GEORGE TOWN: Despite 'hiccups' during the early stage of implementation, hawkers in Penang have generally warmed up to the idea of banning foreigners from being the main cooks at their eateries.

They supported the effort, implemented since January 2016, saying that they have adapted to the ruling.

Mohd Yunus Abdul Kuda, 50, an employee at a pasembor stall at Padang Brown food court, here, said when the ban was introduced two years ago, the owner had to prepare and cook everything himself.

"This included employing locals to serve the food. It was a hassle at first." he said.

He explained that the stall owner at the time had to employ foreigner to prepare the food because of a surge of customers.

“Business was picking up then and he had to employ a foreign cook to cook next to him.

“Now, the foreign cook only helps out in carrying the cooked pasembor out of the kitchen and cleaning the utensils,” he said.

Mohd Yunus Abdul Kuda, 50, arranging the pasembur at the Padang Brown food court, Georgetown. Pix by Mohamed Basyir

Since the ban, the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has revoked 17 operating licences of hawkers on the island.

Its mayor, Yew Tung Seang said MBPP would not compromise on the matter as ample time had been given to hawkers to prepare themselves for the change.

“We have to take enforcement action. Close monitoring is ongoing every now and then since 2016,” he said.

Yew said the policy, however, was only applicable to 13 types of local street food.

“We will continue our efforts to ensure the food are fully prepared by Malaysians for the ardent local food hunters,” he said.

The 13 local food covered under the policy are; nasi lemak, asam laksa, pasembor, mee sotong, char koay teow, koay teow soup, hokkien mee, curry mee, wan tan mee, loh bak, chee cheong fun, char koay kak and oh chien.

Yew Tung Seang. Pix by Danial Saad

“The main reason MBPP implemented this is to ensure the authenticity of our local food. We must preserve it at all cost.

“Instead of cooking, the foreigners can do other jobs at the hawker centres such as washing dishes.

“Operators have been very cooperative since we implemented the ruling, and the majority of them are adhering to it,” he added.

Yesterday, Human Resources Minister M. Kula Segaran announced that the ministry wanted all restaurants serving local food in the country to only recruit locals as cooks from July 1.

He said all operators would be given up to the end of the year to ensure only local cooks work in their restaurants.

The move was seen as a bid to reduce dependency of local restaurants on foreign labour and ensure the quality of the local food.