Asian food superstitions

By Joanna Yeo - Thursday, Oct 04, 2012

Did they tell you that eating “twin bananas” will make you bear twins? We have all seen our parents and grandparents practise certain superstitions like maintaining silence when making Fa Gao (Chinese Prosperity Cakes) and have also experienced getting ticked off for not following the ‘rules’ of the tradition. While some of these traditions are still followed, some have been ignored or forgotten. We feature six of the more interesting ones from the Chinese, Indians and Malays in this article.


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Chinese food superstitions


A properly steamed Fa Gao is ‘raised’ at the top.


1.Do not say unpleasant things when making Fa gao (Chinese prosperity cake) or else the resulting cake will be ruined and look “bian” (flat) and “botak”(bald) and does not fluff up, according to Mr Tan Boon Chai, boss of Tank Hock Seng cake shop, a traditional pastry shop.


2.Do not place chopsticks standing upright into a bowl of rice.


When chopsticks are placed this way, they resemble incense joss sticks on incense pots or like joss sticks over a grave. In Chinese tradition, when praying, “two joss sticks are burnt to offer to the ancestors while three are used for the Gods,” says Mr. Tan.


Malay food superstitions


3.Eat conjoined bananas and you will have twin babies.


“This type of bananas could be perceived as a ‘freak’ or unnatural fruit. In order to avoid wastage, this belief was started to create desirability towards it,” says 40-year-old housewife, Mdm Hawa Ahmad. Thus, newly married women who would like to bear twins will consume such bananas and they will not go to waste. But do watch for potassium overload.


4.Do not eat in the dark, else you will be eating with the devils.


Mdm Hawa explains that most Malay superstition are “used to correct bad/ wrong behaviour by scaring and frightening” The rationale behind this superstition is that eating in the dark might result in food spillage and mess, which will then attract ants, insects, etc. This is especially true in the past when people lived in wooden huts with no electricity.


Indian food superstitions


5.Do not use a broom to sweep rice spilling


If rice is accidentally spilled on the floor, pick up the grains up with their hands and not use a broom to sweep away the mess. Pre-school teacher, Mdm Aja explains that food comes from God. By sweeping with a broom, it is a sign of disrespect to the Gods. A mysterious way of inculcating the good practice of not wasting food.


6.Do not fold banana leaves away from you after a meal during festivals


Be observant of how you fold your banana leaf after finishing your meal.


During Indian festivals, food is usually served on banana leaves. After completing a meal, diners are expected to fold the leaves into half after finishing. Unless it is during a funeral, the leaves should be folded towards you. Business executive, Shilpa S Nath recalls of her experience of being told off as a child when she would accidentally fold the leaf away from her at festive occasions. She adds on that it is believed that doing so will invite bad luck upon oneself.


However, in restaurants, folding the leaf towards you indicates that the meal was to your liking, while folding away suggests otherwise.


Do you know of any food superstitions? Share with us in the comment box below!