When a plate of Nasi Lemak ignites a cultural clash | campus.sg

nasi lemak
Image by Faizal Zakaria from Pixabay

Singaporeans really love their food, and when someone slaps exorbitant prices on their local favourites, you can be sure there’ll be backlash. The latest dish that’s the subject of our food war is Nasi Lemak.

When the Les Amis Group announced the opening of Lemak Boys at Shaw Centre next week, many netizens voiced their disdain at the “Peranakan-style Nasi Lemak”, priced from $12.50 to $18.50. But what makes it “Peranakan”? According to Lemak Boys, it’s the addition of Nyonya otak otak and sotong tauyu lemak.

This has people pondering legit questions (and possibly providing some food ideas):

While the dish has a history rooted in Malay and Peranakan culture, many feel insulted by the fact that simply slapping the word “Peranakan” is supposed to justify its steep cost.

This incident harks back to a similar scenario at Violet Oon’s high-end Peranakan restaurant back in June. It was lambasted for offering “Nyonya Nasi Ambeng” – a Javanese-Malay dish which isn’t Nyonya at all.

It’s not that Singaporeans aren’t used to paying exorbitant prices for everyday food – take Coconut Club’s nasi lemak, for instance. Their nasi lemak sets are priced from $13.20 to $14.80, and we haven’t heard any brouhaha about it.

Perhaps biggest discussion concerning the Peranakan-style Nasi Lemak concerns its heritage: Malay vs Peranakan.

Other arguments take the issue with the representation in media: if nasi lemak is Malay or Indian, it’s deemed to be unhealthy but if it’s Peranakan, it’s “excellent”.

The discussion got so tense that ‘nasi lemak’ and ‘Malay’ were trending on Twitter on Sep 11.

Our love of food shouldn’t be used as a cultural divide. After all, food is a great way to unite everybody regardless of their background.