Malaysian Glimpse: Mamak Restaurant holds the community together

Mamak Restaurants are the top famous restaurants in Malaysia where al races and walks of life eat, chat ad chill out. [MWN]
Mamak Restaurants are the most popular destination in Malaysia where all races from all walks of life eat, chat, and chill out daily. [MWN]
For the 2017 edition, Malaysia World News will start a new column known as “Malaysian Glimpse”, a light-hearted piece that reflects the daily lives of the Malaysians including eating habits, favorite food and also their views on current domestic and international issues.

It will appear once a week depending on the current issues.  Voluntary writers are welcome to share their experiences here.

The Malaysians are friendly and fun loving people as they do not like to shake the peacefulness of the country unnecessarily. The communities are made up of several races mainly Chinese, Malays, Indians and others who have been living harmoniously since Malaysia had its independence in 1957.

As it has been a democratic country, all Malaysians have the right to choose their leaders to form a government of the day and this is done through general elections held once in every five years. On normal days, you see all Malaysians live happily, smiling and willing to help others without any qualms or racial sentiments.

However, the harmonious atmosphere would be shaken a little when the general election is around the corner.  Leaders from various political parties will try to take up some issues to attract the “rakyat” or public’s attention.  Issues are highlighted as to enable them to retain their influence in the “political regime”. The rising cost of living, education fee hikes, transport, housing problems and migrant issues are amongst popular issues brought up during election campaigns.

Nonetheless, the most intriguing part about the Malaysians is; even though they are from different culture, religion, race and descendant, the irony is, they can sit side by side in a restaurant to drink and eat the same kind of food even though there are race relation issues “playing” in the social media.

 “Mamak restaurants” as popularly known to Malaysians, become the popular meeting places for all walks of life, especially among the urbanites. You can hardly see a mamak restaurant empty at any time from morning till midnight.  The mamak food has become a phenomenon ( in the good sense) amongst Malaysians today and why is it?

A mamak restaurant chef preparing chicken tandoori with naan bread – one of the evening favorite dishes amongst Malaysians.

 Most of the restaurants are owned by the Malaysian Indian Muslims and as such serve “halal’ food which welcomes everybody.

As you can see, the workers are mostly from India and you will notice different faces serving you at least once in every two years. The first few days you will find that they have difficulties in understanding what your food orders are;  no matter in what language you utter… but after awhile they are okay and will serve you with glee. They are polite and ever ready to serve customers. 

 Many customers like “teh tarek” as it is “brewed” in a special way apart from hot coffee or just tea and hot lemon drink that goes well with small pieces of South Indian delicacies like tosei, “roti canai” or paratha and capati served with either lentil , fish, chicken, mutton or beef curry. The food is deliciously spicy and could make one easily addicted to it.  The naan bread eaten with chicken tandoori  is another mouth watering food if you like grilled spicy chicken and eat along with curry gravy.

Besides Indian delicacies, most of these restaurants do serve western, Malay and Thai food. The availability of different kind of food has turned “mamak restaurants” into a “one-stop food center” and that makes it different from other eateries.  

As most of these restaurants operate 24 hours and the food is served fresh and hot at any time, it has become a phenomenon.  Many people are addicted to the “mamak food”.  Addicted in the sense that every day, at least once, they have to eat the “mamak” spicy food or else the day is not complete for them.

One afternoon, when I was about to pick my dishes and a plate of rice at a mamak restaurant, a middle-aged Chinese lady said to me openly: “I like the food here as it is spicy and delicious. The way they cook the chicken is very special, I love it and so does my husband.”

My former boss in his early 60’s once said in a group whatsapp : “I have to leave my grandchild and wife behind for a while as it is time for tea at the mamak shop (and it was at 1.am then). I want to meet my university friends to catch up with their current status.’’

Another male friend who was once my colleague at the media company excitedly said: “I will always have my breakfast at a mamak shop or else I feel as if I have not had breakfast.”

As he is one of the members in a whatsapp group, he likes to post pictures of the food he eats and “teh tarek” he drinks.

Many other friends in the Facebook also mentioned some mamak restaurants in Kuala Lumpur as their meeting place during weekends either for breakfast or lunch. Not even once they mentioned a western food or a Malay restaurant to meet and have their meals. With such crave for spicy food from South India; I perceived it has become a phenomenon in Malaysia today.

A friend who won a bet demanded his friend to spend him a fish head curry for lunch at a mamak restaurant near his house. Another good friend who stays in Ipoh Perak, will not hesitate to spend me and family from Kuala Lumpur to taste the spicy fried chicken and fish head curry at one popular mamak restaurant near his office.

Prices of food at the mamak restaurants are not really cheap, but it has the pulling power to make people just could not care so much about what they have to poke out from their pockets but more to satisfy their taste buds and stomach.  

A plate of biryani rice with a piece of fried chicken, vegetable acar, boiled egg and two pieces of popadum will cost RM12.50 without a drink. A piece of roti canai with lentil curry and a cup of coffee will easily cost RM5.50. It is not too much for many people to pay RM5.50 for a piece of tosei and a cup of coffee. 

From the north to the south states of Peninsular Malaysia, everybody seems to be talking about the tastefulness of the South Indian food found at mamak restaurants that are mushrooming in the country now. – Copy Right Malaysia World News [MWN]                   

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