Skip to main content

Mamak Stalls: A Malaysian Institution for Late-Night Dining.

Nigel is a Malaysian who is very passionate about Malaysian cuisine and keen to learn more about cuisines from around the world!

Malaysians hanging out at the Mamak store for a Football match

Malaysians hanging out at the Mamak store for a Football match

What's A Mamak Stall?

Well, to start, the word "Mamak" means a Maternal Uncle in the Tamil language used by the Indian community in Malaysia. However, the term "mamak" is used as a way to respectfully greet older male shopkeepers. Mamak stalls were created by the Indian Muslim community in Malaysia which is why the cuisine that is served in these stalls are a mix of Indian & Malay cultural foods. A Mamak Stall is a place where all Malaysians can gather to eat, drink, chat or even watch a Football match as if one is in a stadium.

Picture of the food of a Mamak

Picture of the food of a Mamak

The Significance Of A Mamak Stall To Malaysians

One interesting fact about a Mamak Stall in Malaysia is that it opens 24 hours a day depending on the location you are in. If you're in a urban city like Kuala Lumpur, you will see many Mamak stalls opened for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So the best part about this operating hours is, we Malaysians have the opportunity to eat whenever we want to!

Are you hungry at 2 AM? no problem! just head down to your nearest Mamak Stall and get your cravings satisfied!Besides the operation hours, Mamak stalls are known to serve food on a budget, you can get a plate of Fried noodles at 6 Ringgit a plate (about $1.50 in USD) which will fill you up!

Food aside, lets say you want to have a chat with your friend, for Malaysians, the Mamak is where you go. Order a cup of "Teh Tarik" or more and just spend some time there. Speaking about spending time, the Mamak is a place for most people to watch English Football matches, whenever there is a huge match happening, it's safe to say, the Mamak stall will be packed!

Football (soccer) fans at a Mamak

Football Fans of Malaysia celebrating a goal.

Football Fans of Malaysia celebrating a goal.

Lets watch a video on how we order food in a Mamak using Tamil language! by

What are the types of food and drinks served in a mamak?

Mamak stalls in Malaysia is basically a melting pot of cultures confined into one stall. You can get Chinese style fried rice, Malay style dishes such as Nasi Lemak, Indian dishes & snacks such as a Vadai and in some places, Indian traditional deserts, Yemeni style Shawarma and Thai style dishes.

Nasi Lemak from a famous stall called "Bumbung".

Nasi Lemak from a famous stall called "Bumbung".

1) The Nasi Lemak

- Nasi Lemak is a dish that predominantly features coconut milk infused rice served with a spicy sauce called the "Sambal", hard boiled egg, fried anchovies and peanuts and to cool things down, some slices of cucumber.

Optional: Sometimes a fried egg is added in place of a hard boiled egg and you can add your choice of proteins to the dish, for instance, fried chicken.

Roti Canai served with a side of curry

Roti Canai served with a side of curry

2. Roti Canai

- When the dough meets the grill, you get Roti Canai ! a crispy flatbread made based on the Pratha you may find in India. At one point, Roti Canai was called the "Eastern Croissant" due to its crispiness. Normally a plate of Roti Canai is served with "Dhall" curry and Fish curry.

A Plate of Chinese Styled Fried Rice

A Plate of Chinese Styled Fried Rice

Scroll to Continue

3. Chinese style Fried Rice (Nasi Goreng Cina)

- One of the best fried rice styles a Mamak stall can make is the Chinese style fried rice which is emphasized on the "breath of the wok" aka "wok hei". Malaysians of all ethnic groups love to have this fried rice in the mamak stall due to the simplicity of the meal and the price.

A nice plate of maggi goreng

A nice plate of maggi goreng

4. Maggi goreng (Fried Instant maggi Noodles)

- Well, you can't go to a Mamak stall and not order the "Maggi goreng" which is essentially a fried instant maggi noodles. Its a staple noodle dish in a mamak stall where instant noodles are stir-fried with vegetables and in some places, chicken is added.

Fact: This dish is commonly eaten by Malaysians as a hangover cure, just make sure there's a sunny side up egg when you order.

a cup of teh tarik, also known as Malaysia's national drink!

a cup of teh tarik, also known as Malaysia's national drink!

5. Teh Tarik (Hand pulled milk tea)

Well, you may have know it by now that Teh Tarik is Malaysia's national beverage. Yes, we're a tea drinking nation and almost every Mamak stall in Malaysia serve this beverage. Milk tea is hand pulled to create a foam on top and at the same time cools down the beverage.

6. Vadai (Indian savory snack)

- "Vadai" is similar to the Arabic snack, "falafel", however, this is the Southern Indian version which has two different renditions, the one that looks like "falafel" (in picture) is the one we commonly have in Malaysian Mamak stalls, while the floury one is served in Indian Banana Leaf restaurant.

It will not be the same without mamak stalls

Growing up in Malaysia, where a mamak stall is available almost everywhere in any neighborhood, it's hard to not go to a mamak stall at least once a week.

They're like your friendly neighborhood Spider-man, always there when you need it. You can have it for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner.

The best part about a Mamak stall is that its part of a community, everyone living near a stall will go to the stall at least once.

Besides the local community, if you wish to watch a big football match like Liverpool Fc vs Manchester United, you would want to watch it with a group.

The atmosphere at a mamak stall when it is filled with football fans is comparable to a stadium atmosphere.

When it comes to food, a plate of maggi goreng and a cup of teh tarik will never be the same when you make it at home.

Mamak stalls are a specialty to Malaysians, the culture is amazing and without Mamak stalls, we wont have a gathering spot.

© 2020 Nigel Koay

Related Articles