Friday, 29 August 2014

PM Lee, Najib vow to nurture 'flowering' ties at the opening ceremony of Agro-Bazaar, on 27 August 2014

New food bazaar a testament to strong relationship: Malaysia PM
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2014

THE leaders of Singapore and Malaysia gave a taste of the warm ties between the two countries yesterday, when they officially opened a bazaar to promote the food and fruit from across the Causeway.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the 5,100 sq ft Agrobazaar Malaysia in Sultan Gate, off Beach Road, is a "testament to the strong and enduring relationship" between the two neighbours. Noting their common culinary heritage, he added: "We may occasionally differ on terminology, but Singaporeans and Malaysians taste with one tongue."

Similarly, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a speech also peppered with nourishing references, likened the two nations' friendship to a "flowering fruit tree" that needs to be "continually nurtured and tended to".

"Sometimes, we enjoy the low hanging fruit, or even wait for the durians to fall. But sometimes, we have to work harder to climb the tree and pluck the coconuts from the top," he said, indicating that obstacles would need to be surmounted "from time to time".

But if both sides keep their communication lines open - not just between the leaders but between ministers and senior officials - "then we can manage anything that comes along", he added.

His confidence appears to be shared by the Cabinet ministers and top officials of the two countries who were among the 400 guests at the ceremony.

The Singapore bazaar, with a restaurant and cafe, is the first of several overseas outlets that Malaysia plans to open in places such as Brunei and Beijing.

It sells fruit like durians and guavas, with their states of origin indicated alongside the prices. Also available are grocery items.

These distinctive exports, said Datuk Seri Najib, "are a perfect vehicle to introduce our cuisine, our culture and our customs".

Malaysian entrepreneur Fauziah Mohamed Yah told The Straits Times that she hopes the Agrobazaar will be a "stepping stone" for promoting her 15-year-old My Haiz company internationally. Its Dor and Heidy brands of cookies are on the bazaar's shelves.

But the bazaar is about more than food, PM Lee said. "It shows that if we work together, there is much benefit to both parties."

Singapore also looks forward to deepening ties with the building of the Rapid Transit System link between Johor Baru and Singapore, and the High Speed Rail between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. "It will create opportunities for our peoples to mingle and to understand each other's cultures and heritages better," he said.

Yesterday, he also expressed condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 tragedy.

After touring the Agrobazaar, the leaders enjoyed top-grade Mao Shan Wang durian before visiting the Singapore Sports Hub's Promenade and National Stadium pitch. They ended the night with more food. Mr Lee and his wife Ho Ching joined Mr Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor for a meal of nasi briyani at My Briyani House in Kallang Wave Mall.

Bazaar will reinforce Singapore as key market for KL products: Najib
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 28 Aug 2014

CALL it fruit diplomacy: a large poster showing the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia enjoying a plate of Malaysian fruit features prominently at a new bazaar at Sultan Gate, in Beach Road.

The bustling 5,100 sq ft Agrobazaar houses a grocery store, cafe and rooftop restaurant.

It will further reinforce Singapore as a key market for Malaysia's agro-food products, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at its official opening yesterday.

Currently, 20 per cent of these products worth more than US$1 billion (S$1.25 billion) are exported here annually. "I am sure those numbers will continue to rise," Datuk Seri Najib added.

The shelves of the Agrobazaar are stocked with 20 types of fresh fruit with signs showing their states of origin; for instance, dragon fruit from Selangor at $6 per kg, duku langsat from Terengganu at $3 per kg, and D24 durian at $12 per kg from Raub, Pahang.

Besides fruit, items such as milk chocolate at $6.50, cassava chips at $3.50 and instant porridge at $1.50 are among the more than 280 products displayed.

The items are "competitively priced" against rival sellers, said Mr Ahmad Ishak, director-general of the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama), the agency driving the initiative.

Fama, which is under Malaysia's Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry, said yesterday that the Agrobazaar "provides a more permanent platform to promote and share Malaysian fruits and agro-food products among Singaporeans and visitors".

It was welcomed by Ms Fauziah Mohamed Yah, managing director of Malaysian company My Haiz, which owns the Dor and Heidy brands of cookies. "The focus on Malaysian products here is good - at supermarkets, we have to compete with other brands around the world," she said.

The bazaar's rooftop restaurant serves Malay cuisine such as assam fish and rendang while the in-house cafe - KopieSatu, which has 28 outlets around Malaysia - sells "premium coffee" such as cappuccino and macchiato at $6 a cup.

Said KopieSatu manager Wan Faizatul Aniza Ismayatim: "It is exciting because this is the best coffee we want to bring to the world. Singapore becomes our door to the international market."

The cafe sells confectionery made from tropical fruit - like rainbow cakes at $8 a slice - by Sooperlicious, a new start-up by Ms Hana K.

The Agrobazaar is run by 10 Malaysian and Singaporean staff.

Accountant Florence Lee, 54, who bought chilli sauce and cookies at the bazaar yesterday, praised the concept and said the prices were "quite reasonable".

But she hopes more products such as ginger cookies and dark chocolate could be brought in.

Fama's Mr Ahmad said the Agrobazaar plans to increase its product range to about 700 items in the coming months. He expects annual sales to reach RM5 million (S$2 million).

PM Lee and PM Najib bond over a meal of nasi briyani
By Vimita Mohandas, Channel NewsAsia, 28 Aug 2014

State visits are traditionally filled with pomp, pageantry and lavish dinners. However, the leaders of Singapore and Malaysia broke away from the norm on Wednesday (Aug 27), when they opted for a local favourite, nasi briyani.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hosted his Malaysian counterpart, Mr Najib Razak, to a simple meal at My Briyani House at the Kallang Wave Mall after a visit to the new Singapore Sports Hub. Relations between Singapore and Malaysia have always been warm, but they took a spicy turn when Mr Lee and Mr Najib went to the My Briyani House for dinner.

The heat was certainly on in the kitchen, as the restaurant staff were only notified of the distinguished guests’ planned visit just a week ago. However, the preparations paid off, and the staff were excited to see both prime ministers tasting their signature dishes.

"We were quite impressed and we were quite glad that they tried the food and liked it. That was what we are most happy about,” said the general manager of My Briyani House, Mr Joseph Low.

The choice for both the Singapore and Malaysia leaders when they dined at the restaurant was one of the signature dishes, Chicken Briyani. Apparently, the owner said it took six months to perfect this recipe to find that right balance of spice. The outlet has been open for less than two months.

While there are no plans to commemorate the leaders' visit with a special dish, the restaurant's specialities are already gaining fans.

One diner, Rosaline Phan, said: "We went to a number of shops but we found this place very attractive ... We found the fish curry very good and the taste is fantastic. The roti prata was awesome."

"The atmosphere, ambience and service is superb. And the food is not too bad, but there is still space for improvement,” said another diner, Choo Siew Geok.

My Briyani House will open its third branch at Seletar Mall in the next few months.

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