Popiah is Indonesia's heritage, claims group

PETALING JAYA - A group of aggrieved Indonesians protested in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta on Friday over ownership of delicious spring roll delicacy, the popiah.

Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim uploaded two images of the protest on his official Twitter account @dzahrain, showing a crowd of demonstrators holding up placards and calling for the "lumpia", which is the Indonesian version of the popiah, to be "saved".

A banner held by about 20 protestors from the group Forum Masyarakat Peduli Budaya Indonesia (Formasbudi) claimed that the lumpia is an Indonesian national cultural heritage.

A source based in Jakarta however told The Star Online that the protestors distributed flyers of the "Lumpia Delight" brand during the protest.

"It looked like a promotion of the brand," said the source.

The protesters also brought along popiahs to the 30-minute demonstration with Indonesian flags stuck on the rolls as a symbol of popiah ownership. According to Indonesian portal kompas.com, the protesters also reportedly sang Rasa Sayang outside the embassy.

They also demanded that embassy representatives meet them to taste the popiah they had brought.

The portal claimed that a Malaysian Police personnel met the protestors and was promptly offered the spring rolls. The personnel, named Hafidz had accepted a roll and returned to the embassy without giving comment.

It is uncertain what stirred the protest as Malaysia has never officially claimed the dish as its own.

However, Formasbudi coordinator Rahmulyo Adiwibowo told the portal that the protest was a pre-emptive step.

According to Indonesian news portal www.merdeka.com, the protestors are from Semarang, Central Jawa, where they claim the popiah originates from.

In the past, Malaysians and Indonesians have wrestled over the origins many traditional food and items. Among them are batik, the Rasa Sayang song, wayang kulit, rendang and the keris.

The popiah and its variants are widely found in East and Southeast Asia although is believed by many to have originated from Fujian, China.