“Wait a second, since when Bak Kut Teh is in the top 10 hit-list of Malaysia’s traditional food?” objected the Langkawi MP, Datuk Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah.
Yesterday, on the 7th of June, Tebrau MP, Jimmy Puah Wee Tse, stirred the pot by asking what the government’s game plan was to keep Malaysian heritage dishes like bak kut teh from being appropriated by neighbouring nations.
From a video catch of the heated exchange, it seems Puah was shook by a docu-feature on Singapore’s news hub, CNA, which put the spotlight on the roots of bak kut teh, the heartwarming pork bone soup.
“The birthplace of this dish is Klang, Selangor, no question about it. But that documentary seemed to paint a picture that bak kut teh was the brainchild of one of our neighbours,” he said, addressing the Dewan Rakyat.
In a quick comeback, Langkawi’s MP, Datuk Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah, tossed a curveball — is bak kut teh even in the league of Malaysian traditional dishes?
“Bak Kut Teh doesn’t figure in the roll call of Malaysia’s 10 most beloved traditional dishes. Neither does it have a place among the 30 traditional foods of various ethnicities in Malaysia,” he shot back.
Batu Sapi’s MP, who doubles up as the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan, sided with the Langkawi MP. His take was that to earn the title of a traditional dish, it should resonate with all communities in the country.
“So, to some extent, I see eye to eye with Langkawi. If we can switch up the meat in bak kut teh to chicken, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
But this parliamentary badminton left netizens with a bitter aftertaste, prompting them to ask if this food fight was even worth bringing to the parliamentary table.
“Then how la can it be chicken if there are vegan Malaysians?” one commented, highlighting the food preferences of another significant group in Malaysia. They suggested that using chicken as an alternative to pork in bak kut teh would not cater to those who follow a vegan diet, implying the arguments in parliament were rather simplistic and didn’t consider all aspects of Malaysian society.
Another netizen was also quick to point out the problem in the ‘all races should savour’ logic.