SINGAPORE - A monumental tome on the history of Malay cuisine received the top prize at the Singapore Book Awards on Sept 22.
The Food Of Singapore Malays: Gastronomic Travels Through The Archipelago by Khir Johari was Book of the Year at the annual industry awards by the Singapore Book Publishers Association (SBPA).
A ceremony for the awards, which recognise the best in local book publishing, was held at The Fullerton Hotel and also live-streamed online.
Khir’s book traces, over more than 600 pages, the evolution of Malay food from the seventh century to present day. It delves into the stories behind dishes and ingredients, and contains about 30 recipes.
In his acceptance speech, the 59-year-old food historian referred to popular foods such as nasi lemak, mee siam and mee rebus.
“There is so much more to food than what we eat. It is who we are. When I embarked on this project, all I wanted to do was do documentation for a topic that was under-researched, under-recognised, but something we enjoy so much – look at our hawker centres and the lines,” he said.
“It turned out to be a project where you get a chance to celebrate the lives of the custodians and keepers of recipes and traditions and knowledge and stories. The award tonight is for all of them.”
The book, which is published by Marshall Cavendish International, also won Best Illustrated Non-Fiction Title.
Khir told The Straits Times: “We are part of the larger archipelago. We are blessed with this geography that provided us with the food, we are also blessed with the confluence of so many civilisations coming together. The Malay food that they call Malay food today is the result of that confluence of cultures. How do you explain a nation, a people, through food? That’s what this book is all about.”
The Book of the Year judges were the N...