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Arts of Eating

Washing your hand before and after eating is a MUST!  Usually washing your eating hand with running water from the pipe or from the ‘ketor’ is enough.  Take note  that Malays will usually move the fingers against each others (the four fingers are rubbed against the thumb repetitously), while washing the right hand.  The water from the hand is sprinkled carefully in the sink or ‘mangkuk ketor’.  Therefore, the hand is not dripping with water when you are about to begin your meal.


Malays will start their meal with the reciting of  dua or just a “Bismillah…”.  Usually it is sofly said or whispered..

Dua Before Eating

The Malays use the tips of their fingers only, rarely staining their palms.  Practically all the fingers play their role, except the 2nd finger ‘Pointer’ .  An expert or a  ‘cultured’ Malay would have the pointer finger clean all the time, without touching any of the food.  Therefore the pointer would be stretch away from the rest of the fingers. It looks like ‘soft /bend ‘  pointing posture.  With the four fingers, Malay’s art of eating is tested in  tearing meat, picking up vegetables and gather it with rice into a tight bite-size grip. Then using the thumb, this food is gently and neatly ‘shoveled’ into the mouth.

'Old bronze Mangkuk Ketor'

It is expected during the ‘sholves’ of food from your hand to your mouth, your head should not move or rather sit still at 35 decree angle, (imagine that you are looking at your plate).

Usually after few ‘sholves’, the tip of the  fingers would be knocked downwards few times against the plate.  The reason is because to ensure that rice or food does not stick around the fingers during the course of eating.  In addition, in Malays custom there should not be any waste or left over of edible food on your plate. (Only that of bones or shells).

Please make sure that food/rice are not dropped out from the plate.  It is expected that your eating area should be cleaned without any single drop of food or gravy.

Traditionally, Malays eat with their right hand even if they are left-handed because it is considered taboo to eat with the left hand. The left hand, it is understood, is reserved for  personal sanitiation use.

During the eating course, conversation is kept to the minimal.  Drinking water is advised only after fininishing your meal.

A complete set of

The last drop of water in your drinking glass usually is kept for the purpose of washing your hand.  Wash your hand in your eating plate with a little bit of the water from your drinking glass is a symbol of assured continuity of wealthness.  (‘supaya rezeki tidak putus’).  Usually your right hand is wash for the second time using the running water either from a pipe or a ‘ketor’.  You are expected to wash or wipe your mouth (in front of guests) with scoope of water.

To end your meal, it is in fact a welcome gesture if you burped. Of which you will continue with saying “Alhamdullilah..”.  This somehow a body language that represent you are satisfied with your meal.  However, this is more of a male character. If a female burp, she is expected to cover her mouth with her folded right hand and continue  saying the same thing.

Usually the meal is ended with a praise of the well cooked dishes or a wish of gratitude to the host.

Dua after Meal

Eating with fingers are said to make the food taste more delicious, if compared if you used fork and spoon or other eating utencils.  Well, as a methaphor, if your baby cries, do you think he or she would be more comforted if you are to stroke them with another material, rather than your bare hand?

written by peacebuy

Do Not Eat Like Them!

You head should be at a ‘bowing’ angle.

Two hands eating is a ‘No’

Eat just the food, not your fingers!

Read more on Malay Table Manner


Filed under: Customs & Etiquette

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