NEW YORK, Oct 18 (Bernama) -- An American TV host and dietitian launched a "Christmas-a-la-Malaysia" initiative to celebrate what its proponents in New York described as the "holiday season feasting in Malaysian style" on Thursday.
The strategic aim of this initiative is to popularize Malaysian foods and spices and, in effect, increase Malaysia's food and spices export to the US.
Under its Malaysia Kitchen for the World Programme, the New York office of the Malaysian External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) sponsored a major event Thursday at a trendy Malaysian eatery called Malaysian Kitchen Restaurant in New York's financial district.
Gina Keatley, the TV host, will be Malaysia's food ambassador. She presented a number of new Malaysian inspired dishes for the coming holiday season, including preparing the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.
"This traditional Thanksgiving turkey," she said in an interview with Bernama, as she held the large cleaned bird, "will be cooked with a unique blend of natural and healthy ingredients and spices, influenced by the multicultural society of Malaysia, creating a new twist on traditional and non-traditional recipes.
Keatley, who revealed that she will be visiting Malaysia early 2016, described her forthcoming trip as a "working visit which will enable me to absorb more of the culinary culture of that fascinating country."
The TV host also said that Malaysia's spices and other ingredients were conducive to promoting health and were, in fact, most appropriate for the average American consumer who should be eating a lot less fat and other unhealthy food products.
"Being a dietitian and nutritionist, I am particularly aware of the effects of some foods on the health of an individual, and believe that certain ingredients and spices add to a balanced diet of the consumers. New York, like Malaysia, is a veritable melting pot with so many ethnic and culinary varieties visible here," Keatly observed, adding that Malaysian spices are "vibrant besides being nutritious and adding flavour to the food".
With America going into two of its biggest festive seasons - Thanksgiving and Christmas - Matrade made a strong pitch for Malaysian food products and spices, making use of the premises of the Malaysian Kitchen Restaurant whose owner, Kirby Tan, comes from Melaka and has even designed the ambiance of his restaurant's interior with images of his native Malaysian city.
Tan, who started the restaurant about eight months back, claimed that it was doing "exceedingly well", attracting large numbers of foreign tourists who visit the financial district - his menu has been translated into 11 languages -- but also mainstream Americans who are "very open" to what at one time was called "exotic food".
The success of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Thai restaurants, whose numbers are constantly proliferating in New York, illustrates the openness of the American consumer.
Tan who organised the "Christmas a-la-Malaysia" event at his restaurant under Matrade's sponsorship, had also created the entire menu, including the Turkey dinner a-la-Malaysia, with Keatley demonstrating the cooking.
Muhd Shahrulmiza Zakaria, the Malaysian trade commissioner in New York, told Bernama that the aim was to "bring Malaysia to every home". "There are some 500 Malaysian food items now available, most of which can be bought in ethnic Asian supermarkets.
"Also, one can buy such products online. We have 82 Malaysian restaurants in the US and their numbers are increasing. We also encourage those wanting to set up Malaysian restaurants here," he said.
According to Matrade's New York office, Malaysia's exports of food products to the United States in the January-August 2015 period amounted to US$135.5 million (RM596 million); during the year 2014 total exports of food products to the US amounted to US$236.2 million (RM1.039 billion).
A series of Malaysian culinary roadshows will follow, with the first roadshow kicking off on Nov 7 at the Malaysian Kitchen Restaurant in New York and the second roadshow will be held on Nov 14 in Old Bridge, New Jersey, the third in Edison, New Jersey, and the fourth in East Hanover, New Jersey.
The series of roadshows will be capped by a special show time event with live entertainment on Dec 5, again, at the Malaysian Kitchen Restaurant.
US sources predict Malaysia's food and agricultural exports to considerably increase once the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is finalised and implemented.
The 12 member nations met recently in Atlanta and wrapped up their negotiations.