Penang hawkers continue to employ foreigners to cook local fare

GEORGE TOWN, Penang - Foreigners are still cooking local hawker fare despite a ban imposed by the Penang government from Jan 1.

A check by The Star at two food courts found that at least five stalls are still using the service of foreign cooks.

Federation of Penang Hawkers chairman Lam Tong Ying said association members were aware of the ban.

"This is to retain our food quality. It is important that we maintain the authenticity as a food paradise," Lam said yesterday.

Asked why some hawkers were still hiring foreigners to cook street food, Lam said they might have difficulties passing down their business to their children.

"Their children may not be interested to continue the family business. They may have other reasons too," he added.

Visitors Eric Humphrey, 55, and his wife Jacqui Humphrey from England said they were not aware of the ban.

"In my opinion, the most important thing about food is the taste. Overall, the food in Penang is exceptionally good.

"This is our third time visiting and this time we will be here for nine days.

"As tourists, we can't really tell the difference. I would prefer a local cook if given a choice," he said.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow could not be reached for comment.

Penang first proposed the ban in 2014, saying that the main objective was to preserve the authenticity of the taste of local hawker food.