popular than Chinese noodles and chicken rice.

"It is sad and shocking. We think that tourists have enough knowledge about our heritage food and drinks but they don't," he says.
The 27-year-old, who is passionate about gastronomic tourism (which is the promotion of local cuisine to create awareness and interest among tourists), says travellers have different purposes in visiting a foreign destination. This includes trying local food.

"Tourists don't get the right food-culture experience here because we tend to segregate foods according to race and culture."

Hairi says the country should portray "Malaysian food" which is accepted by everyone here, regardless of race or religion.

"Take nasi lemak. It was popular among the Malays but now the Chinese and Indians also cook nasi lemak at home or eat it in restaurants. The same goes for roti canai and char koay teow. But the government and eateries should stop labelling them as food which belong to certain races," he adds.

UiTM Culinary Arts chairman Associate Prof Dr Mohd Salehuddin Mohd Zahari says before independence, each ethnic group focused on its own cuisine but that later changed.

He says the government should be proactive in promoting Malaysian food at annual food festivals or on the Internet.

"We should do a big food fair which can attract people, just like how travellers are attracted to Thaipusam celebrations at Batu Caves."

A website on Malaysian food is also needed as a one-stop centre to create awareness among tourists, he says.

Salehuddin says the government should promote Malaysian food extensively so they would remind people of the country, just like how pizza reminds people of Italy.

Source : NST
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