The above is one of my favourite renditions of fried rice, “nasi goreng ikan masin” from a mamak outlet named Bestari.

One of the most unique things about Malaysia is the fact that we have stores that are open 24 hours. In fact, if a tourist were to come here, without a doubt, any local would take them to the mamak to have the full “Malaysian experience.” In my opinion, the “lepak” culture (“lepak” literally meaning to hang out) has made the presence of mamaks around the country more significant. Therefore, today I will talk about the greatness of mamak stores.

First of all, the food there is affordable, especially for us students. It is an extreme privilege to have stores that are always conveniently around you, sell cheap food. When you feel the weight of your wallet significantly decreasing, and you hear your stomach grumbling – go to a mamak. The price is definitely worth it for the portion of food that you get.

It’s just always there for you, always available for you to access. Out super late? Go to a mamak. Up super early? Go to a mamak.

Generally, the food that they serve is Indian cuisine, but the variety of dishes that they serve is extremely wide. You can have roti, you can have soup, you can have fried rice. And the list breaks down. You can have roti canai, roti telur, roti tisu. Sup tulang, tom yam, sup ayam. Nasi goreng kampung, nasi goreng belacan. The same goes to the drinks that they serve. Different kinds of tea, milk tea, lemon tea, both hot and cold. The options are endless.

I always find myself going back to mamak food. I feel a sense of comfort in knowing that the menus are generally the same in any mamak – it’s kind of universal in a way. But, keep in mind that even though the menu is the same, that doesn’t mean that the taste of the food is. It differs depending on the outlet and brand. To me, that’s so unique because technically you’re making the same thing but in different renditions.

“Lepak mamak” culture has become so significant in our country, not only amongst the youth but amongst the older generation as well. There’s something about the casual, relaxed setting of a mamak store that just fuels conversations. You can sit there for hours talking about everything under the umbrella of thoughts.

It’s such a special part of our culture, to have this space where people can sit down, eat, and spend time together. Not much can be said except that it’s a very Malaysian thing – and that’s what makes it special.

Funnily enough, I’m writing this inside a mamak. In conclusion, when in doubt – go to a mamak.


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