United against a common enemy
For a short period of two weeks in early April, Singaporeans and Malaysians (as well as some Indonesians and Bruneians) united against one common enemy – the judges of MasterChef UK.
For those who missed the whole food fight, you can catch up here.
The fight also called to question the origin of rendang – is it Malaysian or Indonesian? The answer is… are you kidding? We’re not getting in the middle of that.
During that moment of unity, it’s hard to imagine that these two neighbours were themselves having a culinary conflict in 2009.
Singaporeans had always considered chilli crab their national dish, along with chicken rice.
Even the official Visit Singapore webpage cites the dish’s humble beginnings from a pushcart in 1956 and calls chilli crab “among Singapore’s greatest culinary inventions.”
So imagine everyone’s surprise when the Malaysian Tourism Minister was quoted in a local newspaper as saying, “We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food. Chilli crab is Malaysian. Hainanese chicken rice is Malaysian. We have to lay claim to our food.”
While she never mentioned Singapore by name, it was pretty clear who she meant.
Singaporean netizens went online to rigorously reclaim their national dishes but the conflict was short-lived because Malaysians weren’t putting up too much of a fight – there were also puzzled by the Minister’s claims.
As with all online furores, this issue eventually simmered down.
Read on for these other famous food fights
This spicy dish of fermented pickled cabbage has always been associated with Korea.
It’s so beloved that the first Korean astronaut even brought this side dish staple to space in 2008.
However, Japan stepped on some toes when they tried to co-opt the dish by making and marketing their own version of it, which often skips the fermentation process and uses artificial sour flavouring instead.
Korea wants Japan to stop calling their version kimchi, while Japan argues that Korea has no monopoly on the name.
While it’s accepted that the light and fluffy pavlova is named after Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova, what isn’t as clear cut is which country came up with the meringue-based dessert first.
Pavlova expert Dr Helen Leach from University of Otago says she can find “at least 21 pavlova recipes in New Zealand cookbooks by 1940, which was the year the first Australian ones appeared.”
Australians claim that the recipe originated from a chef in Perth, Western Australia, around 1935.
The Oxford English Dictionary seemed to have settled the dispute in 2010 when it said that the first recorded pavlova recipe appeared in New Zealand in 1927.
However, it then listed the origins as “Austral. and N.Z.”. Who will eventually get the sweet taste of success?