The Evolution of Food Discourses in Malaysia

By William Tham, Chin Kar Yern

August 2022 FEATURE
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Otak-otak remains a popular dish throughout Malaysia. Pictured is a Peranakan-style otak-otak.
SOME LESSONS MAY be gleaned from the past at a time when we have become more conscious about food security, self-sufficiency and sustainability, even while trawling the internet in search of fascinating new recipes to experiment with.For example, what should be a straightforward recipe from 1968 for Kai Panaeng[1]—a Thai dish bearing no relation to Penang despite geographical proximity and this dish’s name’s phonetic similarity—looks complicated to us today. The culinary language then used by Berita Harian (BH) took after...

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William Tham

His novel, The Last Days, is set in 1981 and covers the continuing legacy of the Malayan Emergency. He is currently an editor-at-large with Wasifiri and also an MA candidate at Universiti Malaya.

Chin Kar Yern

is a researcher/writer with an interest in historical and anthropological perspectives of food, labour and community. He is a research associate at the Asia School of Business. He is writing a book about Malaysian food discourse, practices, and systems in the 1950s–60s.