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Bak Kut Teh Gazetted a National Heritage of Malaysia in Mar 2024

In Malaysia, bak kut teh is a meat dish with dark soy sauce, herbs and spices

On 24 Feb 2024, Malaysia gazetted bak kut teh as one of ten dishes as national heritage objects. The other nine are:

  1. Kolok Mee
  2. Burasak
  3. Nasi Ambeng
  4. Dodol Kukus Tahi Minyak
  5. Kuih Genggang or Kuih Lapis
  6. Kuih Karas
  7. Uthappam
  8. Jeruk Tuhau
  9. Air Katira.  
The announcement was made by Commissioner of Heritage, Mohamad Muda Bahadin.

Malaysia's National Heritage Department nominates heritage dishes in Malaysia in accordance with the National Heritage Act 2005. The objective is to preserve and protect heritage dishes from disappearance. Before the latest nomination of ten, 213 other traditional dishes have already been recognised as national heritage.

In Jun 2023, Tebrau member of parliament Jimmy Puah Wee Tse questioned the government about what it is doing to protect Malaysian heritage dishes from being claimed by other countries.

MP Puah cited the Singapore Channel News Asia documentary broadcasted in Feb 2023, which claimed bak kut teh is a Singaporean dish even though "We [Malaysians] all know that the dish originated from Klang, Selangor".

It appeared that Malaysia's National Heritage Department followed up on MP Puah's comments in parliament.

Seputeh member of parliament, Teresa Kok welcome the inclusion of bak kut teh as a Malaysian heritage object as it would help promote tourism, especially with visitors from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc. Furthermore, if Malaysia does not claim ownership of bak kut teh "a neighbour" would.

Nevertheless, bak kut teh's nomination as a Malaysian heritage object was not unanimously welcome by Malaysians.

Opposition leader Razman Zakaria from the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) posted on social media in Malay: "[It’s] very strange because bak kut teh is not eaten by all sections of [our] society. It is only eaten by some Malaysians".

Echoing the same sentiments, opposition member of parliament Rosol Wahid from Hulu Terengganu said in parliament that: "It would be better if the national heritage foods are dishes eaten by the majority of the country’s citizens."

About 60% of Malaysians are Muslims for whom pork is forbidden.

Supporters of bak kut teh as a Malaysia heritage object countered that "bak" simply means "meat" and the dish can be made with chicken, beef, lamb, prawn, fish and there are even vegan versions. It is not exclusively made with pork, though that would be the most common version.

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Written by Tony Boey on 31 Mar 2024


  1. Not very wish to make a decision which divide the pple unnecessarily, over a dish.

  2. Bak kut teh is probably the only Chinese dish in the list of 223 Malaysian heritage food items. 😂


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