“Ah Neh! Roti telur satu dan teh tarik satu!”
If you’ve been to enough late night outings in Malaysia, this sentence is probably the typical order punchline when you are at mamak stalls. Over the years, mamak somehow became a default, 100% fool-proof, 24/7 operational (unless bankrupt), to-go places during middle of the night and budget-friendly lepak sessions.
FYI, If you think Ah Neh is an offensive word, urban dictionary is here to prove you wrong. In case you didn’t know, the word “Ah Neh” is a playful, friendly, non derogatory term to address our fellow Malaysian brothers who are of South Indian origins with stronger skin cells to others races.
When it comes to the origins of mamak, however, there are untold histories which most millennials didn’t know.
Mamaks are Tamil Muslims with Malaysian nationality. The mamaks’ forefathers mostly immigrated from South India to Malaya (Malaysia) centuries ago. This explain why our brothers are regarded as a part of the Malaysian Indian community.
The Tamil word of mamak or “maa-ma” is widely used to describe Indian Muslims maternal uncles. This is the reason why the Malaysian locals often calls the mamaks as “Ah Neh” or “Bang”, which means brother, as a form of respect.
When hunger pangs strikes during wee hours, mamak is our reliable, sacred place which we find solace in (true story). Aside from its accessibility where we can find then at almost every corner (metaphorically and literally), mamak also serves a delectable spread of food, such as roti canai, nasi kandar, teh tarik, nasi lemak goreng and all sort of customizable food, all at an affordable price. Perfect to satiate your group of friends with weird appetite and preferences towards food!