Local Celebrity Chefs Weigh In On Popiah-Lumpia Debate

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Whilst the rest of the world focus their lenses on terrorism, famine and extreme poverty, Malaysia and Indonesia are currently fighting a battle—over popiahs.

Everyone from local epicurean experts to the Tourism minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz have defended the popiah (spring roll) as a national delicacy after an Indonesian group claimed that it originated from Central Java.

According to Datuk Chef Ismail Ahmad, who is also co-owns Rebung Restaurant, the popiah was different from the lumpia, as it is called by the Indonesians, and was widely known to be a famous Malaysian delicacy by locals and tourists alike.

“Popiah was never Indonesian. If you go to Jakarta, you cannot find popiah there. Whereas popiah is easily available everywhere in Malaysia”, he told The Star Online.

Generally, lumpia refers to spring rolls of Chinese origin, and is derived from the Hokkien word, lunpia. It is believed by many to have originated from the Fujian province in China, while its variants, including the popiah, are widely found in East and South-East Asia.

Chef Ismail said the confusion may have stemmed from the fact that many types of foods – originally brought by the Indo-Chinese when they came to trade in Malacca centuries ago – had been adopted into local culture.

Celebrity chef Datuk Chef Wan, said that neither country should claim ownership as each had different ways of preparing the dish and that food should bond people together, not tear them apart.

A small group of Indonesians calling themselves Forum Masyarakat Peduli Budaya Indonesia (Formasbudi or Forum for Society who cares for Indonesian Culture) held a protest outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta on Friday, claiming that the popiah was an Indonesian national cultural heritage.

Malaysian ambassador to Indonesia Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim uploaded two images of the protest on his official Twitter account @dzahrain, showing a crowd of demonstrators holding up placards and calling for the lumpia, which is the Indonesian version of the popiah, to be “saved”.

Meanwhile, Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia Herman Prayitno said Malaysia should be free to enjoy its version of the popiah while defending Indonesia’s right to protect the lumpia as a cultural heritage.

“Indonesia has the right to submit a claim to an authoritative body like Unesco to acknowledge lumpia as a world cultural heritage which originated from Indonesia with complete historical evidence.

“Malaysia also have the right to enjoy their own popiah,” he said in a statement.

In the past, Malaysians and Indonesians have wrestled over the origins many traditional food and items. Among them are batik, the Rasa Sayang song, wayang kulit, rendang and the keris.-MYNEWSHUB.CC