GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz has come out in support of Penang's Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng's proposal to bar foreigners from being the main cooks of popular local fare.
Mr Nazri said he "totally agreed" with Mr Lim that Penang's street food should be prepared by locals.
"We can't have Penang hawker food cooked by foreigners who would not understand the taste.
"People come to Penang for its famous food such as nasi kandar, assam laksa and koay teow basah.
"We can't just bank on the branding, it would not be the same," he said.
Mr Nazri added that locals should be proud of Penang food and encouraged the younger generation of Malaysians to continue cooking such food to uphold the standard.
A seven-question survey regarding Mr Lim's proposal is being carried out by Penang Municipal Council officers at hawker centres until Aug 31.
The public can also submit their feedback to www.mppp.gov.my.
Mr Nazri said there was no question of the federal government not promoting tourism in Penang and assured his ministry would be working with the state government.
"What Bali is to Indonesia, Penang is to Malaysia. The Pearl of the Orient is the gem, the crown jewel of Malaysian tourism as far as I'm concerned," said Mr Nazri after he and Mr Lim unveiled two modern benches known as Figure #23 and Figure #25 in Armenian Street here on Saturday.
The benches, made from twisted steel poles by Malaysian artist Azman Ismail, were sponsored by the National Visual Arts Gallery as part of the George Town Festival (GTF) 2014 project titled "The Chairs - Secret Gardens of Earthly Delights II" where local and international artists created quirky, unique and appropriate seats as an artistic contribution to urban spaces.
Mr Nazri also said the Tourism and Culture Ministry was confident of achieving its target of attracting 28 million tourists this year despite several misfortunes that befell the nation recently.
"Figures for January to May showed that we are on target, with a 10% to 11% increase in arrivals monthly compared to the same period last year," he added.
Mr Nazri said the increase also meant that the country was on track to achieving its target of having 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion (S$65 billion) in tourism receipts by 2020.