The 24-hour mamak shops are very much a part of Malaysian life for people to gather and chit-chat the night away.
NOT many are aware that in a bustling city like Sydney, the popular shopping precincts are open only from 9am to 5.30pm, except on Thursdays when many shops stay open until about 9pm.
So, you can imagine why Malaysians based in Sydney like to shop till they drop each time they are back here, as our malls are bustling with life until at least 10pm every day.
It’s the same with their eateries where late-night eating just does not happen.
Now, we can understand why our 24-hour mamak shops are such an attraction, not only to Malaysians who have migrated, but also to tourists and local Malaysians.
I have a family member who migrated to Australia many years ago and each time he visits, either alone on work or with the family, the first thing he will draw up is the teh tarik schedule.
Every night, without fail, there must be a hangout at a teh tarik joint. And of course, we will always joke with him at such gatherings and ask how he can possibly survive in a place like Sydney where the only tea he can have after 8pm is what his wife brews for him at home.
The 24-hour mamak shop has become an iconic part of our culture because it serves cheap food, at all hours, which can be consumed by anyone of any race, and with any dietary preference.
I have a regular group of former colleagues and we are as muhibbah as they come, and there are also vegetarians in the group. So, what better place to meet than at the 24-hour mamak shop?
I have noticed that the typical crowds at such joints are not only multi-racial, but they also include families; it is nice to see a large group comprising elderly grandparents to very young toddlers.
Occasionally, you will also see policemen taking a break and enjoying their nasi lemakand roti canai with the teh tarik. I doubt you can see such a scenario anywhere else in the world.
So, I am really glad that good sense has prevailed and the Prime Minister has reassured us that existing rules will not be changed, and we can continue to patronise these outlets anytime, day or night.
If there is one thing that really draws Malaysians together, it must surely be our love for food.
In a diverse country like ours, we get to not only savour food that is culturally linked to us, but also feast on the delicacies of our fellow Malaysians.
I love my Peranakan dishes as much as I love other ethnic cuisines. Even within the Chinese community, there is much diversity among the dialect groups.
When I first met my wife, the Hakka food the family served was quite different from the Penang fare that I grew up on. But when you are courting, everything tastes wonderful.
But to really get a flavour of multi-cultural Malaysia, there is nothing like the mamak stall where you can find good company and free flow of drinks.
My wife sets only one condition for me when I go for a late night teh tarik rendezvous. No tea or coffee or you won’t be able to sleep, she reminds me. Well, milo kosong is fine with me, too.