KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia is starting a food fight with other countries to win bragging rights for producing some of Southeast Asia's most beloved recipes, including chili crabs and coconut cream rice, a news report said Thursday.
"We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food," The Star newspaper quoted Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen as saying while launching a campaign to promote the country's cuisine.
The ministry is identifying signature recipes that it will declare as Malaysian, Ng said. She did not reveal how the government might counter others who claim ownership of those dishes, but added that details of its strategy will be announced later.
"Chili crab is Malaysian. Hainanese chicken rice is Malaysian. We have to lay claim to our food," Ng said. She mentioned other favorites such as "nasi lemak," which is rice soaked with coconut cream, "laksa," a spicy noodle soup, and "bak kut teh," an ethnic Chinese pork rib stew.
Tourism ministry officials familiar with the campaign could not immediately be contacted.
Variations of the dishes Ng listed are available in several other Asian nations, particularly Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand and China.
Some creations, such as chicken rice, were introduced to Malaysia and Singapore by ethnic Chinese workers who settled here after leaving China a century ago.
Chili crab _ a recipe of crabs stir-fried in tomato and chili-based sauces _ could become a bone of contention. It is often associated with Singapore and is considered the city-state's unofficial national dish.
Malaysia was recently embroiled in another cultural spat with a neighbor.
Indonesians held protests earlier this month accusing Malaysia of stealing a Balinese dance for a TV promotional campaign about Malaysia. It later turned out that Malaysia had nothing to do with the video, which had mistakenly described the dance as Malaysian. The video was broadcast on the Discovery Channel cable network, which apologized for the mistake.