'We do not serve Peranakan Nasi Lemak': Restaurant Lemak Boys responds to nasi lemak controversy

Caused quite a commotion online the past week.

Syahindah Ishak | September 13, 2020, 10:29 PM

Nasi lemak has been the topic of controversy in the past.

Like this:

It appears that the traditional dish has made headlines again this past week.

It all began after the reveal of a new eatery at Shaw Centre called Lemak Boys.

Peranakan nasi lemak

A Sep. 9 article by 8 Days highlighted one of the restaurant's specialty in its headline: "Peranakan nasi lemak." (Note: 8Days has since amended the article to clarify that Lemak Boys' nasi lemak is "Peranakan-influenced, not Peranakan".)

According to a press release by Les Amis Group, which owns Lemak Boys, the basic version of the dish costs S$12.50.

The premium version costs S$18.50.

Online uproar

The "Peranakan" label and hefty price, however, soon caused an uproar online.

A number of Twitter threads were uploaded online to explain why the label was inaccurate and culturally inappropriate.

They also pointed out that the price of the dish is not justified.

On the other hand, one Twitter user, Karen Kommerce, who claims to be knowledgeable in Peranakan cuisine, disagreed with the backlash Lemak Boys received.

She defended "Peranakan nasi lemak" and explained in a lengthy Twitter thread why the dish deserves its high price.

However, she was soon called out by others, among whom was Singaporean playwright Joel Tan.


Not Peranakan

In response to queries from Mothership, Les Amis Group clarified that Lemak Boys is "not a Peranakan based concept".

Instead, Lemak Boys' dishes come with a Peranakan twist and flavour, said a Les Amis spokesperson.

Here is their full statement:

"Lemak Boys would like to clarify that we are not a Peranakan based concept nor do we serve Peranakan Nasi Lemak. We serve Rice Sets, Nasi Lemak, Laksa, and A la carte items with a Peranakan twist/flavours. The three chefs fostered a strong relationship while working at Indigo Blue Kitchen -- the Group's Peranakan concept -- and have brought over some of their best loved flavours. For example, the Nasi Lemak we serve comes with chicken berempah.

8days has since updated their article and header after we have reached out to them to clarify. As this was an unpaid food review, we are not in control of the opinion of the writer or what their editor chooses for a header.

The team at Lemak Boys has a love for heritage flavours and it was never the intention to offend or culturally appropriating any local food culture."

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Top images from Lemak Boys/FB & Wikipedia.