助成対象詳細 | 公益財団法人トヨタ財団




2018 国際助成プログラム International Grant Program     

The "Ulam School": A Food Education Transborders' Network to Foster Solidarity and Edible Flora Preservation for Sustainable and Healthy Lifestyle Among Neighboring Countries


Abstract of Project Proposal

We wish to create a food education network in Southeast Asia named "Ulam School" that fosters solidarity between neighboring countries by mutual assistance in preserving edible flora and valuing traditional guardians of botanical knowledge personified by ethnic minorities in Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam.The word "Ulam" means "edible greens" in Malay language: it shall serve as the symbol of revitalization of old transborder solidarity between ethnic minorities of Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia through traditional knowledge sharing on properties and culinary use of indigenous plants. Expected tangible outputs such as online platform, cookbooks and food education workshops in academic institutions serve the purpose of re-introducing Ulam-based recipes into urban dwellers' diets, while valuing and respecting inherent knowledge upheld by ethnic minorities. This Ulam School would have a physical presence in the satellite campus of University Kebangsaan Malaysia located within the Unesco Geo-park on the island of Langkawi, Kedah state, Malaysia. The Ulam School acts a hub to connect the other target countries and is designed as a sustainable model.


Describe the implemented project and the method used

“The Ulam School: A Food Education Transborders’ Network to Foster Solidarity and Edible Flora Preservation for Sustainable and Healthy Lifestyle Among Neighbouring Countries”.

The project aims at educating urban citizens of three countries (Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia) about the health and social benefits of consuming local edible flora (termed ‘ulam’), notably through the set up of an online knowledge platform accessible to all, namely “The Ulam School.”
The project took place between October 2018 and February 2021, thanks to a four-month extension graciously granted by the Toyota Foundation in view of the difficulties induced by the global Covid19 pandemic crisis.

A first online coordination meeting took place in order to calibrate the project’s objectives and to establish the working calendar.
At the second strategic coordination meeting that occurred at the occasion of the fourth Food and Society conference in Paris, France, in March 2019, we agreed to rely primarly on primary data, meaning data that we would have collected ourselves, be it oral traditions and foodways, or else the plants samples themselves. We are also very clear that this project should yield a social measurable impact on given communities.
In terms of methodology design, we decided to mutually agree on a three-step approach:
1. Set up transdisciplinary teams to investigate the various components of food education from a multi-faceted perspective, in order to address more effectively all interdependent problems at stake in the cities of Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
2. Identify communities where the impact of our research action can be measurable;
3. Narrow down on edible plants that are endowed with notable health benefits and that can be reasonably accessible, collected and analysed at the occasion of a maximum of two fieldworks in the project’s respective countries.

The local communities to be selected as the social group to be investigated were generally identified after the first fieldwork. These are the communities we decided to focus on:

Malaysia: three aborigines settlements in the states of Pahang and Perak in Peninsular Malaysia. Communities investigated were the indigenous groups termed “Semai”, a sub-ethnolinguistic group of a generic social group local termed “Orang Asl”, or the aborigines peoples of West Malaysia.

Vietnam: Hoa and Tay ethnic communities in the Mekong delta (Can Tho and Binh Thuan provinces).

Cambodia: Cambodia was a different game altogether. The Centre for Khmer Studies in Phnom Penh team decided to partner with a local investor and chef to work jointly on an experimental restaurant serving khmer organic and regenerative flora in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The name of the restaurant: Forest. Objective: help local urbanites who struggle to find fresh and pesticide-free vegetables in Siam Reap, while making traditional food more palatable for modern urban palates.

Plants collection and analysis
After systematic inventory, on-the-field gathering, nutritional analysis, oral tradition reconstitution, experiemental cooking and organo-leptic testing, an average of fifteen (15) ulam were selected per country. On 26 and 27 April in 2019, we organized a workshop at Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HUTECH), Vietnam, in order to work on standard format of for the development of Ulam-based recipes. Shortly after, recipes development was then carried out in partner institutions: INTI College Subang Jaya in Malaysia, Ho Chi Mink City University of Technology in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Forest restaurant in Siam Reap, Cambodia.
Photos and videos were taken to document the journey, as well as systematic transcription of the recipes for the future cookbook. Meanwhile, fact sheets were created to document the selected ulam, focusing especially on their culinary use and their medicinal properties, with the objective of nurturing the Ulam School’s future database.

I believe that the most lesson of all we have learnt from each other is that there is no such thing as an food transition linear equation. We started this action-research project thinking that the industrialization rate was directly correlated with the increase of Non Communicable Diseases, but in reality it is not as simple as this. In order to understand the prevalence of NCDs, there is a need to investigate the social history of each country. In Malaysia, rapid and post colonial industrialisation did play a role into the advent ot a public health crisis; but our underdanding would be incomplete if de didn’t investigate the structural stratification of Malaysian society, leading some upperclass Malaysians to distanciate themselves from Ulam, viewed a hardly compatible with being a symbol for social mobility. In Vietna, legacy of the socialist economy led to carry on developing a centralized planning of national agriculture, which in turn leads to the practice of intensive farming and its avatars: heavy reliance on pesticides and other chemicals. As the organic market is still mainly in the hands of foreign labels (USA/European Union) the former remains hardly accessible by the majority of the population, who is left consuming vegetables that are damageable for the human body in the long term. Not unlike Vietnam, Cambodia is a country whose citizens do not traditionally shy aways from vegetables. The problem arises due a weak and often disrupted domestic supply, thus making it challenging for Khmer urbanites to source for healthy, fresh and clean vegetables, resolving often to over-compensate with starch and proteins to fuel their daily protines intake.

