It’s that resolution making time of the year where going on a diet or healthily is on 8 out of 10 lists; well, not this one. Instead I’m going to take this chance to declare my love for our local food, lard, skin and all. Despite the spike in the number of cafes and food trends consisting of international foods/desserts such as Honey Creme (the Korean soft serve ice cream) and Llao Llao (the Spanish frozen yoghurt), I still favour Laksa and Hokkien Mee. But I’m pretty sure this affinity of mine with local food isn’t unique, that many of my fellow Gen Y foodies will concur, and find comfort in the food they grew up with.
With the increasing exposure to world cultures and flavours, it seemed as though it would be a matter of time before we tire of our Bak Chor Mee and opt for a nice brunch at the newest cafe instead. The brunch may be more than slightly pricier but hey, what’s paying a little more for a cozier or funkier dinning atmosphere, right? But that’s not just it- could we simply substitute the local dishes for others? Not that easily, no sir. Notice how much attention from a younger group these “Top Ten” Laksa or Lor Mee lists are getting online, no matter how well curated
The affinity- I suppose it’s the childhood memories that binds us to our local flavours which is what makes it so endearing, still, today. For instance, a nice dinner at an international buffet restaurant is nothing compared to the memories of my paternal family having the time of our lives wolfing down bowls of Bak Kut Teh at Kota Tinggi after a two-hour drive into Malaysia. This is what Bak Kut Teh means to me, at least. So despite our love for Eggs Benedict, some of us may still prefer the soft boiled ones we break into plates that are later mixed and slurped down with dark sauce and a dash of pepper before rushing off to school; we certainly didn’t have time for Eggs Ben back then.
Despite globalized food cultures, there are still ways to get the Gen Y going when it comes to local food. In fact, their concern and expectations for local dishes for 2015 may very well surprise you. For starters, hawkers could consider selling the dishes in even smaller portions. According to Jenna Teh, a 21 year old pre-school teacher, it will definitely be “more shiok” if you are able to sample a variety of dishes without having to dine in a big group. Miss Teh also mentioned how it’d be great to have the dishes in “bite-sized” portions. For the ones who are always on the go, I thought this idea of takeaway “bite-sized” version of local dishes is mighty appealing. Others are more concerned with the variety of dishes our hawker centers offer. To Ong Miao Xiang, a 21 year old university student, our local dishes can do with a little more variety. Instead of the usual Char Kuay Teow, she wouldn’t mind having more access to the Penang version of this dish. Also, besides the predictable Chicken Rice and Fishball Noodles, I thought more hawker centers and especially food courts, can offer a wider variety of dishes and snacks that include Satay Bee Hoon, Indian Rojak and Goreng Pisang (friend banana fritters); I cannot emphasize the lack of Goreng Pisang in hawker centers enough.
But the biggest and most common concern over our local food by the Gen Y has to be the shutting down of hawker centers and the passing on or retirement of hawkers. It would mean the disappearance of good and affordable comfort food. 23 year old Shahidah Sayadi expressed her disappointment over the closure of Long House Food Center. “There goes my awesome Goreng Pisang and Thai food”. Despite undergoing renovations to serve its patrons better, some expressed their annoyance because “some stalls are bound to change” and they find it inconvenient or are unable to locate their favourite stalls after they’ve moved out of the renovated hawker centres. With regards to the recent renovations that Amoy Street Food Centre is undergoing, Miss Sayadi fears that it just “won’t be the same old Amoy after”.
Now, aren’t these concerns and sentiments similar to any generation of local foodies, not just Gen Ys.