This article in Sydney Morning Herald talks about how Malaysians are (supposedly) finding their food rather unhealthy and looking to improve their diet.
This probably isn't a big shock for Malaysians reading as food is one of their daily little guilty pleasures.
For other readers - let me assure you now - food is a national obsession in Malaysia. Most people spend their time at meals discussing other meals they have had and whether they are better or worse than this one, and what they will be having for their next meal. Food blogs are very popular - it's quite common to see people using a camera phone to snap a photo of their meal.
In fact - my colleagues, if allowed to vote on the company off-site trip, will almost always ask to go to a resort in Langkawi which offers all-inclusive 24/7 room service (so you can call up at 3am and get yet another plate of fried rice and some fried chicken wings). My suggestions (resorts that offer activities such as diving) are somehow seen as rather weird .
When the first Malaysian went up into space, what was the topic of conversation between the Prime Minister and the astronaut (angkasawan)? "How is the food?". One of the official experiments conducted by the ankasawan was "Malaysian Food in Space".
Yet there's little to no awareness or interest in having healthy food. Diet drinks are hard to find (outside central Kuala Lumpur they barely exist). Coffee and tea come with sugar automatically included. Tomato and chilli sauce in Malaysia are chock full of sugar. And if you are lucky enough to work with public sector a lot you'll find that all meetings come with curry puffs or cakes (kuih).
Add to this kind of diet to the fact that most of my Malaysian friends eat 4-5 meals a day (with "supper" being an official meal, along with "morning tea", "high tea" and general grazing that continues throughout the day) and you can see that a high diabetes and heart attack rate is a pretty logical consequence.
Of course, people visiting Malaysia absolutely love the food - even the western food is done very well here. I usually point out to them (with a smile) that this is probably because of the copious addition of fat, sugar, salt and MSG to the food. It's the old French cooking trick - every sauce tastes amazing when then first item in the recipe is 2 pounds of butter. If you're just visiting of course it doesn't matter too much... but perhaps those of us living here should be a bit more careful.
I'll think about it right after I finish the Christmas Turkey tonight (just RM 200 including all the trimmings, great stuffing and gravy.... it's the second one I've had already this month)...