Learning to order food like a local

Learning To Order Food Like A Local

Storytime… My adrenaline is going a bit, it’s blazing hot, I’m sweaty, and I’m also verryyyy hungry, but I’ve got a smile on my face. Why? Because we set out to find the busiest warung we could find, learn from the locals, and figured out how to get a table (after having two swooped from us) and order food after standing in line with no luck for 10 minutes. 

Hawker street food stalls and hawker centres are plentiful in George Town. Even if you exclude the food markets, it’s hard to go a few blocks without finding some sort of delectable treat at a stall or restaurant. 

Chicken rice stall at the restaurant we decided to stop into for lunch
Famous Hainan Chicken Rice

A few blocks after leaving our hostel (check out the Tipsy Tiger if you’re looking for a fun party hostel) we found a place that was absolutely packed with locals! Serving nothing but chicken rice and cabbage soup, we figured they must do it well… plus it smelled amazing 🙂 So we started looking for a table.

Nothing to be found.

Staging our group on both sides of the long double hallway-ed restaurant we stood waiting to pounce on a table. Nothing. Then a group got up and we made our way over only to get swooped by faster locals (they were pros and just smiled up at us 🙂 ). So, we stood around waiting again, and while we turned to regroup, the table next to us got swooped too!

Clearly, we’re not pros yet. Time to stay positive (like the time we almost missed our flight to Indonesia)!

We decided to maybe order takeaway while we waited for a table to clear up and stood in line for 10 minutes. No one really spoke, but the food was being passed around, chicken was being cut with a giant cleaver, and people were running around collecting money and delivering soup. 

Hmmmmm how do we order? Before we got the chance I noticed a table opening up and ran for it. After beating a few other watchful eyes to the prize I sat down and felt very proud of my accomplishment. Mind you this was 20 minutes after we began looking for a place to sit…

Waiting for our food at a hawker style chicken rice restaurant in George Town, Penang, Malaysia
We Got A Table!

Step one: acquire table – complete!!

Step two: order food…

We sat for a while and no one came over. Hmmmm maybe we order at the stall? Got up and stood at the stall, but no one looked up or acknowledged us. Hmmmm maybe he’s busy? Finally, we asked where we order, he asked how many, and a few minutes later we had amazing food put in front of us! 


Our plate of chicken arrived, rice to come shortly!
Chicken Has Arrived

Moral of the story? Don’t be timid! People will not always find you a table or give you one if you arrived before them. They also won’t always come take your order or go out of their way to chat with you at the stall when it’s busy. You have to take your hunger into your own hands and do as the locals do to get your delicious chicken rice. 

Served our meal of chicken rice and looking around to figure out where the cabbage soup comes from
Food Time

Once you understand the system it’s a lot of fun to find your table, order some amazing food, and devour your meal.

Chicken Rice is a popular meal and street food dish found in George Town, Malaysia
Time To Devour

Do you have any funny stories of ordering food abroad? Share them in the comments below!

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