IN FOCUS: Untangling Singapore-Malaysia food fights – what’s it got to do with identity


Food rivalries, and the stream of public sentiments and “misconceptions” that accompany each episode, are part of the reason Dr Ong writes about food.

“Unfortunately, most of the people who made the comments, including the politicians, don’t know much about their local food, or the origins,” he said.

“We should all get together and promote our ASEAN dishes and talk about our local variations, similarities and differences.”

Across the Johor strait, Mr Ronald Gan, president of the Melaka Peranakan Association, is in the midst of the Wangkang – an 11-day ceremony recognised by the UN as intangible cultural heritage.

At the end of it, a Wangkang or deity’s barge is consumed by fire, giving deliverance to wandering souls on board the boat.

In his role, Mr Gan works with groups in China’s Xiamen city to preserve the traditions of the ritual. He believes a similarly collaborative approach is necessary for something as culturally significant as food.

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