United By Food: What Tuck Will Keep Me Filled For the Day?
‘Tuck’ – a word that brings back nostalgic memories of my days as a Primary One student in Government English School, Kluang (now known as Kluang High School) in the early 1950s. At recess time, I vividly remember lining up at the Tuck Shop to buy food and drinks. With a princely sum of 10 cents, one could buy a bowl of noodles and a drink. Today, you can get almost nothing with just 10 cents!
Years later, I came across the word in my readings of the infamous character, Friar Tuck – the jovial, pot-bellied priest who joined Robin Hood’s Merry Men in Sherwood Forest.
But I digress. The answer to the question “what tuck?” is a reflection of the wide array of cuisine available in our multicultural nation. A melting pot of Asian and Western gourmet dishes, one can never really go hungry in Malaysia especially with late night Mamak joints open throughout the day.
In fact, it comes as no surprise that Malaysian cuisine consists of fusion dishes perfected through “trial and error” by local hawkers and chefs. Combining some of the best ingredients and cooking methods from the Malay, Indian and Chinese community has undoubtedly led to unique local dishes such as “Nasi Lemak” and “Nasi Kandar” (Rice Carried on Poles Balanced on Shoulders) that Malaysians and indeed Singaporeans have enjoyed over the years.
Each large city in Malaysia has its own ‘must-go’ hawker centres that boasts a thriving business. By 4.00 pm, food stalls are assembled or pushed into place from nearby storage sheds. Heaven forbid, if your car is still parked at the time these people move in for their daily routine, you will get a good telling off (Don’t say we didn’t warn you!).
A popular Malaysian beverage, “Teh Tarik” (Pulled Tea) is an art form in itself! Apparently, it takes years to perfect the art of “pulling” tea from one glass to another to produce just the right amount of “froth”.
Fun fact: After World War II, Indian Muslim immigrants set up tea stalls to serve rubber plantation workers leading to the beverage that has become an indispensable part of our Malaysian identity!
Other staple favourites include “Pau” and “Roti Bakar” for breakfast, rice and curry for lunch, and “Roti Canai” or “Mee Goreng” for dinner….or whatever tickles your taste buds.
Indeed, food is the secret to a united Malaysia!