The Art of Communal Dining: Lok Lok

When I first came to the United States to pursue my Master’s Degree in Communications, the first thing I learned in my Multicultural Communication class was the distinct difference between Individualism and Collectivism.

Here comes the lecture notes:

“Individualism stands for a society in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family only.

Collectivism stands for a society in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong cohesive in groups where group-oriented culture is the ultimate standard of value.”

Put simply, individualism is that of the western worlds and collectivism is of the east. And yes, this will be on the test!

Lok LokThe art of communal dining is a great example of a collectivism culture such as Malaysia. Eating in Malaysia is often marked as a communal affair–be it the Chinese New Year’s Eve reunion dinner, Malay’s Kenduri, or Indian celebrations. During the feast friends and families come together under the same roof–eating, socializing, and mingling. Never mind the different ethnic origins or walks of life, when it comes to communal dining events, there is no barrier as we speak the same language of food…

Seafood Skewers / Lok LokOne of the best illustrates in the art of communal dining in Malaysia is “Lok Lok.” Lok Lok is like a steamboat / hotpot / shabu shabu with a wide range of fresh foods such as meat, seafood, fish balls, vegetables, quail eggs, etc. placed on little skewers and laid out upon a round table with a pot of boiling water as the centerpiece.

Quail Eggs / Lok LokThe half the enjoyment of Lok Lok lies in the DIY preparations (the other half is the eating). Once everyone is seated around the table, they pick out their selections and dip the skewered food into the pot and wait for them to cook. After the cooking process, sauces are added to the food. In a way, eating Lok Lok is like masak-masak (a little cottage game where kids play with foods) for adults. Everyone talks and laughs amidst the preparations and that’s exactly the fun and art of communal dining.

Artificial Crab Meat/ Lok LokFood: making social science fun for over 10,000 years.

Cooked Lok Lok in Spicy Peanut SauceBest places for Lok-Lok fun in Penang: <

  1. Padang Brown Hawker Center, Jalan Perak-Anson, 10400 Penang. There are two Lok Lok stalls to choose from. