Malaysians love food. We’d travel great distances to savour a popular dish, or the newest culinary craze to hit our shores. And we like knowing that food is available to us at all times, and that is exactly why we love our mamak restaurants! Breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper, it’s always a good time to go to the mamak and hang out with friends. They’re also easy on the pocket.
The downside of the mamak restaurant? Well, if you’re on a quest for a healthier diet, eating at the local version of a fast food joint may not be the best idea. However, this doesn’t mean that you should forgo one of the nation’s favourite pastimes – you just have to make smarter (food) choices.
Teh Tarik Satu!
Okay, let’s not deny that teh tarik is oh-so-good. What makes it so? The sweetened condensed milk. And what makes it so bad? Exactly that. This very popular drink is unfortunately loaded with sugar, and giving it a miss every once in a while would do you a world of good. And this goes for all the sweetened drinks at the mamak.
This doesn’t mean that you have to stare at your friends having their drinks while you sit there thirsty. You can of course have water (I can sense eyes rolling at that suggestion), or of course choose to have other healthy options such as fresh fruit juice, black coffee, black tea; all without sugar. If need be, ask for less sugar, although the ‘kurang manis’ instruction is more often than not, ignored! And yes, if you do want your teh tarik, make sure they hear you when you ask for a drink that’s less sweet. And limit yourself to just one. Here’s a fact to keep you in check – 1 teh tarik contains 5 teaspoons of sugar. The daily sugar allowance is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
Fried & Fabulous
Yes, we all love our deep-fried chicken to pair with our fried rice. And maybe topped with a fried egg. Delicious as this may be, the fact that everything on your plate would have been prepared with oil is already a good indication of how unhealthy they are. So look around at what may be available that would be healthier. Tandoori is a good option as it is cooked in a traditional clay oven and not fried, satay is another option as it is cooked on an open grill.
Rice & Noodles
Having rice at the mamak is a pretty popular choice, but is it healthy? It may not be the healthiest choice but if you don’t go overboard, you should be okay. Don’t have the fried rice; instead opt for plain rice. And only ask for a half portion of rice, loading your plate with protein instead. Curries, vegetables and half a portion of rice is already a healthier option compared to what else you could be having. And while the curries are not unhealthy per say, they can be calorific so go easy. And if you see a dish that’s swimming in oil, well, duh!
And needless to say, your favourite fried noodles wouldn’t make it on to anyone’s list of healthy foods to consume, so if you can, order something else. If you must satisfy your craving, share it with someone so you only get half of the unhealthy stuff.
Roti Canai FTW?
Who doesn’t love roti at the mamak? Roti canai, roti planta, roti kaya, roti telur… all delicious, and all not so healthy! If you want something to mop up the curry with, try chapati instead of roti. Tosai is also healthier than roti. And instead of curry, mop up some dhall instead.
Here’s a quick comparison of the three.
||Fat Content (g)
|Roti Canai (plain)
Trying to be healthy can be challenging enough without having to give up gathering with friends at your favourite local mamak and chatting for hours on end. And joining your friends and not having anything to eat or drink is just impossible. So just be smart about it, make good choices and practice self-restraint; after all, it’s all about balance. You can still have your cake and eat it too (strictly figurative!).
Teh tarik kurang manis satu!