Malaysia is a food haven, and eating is Malaysians’ favourite pastime! Since most of us eat out often, here are some tips for foodies and non-foodies alike…
1. Look at what the regulars order – In any food outlet, there is a good chance that many of the patrons are regulars who know what’s tasty and what’s average there. As we make our way to the table, take a glance at as many tables as possible to see what’s being served (some order takers do not bother to recommend the shop’s signature dishes, assume that we know or simply tell us one or two only). A ‘makan kaki’/food aficionado will not want to miss any good food 🙂
2. Ask about prices especially for food that use seasonally priced ingredients – We don’t want to be caught by surprise when the bill comes. Even for normal food in certain restaurants that we are not familiar with, especially in places in which we are considered ‘tourists’ as opposed to locals, it’s wise to check the prices first before confirming the orders. I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘cut-throat’ cases by unscrupulous restaurant operators!
3. Try not to patronise an outlet during off-peak hours (i.e. when they have just opened or waiting to close) – When they have just opened for business for the day, and we are the first customer, our food will be prepared using the cooking utensils which might have been contaminated the night before. As many of us have witnessed, cockroaches and rats have attained PR status in a lot of shop kitchens in Malaysia. Not all cooking utensils are washed properly before being used (we are lucky if they indeed wash them). When they are waiting to close after the crowd has dispersed, the cook’s rest time presents the long-awaited opportunity to scratch that itchy part of his foot or dig his nostril. We don’t want to be the customer right after he does that!
4. Take a peek at the kitchen – This tip applies to the favourite haunts of those who don’t believe that ignorance is bliss. It’s easier done if the toilet is near the kitchen – as we walk to the toilet, peek at how the food is prepared. Our eyes might be met with some unpleasant sights that spoil our appetite, and make us decide that’s the last visit.
5. Give a reminder of orders after 5 minutes – We might want to do this when we are in a hurry or hosting some VIP guests with whom we want to enjoy a good dining experience. Order mix-ups or miss-outs might happen especially at peak hours.
6. Be careful of how we complain about our food – Never complain in a such a way that the kitchen staff might take it as criticism towards how they prepare our food. Try not to have our food be brought back into the kitchen to be made right. We’ll never know what kind of people work in the kitchen. They could be a bunch of overworked and underpaid staff who hate their boss. Anything returned to the kitchen means double work! If we are unlucky, we might get some ‘extra ingredient’ in our food (I shall not go into the examples). Unless we are 100% SURE that the cook and his team subscribe strongly to their code of ethics, never do it. If we really want to give feedback on the hygiene or quality of the food, do it when we are done with the meal. Unfortunately, this means that even if we find the food inedible, it’s better to just leave it. Free replacement is almost a non-existent practice in Malaysia. Most of the time, we’ll just hear “Sorry ah”.
7. Free-flow drinks – When our dining partner is someone with whom we don’t mind sharing a drink, and either one is not very particular with the type of drink, and we are thrifty diners, there’s really no point ordering two separate glasses. Furthermore, many restaurants allow different juices or soft drinks to be refilled so there’s still variety.
8. Ask whether dessert/fruit is complimentary – Never ASSUME. Although most is free, there are some places which charge for dessert/fruit that is served despite not having been ordered.
9. Choose a strategic table when eating buffet – If we are someone ‘kiasu’ or rather someone who wants to get our money’s worth, choose a spot with a good view of the food line so that we won’t miss it when what we die to eat is replenished. We all know how passionate Malaysians are when it comes to food. We have to be real quick in most buffet restaurants!
10. Don’t trust the cashier’s mental arithmetic ability or even the quick calculation done on paper or by calculator – Always ask for an itemised bill especially when a lot of food are ordered e.g. dim sum and sushi.