Nasi lemak has been the topic of controversy in the past.
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.
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.
sorry peranakan nasi lemak???is just nasi lemak with the chicken in peanut sauce and belachan insted of ikan sambal so.... i was right and im just going to get $2.50 nasi lemak instead— DXVYA (@dauntlust) September 11, 2020
Here's my gripe with that Peranakan nasi lemak, it's not that i don't recognise the chinese history that our region has, its that these 3 dudes are using Peranakan as a way to upscale their prices when its nothing special.— Thundercat's bassline (@beefhorfun) September 10, 2020
So I caused a bit of a kerfuffle today with the peranakan Nasi Lemak post about the Lemak Boys (disputed). pic.twitter.com/QfYqEnlG3J— Lim Jialiang (@lim_jialiang) September 10, 2020
Yes dammit sell your nasi lemak and call it nasi lemak. Just coz you add some Peranakan dishes on the side makes it a peranakan nasi lemak? Like that I sell nasi lemak and add fried battered fish and potatoes macam fish and chips I can call it English Nasi Lemak?— f (@frhn) September 11, 2020
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.
Guy that knows nothing about #Peranakan food claims that Peranakan food is ripping off Malay food etc.— Karen Kommerce (@cryptoecongames) September 10, 2020
FFS educate yourself about how different it is and the kind of labor used... https://t.co/XFnojnYIF7
However, she was soon called out by others, among whom was Singaporean playwright Joel Tan.
There is a polarizing debate on SGTwitter about Peranakan Nasi Lemak and whether it is really a thing/ a thing worth paying highly for. I wouldn’t weigh in on it if not for the tweet below which descended into arguing that Malay as a cultural category doesn’t exist and... pic.twitter.com/Qt3GUsNTY1— Faizah Zakaria (@laurelinarien) September 11, 2020
Smtg about her thread screams elitist mindset🤔🤔🤔 some Chinese Peranakans really think their culture is superior cos of the ✨𝓱𝓲𝓰𝓱-𝓵𝓪𝓫𝓸𝓾𝓻✨ Peter Lee’s article put it nicely as a Peranakan himself! <screenshots cos malas nak layan> pic.twitter.com/MeSMBlBe2G— thonking (@ddinini) September 10, 2020
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.