Monday, October 10, 2011

Babi panggang.

'Babi panggang' (roasted pork) is commonly seen on Dutch restaurant blackboards (and also in the Albert Heijn supermarkets, heh). Surprisingly, a few Dutch people that I spoke to recently think these are Chinese words.

It all starts when people I just meet ask me what language I speak in Singapore. I explain that we all speak English, but there are people who speak Mandarin, Tamil and other Indian languages, while I speak Malay.

Then they ask, 'Malay, what's that?' I don't expect any non-Malays except Filipinos to know what Malay is, so I explain that it's spoken in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. And that they should be familiar with it because there are so many Malay words around in their country.

'No way. Like what?' Well, like 'babi panggang' for starters. 

It seems that the Chinese, who lived among the Javanese in Suriname or the Antilles (former and present Dutch colonies), created their own version of the Indonesian chicken or beef 'ketjap' (soy sauce) or 'panggang' (roasted) dishes by using pork. They called it 'babi panggang' because that's literally what it is. When they migrated to the Netherlands they sold this dish in their Chinese restaurants.

I find it amusing because I grew up with the word 'babi' used as an insult, since pigs were completely absent in our daily life and cuisine. Malays didn't traditionally raise pigs because Muslims are forbidden pork, and pigs were generally regarded unclean because of this. Even the Malay word for 'pig' seemed unclean and was hardly used; when referring to the animal Malays preferred the Arabic word 'khinzir'. (Arab speakers: Uh, but it still means 'pig'. Me: Don't you know Arabic linguistically purifies??)

What's so amazing is the mixing and appropriation of the cuisine and cultures of so many parts of the world. What's not so amazing is passing it off as Dutch.

'Sate' is another thing considered Dutch, by the Dutch! Admittedly, they've modified it: it's bigger pieces of meat on a kebab skewer, served with baked or fried potatoes and salad. But it's still known as 'sate'.

The cultural historical mix of so many Indonesians means that racism or discrimination skims over Indonesians.  So many times Dutch people speak Dutch to me or assume that I've lived in the Netherlands all my life (Funnily, this also happened in Grenoble. Long live ambiguous olive skin!). I look Dutch because of their colonial history -- many Dutch people have some Indonesian blood in their lineage.

The infamous allochtony and autochtony debate (foreign-born or native-born) that surrounds immigration and 'problems' with Turkish and Moroccan immigrants -- also linked to discourses on racism and Islamophobia -- excludes Indonesians and other Southeast Asians. Indonesian-born immigrants are classified under 'foreign-born' from 'Western' countries, which includes Japan and the USA. Moroccan-born are classified under 'foreign-born' and 'non-Western'. It's not consistent; it doesn't make sense.

When Geert Wilders talks about Muslims, he's not talking about the brown, quiet and meek Indonesian Muslims. He is referring to the disadvantaged sections of Turkish and Moroccan immigrant communities who may have Dutch passports already. Clearly, his problems have nothing to do with Islam, but with a certain disadvantaged section of society which happens to be Muslim.

Sound familiar?


orange streaks said...

Sound familiar as in..? Does it have anything to do with 'integration' in our lovely island-state? (And GW sounds familiar but I don't know exactly who he is or what his opinions are. Do they have something to do with ethnocentrism / xenophobia?)

orange streaks said...

And I've heard nasi padang being referred to as the Indonesian version of a Dutch dish called riijstaffel (spelling?)! So who influenced who?

Sya said...

Why, I think you hit the spot:D GW has a big problem with Islam in Europe.

Rijsttafel literally means 'rice table'! I say, East influenced Dutch because rice comes from the East. :D


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