Taylor's FSLM Journals
Staging a National Dish: The Social Relevance of Nasi lemak in Malaysia

@ Asia-Pacific Journal of Innovation in Hospitality and Tourism

Online ISSN: 2710-6519

Laurance Tibère, Cyrille Laporte, Jean-Pierre Poulain, Elise Mognard & Marcella Aloysius 


This article examines the social construction process of nasi lemak as a national dish in Malaysia. Considering its institutional valorisation, especially in the field of tourism, the study attempts to understand the social imaginaries related to the dish as well as its practical status in the day-to-day food habits using empirical data from the Malaysian Food Barometer (MFB) study. The Malaysian historical and social context is also taken into consideration in elucidating institutional actions on nasi lemak. Findings reveal that the emblematic status of nasi lemak is not only supported by institutional actions, but also by social imaginaries and practices. The paper also highlights the importance of commensality and consumption contexts around national dishes such as nasi lemak. Finally, it points out the social ‘relevance’- using UNESCOs’ notion — of some emblematic dishes especially in multicultural contexts and in particular, Malaysia. 

Keywords: Nasi lemak, national dish, tourism, collective identities, food habits, commensality.