Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Should We Ban Foreign Cooks in Penang?

Ever since PR-DAP  took over the Penang state government, they have introduced some interesting and needed policies. However, the banning of foreign cooks is not one of them. This policy is short-sighted, irrational and borders being elitists.

Does the ban on foreign cooks include non-Penangites Malaysians like someone from Kedah, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak too? Or is it confined to foreign workers like our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Myanmarese, Nepalese, etc?  If it is only the latter, where is the logic? What makes them think the foreigners are poorer learners? Any empirical proof? Any scientific marketing research and taste test been done?

What if the foreigners are more hardworking and passionate towards their work simply because they value the job far more than a local, having travelled thousands of kilometres to find a living to feed and care for their family back home?

If the cook is the main deciding factor why Penang food is better, then why are there so many Penang hawkers who came to Kuala Lumpur or elsewhere to set their businesses fail to duplicate the ‘Penang’ taste?

I suggest that we be more sensitive, more thorough, more humane and more empathetic in our decision that affects the lives of many. Such a policy is not only foolish but can have an impact taking away a job from a foreigner who will provide the livelihood of not only themselves, but to their family – sometimes three or four families back in their home country. We cannot be hasty in these areas if we value human rights, being caring and being competent.

As a Penangite, I have my favourite hawker stalls. One of my regular Penang Asam Laksa stall owner tried his luck in Kuala Lumpur but gave up and now, is back in Penang. He lamented that even after bringing all the ingredients from Penang, he still failed to get the Penang taste he wanted and was very frustrated. He blames on the quality of the water in Kuala Lumpur. He stressed that the water in Penang is key to get the Penang taste.

Another friend of mine is the owner of one of the most successful Mamak Nasi Kandar business in Malaysia. When I complained to him that he has not duplicated the Penang taste as it should be, he said,  “ Brother, I can bring everything from Penang, chefs and all of the ingredients but to carry the Penang water, the one that makes the real difference, is impractical and too expensive.”

Are both of them right? Is it the water from Penang that makes a difference? If they are, here is my humble suggestion.

Stop the foolish idea of banning foreign cook and be smart. Start selling Penang water to food and beverage businesses outside Penang.

Anas Zubedy
Penangite, living in Kuala Lumpur

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