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The queen and her act of ‘belacan diplomacy’ between Singapore and Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR — Who knew that the humble “belacan”, the shrimp paste used in many South-east Asian dishes, could be instrumental in strengthening the ties between two neighbouring countries.

Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, through her Twitter handle @cheminahsayang, disclosed that she was, for a time, the “official supplier” of sambal belacan to Singapore's former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, through her Twitter handle @cheminahsayang, disclosed that she was, for a time, the “official supplier” of sambal belacan to Singapore's former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

KUALA LUMPUR — Who knew that the humble “belacan”, the shrimp paste used in many South-east Asian dishes, could be instrumental in strengthening the ties between two neighbouring countries.

Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, the Malaysian Raja Permaisuri Agong, said that the “sambal belacan” — or shrimp paste sauce — she makes frequently was such a hit with Singapore's former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

In a tweet on Friday (Oct 25), Tunku Azizah, through her handle @cheminahsayang, disclosed that she was, for a time, the “official supplier” of sambal belacan to Singapore’s founding father.

The queen still “supplies” the sambal belacan to Singapore, and it is now being enjoyed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“I had long wanted to share this (secret) with Malaysians. I was once the official sambal belacan supplier to the Prime Minister of Singapore... Lee Kuan Yew... and now supply to his son, PM Lee,” the queen said, as translated by Malaysian news agency Bernama.

She had previously shared on her Instagram account a photograph of a letter that was written by the late Lee Kuan Yew, when he was Minister Mentor.

The letter, dated July 23, 2009, read: “The six packets of (sambal) belacan you gave me were delicious. I shared them with my two sons. They have all been consumed. It is the best chilli belacan we have tasted. Can my family have a few more?

“Sorry to trouble you over this. It makes so many dishes taste better.”

Tunku Azizah, who uploaded the picture on May 2, 2018, said that the letter was most meaningful for her.

“…all because of sambal belacan… I was deeply touched,” she had said.

Earlier in July, the Malaysian queen made headlines when she gave an interview to Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily in Malaysia saying that her ancestral roots go back to China’s Guangdong province. "I am a Raja Permaisuri Agong with Chinese parentage. I am a Cantonese. I can speak a bit of the dialect and some Hokkien," she said.

Tunku Azizah is the daughter of the late Johor ruler Sultan Iskandar and the sister of the present Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

Recounting her family history back to 1885, she said that the late Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor married the daughter of a Chinese merchant, Wong Ah Gew, and this daughter became Sultanah Fatimah.

"That's where I got my Chinese lineage from," she said, adding that Sultanah Fatimah was from a wealthy merchant family in Singapore.

Sultanah Fatimah had no sons, but she arranged for her two daughters to be married to members of the royal family in the Johor state. AGENCIES

Related topics

shrimp food South-east Asia belacan Lee Kuan Yew Lee Hsien Loong Malaysia Queen

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