Malaysian Food Fest Draws Crowds At UN

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Malaysian Food Fest Draws Crowds At UN Empty Malaysian Food Fest Draws Crowds At UN

Post by Wak on 2009-02-25, 13:17

Malaysian Food Fest Draws Crowds At UN

By Manik Mehta

NEW YORK, Feb 24 (Bernama) -- The two- week marathon Malaysian Food Fest at the United Nations in New York, which opened last Wednesday, is proving to be a crowd-puller, with long lines of diplomats, their families and friends patronizing the event.

Indeed, the crowds braved the inclement weather with freezing temperatures on the opening night to visit the United Nations'Dining Room (UNDR) to sample the Malaysian food prepared by a team of six chefs especially flown in from Malaysia.

Datin Amy Hamidon, the wife of Malaysia's permanent representative to the United Nations, hosted Thursday a special "Journalists' Table" at the United Nations for a select group of food and travel writers to give what she described as a "first-hand presentation" of Malaysian delicacies in the presence of the six chefs flown in from Malaysia.

The scribes listened attentively as celebrity chef Ismail Ahmad, lacing his comments with a sprinkling of humour, along with Florence Tan and other chefs, highlighted the intricacies of preparing some of the specialties served to the journalists.

Though Johor and Negeri Sembilan states will be the mainstay of the culinary presentation, other Malaysian dishes will also be served at lunch each day at the UNDR. The past two culinary events organized by the New York based Malaysian delegation group, which is led by Amy, the focus was on the cuisines of Melaka in 2008 and Kelantan in 2007.


Datuk Hamidon Ali, Malaysia's permanent representative to the United Nations, welcomed the guests at the fest's opening.

In his welcome remarks, Hamidon touched on the special features of Malaysia's cuisine and, particularly, of Johor and Negeri Sembilan states.

Many heads of missions, familiar faces on New York's diplomatic circuit, engaged in small talk with each other as they helped themselves generously to the mouth-watering food on the buffet tables.

Diplomats from Australia, India, Syria, Spain, Nicaragua, China, Japan and the remaining ASEAN member states, along with high-ranking UN officials, joined the long lines of guests waiting to plough into the mounds of food lavishly spread on the buffet tables.

A music band from Istana Budaya in Malaysia provided traditional music while the lead singers Noryn Aziz and Ikhwaz entertained the guests with Malay songs.

Noryn Aziz's melancholic voice seemed to appeal to the listeners, particularly from Arab countries.

"Her voice is melancholic, yet so melodious. She reminds me of Arab singers. She has touched my heart and makes me home sick", said the wife of one Arab diplomat, her voice choking with emotion.


Chef Ismail, who is in New York for the second time after the highly successful Melaka Food Festival of 2008, said that he and the other five chefs had prepared for the grand opening of the fest on Wednesday evening.

The specialties were herbal rice, Opor Ayam Johor (Johor chicken curry), Daging Rendang Rembau (Rembau spicy beef), Asam Pedas Ikan Tenggiri Johor (Hot and spicy fish Johor), Ikan Masak Cili Api Negeri Sembilan (Fish in bird's eyes chillies - creamy sauce, Negeri Sembilan style), Sambal Udang (shrimps in chilli gravy), Acar Rampai (Assorted vegetable pickles), Sayor Lodeh (Mixed vegetables in coconut milk), Ulam-ulaman Sambal Belacan (Salad and herbs with spicy dip), Jelatah (Malay salad), Lemang (Glutinous rice with coconut) and selection of Malay desserts.

Clearly, Malaysian food has potential to become popular amongst mainstream Americans whose openness to foreign cuisines and cultures could be taken advantage of to introduce Malaysian cuisine in a strategic rather than sporadic manner.

It is not surprisingly that the Malaysian community in and around New York has been touched by the trouble and initiatives taken by Datin Amy, the wife of Malaysia's permanent representative, to popularize Malaysia's cuisine culture.


Amy has, ostensibly, recognized the impact of good food on local consumers which, she said, could also help promote tourism to Malaysia. She said in a conversation with Bernama that one had to only look around in New York to see the huge impact made by Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisines on mainstream American consumers.

"Malaysia can also make a strong impact with its rich cuisine culture.

"The guests tonight will take with them memories of our food and pass on their experiences to their friends and relatives. Indeed, word-of-mouth propagation is an effective way to promote the cuisine", she added.

Debbie Houridis, the director of operations at the UNDR, who has been coordinating with the organisers, said she was "deeply impressed" by the meticulous planning and professionalism of the Malaysian ladies.

"With my positive impressions of 2008, I was happy that Malaysia agreed to do another - third - food fest at the United Nations", she exclaimed.

Susan Callister Beer, a New York based financial consultant, who loves Asian food and has been attending Malaysian cultural events, put it succinctly when she said in an interview with Bernama that Malaysia should also organize roadshows to introduce Malaysian cuisine. Beer, who particularly liked the fish and shrimp dishes at the opening night, urged Malaysia to organize more such events at different venues.

"The Malaysian food is spicy and all the six chefs are superb cooks. Why are they not more Malaysian restaurants in the United States? You have hundreds of Indian, Chinese and Thai restaurants and their numbers keep increasing all the time. The public here needs exposure to Malaysian cuisine which has so much to offer. After all, food is the easiest and simplest vehicle to promote understanding and goodwill", she said.

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