The Love-Hate Relationship with Malaysian Food

Here’s the thing about Malaysians. We love our food. A. Lot. Like literally, every free time we have to spare, we gravitate towards munching on something like there’s no tomorrow.  But, I’m willing to bet on my roti canai telur goyang kuah banjir that neither of you have ever thought of how unhealthy our diets can be (or just be in denial about it). Alarmingly, according to studies, Malaysia is ranked first for diabetes and obesity cases in South-East Asia.

Now, before we begin, here’s a quick disclaimer. This is written from my own point of view on the general Malaysian community. This is never intended to offend nor upset any of my fellow darling Malaysians. Hopefully everyone can read it with an open mind, heart and tummy ey.

First things first, what did you alls have for breakfast this morning lorh?

Haaa, I hear you. You had nasi lemak with telur mata separuh masak and extra sambal right?
Oh, you at the back. Roti telur dua with nescafe tarik did you say?
Eh, one more answer. Hah, you only had coffee? Dey, that’s not breakfast laa. What? 3-in-1 some more.

Haiyoo, this is why I wanted to write this piece in the first place.

Stay with me ya guys, I’m not going to torture you anymore with food names. Let the story begin shall we? It all started when I was in my university years. Our morning classes either start at 8.30 a.m, 10 a.m. or 11.30 a.m.

Don’t diss me here but I’m that A-type student who will always, always have breakfast first, no matter how late I am to my classes. My usual breakfast consists of whatever my hostel’s cafeteria has to offer or the usual arrays of fried food sold in the corners of my department’s food court.

It’s not healthy. I know. But what other choices do I have to fill in the squeaky creaks of my rumbling morning tummy? There’s no options like cereals, sandwiches or salads. Even if I decided to go with porridge or pasta, it’ll cost me RM5 more than my usual nasi goreng seringgit (yeah, my university food has a subsidised price, thank God for that).

Even so, during these 4 years of study, I keep observing and thinking how most of my university community eats. They will always order a sweet drink to go with their oily morning food. Either that, or they go YOLO and not have breakfast at all only to be substituted with a very heavy fat-ladden lunch.

Most people eat instant noodles or biscuits at night to save money. It’s understandable but these are empty calories that do nothing to fuel your body the way it deserves to be. Rather than eating these, students might opt for better alternatives like bread/buns or nasi bujang (white rice, plain soup, omelette and sambal belacan).

These eating habits were not restricted to my university area only. I started noticing these kind of patterns during weekends as well. All these uncles and aunties going to mamak stalls ready to chug down some bubbly teh tarik after their morning prayers or tai chi session.

I also noticed how kids are served with too much processed food nowadays. It’s not even legit food. All those so-called nuggets, beef patties, fish ball, fries and more being served in school canteens nationwide. Sugary canned beverages and sweeten chocolate drinks claimed to be good for your kids are all lies. Please stop filling their tiny tummies with these.

Definitely, proper meals require more money, time and preparation but think about it the long run. Why are we feeding rubbish to our children?

Why are we so selfish to the point we sacrifice their health over our so called precious time?

But then again, I’m part of these Malaysians. Somedays, I just don’t have the energy or time to cook my own food. It definitely all boil down to priorities. If I make a priority to be more health-conscious then surely I’ll be making baby steps towards these goals.

Remember, balance is key to a healthy lifestyle and diet (Hey, not balancing a plate of nasi goreng on one hand and pisang goreng on the other, okay). It all starts with us and within us.

As what Gandhi has eloquently said, “Be the change you want to see in this world” and I definitely want to be that change.

What say you? Will you join me on this quest to be more conscious of what we feed our bodies with?

Nadhira Hizwani


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