School of Hospitality Discusses Microbiomics: The Orang Asli Healthy Diet

At a recent discussion with Professor Sibrandes Poppema (Sunway University) and Professor Sven Pettersson, honorary professor at Sunway University from Nanyang Technological University Singapore, visited the School of Hospitality to understand further about aspects of healthy food. Ms Rachel Thomas, Lecturer at the School of Hospitality also presented on her latest research work on the Orang Asli’s cooking methods and food preparation. The Orang Asli, the indigenous people of Peninsula Malaysia, still hold on very firmly to traditional food production, in terms of land cultivation, food preparation and daily lifestyles.

In her presentation, Ms Rachel mentioned that there are several cooking techniques and eating habits that modern day society could replicate given its health benefits. One of the prevalent cooking techniques of the Orang Asli is the light-boiling of food. The action of light-boiling food can remove toxic substances.

Ms Rachel also suggested that one could look to the Orang Asli for examples of sustainable living. At times, food is also prepared using bamboo for the purpose of reducing noncommunicable diseases (NCD), especially for the elderly. It is also believed that cooking in bamboo could enhance the flavour of the food and improve its texture. Ms Rachel also mentioned that food flavours would differ, depending on the type of firewood used. Apart from that, food waste is not a norm as extra food will be shared among households or given to children for consumption. It is noteworthy that the food storage concept has not been fully embraced by the Orang Asli as there is a preference over fresh produce or meat.

Because of the lifestyle of the Orang Asli, there is a tendency for early dinner hours, unlike than that of those who live in cities - a healthy eating habit that one should emulate. As the livelihood of the Orang Asli revolves mainly around subsistence activities, livestock and vegetation that are hunted and foraged will be prepared immediately for consumption.

To conclude, Ms Rachel also mentioned that there is a tendency to look to new trends for sustainable eating and living habits. Nonetheless, the ancestors to the land have had the answers all along – these not only safeguard the earth, but also improve one’s health and wellbeing.