Popiah 'protest' in Jakarta

A group of aggrieved Indonesians protested in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta on Friday over ownership of the popiah.

Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia 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 protesters from the group Forum Masyarakat Peduli Budaya Indonesia (Formasbudi) claimed that the lumpia is an Indonesian national cultural heritage, reported The Star.

A source based in Jakarta however told The Star Online that the protesters 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 popiahs along 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 sang folk song Rasa Sayang outside the embassy.

They 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 officer, identified as Hafidz, accepted a roll and returned to the embassy without giving any comments.

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

However, food connoisseurs in Malaysia have defended the popiah as a national delicacy.

Rebung Restaurant co-owner Chef Ismail Ahmad said the popiah was different from the lumpia, as it is called by the Indonesians, and was widely known to be a famous Malaysian delicacy by locals and tourists alike.

"Popiah was never Indonesian. If you go to Jakarta, you cannot find popiah there. Whereas popiah is easily available everywhere in Malaysia," he said.

Chef Ismail said the confusion may have stemmed from the fact that many types of foods, brought by immigrants, have been adopted into local culture.

Singapore-born celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail, popularly known as Chef Wan, said neither country should claim ownership as each had different ways of preparing the dish.

"Malaysia does not own the popiah. We call it a national delicacy because of the way it is prepared, and how it caters to local taste buds," he said.

"Indonesia must understand that their popiah and our popiah are different. We should unite over such food, and not argue."

This article was first published on Feb 23, 2015.
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