"Singapore and Malaysia under conflict due to tension over burgers." https://t.co/uPRj6iELB6— feeq (@feeeq) July 30, 2017
The latest major world controversy is about… a burger. Don’t get me wrong, I like burgers as much as the next person, but as an American visiting Malaysia, I find it hard not to laugh as I read this ‘breaking news’. So, McDonald’s Singapore introduces a ‘Nasi Lemak’ burger, and the verdict is all over the place. Some people absolutely love it (it sold out in two weeks) and others aren’t fans at all (there have been A LOT of complaints).
So what's my take on the limited time offer of the Nasi Lemak burger by McDonald's? Created to celebrate our National Day this year, the reviews on this nasi lemak burger are split right down to the middle with positive remarks giving it an innovative and bold move while some lamenting the missing rice buns, ikan billis, peanuts and spicier sambal. My take on this is that you should give it a try at least once as it was honestly not that bad; not the best burger created by McDonald's but most certainly not the worst. As for the other participating products, I say skip the Bandung McFizz and Coconut Pie. As for the Criss Cut Fries, it would be better if more could be given in each pack. _________________ McDonald's Lucky Plaza Address: 304, Orchard Road, Lucky Plaza, Unit B1-19, Singapore 238863 • #yoursingapore #visitsingapore #singapore #burpproved #buzzfeast #buzzfeedfood #makansutra #restaurantsg #mcdsg #justforyousg
Nasi lemak, for those of you who are foreign like me, is a popular Malaysian dish; rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, served with a sambal sauce, fried anchovies and peanuts, sliced cucumber or tomato, and an egg. (Sounds delicious, I know). How one could fit all those ingredients into a burger is beyond me, but I applaud the effort. So after McDonald’s Singapore came out with this burger to mixed reviews, the following events occurred:
- Love-hate responses aplenty.
- MyBurgerLab introduces their own take on the Nasi Lemak burger, acknowledging Singapore’s valiant effort at Malaysian fusion, but hey, no cigar.
- The social media war begins, and everyone seems to be picking a side.
I reached out to RenYi, Managing Director of MyBurgerLab and Anabelle Co-Martinent, Founder and Managing Director of Goodness Greens (who makes their own version of Nasi Lemak, the Nasi Lemak wrap) for their take on this food situation:
ESQUIRE: What’s your take on this latest food fight?
MYBURGERLAB: I think it’s fun, and it’s done in a friendly manner, although there will be the usual internet trolls. Friendly competition will always push us to do better. I think the so-called ‘animosity’ between Malaysians and Singaporeans when it comes to whose food is better will always be there. It’s made headlines before, and at the end of the day we still travel to each other’s country to eat the food anyway. So this is good. At least on Malaysia’s side, it’s good for us to push ourselves a little more and try to match up to Singaporean standards. I personally do think that overall, Singapore does have better food choices than we do, especially in the middle to upper-end options. But as a true-blood Malaysian, I still prefer Malaysian food, but I don’t dare tell them that their food is any worse than ours, in that sense.
GOODNESS GREENS: Yes, I read about it on Channel News Asia when they covered MyBurgerLab’s take on it, as one of the burger joint’s owners is a friend of mine. Nasi Lemak being such an iconic dish of Malay origin, I would have thought Malaysia would launch the burger ahead of Singapore…
ESQ: Did you intend, or ever imagine, that your post would ever cause this big of a response from both countries?
MBL: Well, the thought was there. The cheekiness of the post was, in a way, intended to spark a small debate. We’ve had our fair share of viral posts in the last five years, but not on this scale. I think picking a fight with a country is a first for us. So, no; I didn’t expect it to be picked up by a news channel; that’s a big deal for us. We’re definitely humble, we’re definitely enjoying every moment of it, and we hope that whoever comes to eat the burger finds it tasty; that’s the important bit. Because all this is nothing if, at the end of the day, the product is crap. But the good news is, initial reviews by our random testers find it to be a very good product. We hope the masses will like it too.
ESQ: What does Nasi Lemak mean to you, in terms of being true to the recipe and also putting your own spin on it?
MBL: Nasi Lemak is something we all grew up eating; it’s a very staple Malaysian breakfast, and it could be considered for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. I think it’s ingrained in Malaysian culture. Yes, it is “Malay” food, but as Malaysians, we all identify with it, we enjoy it and love it. There are Indian and Chinese versions of it, and personally I enjoy different variants of the same type of food because it’s a little bit boring if, every day, you eat sambal with coconut rice and a bit of ikan billis. There are some good twists to the iconic product.
So, our take on the Nasi Lemak burger was a pretty sure thing. We take everything good about Nasi Lemak and try to reinterpret those elements so they make sense as a burger. We can’t, for example, put roasted peanuts on it; it’s just not structurally smart. So we used a peanut butter base. As for the coconut rice, there are a lot requests for a rice bun, but we feel it’s a little silly because a rice bun would make it technically still Nasi Lemak, just with hardened rice. A burger should be a bun. That’s our interpretation of that. But we needed some form of coconuttiness (new word) that comes with Nasi Lemak, and figured that the use of a rendang will be able to bring out that santan flavour. After all, it’s quite common for us to sometimes splurge on a side of rending for breakfast.
We combine all the above with a bit of pickle; acidity is a very important aspect in a burger. You need a little bit of sweetness, savoury flavours, cheesiness and, at the end of it, you need that acidity, and that’s where the pickle comes in. Usually we get cucumbers with our Nasi Lemak; pickles are essentially cucumbers… but pickled. So that adds a different dimension to the product. Additionally, we use our own Thai-style fried chicken. We blend up the ikan billis [because] whole ikan billis in a burger is a bad idea; you would stab the roof of your mouth. To top it all off, a sunny side up egg, because you always need egg with a Nasi Lemak. That’s what we think a Nasi Lemak burger should be.
GG: Nasi Lemak is a complete meal; the balance of taste, texture and the symphony of ingredients is just simply magical. However, true to our promise of making Malaysians healthy, we created our own version. At La Juiceria Superfoods and Goodness Greens, our spin on the iconic Nasi Lemak would be our NASI LEMAK WRAP. We swapped the sinful rice with quinoa, which is gluten-free, high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids (so far identified as being needed by the human body). It is also high in fiber, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants. Also, we only use free-range eggs at our cafes, which means you get the best ingredients inside this award-winning national dish. Also stuffed in there would be our very own sambal sauce and a generous amount of veggies to balance it off. Countless customers have been fans of this dish since we launched it in 2016.
ESQ: Do you think McDonald’s Malaysia should come out with a Nasi Lemak burger as well?
MBL: If Singaporeans have it, I think we Malaysians should be able to try it as well. To be honest, I’m a fan of McDonald’s; I get my occasional fix when I’m on the go. (I love their nuggets; no one does nuggets better than they do.) It would definitely be a welcome addition to the local McDonald’s scene; I would love to try the Nasi Lemak burger.
GG: As a consumer, yes I’d think that McDonald’s should also launch it, especially if it has garnered a massive response from Singaporeans. However, as a business owner, I fully understand the constraints and considerations, plus the careful steps and planning needed before you launch a product. I fully respect whatever decision they make because they would have to ponder on many things to ensure a successful introduction in a competitive food haven like Malaysia.