Meet Sam Khue and Peter Khue, an uncle and nephew that are running the family business, who share with us their personal takes on Merdeka. While we might expect significantly less pomp and parade, we could certainly do with a lot more of the Merdeka spirit.

If anything, our multiple lockdowns have laid bare the social pressures and inequality faced by the varying stratas of our society. Honouring our national birthday is a great way to remember how far we’ve come collectively, and an awesome reason to celebrate our humanity. As long as we’re jogging on the great wheel, we’re going to need each other. So we reached out across the generational divide, asking a veteran and scion what Merdeka means to each generation. Here’s what we heard back from Sam Khue, the managing director at Q-Q Food Industry along with his nephew, Peter Khue who is a director within the company as well – not forgetting also our 2017 A-Lister.

Sam Khue

What has changed most about Malaysia compared to when you were younger?
The government and politics have changed a lot. The new generation are more passionate and more informed as well. As a business owner, we used to enjoy more stability in the past. These days, anything can happen, governments can change and there are many more ‘surprises’.

What is a local culture you’d like to see the younger generation pay more attention to?
Our family shares the love for lion dance. Since the early days of our Bakkwa business, we have constantly supported the local lion dance troupes. Lion dance is an art and requires intensive practice sessions. What we see is the fruit of hours of training and hardships. Most of the local lion dance troupes still rely heavily on sponsorships to sustain the team. Very much like the art scene, it is a passion project where performers earn a small amount, so many had to rely on other jobs for a more stable income.

What is a unique quality that you’ve picked up from the generation before?
In our family, we have an ‘in-house’ process to taste and enjoy Bakkwa. First you cleanse your palate, then you take a big bite of Bakkwa and chew it in your mouth until you salivate. Then once you suck up the juices and taste the flavours, go back to chewing then swallow. This way, we can judge the Bakkwa properly for its taste, aroma and texture.

Can you recall a time that made you feel proud to be a Malaysian?
If you compare us to other countries, Malaysia is a very special country because we are so diverse in culture and heritage. I always find it entertaining to explain to foreigners that I am Malaysian but not Malay.

What is an important lesson you’ve learnt throughout the years about Merdeka that you wish the younger generation would always remember?
You have free will. The ability to make your own life choices and you will have to bear the responsibilities. If you don’t agree with something, do something about it, with common sense. If you are not doing anything about it, then you’ve basically lost the right to complain about it.

Where do you see Malaysia in the next 10 years?
I really can’t see where we will be heading to but one thing I know for sure is that it will be very different. Our generation has done our work, it is time for the younger generation to carry on what we have started.

Peter Khue

What has changed most about Malaysia compared to when you were younger?
When I was much younger, I pretty much grew up in Petaling Street. One of my favourite things to do would be getting onto the rooftop of our four-storey building right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to look at the skylines and its surroundings. Development has changed the area’s landscape so much. The tarred road that is also frequented by flash floods are now tiled with bricks and improved drainage, visitors and vendors alike no longer need to run helter-skelter from the elements as giant canopies were erected to provide the much-needed shade and shelter. Even the neighbouring Jalan Panggung that used to be dilapidated has been revitalised into a tourist hotspot with budding cafes and bars. Nevertheless, the issue of gentrification is still being heavily debated by stakeholders and residents of the area today.

What is a local culture you’d like to see the younger generation pay more attention to?
I feel that our food culture tells us a lot about our heritage, very much like a snapshot of the past. One thing that we could all do is to be curious with our food, asking questions like where and how did this food come about? For example, I am of Hakka descent and Hakka dishes are typically strong and bold in flavours because the Hakka people were migrating from the Northern regions of China to the South (hence the literal translation of Hakka being Guest Families) to flee from war and poverty. These harsh conditions have forced the Hakka people to be creative with their cooking, resulting in the Hakka flavours that we know of today. Knowing these historical facts and stories gives us a new appreciation for the diverse range of food that we get to enjoy here in Malaysia, one story at a time.

What is a Malaysian trait your mum or dad has passed down to you?
Dipping our freshly fried you tiao (cakoi) in a small cup of hot kopi-o and insisting on frozen butter in our hearty kaya toast are among the other little pockets of joy in our kopitiam visits. Unashamedly, I still feel that frozen butter should be the universal gold standard for all kaya toast.

What is an event that made you feel proud to be a Malaysian?
As Malaysians, we should feel proud of our ability to adapt, our multilingual capabilities, and experience of growing up in a multicultural environment. We live in such a unique country and we sometimes, unknowingly took it for granted.

What is an important lesson you’ve learnt throughout the years about Merdeka that you wish the younger generation would always remember?
The one thing I’ve learnt is that our independence and peace are inherited, actively built from one generation to another. Very much like the migration of Monarch butterflies, travelling from Mexico to the US, a single journey takes up to five generations worth of work. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants and we have to understand that Merdeka is a generational inheritance that we all have a part to play in so that it can be passed on to the next.

Where do you see Malaysia in the next 10 years?
I am hopeful to see a more united and progressive Malaysia, and of course, free from Covid. We can also be more culturally sensitive, accepting and have mutual respect for each other’s faith and beliefs. Being in the F&B industry, I personally believe that eateries and food products can be Halal certified even tough you’re not Muslim because food is a universal language and experience that everyone can relate to and enjoy.

[Photo courtesy of Peter Khue – Standing: Second generation, Sam Khue (second from left) and third generation, Peter Khue (third from left)
Seated: Chin Keon Yock, founder and first generation of Khue Brothers (centre)]

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