The world’s other underrated cuisine

We in advertising consider Malaysian Tourism’s “Truly Asia” campaign as one of the best tourism campaigns in recent history. The line brands the country well, and captures its unique demographic mix. The campaign is over a decade-old, and yet it still sticks. On a trip to Palawan, where I was joined by two Malaysian friends, a boatman, who upon learning that they were Malaysian, smiled and said, “Oh, truly Asia”.

But, beyond all the sloganeering, does the Filipino know much about Malaysia?   Malaysia’s clear and consistent branding has proved to be successful in generating high awareness amongst Filipinos. Has it translated to interest and desire to experience Malaysia?

Let’s use Facebook as an indicator. I see frequent travels to Bangkok, Siem Reap, Vietnam, Singapore and Japan. Except for a few mountaineers who climbed the highest slopes of Kota Kinabalu, rarely do I see pictures of Kuala Lumpur or anywhere in Malaysia.

So I would ask some people, Why haven’t you visited Malaysia? Some never considered it because they didn’t know anyone from there. Others thought it was too fiercely Muslim, and therefore, constricting. Is it good for shoppingI don’t like Malaysian food. I’d rather do F1 in Singapore. And the common response: After Petronas Towers, what? 

Maybe that’s a cue for the Malaysia tourism authorities to address all those misgivings.

I’ll try to do my share in convincing the non-believers because I love Malaysia. Next to my Malaysian friends, who are as fun and silly as my Pinoy friends, it’s the food that always excites me about visiting Malaysia. The food is damn good.

Nothing’s more truly Asian than its cuisine – Chinese, Malay, Indian. Any self-respecting foodie ought to take a trip to Malaysia for the world’s other underrated cuisine (obviously, Filipino is the other one that deserves global recognition).

The fierce spices. The jolt. The holy mix of flavors. The variety. The stuff you can’t find in Manila. Above all, the passion that goes into the cooking. That’s what I love about Malaysian food.

Last week, I was in KL for work for the nth time and managed to squeeze in some free time with my dearest friends. I told them I didn’t want to eat fancy and expensive stuff. “Take me to the cheap, street food places” was my request.   After the obligatory dimsum and porkchop-over-rice at Din Tai Fung, this was my unforgettable food trip.

The curry fish head and fried chicken at the Indian stall in Lucky Garden.

The pork belly, claypot crabs, the spicy fish at Robson’s Heights.

Char Kuey Teow, Asia’s best pancit, in Jalan Imbi.

The ginger fish, prawns, and pata tim at Kheng Heong.


Breakfast at Lucky Garden.  Oodles of noodles that go well with local coffee served in retro china.

My top picks are the Indian curry fish head, Indian fried chicken, ginger fish and char kuey teow.

That’s enough reason for you to reconsider Malaysia.