  • Aborigines' foodways - Malaysia
  • Experimental eatery Cambodia
  • Rare plants gathering Vietnam


Describe the results at the end of the grant period and expected ripple effects

At the end of the grant period, our team managed to deliver the aforementioned expected results, as well as additional ones, such as the actual delivery of an international conference on Food and Society – where a Ulam School panel was featured – at the prestigious University of La Sorbonne in Paris, France and the release of the Ulam cookbook in paperback format. We also benefited from large media coverage. See details below.

Actual results

International Conference at La Sorbonne University on 28-30 March 2019 in Paris, France

The third Food and Society Conference was a three-day conference organised jointly with the University of Cergy-Pointoise and themed “Indigeneity & Food”. The conference featured a panel on the Ulam School. See conference mini-poster in appendix 1. The conference accounted 89 delegates, all food specialists or food scholars, in addition to the organizing team. These 89 guests came from all continents and originated from 16 different countries.

Digital Cookbook and Paperback Cookbook on Ulam

We published a digital and paperback version of an Ulam cookbook entitled “Ulam: Regenerative Edible Flora from Southeast Asia – 15 recipes from Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam”. The actual publisher is our own institute of ethnic studies (KITA-UKM), a component of the National University of Malaysia (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia).

The book includes fifteen recipes, five from each respective country. Each of the recipes is based on a particular local ulam that we deemed interesting in terms of health benefits, as well as for its prevalence among the communities we have investigated. Recipes are richly illustrated and supported by a contextual narrative on the geographical, social and cultural environment. See digital cookbook in appendix 2.

Knowledge platform (website): The Ulam School

Our team has designed and produced the Ulam school website, which is now online: https://ulamschool.com/

The website features a downloadable version of the e-cookbook, but also 5 videos (recipes, stories, and history) as well as the initial stage of a plant database, accounting 47 ulam plants from Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The information displayed in every plant factsheet has been organised according to international ethnobotanical standards (i.e. benchmarking taxonomy of Royak Kew gardens in London, U.K., as well as the Pfaf database (Plants for a future, whose headquarters are located in Dawlish, Devonshire, U.K.). At the moment each plant factsheet features 6 variables, i.e.: vernacular name, other names, botanical name, parts used for preparation, culinary use, medicinal properties.

All information displayed on the Ulam School website is accessible by all and for free.

Press & Media coverage

During the grant period, we benefited from a large coverage, ranging from traditional press, magazines, podcasts, and TV shows. Most press articles can be viewed on the newsfeed tab of the Ulam School website: https://ulamschool.com/latest-news-2/

With the exception of the article within “Going Places”, the inflight magazine of Malaysia airlines (see appendix 3).

The other press article not displayed on the Ulam School website (for language barrier reason) is a write-up from a French journalist on behalf of the French hospitality industry professional magazine “L’Hôtellerie-restauration”: https://www.lhotellerie-restauration.fr/journal/formation-ecole/2018-12/la-france-rencontre-la-malaisie-autour-du-bon-qui-fait-du-bien.htm

Here is the link to a recent podcast hosted by a Singaporean food influencer:


Here’s the advertising poster for the TV show featuring the Ulam School on Bernama TV, a national television channel. The event took place on 1st October 2020.

Expected respected ripple effects

5.1. Increase cross-country taxonomy initiative

We want to strengthen the collaboration between the three countries (Malaysia, Cambodia, and Vietnam) in order to:

1. Investigate further the different form of malnutrition – and their root causes – that they take place in this part of the world.

2. We also want to understand further in-depth the complexity of the eco-socio system that links ethnic minorities and nature’s goodness (mostly wild edible plants).

5.2. Adding new plants and develop more plant-based recipes

We shall feed the database twice a year with new ulam plants. We also intend to develop more plant-based recipes, drawing inspiration from each country’s foodways and traditions. They will take the form of printable recipe cards, to be included in the Ulam School’s website.

5.3. Add more functionalities to the website

We plan to expand the functionalities of the Ulam School website, by:

Adding 2 more tabs: “recipe cards” and “ulam access”: the latter will show the user where to find ulam (supermarkets, wet markers, farms) near his/her location.

Expanding the plants database: at the moment the database records 11 variables whose 6 are on display (botanical name, vernacular name, culinary use, medicinal use, etc.). We are planning for an improved database with 27 variables, whose 21 will be on display (for example: climate, habitat. Gender, species, family, nutritional analysis, etc.).

Adding a “search” function to browse into the database.

5.4. Opening a physical school

We plan to open an Ulam School within UKM campus. In 2022, we shall offer short courses (professional certificates) and a Master Degree in Sustainable Food Development for which we are currently doing the paperwork with the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education.

  • The Ulam School's website
  • Ulam cookbook
  • TV Show poster



2018 国際助成プログラム International Grant Program     
助成番号(Grant Number)
題目(Project Title)
The "Ulam School": A Food Education Transborders' Network to Foster Solidarity and Edible Flora Preservation for Sustainable and Healthy Lifestyle Among Neighboring Countries
エリック・オルメド / Eric Jose, Olmedo Panal
マレーシア国民大学 民族研究センター(KITA)
Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
助成金額(Grant Amount)