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Remember the report that said that santan-rich cuisine such as nasi lemak could lead to increased road accident fatalities? Apparently suggested by the Malaysian traffic police chief, the report understandably went viral across the nation.

It’s a serious matter, this. It goes against what every Malaysian has been brought up to believe – that nasi lemak is our friend, be it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. So is nasi lemak, or rather one of its defining ingredients, santan, more of a foe than a friend we thought it is?

That’s precisely what we at wanted to find out. To end this all-important debate once and for all, Paul Tan himself and yours truly, Hafriz Shah, planned out an elaborate test to see if the consumption of santan really does cause drivers to feel sleepy behind the wheel.

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The premise behind our be-all and end-all experiment is simple enough. In essence, I will eat dishes with a lot of santan, while Paul will have a similar set of meals without the so-called incriminating ingredient.

We’d then take turns driving a W221 Mercedes-Benz S-Class that’s equipped with Attention Assist, a safety system that continuously monitors “more than 70 different parameters to detect driver fatigue and tiredness.” If either of us were sleepier than the other, the car would know it before we do.

It’s all scientific and well thought through, this experiment of ours. Foolproof, even if we say so ourselves.

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But before we got started, we had to make things equal between Paul and myself. No point in doing the test if one of us is feeling drowsy from the start, right? That would throw the results way off.

So, the both of us synchronised our sleeping patterns for an entire month. For 30 days, we went to sleep at the exact same time (on different beds – Paul) and matched our alarms clocks. Every time Paul’s slumber is interrupted by his newborn baby, I’d wake up to feed my pet cat too. Basically when Paul is asleep, so am I, and vice versa.

After the month-long prep period, came the actual test. The “santan test,” as we’d call it.

We started off with breakfast. Naturally, I had a pack of glorious nasi lemak with all of its santan goodness, while Paul had a (big) plate of santan-less chee cheong fun. Sounds normal enough at this point, doesn’t it?

Normality ended right there and then. As part of our plan to amplify the effect (of lack thereof) of santan consumption, we arranged a second breakfast.

We’d both have a bowl of cereal, but while Paul had his corn flakes with the usual serving of fresh milk, I added a decent amount of coconut milk (santan) into mine. Believe it or not, it tasted rather good!

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Bowls completely clean, we went out for a drive. The plan was for the two of us to drive for exactly 41 km (a figure we carefully worked out through a complex set of equations too complicated to explain), as normally as we could.

So I sat in the front passenger seat as Paul drove first, notebook in hand to see and record if he’d show any signs of fatigue. Some time passed without anything of note happening, until suddenly, the S-Class’ Pre-Safe Brake system came into action, bringing the car to a stop while the seat belts tightened automatically.

Apparently, both Paul and I had dozed off in the car, and we nearly rear-ended a slow-moving vehicle. Neither of us could recall what car it was, but its number plate was hard to forget – APR 1.

By this time, our car’s Attention Assist system demanded that the driver take a break, displaying a cup of coffee on the instrument cluster. Not wanting to endanger anyone else on the road, we followed the car’s instruction and stopped for a coffee break.

Still obsessed to continue with our test, we put our own santan spin on the coffee break too. We ordered two cups of coffee: one latte for Paul and an espresso for me, served in a latte cup. You can guess where this is going, can’t you?

Yup, we made our own special santan-milk latte. This one, in case anyone’s wondering, didn’t taste so good. But I finished it anyway. “All in the name of science,” I convinced myself then.

Done with our coffee, we headed for lunch. This was always planned to be our main event. Paul ordered a plate of wantan mee for himself, and a lesser-known local delicacy for me – santan mee.

Then, disaster. Having forced myself to eat it (I guess I don’t have to tell you if it’s good or bad), I felt too sick to continue on with the test. We had no choice but to call it off. After all, we’d be fools to risk another APR 1 incident again.

With our flawed findings, we couldn’t quite prove or (more likely) invalidate the claim that santan could lead to increased road accident fatalities. But on the other hand, this is a classic case of “too much of anything is bad for you.” So remember, folks, do everything in moderation. Especially if it involves santan.