Forget Chicken Rice, S’pore and M’sia Should Combine Forces for a UNESCO Heritage Icon


Top photo from South China Morning Post.

Chicken rice as Singapore’s UNESCO heritage icon sounds like a tantalising notion at first.

After all, chicken rice can be considered the quintessential Singaporean dish that transcends race and religion. I can’t even single out a coffee shop or food court that does not have a chicken rice stall.

But can we really claim ownership over this dish?

Despite its longstanding popularity, we still can’t pinpoint the dish’s cultural significance to Singapore other than that it was a recipe perfected by Hainanese immigrants a few decades ago. Even this timeframe is ambiguous.

Chicken rice, like many other popular local dishes, is also prepared and enjoyed in many cities in Malaysia. Submitting it to UNESCO would no doubt incite our neighbours to cry fowl (pun intended).

So if Singapore feels that food is most representative of it’s cultural heritage, then it’s only fair that we acknowledge our shared ancestry with Malaysia and make a joint submission to the UNESCO list—a point that ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh raised.

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