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Food fights from across the causeway over UNESCO recognition for Singapore’s hawker culture

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After Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday that the nation is nominating hawker culture to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, many Malaysians were riled up and took to social media to criticise Singapore’s food.

Amongst them is Celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail, otherwise known as Chef Wan. Malaysian news outlet The Star, reported that he called Singapore’s attempt to gain UNESCO recognition “arrogant behaviour”.

He also added, “People who lack confidence in their food will go all out to do these things for recognition”.

According to an article in The Star, another Malaysian celebrity chef, Datuk Ismail Ahmad, also said Singapore’s hawker culture is often confined within buildings, unlike that of Malaysia, where it can be found in both rural and urban areas.

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He said, “That’s the uniqueness of ours compared to theirs. Theirs is monotonous”. He continued, “Their hawker centres are beautiful but tasteless.”

The comments made by these chefs, who Singaporeans have watched on television, have angered many and have sparked what seems to be a food fight between people of both countries.

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