KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA will lay claim to its signature dishes like laksa and chicken rice which are being 'hijacked' by other countries, the tourism minister said according to a report on Thursday.
Those on the list include the fragrant coconut milk rice 'nasi lemak', spicy soup noodle 'laksa' and pork ribs herbal soup 'bak kut teh', Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen said according to The Star newspaper.
'We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food. Chili crab is Malaysian. Hainanese chicken rice is Malaysian. We have to lay claim to our food,' she was quoted as saying.
'In the next three months, we will identify certain key dishes (to declare as Malaysian). We have identified laksa... all types of laksa, nasi lemak and bak kut teh,' she added.
Ms Ng said her ministry will announce a strategy on how to brand the dishes as Malaysian.
'That is Part Two. We cannot reveal it yet, but we will let you know soon,' she reportedly said.
Ms Ng did not name which countries were hijacking the dishes, which are popular around the world and particularly in neighbouring Singapore and Indonesia.
Her comments came amid a diplomatic row with Indonesia, where protesters have accused Malaysia of stealing its cultural heritage.
The dispute erupted in Indonesia in August after erroneous reports emerged that Malaysia had screened tourism advertisements featuring the traditional 'pendet' dance of Indonesia's Hindu-majority Bali island.
The ad was actually a promotion for a Discovery Channel programme, but despite an apology from the network, protesters vowing to 'crush Malaysia' have burned national flags and thrown rotten eggs at the embassy in Jakarta.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman will meet his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda in Jakarta on Thursday in a bid to cool the tensions which Malaysia has described as a 'grave concern'.
Ties between the two countries are regularly punctuated by rows over cultural issues as well as the welfare of Indonesian labourers and maids working in Malaysia. -- AFP