Living in Malaysia, you can’t entirely avoid mamak, kopitiam or local hawker food temptations when you’re out. The flavours aren’t just familiar to you but you also know that they’re the ultimate comfort food if you let them be – although not every one of them is good for you. With some planning and knowing your food, you can treat yourself to those dishes – just don’t over do it! Here, we’ve compiled some of the best and worst dishes you can find at the mamak and kopitiam to help you make healthy food choices!
1. Tandoori chicken
Healthier than the conventional ayam goreng, the Tandoori chicken is cooked in a traditional clay oven instead of getting deep fried. This roasted chicken dish is usually prepared with yogurt and spices. With the medicinal benefits of spices (turmeric is anti-inflammatory while sage improves your memory!) and some lean meat for your muscles, you can’t get any healthier at the mamak than this!
If you have a fondness for breads such as roti canai, you might want to switch up to a healthier option – the chapati. It is so much better than the other breads like roti telur or even roti bom that are commonly served at mamak restaurants This staple Indian flat bread is made of whole wheat flour, water with a little oil, and cooked on a skillet. Of course, if you’re avoiding gluten, then this isn’t for you.
3. Dhal Curry
You can’t avoid curries when you’re at a mamak stall, can you? Nope. Curries such as fish and chicken can reach up to 183 calories per 100g of serving. Instead of these, opt for Dhal curry – it has higher fibre and protein contents. The curry is also packed with veggies such as carrot, brinjal, potatoes and tomatoes. When combined with legume dhal, it is definitely one of our favourites at the mamak.
4. Chicken porridge
This is also widely served at local kopitiams. According to Jaclyn Reutens, clinical dietitian from Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants, chicken porridge has 10% less calories than congee, which is rich in carbs. Also, this dish fills you up and you can benefit from the addition of chicken as a source of protein.
5. Toasts with half-boiled eggs
What is a kopitiam breakfast without toasts and boiled eggs? To make it a low-fat breakfast, skip the usual kaya and butter. You’ll find that plain toast tastes just as good dipped in soft-boiled eggs. Also, be careful with the use of soy sauce with the eggs as that can be high in sodium.
And the worst:
6. Roti canai
We can’t speak of mamak without the roti canai in the picture. This Malaysian favourite is a circular flatbread dough, twirled into a thin sheet and grilled with oil. Normally served with dhal curry, a piece of your favourite roti has up to 300 calories per serving, 360 calories when eaten with dhal. So, there you have it!
7. Teh tarik
Who doesn’t love a hot glass of teh tarik in the morning or evening? It complements the roti canai so well! But this beverage that’s made from black tea with a generous portion of sugar and condensed milk, can contain up to 229 calories! Condensed milk is extremely high in calories (not to mention sugar), and adding it with more sugar just makes it a nightmare for your system.
8. Curry mee
The average Malaysian curry mee is made up of yellow egg noodles and string thin mee-hoon soaked in the spicy curry soup with sambal, coconut milk, dried tofu and bean sprouts. It might sound healthy, what with the bevy of tofu and bean sprouts, but believe it or not, a bowl of your favourite kopitiam curry mee contains approximately 500 calories per serving.
9. Char Kuey Teow
What is perhaps the most popular hawker or kopitiam dish of the nation, the Char Kuey Teow is undoubtedly the best food to try when you’re in Penang. It is flat rice noodles that is stir-fried over very high heat with dark soy sauce, prawns, bean sprouts and chopped Chinese chives. However good it might be, a serving of Char Kuey Teow contains 742 calories, which is almost a double serving of roti canai!
10. Nasi lemak
Malaysia and nasi lemak is like Bonnie and Clyde. When you think of one, you’ll think of the other. This absolute all-time favourite is a traditional Malay dish with santan rice, groundnuts, eggs, anchovies, cucumber, sambal. But it is what it is as it’s cooked in luxurious coconut milk and a per serving of this dish, is about 400 calories. Sure, you can eat in moderation but it certainly isn’t something to have on a daily basis.