By Kasmining Baka
KUALA LUMPUR: The popularity of Thai cuisine in the country over the past three decades has soared, so much so we can find tom yam restaurants or stalls almost anywhere.
Even normal restaurants offer at least some Thai dishes to customers in their menus.
With these developments, it is no wonder that there are now an estimated 120,000 Thai cooks, especially from southern Thailand, involved in the business in Malaysia.
The Thai Tom Yam Restaurant Owners Association in Malaysia claims that 5,000 to 6,000 tom yam restaurants in the country are operated by Thai nationals who employ cooks from Thailand.
The association’s president Chefri Malasae said the association was established with the purpose of providing welfare and help to Thais working in tom yam restaurants in Malaysia.
He said most of the tom yam restaurants in the country employed cooks from Thailand, to ensure the authenticity of its cuisine.
“The fact that Malaysians love Thai cuisine, and the possibility of earning a higher income, has attracted many Thai cooks to come here to make a living,” said Chefri, who comes from Songkla Province in southern Thailand.
There are a number of Thais now working as cooks in tom yam restaurants who came to Malaysia without any expertise in the field, but they gained the skills and experience over time.
Ahmad Talik, 24, a cook from Narathiwat, said working in Kuala Lumpur was a blessing for him, as it provided a good income compared to back home.
“This big city has become a source of income for me…many tourists from outside and within Malaysia come to Kuala Lumpur, and this brings many people to the restaurant where I work,” he said.