While there are a zillion street food options that beckon you to savour the authenticity of the cuisine in Malaysia, street hawkers can be considered as the local pro chefs as they churn out some delicious fare, making your dining experience a memorable one.
Mamak food stalls are one of them. They toss, fry, and serve authentic dishes that will suit your heart’s content.
The term ‘mamak’ is widely used to describe Indian Muslims. Its known to be a confluence of Indian and Malay culture and is derived from the Tamil word for maternal uncle, or ‘maa-ma’.
Typically the locals including Chinese and Malays sometimes call the Mamaks, “Ah neh”, which means “big brother” as a mark of respect. The Malays, address them as “Bang” which is the short form of “Abang”, which also means “big brother” in Malay.
However, the term ‘mamak stalls’ is not exclusively used to describe food stalls owned by members of that community. Rather it describes the outdoor stalls that serve Indian Muslim cuisine that remains open until the wee hours of the morning.
Mamak stalls are quite famous in many parts of Malaysia, especially in city centres such as Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.
The mamak culture is extremely popular among young adults and teenagers who find it a safe place to hang out with friends during the night and also because the fare for food and drinks is quite affordable. The modern mamak stalls have a cafe aspect, which are furnished with decent seating arrangement and televisions which lets them catch the latest programs or live matches as they dine.
Most mamak stalls start their business at about 5 PM and remain open till midnight, and the ones that are similar to cafes usually operate 24 hours a day.
Such is the popularity of these eateries that you would find plastic chairs and tables set up along the sidewalks of the streets with patrons spilling into the streets on an important game night.
It is said no visit to Malaysia is complete without enjoying a drink and some mamak food at one of these eateries in the middle of the night, especially when a football game is on.
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