Step into any mamak restaurant in Malaysia and you will experience first-hand the many elements that make Malaysia a cultural melting pot. In general, the term ‘mamak’ refers to Indian Muslims in Malaysia and the word is loosely translated as ‘uncle’. As a tourist, any local would highly recommend you to have your ‘makan-makan’ (Malay for ‘eating out’) at a mamak restaurant while you are in Malaysia. Here are the 5 top reasons why:
- Malaysia is home to many ethnic groups, with Malays, Chinese and Indians predominantly making up the major population. Decades after the end of British colonial era, each of these ethnic group still maintains their unique identity, culture and language. But at a mamak restaurant, all these differences seem to dissolve away. It is common to hear people calling each other ‘boss’, as a sign of respect. Apart from that, you can also hear the restaurant patrons endearingly calling the servers as ‘anneh’ or ‘macha’ which translates as ‘elder brother’ and ‘brother-in-law’ in Tamil respectively.
- Though almost all mamak restaurants are owned and operated by Indian Muslims, the food served there is a blend of diverse influences. Sure, the crowd favourites – ‘roti canai’ and ‘teh tarik’ – have its origin tracing back to India, but mamak restaurants are also famous for serving delectable ‘nasi lemak’, a dish believed to have first been concocted and popularized by the Malays. Apart from that, you may also find ‘roti Arab’ in the menu – another staple in most mamak restaurants – which most probably originates from the Middle East.
- If the Brits are known to ask ‘how’s the weather?’ upon encountering each other, the equivalent of such phrase in Malaysia would probably be ‘sudah makan?’, which translate into ‘have you eaten?’. This question is usually a prerequisite to an invitation to enjoy the next meal together, while catching up on life and perhaps the latest news. Malaysians are known to bond over its shared fondness of food – that is why almost all of mamak restaurants operate 24 hours a day, 7 hours a week. While it may not do our waistline much good, mamak restaurants are a safe bet if you ever get hungry at odd hours of the night, throughout the year.
- Because of its affordable price, mamak restaurant is frequented by different age and social groups. On one table you may find a group of teenagers hanging out together, whereas at the next table, you may find middle-aged business executives neatly dressed in business attires discussing the stock market.
- Wifi and entertainment is the final important plus of going to a Mamak in Malaysia. You can have all at once. A great meal for a good prize together with free wifi and entertainment like soccer or other sports. A great free add on bonus if you ask me.
So as you can see a Mamak is a must visit place whether you are a true Malaysian or a tourist experiencing the Malaysian culture for the first time. Once you been to a Mamak you will keep looking for more everywhere you go!