Once and For All
Let me clear up the Balkan prejudice about Asia and explain a few things, especially since Croatia has joined the EU in 2013 and will eventually become more multi-cultural and multi-racial over time, unless another war breaks out in 20 or so years. My DNA roots are from Malaysia and before anybody says any different, we do not share the same DNA heritage as our Indian or Chinese neighbors. Apparently, National Geographic found out that our DNA comes from another lineage rooting, as expected, in Africa.
Either way, Asia is a large place consisting of many countries, although we had fewer growing up when the Russian Federation was still USSR. Most people in Zagreb imagine Asia as one humungous China and a little island off the coast of the Chinese continent called Japan. Apparently, everybody with darker skin tone would be either “Cigani” or Chinese for simplification. If you look a little more exotic and speak with accentuated syllables, like an islander, then you’re Japanese. I’m usually amazed that most people do not consider India part of Asia, nor does the Middle East count. However Turkey is, without ANY argument from any European, 80% Asian. Europe also forgets that Russia is 90% Asian.
So, we Asians are a mixture of races (meaning white, black and the confusing yellow – or to me, different shades of brown) AND culture. This has to be cleared up, because Asians are multi-everything. In Southeast Asia alone, there are many cultures that differ and if you look closer, different DNA types. Thai have different DNA from Vietnamese, who have different DNA from Malays, who are TOTALLY different from island folk (who are always different in general, probably because of inbreeding). I’m talking about The Philippines and yes, they are FUCKED UP! And no, I’m not being racist. Just look at the situation in The Philippines!
I am from Malaysia and I am Malay by origin, which means my family roots are probably very original with a few mixes. Even though China, India and Japan are amazingly HUGE countries, they are quite homogenous by RACE (not by culture). Indian people, no matter what dialect they speak are still very Indian by DNA. They share the same roots despite looking a little different. The same example goes with the Chinese and Taiwanese, Japanese, both Koreans, Thai and Cambodians, Vietnam and Laos, Malays and Indonesian, Filipinos and Micro- and Polynesian, Middle Easterners, the –Stans, and finally the mountain people.
However many people actually move to those places and migrate. Apparently, only Malaysia has majority mixture of RACES and CULTURE. The Malay race itself has many different types of culture, being a multi-kingdom nation. We share roots with Indonesians, which used to be the MALAY Archipelago. As mentioned earlier, our DNA is also very different from the other Asians, making us unrelated even to Indians, Middle Easterners, Turks, and the rest of the people who look similar to us. Apparently we have very good boats and probably have roots near the Maldives.
Since Malaysia is conveniently protected by large islands, many ports were built on the calm waters of the Straits of Malacca and a lot of trading happened within the past 2000 years. Some thought tigers and large pythons were ok to live with and so Chinese, Siamese, Indians and Round-Eyes decided to stay. Some staying as long as 8+ generations and thus are technically Malay. So like America, some mixed, some liked their pure blood, but today we have a huge mixture of cultures, races and DNA, which is different than what Europe (especially Catholic Croatia) is used to. Thus people here, even though they say that Sarajevo has three different races, they are all white to me.
That’s why if people want to get really technical, Tesla is still Serbian, born Austrian, became and died American.
Let’s Get More Prejudicial With The Food!
I moved after being born in Malaysia when I was possibly about 3 months old. Can’t remember. Might have been 6 months, but when you’re at that age, time really flies. Either way, I grew up in my early years in Geneva. Geneva, Switzerland. Switzerland, Europe. Just have to clear that up, since there might be a Geneva in Malaysia and people in Hrvatska Kostajnica have been imposing this Malaysian culture on me and making me feel guilty that I act too “white”. Whatever that means.
So I get asked a lot of questions. What is the food like there? Do you eat a lot of rice? Do you eat cat? Do you eat fish? Do you eat pork (this one I accept, because I used to be Muslim)? What is the velocity of an unladen sparrow? Let me answer these questions, not just for the people in HK (Hrvatska Kostajnica, not Hong Kong where they eat puppies), but for the entire Croatian, Serbian and whoever else holds prejudice that we drink shots with snake venom in every bar (I think they do that in Texas also, but for information sake Texans are WHITE).
