Malaysia's 5 mamak stall favorites
The mamak stall is to Malaysia what the greasy spoon is to America.
Mamak stalls are run by Muslim-Indians and serve Halal comfort foods that all of multicultural Malaysia enjoys together.
Mamak stalls are located in every rural and urban Malaysian community. Look for smiling Indian waiters (there are no waitresses) and open air restaurants with customers at all hours of the day and night. Since written Malaysian uses the English alphabet, it's easy for many visitors to order favorite dishes.
I especially like the mamak food at the chain Kayu Nasi Kandar, with branches around Kuala Lumpur, Penang and as far away as Brunei and Melbourne, Australia.
Among Indian, Chinese or Malay offerings, the following five dishes are mamak favorites.
The most visually stimulating dish at any mamak stall is roti tisu.
First of all, the thing is huge.
Roti tisu is made from a thin roti shaped in a cone and stretched to five or six feet in length. The bread is glazed with sugary syrup and brought to the table by two or three grinning waiters.
Side dishes include curry and chutney for dipping.
Cost: 6 ringgit
Maggi brand instant noodles are stir-fried with curry powder or other spices, vegetables, tofu and chicken.
Dark soy sauce gives the dish its dark color, which is often topped with a sunny-side up egg.
Every mamak stall chef has his own take on this dish. Stopping at a number of stalls to sample the full range is suggested.
Cost: 3 ringgit
Roti doesn’t have to be plain flat bread.
Mamak stalls stuff roti with savory ingredients such as eggs, sardines, mutton, beef or chicken, then rename it murtabak.
It’s a good change of pace for a more substantial roti-inspired meal.
Murtabak usually comes with a curry-lentil dipping sauce.
Cost: 4-5 ringgit
Many mamak stalls are open 24 hours a day, and this is one of the dishes people order for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
White rice is steamed in coconut milk, wrapped inside banana leaves, served with a prawn or fried anchovies and peanuts with a side of fiery sambal chili sauce.
Cost: 1-2 ringgit
This popular rice dish is said to have been invented at mamak stalls.
A thin omelet is wrapped around chicken or prawn fried rice and served with a sweet chili sauce glaze.
Cost: 4 ringgit