Malaysian Cuisine: A Case of Neglected Culinary Globalization

Kosaku Yoshino



Malaysian cuisine represents a culinary diversity originating from Malaysia’s multiethnic society: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya, Eurasian, and so on. There are many Malaysian favourites such as nasi lemak, beef rendang, bak but teh, char kway teow, curry laksa, roti canai, nasi goreng, nasi dagang, and so forth. Nonetheless, Malaysian restaurants are very limited in number in virtually all major cities of the world compared with Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian restaurants. In Tokyo, for example, there are only five Malaysian restaurants. Why doesn’t Malaysian cuisine become global? The paper attempts to offer interpretations and explanations for this question. Its approach is sociological, inquiring into social processes that take place among social actors, in this case, producers, reproducers and consumers of cuisine. Focusing on the Japanese market, the paper analyses social characteristics of consumers of ethnic food and then looks into some issues regarding reproducers of Malaysian cuisine in the global market such as the role of small businesses and the government.


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Kosaku YoshinoKosaku Yoshino is Professor of Sociology at Sophia University. His areas of specialization are nationalism and globalization in Japan and Southeast Asia. His best-known books include Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan (Routledge) and Consuming Ethnicity and Nationalism: Asian Experiences (editor) (Curzon Press). He is currently writing a book on the impact of “Englishization” on various social processes and networks both within as well as outside of Asia. He has been conducting research on Malaysia for many years and has written on various aspects of its multiethnicity.