Last Updated 20 Apr 2022

Cultural and Heritage with Malaysian Cuisine

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“Malaysia”, land of diverse society, unique with its multi cultural population is renowned among international travellers for uniqueness of different races that can live together harmoniously. Famous for its world wonder destinations, be it island, rainforest, or cultural spots, Malaysia has a lot to offer for tourist seeking adventure, leisure and entertainment. One of the major elements of Malaysian tourism is the vast choices of delicacies which comprise the ethnic food from three major races in Malaysia which is Malay, Chinese and Indian.

However, there are also other minor ethnic groups such as Peranakan and ethnic group from Sarawak and Sabah which blends in the food culture of Malaysia. This embodies the concept of One Malaysia which unifies all races as Malaysians. Over the past few years, the ethnic cuisines were integrated among the races, creating a new food infusion which is called the “Malaysian Cuisine”. Food such as Nasi Lemak no longer associated with Malays, whereas Roti Canai and Char Kuey Teow are no longer related to the Indian and Chinese.

Integration of food culture had constituted to evolution of new Malaysian image in terms of signature cuisine that it can offer. Today, Malaysian Cuisine had colours the new era of food wonders in the country creating a wondrous ownership of every ethnic cuisine to all races within Malaysia. Now, tourist from all over the world can enjoy and devour Malaysian Cuisines which comprises variety of food selection such as Laksa, Satay, Wantan Noodles and so forth. Upon returning to their homeland, tourist can bring their unique experiences and pass the word to others.

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This will benefit the country as indirectly foreigners will start recognizing the Malaysian Cuisines and later might have the intention to try it hence, contributing to increase in Malaysian tourism. Although in the global world of modernization, Malaysian Cuisines remained as one of the cultural and heritage elements of Malaysia. Foods for long had always been the indicator of one ethnic culture and heritage. If we glance on each race in Malaysia we can see how food can instantly describe an individual characteristic.

For instance, if we say “Tosai”, we will know that it’s an Indian food. Indians wear Sarees and Kurta, they celebrate Deepavali and Thaipusam, their religion is Hinduism and Bharatanatyam is their traditional dance. This is how food cannot be separated and always be associated to one special ethnic. Same goes to Malaysian Cuisine, when a foreigner convey “Malaysian Cuisine”, they will directly distinguish Malaysia as, located in South East Asia, having multi racial community, rich with unique culture, very warm and friendly people as well as hot and spicy foods.

This is how food can directly interpret and describe an individual or a nation, therefore distinguishing it from others. Technological advancement and modernization of lifestyles are inevitable as a country begin to develop and moving towards era of globalization. This phenomenon brings enormous impact towards the culture and heritage of Malaysian Cuisine. Preparations of foods are largely effected with the introduction of latest machineries and equipments that modernize the way of cooking. Kuih Bahulu for example is used to be prepared manually by beating eggs in large bowls until it is fluffy and have the right consistency.

However, by using specific machine, preparation time is cut in half thus, saving largely on time and energy. Modernization of food preparation, often being questioned in terms of its quality and heritage. Will this new way of food preparation maintain the taste and the quality of the dishes? Can the traditional ways of food preparation being preserve for the next generation to come? These questions always linger around the elderly, as some of them might be reluctant to accept modernization of food preparations. For them, traditional ways of preparation need to be preserved as it is part of our heritage.

Beside of the many benefits seen, globalization on the other hand also invited contenders and modification to our Malaysian Cuisine. Years ago, since the early incoming of foreigners to Tanah Melayu, the ethnic food was able to maintain and preserve the originality in elements of ingredient used, preparation and taste of food. Now with globalization, abundance of Western ingredients flooded the food market giving new options for cooking style and selection of foods to be tried on. Moreover, foreign ingredients have been integrated in our Malaysian Cuisine causing it to gradually change over time.

With the new generation living a fast paced life and being more health conscious, Malaysian Cuisine needs to be diversified according to current needs. The challenges are to maintain the originality of food but at the same time able to adapt to the new changing environment such as usage of new ingredients by considering diet and health and ways of food preparation that is time savvy. It is recommended that Malaysian Cuisine is given an extra consideration and thoughtfulness. As part of our culture and heritage, the governing bodies can promote this by introducing food tourism internationally in order to encourage tourist visitation.

Other players in the industry can play their parts in introducing food tourism via tour packages, internet, and local and international events as well as advertisement. This cooperation which have multiplier effects need to be continuous and firm so that all stakeholders in the country can benefit largely from it. Preservation of Malaysian Cuisine as one of the elements in our cultural and heritage terrain is exceptionally significant in order for the coming generation to continue savours our food culture.

Furthermore, as food is one of the cultural elements of a nation, tourist yearns for exploration on distinctive delicacy that they never tried before, consequently creating importance in ensuring continuous tourism development of the country. Undoubtedly, food cannot be separated from being culturally related and a heritage to be retained among a country. For Malaysian Cuisine, as pride of the nation we must be proud to possess such an exquisite food culture and heritage, and be blessed with the tranquillity and unity that our food culture entails.

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