NEW YORK, Dec 7 (Bernama) -- New York-based Malaysian trade commissioner Shahrul Miza Zakaria says that his two-month Malaysian food promotion campaign on the east coast of the US -- under the slogan "Christmas a-la-Malaysia" -- has produced a "great response".
Shahrul announced the conclusion of the campaign on Saturday at a well-attended ceremony which included a live demonstration of American cooking with Malaysian ingredients and spices by local food television anchor Gina Keatley.
The event at the Malaysian Kitchen Restaurant, a trendy Malaysian restaurant in New York's financial district, ended with a cultural programme of songs, dances and music.
Shahrul said in an interview with Bernama that the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) was keen to promote exports of a wide range of Malaysian food products ranging from cookies, cakes and desserts through ready-to-use sauces and seasoning mixtures to frozen items such as the Malaysian parathas which are hugely popular, particularly among the financially strong Indian community.
"Malaysian food products, according to our marketing intelligence, have become immensely popular.
"While in the past Malaysian food products were sold mainly in the ethnic Asian supermarkets, one finds them, increasingly, in mainstream food markets," Shahrul noted, adding that the two-month campaign had a total of six events -- three in New York and three in neighbouring New Jersey.
Shahrul also spoke of the "great importance of food" as a vehicle to popularise Malaysia not only as a supplier but also attract tourists eager to eat the food in the country of origin.
This has been done successfully by China, India, Japan, Thailand and, more recently, Vietnam, he said.
The general view among food experts and food lovers in the US is that Malaysia's ingredients and spices, strongly influenced by its ethnic and cultural diversity, are also nutritious and health-promoting.
MATRADE New York has, meanwhile, noticed a surge in enquiries from the public as well as businesses for Malaysian food products, which are sold through two websites -- buymalaysiafood.com and amazon.com.
The guests at the event included heads of Malaysian government agencies in New York, along with the Malaysian consul general Abd Razak Abdul Wahab and the deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Raja Reza Raja Zaib Shah.
"Our food represents multiple cultures as conveyed through our slogan 'Malaysia, Truly Asia', Abd Aziz said, predicting that Malaysia would enjoy greater popularity through business, education and other ties.
A driving force behind MATRADE's food promotion campaign in New York has been Melaka-born Kirby Tan, the owner of the Malaysian Kitchen Restaurant that is making waves in the city's financial district.
"I agree that the campaign has generated good response. In New Jersey, we met many Americans, including second-generation Asians born here. Our curry-flavoured pasta, spiced with Malaysian ingredients, was an instant hit with the American public invited to our events.
"The guests told us that they had never tasted anything like it. They wanted to know if they could buy ready-made packets of it.
"Margaret Lam, the owner of the Golden Elephant Jasmine Rice company and the force behind the New Jersey China Day, hosted a banquet for me to thank me for bringing the Malaysia Kitchen Programme to New Jersey.
"In fact, I was the only Malaysian among the 10 leaders of people of Chinese origin in New Jersey. She invited community and business leaders to help exports of Malaysian food products to the US," Tan told Bernama.
Like Tan, other Malaysian businesspeople on the east coast are confident that Malaysian food products can become popular among American consumers and reach the same popularity level of products from India, China and Thailand.
Also present at the event were representatives of Dewina Food Industries, a Malaysian food and beverage group founded by Datuk Haji Ibrahim Ahmad, the group's executive chairman.
Its Brahim's food brand can be spotted on the shelves of ethnic supermarkets on the east coast.
The company offered the guests samples of its food products, including sauces and ready-to-eat varieties such as Asian meals which could be prepared in a few minutes.
The company has also set up its US website www.brahimsusa.com where customers can buy its sauce packets online and have them shipped across the US.
According to MATRADE New York, Malaysia's processed food exports to the US from January to October 2015 amounted to RM650.3 million.
Total overall Malaysian exports to the US in the January-October 2015 period jumped 14.8 per cent to RM60.55 billion while imports from the US rose 5.2 per cent to RM46 billion.
Total two-way trade grew 10.5 per cent to RM106.36 billion in the same period.
Main Malaysian export items were photosensitive semiconductor devices, rubber gloves, optical and scientific equipment, bedroom furniture, machinery and appliances.