Blog visitor Shila Kaur introduces the slow food moment in Penang to us:

I think Datuk Anwar (Fazal) has written a beautiful essay on an aspect of Penang’s rich cultural heritage – its foods – street and otherwise – and the contributions of its residents, local and immigrant, to this richness.

I think we must not and cannot deny the multiple roles that recent migrants play in the economic and social fabric of Penang and that their contributions have been immense.

After all many of us ‘locals’ are decendents of migrants…. and Penang’s geography, history and rich social fabric draws the best. It is the immigrant who contributed to the richness of our cuisine, be it street food or otherwise through the marrying of cultural taste and food practices.

There is no other place like Penang anywhere in the world and we have alot to be proud of. Let us continue to create and preserve this precious space that is Penang – that still allows for freedom of expression – through our street-artisanal markets, our civil society organizations and personal activism.

Some Penangites are already celebrating our food heritage through the Slow Food Movement, a global movement that honours traditional food practices and ecologically sustainable food production, a counter to fast food which is destroying cultural diversity and promoting food homogeneity.

Slow [email protected] aims to preserve our local food heritage, provide a space – an oasis for fooders to meet, discuss and celebrate local foods and to represent Penang at global events through the showcasing of food preparation practices that honours this heritage and promotes its rich food culture.

We also aim to make Slow [email protected] a truly vibrant movement, by being as inclusive as possible – by respecting the contributions of the immigrant – past and recent – in making Penang’s food culture what it is. (By the way Datuk Anwar is a founding member of Slow [email protected])

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17 COMMENTS

  1. How boring it will be if one continue to delve under one own coconut shell whether its food, entertainment, enjoyment, politics, health, career, our daily lives and so on.

    Healthier and moderate life style option is our choice to chose, whether in the home or on the outside.

    Only when we have choices and innovation with a free mind to chose, taste and understand, would we enjoy and understand the value of our life and for the next generation.

  2. Anil, the only place that can provide healthy wholesome food is our own kitchen.

    Anyway, indulgence is allowed once in a while otherwise life can be too boring.

    Cheers !

  3. Anil
    Read that you have been to Bayan Baru for food.
    People of my generation eat at market; which also increase in menu prices with the influx of fast food and air-con dining options.
    Slow or fast, cheap or expensive, tasty or not —- better to have healthy and balance diet otherwise at old age many health problems like obesity, heart ailment or diabetes.

    Happy eating (don’t be like some tham chiak kuis always complaint ….)

    • What is a reasonable amount to pay for a balanced meal in Penang?
      The nasi campur/mixed vege rice will cost RM6 for rice with 2 vege 1 meat dishes. Nasi Kandar set lunch of 1 meat 2 vege dishes will set you back at least RM8. Many hawkers argue that if you could afford McDonald’s or KFC RM10/meal, then such local nasi campur is a bargain. What say you?

      • Youngsters of today so used to fast food pricing of typically minimum RM6.50 (so called happy hours pricing) to an average of RM10.
        Therefore, the street food vendors now starts to use that as benchmark and earn more than before with less operating costs (no air-con, no franchise fee, no minimum hourly wage with foreign assisstants) !

      • add RM2 sweetener like street food chendol to your average RM8 lunch will now cost you RM10 !

  4. Too much fluff ideas and facts in one article.

    I am against migrant being hired to cook street food but not because of quality or taking away jobs. The fact of the matter is food vending, particularly street food is a refuge of uncompetitive labour and skills. Anyone who does food business will tell you, too many people do it because they really can’t or not willing to do much else for the same rewards. Many of local street food vendors are also just as bad as the migrant in making the food because their heart is just not into it. Food, particularly laborious Asian food, need to have heart to make it good.

    What it means is that migrant doing the job means there is a mismatch of labour skills and demand with the development of industries. Likely there are problems with both – which is a structural problem too easy for mediocre govt to get away with by allowing migrant labour to do it.

    In Singapore, when they were in middle-income range, they did not allow foreign labour to even do washing and cleaning at hawker centers – because the govt recognized its a refuge of those who cannot fit into the industrialization and service economy being build. When they reached developed status, and to encouraged and exploit immigration to keep wages and cost low, they allowed foreign labour to take the work. Today, struggling with immigration issues, the govt has been superfast to point out rising hawker prices is inevitable due to its stricter immigration.

    We have too much mismatch of skills and our economy lack depth and breath far too much. Letting migrant labour do the work, hides the problems of our economy and our education system. THAT I am dead set against.

    • I can empatise with migrant workers, no disrespect to them. But we do not need them in every aspect of our economy as cheap labour suppress productivity and wage hike. People stop using their brain to find innovative solutions eg. Using technology or automation to improve productivity and efficiency when they could conveniently rely on cheap foreign labour.

      • Many Small Medium Enterprises (SME) still not far sighted. Not willing to spend to upgrade per latest technology eg automation for fear of losing money so continue to engage cheap foreign labour.
        This has spilled over to local hawker food industry.

      • The Scandinavian nations of Sweden, Denmark and Norway have relatively low population with respect to their country sizes, and yet they are innovative in using brain power instead of relying on cheap brawn power from Estern Europeans.

      • In the near future Penang will have two classes of street food. The one on the streets are cooked by migrant workers, cheap but different from the authentic Penang taste. The other one to be found in shopping malls where local Penangite master chefs cook the true taste of Penang food at restaurants but charging premium price. We will then have choices to make. Fair to all parties including those welcoming migrant workers to be local cook.

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