(Un)Popular Opinion

While SG’s Celebrating TayTay, M’sia Is Losing Its Mind Over Bak Kut Teh

Lesson not learnt.
(Un)Popular Opinion | Back in June of last year, I wrote of how Malaysia is often on the losing end when it comes to attracting international artists to perform here due to toxic narratives, inflexible rules and conditions, and unhealthy levels of intolerance.

Unsurprisingly, Malaysia had to once again watch from the sidelines as global pop sensation Taylor Swift kickstarted her six-day tour in Singapore last Saturday (Mar 2), which drew thousands of fans and generated billions in revenue for the government.

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While Singaporeans are rocking their night away with one of the world’s greatest performers, we Malaysians are rocking the world with laughter with the ongoing kerfuffle over bak kut teh being named as a national heritage dish.

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Bak kut teh: A proof of why we can’t have nice things

Since time immemorial, the one thing that Malaysia and Singapore often fight over is which dish originated from which country, sometimes leading to spirited arguments on social media.

Sensing the need to protect local dishes from being ‘claimed’ by other countries, the government took the initiative and gazetted bak kut teh as one of Malaysia’s heritage dishes.

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Bak kut teh
Photo by WeirdKaya

Instead of celebrating the fact that Malaysians can finally call bak kut teh their own, politicians have chosen to raise hell over its ingredients.

Right from the get-go, MPs from the conservative party PAS have been the most vocal critic of bak kut teh being named as a heritage dish, arguing that it was one that cannot be consumed by all Malaysians due to the fact that it contained pork.

However, to their credit (which I cannot believe I’m actually saying this), PAS came up with a halal version of bak kut teh in 2018 prior to a by-election.
Pas members preparing halal bak kut teh
Photo via Berita PAS

If PAS, a party which is well known for having leaders who often make it to the headlines for spewing racial comments, can come up with bak kut teh that can be consumed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, why can’t we just celebrate the fact that Malaysians can actually live in harmony despite the cultural differences?

But in typical Malaysian fashion, we simply have to destroy the little that we have by bickering over the things that unites us the most — food.

And there’s no better example of this than UMNO Youth leader Dr Akmal Saleh’s tirade against bak kut teh being named as a national heritage dish, where he even called for Tourism Minister Tiong King Sing to be fired for failing to consider “local sensitivities”.

Umno youth leader dr akmal saleh
Photo via FB/Akmal Saleh

SG laughing its way to the bank

Recently on X (still hate the fact that Twitter got a name change), The Spectator Index posted a thread featuring the Singaporean flag along with a question: What comes to mind when you think of Singapore?

Almost immediately, Malaysians had a litany of answers, from “petrol stealers” to “non-existent work-life balance” and “superiority complex”.

It didn’t take long for the verbal sparring to spiral out of control, with one Singaporean/ex-Malaysian taking aim at the Ringgit’s decline:

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‘Oh no, we can’t find any other reasons to stick it to the Singaporeans.’ B*tch, your currency is “undervalued” according to your government and Singaporeans are 7x richer than you. Go cry about it to your government.

Malaysian ringgit
For illustration purposes only. Photo via Canva

Though I later shot her back by saying that Singapore’s richer in arrogance, there was a deep part of me that couldn’t help but admit that maybe Singapore has earned the right to be arrogant.

After all, which country wouldn’t jump at the chance to rub in the faces of their neighbours when you’re the only one in Southeast Asia who successfully persuaded Taylor Swift to perform six shows?

As much as we hate to admit it, Singapore’s an example of what happens when good governance is paired with competent politicians. This isn’t to say that they’re perfect, but at least they won’t fight if Hainanese chicken rice is named a heritage dish!

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Once again, Taylor Swift will continue to serenade Singaporeans while Malaysians can only watch the teardrops on their guitar (iykyk).

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WeirdKaya.


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