Friday, July 22, 2005

Mamak Etiquette

Warning: Lewd joke ahead.

Foreigners and rich dudes/dudettes who has not experienced eating at mamak stalls, or are still new to eating at mamak stalls may find this post helpful. This post will cover several questions you may have about eating at a mamak stall.

While the word mamak literally means Indian muslims, the context in Malaysia has changed �mamak stall� to comprise a collection of stalls, where ONE would have to really be a mamak-owned stall. Collection of Malay or Chinese food stalls is not considered mamak. In the guide below, I will use �mamak� as waiter, cook and anyone you�re interacting with.

Step 1: Stand/Sit and Point/Call

Upon reaching the table you wish to sit at, check the seats. Sometimes there are drink stains or the seat may be wet. If the mamak is already waiting for your order, point to the places you wish to have him clean, be it the chair or the table, and say �Lap sikit� (pronounced Lupp-See-Kate) meaning �Wipe a bit�. Not �lap-see-kate� please� you DON'T WANT a mamak doing a lap dance for you. Anyway, you will see that mamaks go an extra mile by wiping everything though you only asked him to wipe a bit. Sit down, and go to the next step.

Step 2: Ordering Drinks

We usually start with ordering drinks. Most mamak will not have a drink menu, and that�s the beauty of it! You can basically order most drinks (no alcohol though) or even mix them, or even ask for less ice (�Kurang Manis�) or less sweetness (�Kurang Ais�). Two examples here is �Teh O Ais Kurang Manis� means �Tea without milk, not so sweet� or �Milo Ais Kurang Ais� meaning �Milo, less sugar�. Don�t go crazy and ask for �Kopi Panas Kurang Ais� or �Air Kosong Kurang Manis�.

Another beauty is to add either lime (�Limau�) or asam boi (sour plum). Ice Lemon Tea will be �Teh O Ais Limau�, and Lemon Pepsi will be �Pepsi Ais Limau� though people hardly order the latter. Adding asam boi usually applies to things without milk. Do not add asam boi to your milo, it�ll taste horrid!

Finally, another beauty is to add two different drinks. Nescafe and Milo will be Neslo, taking the �Nes� of Nescafe and �Lo� of Milo. You can go crazy as well, by ordering Coke + Milo + Watermelon but I�d advice against it. Others combos would be Nes-Ko for Nescafe and Coffee, Mi-Teh for Milo and Tea (if you like it). The mother of all combos is Horlicks, Milo, Coffee and Tea, which will be �LickMiKoTeh�, pronounced as �Lick My Co-teh��. BUT� it brings to a whole different meaning. Suffice to say that if the mamak is gay, he�d happily go under the table. Also avoid two doses of Milo by �Lickmitelo� which will bring the same action from a gay mamak. Order them differently please.

Step 3: Ordering Food

With damn many varieties of food that also cannot be fit onto a menu, just ask them to name what can be ordered. Be amazed at the bullet speed of menu items that comes out from his mouth. Simply put, there are more than 8 varieties of roti canai, more than 8 varieties of nasi goreng, more than 8 varieties of noodles and ways to cook it. You get the point. These varieties will only increase in the future, just as fast as technologies. If you�re new, just ask them to recommend.

For simplicity, these are the types of roti canai in the market: - Roti Canai/Biasa; Roti Telur; Roti Planta, Roti Sardin, Roti Pisang, Roti Paper/Tissue, Roti Bom, Roti Naan, and I have not included Murtabak, Tosei, Capati, Puree and others.

Nasi goreng comes in Nasi Goreng Cina; Pattaya, Kampung, USA, Mamak, Cili Padi, Ketam, Ayam, Mutiara, Daging Masak Merah, Padprik,� and damn lots more! I don�t even wanna go into noodles.

Thinking about it again, I highly suggest you to tour other customer�s tables and see what they�re eating. When you see what you like, call the mamak over and point over to that delicious dish you see. Dish as in food, not girls. Say "Saya nak yang tu!" (trans: I want that one), and point properly at the food, not the girl/guy eating it. Mamak does not work �that� way.

Step 4: Waiting for Food

Your drinks will come in a jiffy. Regular customers usually pay at the end of their meal, but newcomers usually need to pay the moment the drink reaches the table. So, pay up. And while waiting for the food, you can just do anything like talking on the phone, smoking, laugh, sing, play hide-and-seek, play catching, cry, lick back the mamak�s koteh (no, actually this one cannot) or just sit quietly.

During this time, you will be visited by someone saying �Cik, mintak tolong sikit cik?� or �Cik, derma sikit cik�. This is very common at food stalls, blind beggars who asks for donation. Now, some are truly genuine, while some are working in a syndicate. It�s up to you to decide. In my personal experience, I have seen beggars getting up to RM300 per night and changing it for bigger notes with stall owners. There are some who will hang out with other so-called blind beggars smoking away outside the perimeter. Your risk to donate. If you don�t wish to donate, usually patrons will say �Takde� meaning �don�t have�.

When the food arrives, pay for it and enjoy your meal.

Step 5: Paying Up

If you were not required to pay when your meals arrive, it�s time to call relevant stall owners to pay up. Just wave to a mamak by saying �boss!� and say �Kira� which translate to count or calculate. Don't mispronounced it as "Mamak, Gila!". They should cost quite okay as compared to eating in a fast-food restaurant. If you find extra charges or that the price is exuberant, recall your entire dinner, did you order Lickmykoteh?? Yea, you did didn�t you? No wonder it�s expensive.

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