September 5, 2014, by Duane Mellor
My Malaysian Experience – Connie Claire
After a hectic day of travel; a grueling long-haul flight, 3 airports and over 10,600km later, the group of weary bioscience students arrived in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Happily greeted by two friendly staff faces, Sue and Lisa, we hopped onboard the minibus to embark on our next adventure to the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus, where we would make our home for the next two weeks… And what an amazing home this has been to us. Eager to drop our luggage at the door and explore, we began to soak up our new surroundings. The accommodation was fantastic; clean, modern, air-conditioned en-suite rooms which were so inviting and with a communal kitchen facility only a few steps away, we had everything we needed and felt at ease immediately.
Within a few hours of arrival it became clear that our Summer School experience in Malaysia was going to involve food… and lots of it! There could have been no better welcome than the delicious meal specially prepared for us on our first evening. To indulge in the array of traditional cuisine was much appreciated before a good night’s sleep and this was only a taste of what was to come… Our time spent in Malaysia revealed such a diverse multitude of culinary delights and in a vibrant rainbow of colours!
Each day bought a new dish. From braving the mysterious street food to making our own tropical fruit smoothies, the entire experience has been unforgettable.
It didn’t take long for the group to become familiar with the popular dishes. Many dedicated their time to seeking out their ‘favourite’ – Roti Canai, a flat-bread served with dhal curry sauce, whilst always striving to avoid the aroma of Durian! (I am not sure where Durian gets the title ‘King of Fruits’ from, I can only imagine that it must have something to do with the powerful odour and a taste that scares everyone away!)
I must admit that after trying almost everything, banana leaf cuisine stole my heart. The idea of food served on a banana leaf was so unique and as you can see there was a mountain of food to consume… (I thought ‘before and after’ photographs were appropriate to showcase this taste sensation and my victory in devouring every last mouthful.)
Dim Sum, Chinese, Baba-Nyonya, Indian and Thai cuisine were just a few of the food cultures we encountered during the course. The university generously offered so many enriching sight-seeing experiences, additional to the theory provided in the lecture room. We were all so grateful of the chance to witness the Malaysian culture first-hand to complement our learning on campus.
Of course, I must mention that in between filling our faces with food, students prepared for the module coursework; a study to assess the diversity of the Malaysian diet and the implications for food and nutritional security and health. During scheduled excursions, we had the opportunity to interact ‘one-to-one’ with Malaysian inhabitants to collect the valuable dietary data required to fulfill our studies. This method of data collection allowed us to take ownership over our individual study results whilst co-operating as a team. I felt a great sense of pride and achievement in conducting this study and I learnt essential skills of benefit to my future education.
The Global Food Security Forum 2014, jointly organized by the University of Nottingham and Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC), introduced and discussed a variety of key topics surrounding food and nutritional security. Attending the forum reaffirmed the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to addressing food security issues with numerous international personnel involved in presentation and debate. I was thrilled to make contact with forum participants in the hope that I may establish partnerships for future research.
It would not be possible to write this account without expressing how overwhelmed I felt on visiting the KH Tower Helipad & Lounge. As dusk set in Kuala Lumpur, what a beautiful experience it was to watch the sunset over the city lights! The views were spectacular. The University arranged a complementary beverage (which went down a treat) and it was great to relax with friends after a busy day.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the G22GFS Global Food Security Module. The university staff’s dedication to ensuring the experience was educational, enriching and enjoyable never faltered. The course offered a great insight into the central theme of global food security with specific focus on Malaysia and the complex nutritional status of this most affluent South East Asian country. My Malaysian experience was exceptional in every way and I would highly recommend this module to all fellow bioscience students! Thank you!