7 Nostalgic Food Icons That Used to be in Malaysian Neighbourhoods

Food icons are those incredible individuals who make their lives’ mission to spread the love of food. These individuals are the ones who have helped to shape the best childhood memories for most of us (Sorry people who were born after 1999). Our childhood days were so memorable due to one and only one factor; we enjoy eating!

Before the era of healthy food and hipster cafes, there was a time when good food comes on a motorcycle. For us who remembered these food icons, only we know the joy of hearing the hum of the motorcycles and the funny sounds of honks calling out to us.

So, in conjunction of Malaysia’s 60th Merdeka celebration, we at Butterkicap feel that it is time we finally honoured these 7 food icons that are becoming as rare as an old wind up phone.


1. The Satay Man

Credit: nerelle.com

Who remembers the man who will wait outside your school gate waiting to feed your hungry, growing body with some delicious satay? I do and so do many of you reading this article right now. The rush of running just to be the first to buy is still fresh in my mind and for me, personally, my day in school becomes perfect after getting at least 5 sticks of the succulent satay.

Nonetheless, I still cannot believe that I have lost precious years before finally buying the satay because of a silly school rumour that said the satay meat is made of frog meat. Those who were like me, please comment and share the embarrassment together!


2. The Aiskrim Rickshaw

Credit: forum.lowyat.net

In Malaysia, our days are usually hot and dry. Therefore, anything cold and creamy is something that we happily welcome with open mouths. Just like how we used to love the satay man, we have just as much love and happiness to see the apek or uncle selling ice-cream under a tree with a smile on his face.

The best thing about hot days is actually biting into a piece of 50-cent ice-cream sandwich covered with peanut sprinkles. The taste; priceless. I bet even Haagen Das or even Magnum cannot whole a candle to it!


3. The Rojak Uncle

Credit: thisiskl.com

While growing up in Penang, I remembered waiting by the gate at exactly 6.30pm every day for the rojak uncle motorcycle to cruise through my street. In my neighbourhood, teatime is specifically for families and neighbours to enjoy a plate of delicious rojak or pasembur, as what us Northerners call it.

On certain days, if we are lucky enough, our dear rojak uncle will have a special menu to offer us; creamy mee rebus mamak sold at a cheap price fo RM5.50 which is enough to feed a family of 6. Can you get that much food at that price today? No, I don’t think so.

Fast forward to today, there are far less rojak uncles on motorcycles and many more have since “upgraded” to rickshaws and mobile vans.


4. The Trusty Kuih and Snacks Motor

Credit: gooseny.blogspot.my

You have no rojak uncle? It is fine because you still have the kuih-seller. Be it rain or shine, morning or evening, the kuih-seller will make rounds in your neighbourhood without fail. Imagine eating fresh homemade traditional kuih for dirt cheap prices twice a day, no wonder the older generations are very spoiled and take their kuihs seriously. If the younger ones are given that kind of privilege, of course you will be picky too!


5. The Tinkling Bells of the Roti Man

Credit: prettysimplynormal.blogspot.my

Another popular food icon among Gen X generations of Malaysians is the roti man. Our roti man is the go-to guy for us to get our supply of bread, kaya bun and coconut candy when pastry cafes and bakeries were a rare commodity.

My relationship with my neighbourhood roti man started since I was just a small toddler in diapers, running toward my house gate so I can get my pandan kek fix. Until today, I will run to him just to get the cake. This time, I make sure that I wear my pants first before running out.


6. The Putu Mayam Hero

Credit: appletomypi.wordpress.com

One of the most popular food icons in the North is the putu mayam mamu that will bring us piping hot putu mayam with a generous sprinkle of gula melaka shavings for us to enjoy on the go or in the comforts of our house. What makes the putu mayam mamu so lovable because putu mayam is a difficult dish to make it.

So, whoever can make and sell it is considered as a hero here. Sadly, there are no more putu mayam sellers riding around residential areas on their motorcycles. Nonetheless, the North will never forget this hero of ours.


7. Mobile Van Pasar

Credit: mknaceunlimited.blogspot.my

The last but not the least important food icons in our list is the mobile pasars. This mobile pasars are practically vans or lorries carrying fresh produce and meats straight to our homes in order to help housewives and older people to easily shop for their groceries and necessities if they are unable to go out.

In some ways, these mobile pasars are still around and they have evolved into the delivery services that are available to us today. Some may hate it but I see it as progress!



Feel a little nostalgic now? I know I do. These food icons have been a part of my childhood that it is hard for me to separate them into a different category altogether. Nonetheless, it is timely for us to finally address their contribution in ensuring the love of traditional local food stays from generation to generation.

And what better way to reminisce than during our 60th Merdeka celebration? From the bottom of our hearts and bellies, thank you Malaysian food icons for bringing us happiness for all of these years!

Azrene Jasmine

A true blue Penangite, Azrene Jasmine favourite thing to do is, well, eating. Though currently in a love/hate relationship with the weighing scale, she truly believes that every woman should choose a hunk of juicy steak over a bowl of salad on the first date because steaks are awesome and what man can resist a woman with a healthy appetite?

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