Flavour of Malaysia brings culture to campus

img_0098
Monique Irish | The Daily Wildcat

The Flavor of Malaysia was not limited to food. Nurfathiah Nasution, Left, and Ryan Sigat, right, play the Malaysian game Congkak while sporting traditional Malaysian clothing.

There are 196 countries in the world. Each has a culture of its own, made up of music, art, clothing, traditions and food of the people who call that country home.

 Tucson has a more diverse selection of cultures than many cities in the United States, boasting restaurants and shops from all over the world, but not all cultures are celebrated as widely or often. Bring on the Flavours of Malaysia.

The Flavours of Malaysia event is held annually by the Malaysian Students Association at the University of Arizona.  The group of more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students organized and hosted this year’s event on Fri., April 14 from noon to 5 p.m. to share their country’s culture and food with UA students, staff and the Tucson community.

RELATED: Arizona State Museum unveils new Native American basketweaving exhibit

“The Flavours of Malaysia event is our biggest event of the year,” said , Ramanathan Somasundaram a geosciences and anthropology senior.  “We have authentic cuisine from Malaysia, traditional games, trivia questions, music, wear and art.”

Somasundaram is also the president and founder of the Malaysian Student Association and is passionate about sharing his country’s cultures and traditions with other students.  He began the group in 2015 with only 11 members and it has grown significantly since.  The group is officially affiliated with and supported by the Consulate General of Malaysia in Los Angeles and Education Malaysia Los Angeles, something Somasundaram is proud of.

Monique Irish | The Daily Wildcat

The main course of Nasi Lemak is the spicy, fried Halal chicken. The spices originate from Northern Malaysia.

“In the past two years, the Malaysian student enrollment has tripled,” Somasundaram said.  “I guess it could be because of our increased presence on campus because we are really active on Facebook and people can reach out to us."

The Malaysian Student Association has been met with great turnouts at past Flavours of Malaysia events and advertised all over campus to urge people to come by and experience a taste of the Southeast Asian country for themselves.  The Malaysian Students Association estimates they served about 200 people between noon and 3 p.m., and expected a total turnout of around 500 for the day.

"The university better be happy,” Somasundaram said with a laugh.

Nasi Lemak was the main dish being served at Flavours of Malaysia and is the national dish of the country.  The traditional meal includes rice with chili paste, cucumbers, anchovies, a hard-boiled egg, a piece of fried chicken and a side of fried noodles.  

Nasi Lemak is specifically from Penang Island within Malaysia, an area of the country that is known for its incredible traditional food. It is a must-visit for those who are interested in Malaysian cuisine.  The spicy rice combined with the sweet fried noodles and savory chicken made for a delicious fusion of Malaysian staples that all could enjoy.

Monique Irish | The Daily Wildcat

Nasi Lemak is served with coconut milk rice topped with sambal, a sauce made with anchovies and chilis. It is garnished with cucumbers, rice noodles mixed with fried egg, onions, bean sprouts, and a hard boiled egg.

“Malaysian cuisine is like an amalgamation of different types of cuisines,” Somasundaram said.  “You can have Malay food, Chinese and Indian food and it could be a fusion between these three or two… it is spicy, sweet, sour, and it’s very aromatic.”

RELATED: Miss Vietnam Southern Arizona blends traditional Vietnamese and modern American cultures

The event celebrated other aspects of Malaysian culture outside of food as well.  Many of the students hosting the event were dressed in traditional clothing as part of the festivities and they had Malaysian music playing for the public to enjoy as they came by. 

“It’s a really nice thing because a lot of people don’t know where Malaysia is or what the culture is like,” said Krithika Krishnan, a speech, language and hearing sciences sophomore and a member of the Malaysian Students Association.  “I think [this event] is a nice way to put our culture, put our country out there and let people know what it’s about.”


Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter

Share this article