Saturday, 31 July 2010

Can Traditional Food Survive Globalisation?

I had to choose between Nasi Dagang or Nasi Kerabu for breakfast this morning. Both are Kelantanese cuisine which could be obtained in many food outlets around Kuala Lumpur. Eventually I went for the Nasi Dagang.

As I was enjoying my breakfast, two thoughts came to my mind. First, the taste of the Nasi Dagang is not the kind that I was used to when I was a little boy living in the middle of Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan. I lived with my grandmother who was very particular about food. She would walk to all corner of Kota Bharu for the sole purpose of bringing back the best food for us. You could imagine the size of Kota Bharu those days, everything was within walking distance.

Being spoilt with carefully selected food in my younger years, I am having problem enjoying the present Kelantanese food. Very seldom I could find one with the taste that I was used to those days. Could it be that as the know how is passed from one generation to another the taste also changes? Or due to commercial pressure profitability is preferred over the pride of serving great food?

Second was the issue of expertise and supply. As business cost gets higher, only food with high demand would be viable to be sold. This will slowly phase out good traditional food which may not be popular due to lack of promotion. Eventually people would only prepare traditional food during special occasions such as festivities while the more commercialised ones would take up the space in modern outlets in shopping arcades.

If we observe how fast food from the West have been making their present felt in Malaysia, it appears that elements of globalisation include the competition for the survival of our traditional cuisine. It would be a great tragedy if some food that used to be enjoyed by our forefathers would not be around soon as the younger generation have different preference in their diet and appetite. Perhaps one way of saving traditional cuisine is to up scale how their are offered so that more could compete for limited spaces in modern shopping centres.

Who knows in the near future, traditional Malaysian food would be available across the globe.
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