Food is a deeply rooted affair for Malaysians. Stripping glam and modernism away, Jessy Wong digs into the novelty of street food in the country before it maps into the footprint of fame in the present.
Today, local fares do not only transcend our culinary indulgence into bliss; it resonates as a significant cultural identity for Malaysians. If we are away from our motherland for too long, there are two things that we will definitely miss–our families and of course, local food. Not only homemade cuisine, but the ‘outside’ food cooked by one particular uncle that hangs a towel over his shoulder or from that aunty who loves to add chillies in everything she makes.
Hawkers make up an essential part of the food scene in this country that could not be replaced. However, this authentic offering is a precious trade dwindling in number over the years. The change of generation, hawker health hazards, government intervention and modernisation have altered this nostalgic gem. Additionally, most of the young ones are guilty of seeking fast-paced ostentatious food to feed not only their stomachs but the unseen digital world.
The laborious task of peddling the cart, hovering over the hot stove for long hours in the shade of an upcycled banner to cook up some of world’s best cuisines, should be nominated as our national treasure. Birth out of necessity, glorified with sentimentality and now endangered against time, the romance of hawkers in Malaysia is certainly something out of the ordinary.
Evolution of Hawkers
Even though the sight of hawkers operating by the roadside has decreased over the years, their food prevailed and can be found in malls and restaurants. Check out these places that serves street food in style:
A food court in Shoppes, Four Seasons Place Kuala Lumpur features a variety of famous hawkers across the peninsular like Yong Peng Xi Dao fishball, Bukit Mertajam’s rojak, Yong Kee char kway teow and Penang Road Teochew cendol.
Pair delicious local street food with tropical mocktails and mojitos at this Desa Sri Hartamas restaurant. Worth-mentioning are their made-to-perfection nasi lemak, curry laksa and fusion Asiana pizza made with anchovies, nuts and coriander.
Text by Jessy Wong