What is the food like in Malaysia? The food is edible in Malaysia, unless you’re allergic to most fruits and vegetables like me. The fruit does taste better, probably because of the tropical climate and almost everything is edible. You can probably be homeless and not be hungry, because bananas and papayas grow everywhere. Fishing is abundant and you can catch fish or any other type of seafood just by shining a light in the water and scooping it up with a net. Since I eat a lot of meat, the meats eaten there are beef, chicken, fish, lamb and pig in that order. We have a lot of spices, since we are the center of spice trade between the entire region and white people, who eventually stole all the good crap from us, which we then got them back later by saying Kopi Luwak is awesome!
We usually spice everything. Chili is a big thing. Rice is traditional everywhere in the world, but we also have noodles adopted from the Chinese and breads (Naan and Roti) adopted from the Indians. On a daily basis, we usually eat what we feel like (much like our Balkan counterparts). I’m half expecting people to ask if we eat Bolognese with rice, since pasta is seemingly not available despite originating from Asia. What we don’t do much is corn flour since corn is American and came MUCH later to Europe and Asia.
If I had to be European and generalize as a tourist coming to Malaysia, food culture there is separated into Curry eaters (adopted from India, and my father falls into this category) and Tom Yum eaters (spicy sour origins from Thailand, and my mother falls into this category). Curry can be made from anything and eaten with anything. Tom Yum (soup) can also be eaten with anything from bread to rice. Since the culture and people are mixed themselves, Malaysia has a unique adaptation of everything, using local spices and herbs, according to Anthony Bourdain.
If I were to eat Malaysian food, I am traditional 2000-year old school. Which means, I fish stuffed with ground coconut and chili, wrapped in banana leaf and stuck near a fire. I would make salad from leaves (21 leaf salad) and possibly have a dollop of rice. Then sit down on the ground, and using a banana leaf as a plate, eat with my hands. This is the way my grandfather used to eat and what he used to eat. Reminds me of better, more traditional Malaysian days.
In Malaysia, we don’t eat cat or dog or cockroaches or grasshoppers or any other weird thing, although I have tried a lot of weird things in their respective countries. I have favorite dishes from all over the world and know recipes from all over the world. However, the more you travel and learn, the more you realize that a tortilla is a capati, palacinka is a crepe, murtabak is a burek, tagliatelli is kueh teow, etc. There are a lot of adaptations, and being multicultural, you can find local replacements for anything. The message is this: nothing is original, especially not race nor culture.
And for those wondering, there is also beer in Malaysia.
So the culture in Malaysia is a mixture and in 2008, a local radio station asked (on our national day for the Satu (One) Malaysia campaign) what could and should be considered the national food of Malaysia? We got answers ranging from a Ramlee Burger (which is a hamburger) to Chicken Curry with Roti Canai (which is Indian). I am glad that they picked Nasi Lemak, which is one of our oldest and original dishes. If people ask nicely, I would possibly make it for them. At the same time I’m writing this, I cooked Nasi Ayam or Chicken Rice in my kitchen in Hrvatska Kostajnica. It’s a dish consisting of rice cooked in chicken broth and spices, sambal, cucumbers and chicken marinated in soya sauce and baked.
As I was cooking this and adding spices, I realized that if I took the spices away, it would be the bland European version of baked chicken and rice.
To Conclude Part 1 of Educating Europeans
I hope that this cleared up a few things and that instead of blurting out, “Are you Japanese or Chinese?” (or blurting out countries that are about 3000 miles away), the next time you see an Asian person, you may ask the polite question of, “Where are you from?”
And when I say, “I’m American.” Do not reply with, “No. I meant where are you from ORIGINALLY?”
To which I reply, “Africa.”
Edit: Found a perfect example of this situation!