Penang Exco Man’s 5-Dish Banquet Idea Draws Criticism

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GEORGE TOWN, Nov 14 – A Penang executive councillor has drawn flak for suggesting that dishes served at Chinese banquets should be limited to cut wastage. State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh had controversially proposed that dishes served at such banquets should be limited to five instead of the traditional eight.

However, members of the Penang hospitality industry and eatery operators roundly opposed Phee’s suggestion, describing it as going against the norm observed by the Chinese community. In a random survey, which also included a law lecturer and man-on-the-street, those interviewed said politicians like Phee should stop meddling in people’s food choices.

An assistant marketing communication manager of a Batu Ferringhi beach hotel, Angeline Chen, 27, said Phee’s idea was inappropriate and would not reduce food wastage. “A better way for Chinese restaurants to cut down wastage is to serve dishes in smaller portions at banquets. “The traditional Chinese community is in favour of number eight, as the number is auspicious and serves as a sign of prosperity,” Chen said.

Sharing her sentiment was law lecturer Tay Eng Siang, 45, who described Phee’s suggestion as not practical. “It just won’t work since the authorities or the state government has no control over private functions. “The state government should instead set an example during official functions to limit the dishes served in Chinese banquets before asking eateries and the public to follow suit,” he said.

Meanwhile, Phee, when contacted, said his suggestion was misreported by a Chinese daily. He said in the traditional eight food items served during Chinese banquets, five were main dishes, a soup dish, one entree and a dessert. “I had suggested we do away with one main dish. This way, we can reduce wastage and save costs.” Phee said he never intended to “simply break from the norm”.

“It is not even a state-sanctioned proposal. The state government will never set a ruling to limit the number of dishes served at private functions. “I was just floating an idea on how to be thrifty and not be wasteful.”

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