Bandar Kuching MP slams shallow discord attempts over bak kut teh heritage recognition

Dr Kelvin Yii

By DayakDaily Team

KUCHING, March 1: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has regarded the recent attempts by certain leaders to create discord and division over the recognition of ‘bak kut teh’ as a National Heritage Food, because it is perceived as non-halal, as shallow without understanding the historical and cultural significance that the dish holds in Malaysia.

He emphasised that the recognition of ‘bak kut teh’ among ten food items, including ‘kolo mee’ from Sarawak, as a National Heritage Food should be a source of pride for all Malaysians as it reflects the diversity and richness of cultures in a pluralistic nation.

“We must all acknowledge and treasure the diversity in our country, including the richness of cultures and heritage reflected in our food, which should unite us instead of dividing us over shallow extreme sentiments,” he said in a statement today.

While ‘bak kut teh’ is commonly cooked with pork, Yii pointed out that its name directly translates to ‘Meat Bone Tea’ and is not limited to pork but encompasses all kinds of meat, including chicken (commonly known as Chit Kut Teh), beef, mutton, and even seafood.

He argued that the recognition of the dish should be based on its distinct flavour, characteristics, history, and origin in Malaysia rather than its halal status.

He referred to the recognition of ‘Kolo Mee’ from Sarawak, which can be prepared in different ways, both halal and non-halal.

“If we allow this to divide us, we will continue to lose our competitive edge compared to our neighbouring countries that have been pushing for the acknowledgement of heritage food to promote culture and tourism to the world.

“Instead, we should unite and take pride of each and other heritage and continue to defend our diversity and multiculturalism,” he added.

These comments came in response to Umno Youth chief Dr Muhamad Akmal Saleh’s call for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to dismiss Dato Sri Tiong King Sing for allowing ‘bak kut teh’ to become a national heritage dish, among other issues.

Akmal said Tiong, the Federal Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister, could have instead recognised Chinese fried rice and other foods that can be eaten by everyone in this country regardless of race or religion.

In response to Akmal’s remarks reported in various national dailies, Tiong rebuked him and cautioned him against adopting an oppositional or extremist stance.

In a statement posted on his social media yesterday (Feb 29), Tiong reiterated that ‘bak’ refers to meat and the herbs used in the dish are halal. He said, “You can add chicken, and then it becomes ‘chicken kut teh’. If you add seafood, it becomes ‘seafood kut teh’. If you add lamb, it becomes ‘lamb kut teh’.”

Tiong suggested that Akmal refer to a dictionary if unsure of its definition. — DayakDaily