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Joyful Tingkats: The Story Of Malaysia In Every Layer

Joyful Tingkats: The Story Of Malaysia In Every Layer

Tiffins are these retro, multi-tiered food containers that serve up a uniquely Malaysian menu of cultural flavours.

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Within the melting pot of Malaysia’s culinary buffet lies a small yet significant artefact that holds a status as legendary as your mother’s tupperware

(Credit: MINDBLOWN/raidenshogun via 9GAG)

Known to locals as ‘Thukku Chatti’ (Tamil), ‘U-wah Chan’ (Hokkien) or ‘Mangkuk Tingkat’ (Malay), tiffins are these retro, multi-tiered food containers that serve up a uniquely Malaysian menu of cultural flavours.

Originating from the Indian ‘dabbas’, the tiffin found its way to our shores during the 1800s. Ever since then, it has become a beloved carry-on for Malaysians from all walks of life to safely ferry home-cooked meals for a spot of lunch, some afternoon tea or a soulful snack at any time of the day.

Read More: How The Simple Tiffin Lunch Box Shaped Our Culinary Experiences

You might have seen one of these babies at your grandparent’s place.
(Credit: KE Ooi via Malay Mail)

Traditionally, tiffins were made out of metal, rattan or ceramic. But nowadays they’re pretty much crafted from all sorts of material and come in all shapes and sizes.

The containers can be stacked up to be as high as 12 tiers tall (as you can see) and can keep any meal safe and fresh for hours.

(Credit: via Freepik)

The secret to the tiffin’s food preservation lies in its layers, literally!

See, it’s a well-known food safety tip that you must keep ready-to-eat food separate to avoid cross-contamination.

And the way the tiffin can conveniently separate and stack your meals into Joyful Tingkats keeps ‘em safe to eat for a much longer time.

Nothing stacks up to a good home-cooked meal!
(Credit: via Times of India)

Back in the day, tiffins were very boujee as they were intricately painted and sometimes adorned with even more elaborate designs etched in brass, silver, and gold.

They were a favourite for Malaysian mothers who would use ‘em to pack wholesome meals for the whole family to have whenever they were out of the house. 

Even though the tiffin isn’t as popular as it once was, it remains a focal point during festivities like Ramadan and Aidilfitri, where people would fill ‘em with sumptuous feasts to have on the go or share with those who are less fortunate.

And even though the tradition has been waning as of late, the tiffin remains a steadfast symbol of Malaysia’s rasa sayang spirit, especially in the kampungs and countryside, where people often share their home-cooked meals with their friends and neighbours.

Households would usually cook extra food to fill the tiffin’s layers with a variety of delicious delicacies meant to be enjoyed together.

In turn, those who receive these generous offerings often respond in kind, replenishing the tiffin with their culinary creations before passing them back.

This heartfelt gesture not only bridges hearts but also celebrates the nation’s shared compassion and vibrant culture.

Moreover, it’s quite reasonable to believe that this culinary exchange might just be the secret recipe behind our collective love for each other’s cuisine.

Just imagine: as the tiffin passes on from hand to hand, each community contributes a layer of their unique flavours, ultimately creating a blend of tastes that’s uniquely ours.

(Credit: via Freepik)

With such a cultural and historical significance, the tiffin is bound to make a fashionable comeback as more and more peeps ditch the throw-away plastic life for the eco-vibe of reusable containers.

The tiffin carries more than just our meals, it is a container full of stories about Malaysia’s diverse tastes, from savoury Malay ‘lauks’, to spicy Indian curries and springy Chinese noodles. 

So this Hari Raya, let’s raise our tiffins to the sky and celebrate how it’s the perfect metaphor for how Malaysia’s different cultures, values and vibes can mix together in harmony.

But if you fancy your very own Joyful Tingkat packed with festive goodies?! Well, the TRP kitchen is cooking up a tiffin-tastic treat for 10 of our lucky readers this Ramadan and Raya.

Follow us on Instagram and you could snag an exclusive TRP ‘Joyful Tingkat’ tiffin!

All you have to do is tag three friends in the IG post below and share a comment about your most memorable Ramadan/Raya memories with us!

In the meantime, grab this bite-sized brief on why the tiffin and the meals carried in ‘em made Malaysia the feast of flavours that it is.


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