If you’re an Asian food lover in Sydney or Melbourne, chances are you’ve heard the word ‘mamak’ before, thanks to the queue-forming popularity of Mamak eateries. But do you know the origins of Mamak cuisine?
Thanks to its Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, Malaysia is a vibrant melting pot of cultures. Over hundreds of years, local and imported ingredients and techniques have been harmoniously integrated, creating a unique food scene of impressive depth and variety. One of the greatest examples of this confluence of cultures is the local Mamak cuisine. A marriage of Malays and Tamil Muslims, the Mamak culture has been part of Malaysia’s landscape for centuries.
Today, Mamak food stalls are found across Malaysia, particularly in the capital Kuala Lumper. Often open around the clock, these no-frills eateries offer a range of quick, affordable meals. Trademark dishes include robust curries with flaky roti bread, stir-fried noodles, such as mee goreng and mee rebus, and satisfying rice dishes like nasi lemak and nasi kandar.
As these restaurants and stalls are generally halal (catering to the Muslim dietary requirements), there’s no pork or alcohol on the menu. Instead, try a glass of teh tarik, a frothy concoction of tea, hot water and condensed milk –you can even have a go at making teh tarik at home.
Inspired by the street food stalls of Kuala Lumpur, Mamak’s three eateries in Sydney’s Chinatown, Chatswood and Melbourne draw massive queues for their roti canai (buttery, hand-stretched bread with a selection of curries), frothy teh tarik, and juicy satay skewers.
At Wynyard, in Adelaide, you can get your fix at Mamak Corner. Here, the roti station gets a real workout, with savoury versions served with curry dips or sweet roti jazzed up with sugar, sliced banana, peanut butter or kaya (coconut jam). Nasi lemak, satays, and ayam goreng (fried chicken) are also up for grabs.
If you’re on the roti trail in Brisbane, Mamak Tandoori House offers Malaysian specialties such as roti canai and beef rendang alongside Indian classics like tandoori chicken and lamb rogan josh.
For more Malaysian recipes and cooking ideas, discover fast and slow takes on your favourite Malaysian dishes, plus healthy Malaysian recipes.
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