Your not-to-be-missed comfort food when lepaking at kopitiams and mamaks

Did your heart just stop cold when seeing an educational institution use Malay words like ‘lepaking’, ‘kopitiams’ and ‘mamaks’ in the headline of its blog post? Worry not as these words are officially recorded as borrowings in English in the Oxford English Dictionary! Borrowings are words taken from other languages and used in English without translation. Read on to explore more of the most common borrowings in English used among Malaysians while getting onboard a local food adventure that whets your appetite.

Teh tarik (noun)

No visit to kopitiams and mamaks in Malaysia is complete without taking a generous sip of the freshly brewed teh tarik that prides itself as the unofficial national drink of Malaysia. Best described as a brewed drink of Malay origin made from black tea infused with sweetened condensed milk, teh tarik has its name derived from its preparation process of pouring the mixture back and forth between two vessels from a height – ‘teh’ means tea whereas ‘tarik’ denotes the pulling action in Malay. Not only does this process cool the beverage to an ideal drinking temperature, but it also produces teh tarik that is topped with a think foam of bubbles. Frothy, earthy and bubbly – teh tarik is simply irresistible, and it has been a great addition to the Oxford English Dictionary since June 2016.

Roti canai (noun)

If sipping a refreshing cup of teh tarik scantly brightens up your day, what better excuse do you have to not boost your happiness to the next level by enjoying a piece of classic yet fluffy roti canai? Being referred to as a pan-fried and unleavened doughy delight at all times, roti canai which sparks joy to your tastebuds with its chewy texture is indeed a pleasure to munch on. It is often served alongside a curried dipping sauce, and it goes perfectly well with the aromatic teh tarik. As an iconic Malaysian go-to snack which is of Indian origin, roti canai has made it to the Oxford English Dictionary since November 2010.

Laksa (noun)

Lastly, Oxford has also spiced up its dictionary by recognising the word ‘laksa’ as an English borrowing in its January 2020 update. As the most sought-after Malaysian dish of Chinese origin in Southeast Asia, laksa is best described as any type of rice noodles served in hot and spicy soup alongside greens, fish and meat. Besides providing you with a shiok savoury experience, a hearty bowl of laksa also tantalises your senses with its appetizing aroma, comforting noodle soup and inviting bouncy noodles with silky texture.

Time flies when you are reading and you have now come to the end of your food adventure route! Before you disembark, be sure to check your understanding of the other recognised Malay borrowings in English in this blog post.

kopitiam (noun) – a coffee house which serves traditional Malay and Chinese food

lepak (verb) – to loiter around

mamak (noun / adjective) – a person of Tamil Muslim origin; an eatery selling Tamil Muslim food; related to the characteristic of Tamil Muslims

shiok (adjective) – very enjoyable or pleasing

Learning English should be a pleasant experience. At Language Labz, we make English learning as enjoyable as lepaking at a mamak or kopitiam. Don’t believe us? Come find out for yourself! Call / WhatsApp us on 011-1668 7323 or email: info@languagelabz.edu.my to sign up today.