PETALING JAYA – Malaysian food does not rank high among visitors in the latest survey by YouGov, and Chef Wan thinks it could be due to its smaller “food-print”, among other reasons.
The country’s popular celebrity chef, whose real name is Datuk Redzuawan Ismail, said there were many factors that could have contributed to Malaysia’s low-ish ranking in the study – 20th out of 34 cuisines.
“I don’t really know who these people are that they interviewed, whether they are seasoned travellers and really food connoisseurs. If it’s just random people, not many of them have really travelled all over Malaysia and explored the food so a lot of it is down to ignorance,” he said.
Chef Wan also said Malaysian food may not have as much of a global footprint as the more ubiquitous Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
“Some people have only eaten at restaurants in their own countries such as Vietnamese or Thai restaurants, so they are familiar with the food.
“But there are not as many Malaysian restaurants overseas, they don’t exist in every street corner,” he said.
In the newly released study by the international market research agency, 25,000 people in 24 countries were asked to rank 34 national cuisines that they had tried.
Italian cuisine emerged the most popular, with an 84 per cent approval rating, followed by Chinese (78 per cent) and Japanese (71 per cent).
Malaysian cuisine had a 48 per cent approval rating. The least popular was Peruvian food, which only received 32 per cent.
From South-East Asia, Thailand outpaced all its neighbouring countries, ranking fourth on the list while Vietnam placed 14th with Singapore and Indonesia ranking 18th and 19th respectively (their rating was tied).
On why Singaporean food ranked higher than Malaysian cuisine, MasterChef Malaysia judge Johari Edrus said there could potentially be misconception about the origins of certain dishes.
“There are a lot of Malaysian dishes that Singapore says are theirs, so there is some confusion there,” he said.
Among the people polled, Malaysians were the biggest appreciators of their own cuisine, with 97 per cent showing love of local food, followed by 91 per cent of Singaporeans who also gave their cuisine the thumbs up.
The people who least liked Malaysian food were Italians, who only gave it a 21 per cent approval rating.
Fabrizio Giovagnali, an Italian consultant at a distribution company based in Malaysia, said Italians may not totally understand Malaysian food culture as they were used to eating certain food at certain times of the day, like coffee and pastry for breakfast.
“The idea of something heavy like nasi lemak for breakfast is very difficult for Italians to comprehend,” he said.
Giovagnali’s countryman Luca Melis, a product manager based in Malaysia, said Italians were often very traditional in their food outlook.
“To Italians, the best food in the world is Italian. Most Italians still prefer home-cooked meals from Italy,” said Melis.
Ultimately though, Chef Wan does not feel Malaysians have anything to worry about.
“Don’t worry so much about the ranking-lah because I don’t think that reflects our nation’s cuisine as a whole.
“People who are really food connoisseurs will understand the true picture because at the end of the day, our food always stands out,” he said.