Monday, July 20, 2009

Food.. Food... Food

Recently, a friend asked me why I think of food all the time. My reply.. everything we do goes back to food. Food is among the basic things in life. Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs theory published in 1943, identified food as one of the basic human needs. He categorised food together with water, air, shelter, clothing and few others including sex as "deficiency needs" which if not met, will cause the individual feels anxious and tense.

It is no different here. On average, each household spent almost 30% of its income on food. The biggest portion of spending. Well ahead of other form of spending

Improving quality of life of the people was and still one of the main objectives of this country. Self-sufficiency in food especially rice has became an obsession. Like it or not, as a country, we have to strive for this. Our over reliance on food import is one of our main strategic challenges. It is not impossible to be self sufficient or near to be self sufficient. We have already one success story in the local eggs production which has more or less managed to meet the local demand. Based on Agriculture Department’s statistics, all of use consumed around 123.66 millions of eggs. That’s about 311 eggs per year for each of us, almost one egg a day. Around 123.21 millions of eggs are produced locally. That’s a self-sufficiency rate of 99.6%! I still can recall, clearly, the years where we imported most of our eggs. It will arrive in wooden crates. During weddings, where eggs wrapped in napkin or handkerchief was the common door gifts, we can see these timber crates closely. There were even instances of egg shortages especially during festive seasons. Now we hardly have these shortages.

Compare to other countries, the figure of 311 eggs per year per person is reasonable. In the Philippines, it is around 94, in Thailand 145, Malaysia 305 and in the USA is around 257. We are indeed an egg consuming nation which is good for the agriculture industry. All those kek lapis, kek batik, kueh makmur, biscuits which required trays after trays of eggs especially near to Hari Raya which is just over two months away is definitely welcome.

What! Is Hari Raya that soon? I haven’t bought any kain yet for my baju melayu. Shortly, all the tailors will be fully booked with baju melayu orders. Here I am thinking of hari raya when it’s not even puasa yet. Should be thinking of puasa more , how to improve ibadat etc etc rather than new baju melayus, sinjangs, new sofas etc.

Talking about food and my encounters with food , there are many memorable, wonderful, funny, and delicious stories. I am sure everyone has their own stories. One of my earliest recollections was with kueh malaya. One stall in the old tamu at Padang Besar sold the best, the meanest kueh malaya. A favourite indeed. A relative joked, it was not because the kueh malaya was any good, but the daughter of the owner was pretty! Well, what did a 6 year old know about pretty girl. Not much! So it must be the kueh malaya. Next to be encountered was the talor dadar (egg omelette) taken together with lauk goreng cacah with the Brunei chilli sauce (nowadays it is in the familiar yellow cap to differentiate it with the Singapore ones). The ever favourite is my nini’s fish curry. Out of this world!

Another that stuck in the mind is the kebab in Manchester. Abdul Kebab to be precise. It was so deliciously hot, we were sweating in the middle of winter by the kebab. The briyani was also fingerlickingly delicious. But beware! Consume at the risk of regular trips to the small thinking room more famously known as the toilet. Must be all the spices. The trick was to consume it only when we were safely at home and with no plans to go out after that.

Talking about briyani, more precisely nasi bukhara, we used to bring back boxes and boxes of the supa dupa delicious bukhara from a particular place in Kuala Lumpur. Once we took back more than 10 big boxes, the custom people did not believe us. They thought hidden among the bukharas were some contraband stuff!

Food industry is definitely growing here. Restaurants, cafes, gerais mushrooming everywhere some with catchy names. All sorts of food. Local, ambuyats, western, chinese, indian, french, italian, fast food, slow food and many more including the popular nasi katoks. All the best to them but what’s important, they must be halal and must maintain high standard of hygiene.

PS: Today, passed by a new row of shops and saw a well known food chain in Kuala Lumpur famous for it’s supposed to be secret recipes, opening an outlet here. Good luck to them. Hope they can keep up with the established ones such as CA Mohammad, Chop Jing Chew, Thien Thien..............

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