Mamak stalls have become an integral part of urban life in Malaysia.
Not so much al fresco dining as it is a sidewalk hangout spot, the mamak stall has become a permanent fixture in many parts of Malaysia, especially within the state of Selangor, particularly in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.
It is exceptionally popular among young adults and teenagers who look at these stalls as a clean (arguably so) and safe place to gather with friends to while the night away. One can call it an option to clubs and discos, or rather the only option after the clubs and discos close.
One thing's for sure, it has brought about a new city trend, a uniquely Malaysian culture, one that demonstrates the fact that cities like Kuala Lumpur, never really go to sleep.
The term "mamak" is widely used, though it is not considered a polite term, to describe Indian Muslims. However, the term "mamak stalls" is not exclusively used to describe food stalls owned by members of that community. Rather, it has taken a wider meaning, due to its popularity, describing outdoor stalls of similar fashion that remain open till the wee hours of the morning.
Most mamak stalls open for business at about 5pm and remain open till way after midnight. The cafe-type mamak stalls commonly operate 24 hours a day.
It's not uncommon to see a row of stalls taking up more than just the allocated sidewalk space, with plastic chairs and tables covering a portion of the adjoining lanes or road.
Examples of food served at mamak stalls include roti canai, nasi lemak, murtabak, mee goreng, nasi kandar and of course, the ever-popular teh tarik.