Malaysian Celebrity Chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail — better known as Chef Wan — is notable for speaking his mind, no matter how questionable it is. Like the time when he declared Filipino cuisine “the worst food in Asia”.
These days, the man is turning his ire to Singapore’s attempt to get is hawker culture officially recognized in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
“People who lack confidence in their food will go all out to do these things for recognition,” Chef Wan told Malaysian publication The Star Online.
“It’s not necessary to announce to the world that you have this or that. By taking this route, it’s a bit of arrogant behavior.”
During this year’s National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted how hawker centers are a “cultural institution” and how the “community dining rooms” are a unique part of the nation’s heritage and identity. He believes that the UNESCO inscription for hawker culture will help to safeguard and promote the unique facet of Singaporean life for future generations.
Chef Wan, on the other hand, thinks that Singapore is just trying to claim the name and glory of hawker centers for themselves.
“We already fight about everything else, such as territorial claims, oil, and water,” he said to The Star. “Now, it’s up to the level where they want to bring their hawker culture to the Unesco.”
Another Malaysian celebrity chef Datuk Ismail Ahmad also offered his displeasure at the Singaporean aspiration — with harsher criticism of hawker centers here.
“Their hawker centers are beautiful but tasteless,” the chef said to The Star.
“Ours are very original and diverse. If you go to a hawker center in Malaysia, the food is to die for because of our sensitivity in using fresh ingredients and efforts to sustain the originality of our dishes,” he said.
Those be fighting words, lads. Perhaps this discussion can be carried out properly after a hawker stall in Malaysia achieves a Michelin star (*cough* we already have two of ’em *cough*) — then we’ll be on equal footing.
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