Hawker food not just yours, deputy minister tells Singapore

(AFP pic)

GEORGE TOWN: A deputy minister today said hawker food is not unique to Singapore but something common to Malaysians, following the city-state’s decision to nominate its hawker culture as part of the Unesco-recognised cultural heritage.

Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik suggested that both countries apply for the status together under a process called “serial nomination”.

“We are not that worried about Singapore’s listing. We could also have nominated our Teochew cendol or teh tarik, but let’s face it, both countries share similar versions of the same,” he told FMT.

“So, I’d like to advise Singapore, let’s submit serial nominations to Unesco, say Penang and Singapore hawker food, together,” said the Balik Pulau MP.

Last week, Singapore formally nominated its hawker culture to be listed under Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH).

The republic backed its nomination with letters, photographs and videos, including pictures of hawkers preparing briyani and chicken rice, as well as a family enjoying cendol.

If the nomination is successful, the food items will join Japanese cuisine and Belgian beer which are listed as cultural heritage by Unesco.

Bakhtiar said Malaysia had in the past made a joint nomination with China to list the Wangkang ceremony, observed by the Hokkien community in Melaka. Wangkang, which has its roots in China, is a festival to dispel evil spirits.

“We have done so in recognising the outstanding universal values we share with China, and we expect a favourable decision soon.”

Bakhtiar said he would discuss with the National Heritage Department on submitting Malaysian hawker food as well as culture to be listed by Unesco.

“Unesco will never stop a country from nominating any culture deemed unique. We have chingay, dikir barat, boria and other cultural performances that are unique to Malaysia,” he added.

Bakhtiar said Malaysia has inscribed dondang sayang and Mak Yong as part of Unesco’s ICH, adding that it is planning to nominate Malay self-defence silat, and traditional textile songket as well.