It was a predictable outcome. When Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, announced during his National Day Rally speech in August 2018 the intention to nominate Singapore’s hawker culture for UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Malaysians were swiftly up in arms.

Across the Johor-Singapore Causeway, Singapore’s UNESCO bid was blasted by some as arrogance, or yet another attempt to claim superiority. In a region of foodies where people have argued over the ownership of all sorts of dishes—from yusheng to cendol—the city-state’s desire for international recognition was interpreted as one more instance of trying to lord it over its closest frenemy.

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Kirsten Han is a Singaporean journalist whose work often revolves around the themes of social justice, human rights, politics and democracy. As an activist, Kirsten has advocated for an end to the death penalty in Singapore, and is a member of the Transformative Justice Collective.

Foong Li Mei is a freelance journalist and infographic designer covering current affairs, consumer trends, culture, and food for publications across Asia. She runs a democracy at her home in Malaysia with her husband and an overexcited doggo—or at least that's what she likes them to think.

Tuan Nini is a Malaysian illustrator residing in Bucharest, Romania where she studied painting at the National University of Fine Arts. Nini is fortunate to work on a diverse range of projects, from advertising to film production, though drawing for social issues and food remain close to her heart. Find her work at or