Malaysia’s 13th General Election


MUAR: The politics of char kuey tiaw

IF you really follow the campaign trail of candidates, you will notice that they like to stop by and pose for pictures at char kuey tiaw stalls.


Holding a frying pan on one hand and the handle of a huge wok on another is nothing for a petty trader, but something rather glamorous for a candidate as it invites plenty of flash light, although we know too well it is purely for photography purposes and has nothing to do with one's culinary skills.
Simple logic. If they are really great in dishing out a plate of char kuey tiaw, they should be a successful char key tiaw trader by now, or think of pursuing a career in the food and beverage industry, and not a career as a politician.
In past elections, I kept asking myself why of all the food stalls available, the candidates only choose a fried kuey tiaw stall, or a stall selling carrot cake or oyster omelette.
I had no time to find out the answer, until this coming general elections. That is after a bit of research and asking around.
The wok used in frying the dish is generally large and relatively safe. The wok used to fry the last two dishes are more preferred because it has a flat bottom, and therefore more stable on the stove.
Even if the candidates have never ever used a wok and a pan before, it is not too difficult to maneuver the equipment. It will not slip off that easily.
All they have to do is just to put up a show to stir the fried kuey tiaw for a few minutes or so, and then hop to other non-food stalls.
They will avoid stalls selling murtabak, banana fritters, fried chicken, probably because of the risk and mess involved. They will also avoid stalls selling drinks or kuih, as there is no opportunity to show their "culinary skill".
If you are observant enough, the fried kuey tiaw stall owner may seem to be welcoming the candidate, although he might be the supporter of another political camp.
As his picture will appear in newspapers the next day, he will rather put up his smile or a show because of the free advertisement.
However, they are facing two potential risks.
First, the supporters of the candidate from another camp of the political fence may boycott the fried kuey tiaw stall, after knowing that the stall owner appeared to be so close with their political rival.
This is the opportunity cost he has to bear.
Second, the skillful control of heat and time are crucial to dish out a plate of tasty fried kuey tiaw.
Frying for too long will only char the dish. On the other hand, too short the time in frying may not produce the aroma and taste.
Judging from the long time taken for most of the candidates to have their pictures snapped, an experienced chef told me the kuey tiaw will get charred by the time the photography session is over.
I am not too sure if the seller will throw away the kuey tiau, ask the candidate to cover the loss, or continue selling it.
I wish you good luck if you are the next customer in the queue!
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