With nearly 200 countries scattered throughout the world comes along a large diversity of culture now available globally. Whether it be fashion, performing arts, celebrations or rituals, no two countries ever share the exact same lifestyle attributes but if there’s one thing every country has in common, it is having a representative food dish. Here in Asia, we take great joy and pride in celebrating a melting pot of cuisines.
Mohd Zakry Kamal, or more familiarly known by his alias Papi Zak, has been involved with the local entertainment industry since the early days of 2007. He has dabbled in a variety of areas within the field and showcased his versatile talents in being a stand-up comedian as well as a radio and TV show host. The next step he decided to take was to combine two things he enjoys, travelling and food.
GOASEAN, the award-winning ASEAN travel channel brings a new show titled ‘The Halal Foodie’ where Papi Zak acts as the host. The show follows Papi Zak travelling throughout the ASEAN region in search of the best halal food offered by these countries.
An Appetite For Travel
When it comes to food, one can never truly have enough, especially if you consider yourself a food connoisseur like Papi Zak. Being able to fly to multiple countries and hunt down their signature halal dishes is considered more of a passion he indulges in rather than a job.
The amount of dishes he’s eaten throughout the filming process has been countless. So many unique dishes have been paraded before him that it is no easy task to narrow the list down to a selected few that he believes are truly remarkable, delectable and most importantly, halal.
“I guess if I had to pick one country that surprised me with their cuisine, it would be Siem Reap, Cambodia. They have a small but very closely knit Muslim community there. The best dish I’ve had so far on this show was a fried fish dish they called Fish in Morning Glory Pond. Fried fish, onions, garlic, chilli and a special pepper that you can only find Cambodia. Their pepper is way different from the ones we’re used to. It does give the fish that extra kick. My mouth is watering already just thinking about it,” said Papi Zak to Vulcan Post.
The Ultimate Challenge
Food is a huge umbrella with multiple options of dishes listed underneath it. But when it comes to halal food, if you’re not travelling to a country where Muslims take up a majority of the population, scouring for the right meals may prove to be slightly constrictive. At least you’d think so, but Papi Zak disagrees.
The local foodie remarked on how it was not as difficult as perceived to go around ASEAN finding halal food. He claims that just as how there is a Chinatown in almost every country, there also usually exists an Islamic community that will help create food catered to the Muslim appetite.
“Our production team had no trouble finding halal food. If anything, trying to decide which halal food to eat was more of a problem,” said the 37-year-old.
He went on to say how even within a country where Christianity was the most practised religion, there were still a number of Muslims located within with stores and restaurants full of halal food. Being the minority does not inhibit a Muslim’s choice when travelling. The only difficult part poised would be researching on where exactly these Muslim communities reside before traversing to these ASEAN countries.
Diversity Born Of Diversity
Papi Zak has an extensive history travelling and living abroad. Growing up in countries such as Japan and Germany on top of being born in Egypt, he embodies the definition of being a third culture child. This experience has also helped in enhancing his taste in food.
“I would say that growing up in different countries has definitely affected my taste in food, in a sense where I’m not afraid to try anything new. I’ve grown up observing different cultures, and respect the cuisine that’s normal to them.” said Papi Zak to Vulcan Post.
His diverse cultural upbringing has also helped him discover the vast recipes and techniques used when it comes to preparing these cuisines. He is able to compare the differences between halal local dishes and international ones to see what gives them their own flavour.
“The most notable difference between Eastern and Western dishes has got to be the spices. Eastern dishes are very spice orientated and from what I’ve seen, most Eastern dishes are all about instincts when it comes to cooking it. There’s no exact measurement of how much ingredients you have to use, but Western dishes on the other hand, it’s got to be the exact amount of ingredient in the dish or not it will taste either too sweet or too salty,” said Papi Zak.
It’s very heartening to see that travel need not be limited by dietary considerations. More travellers should be able to set out into the world and taste all sorts of new and interesting things, but of course, with plenty of research done beforehand.
Feature Image Credit: foy.my
‘The Halal Foodie’ airs every Sunday at 8PM on Astro Channel 737 on ASEAN’s first travel channel, GOASEAN and is also available on iflix.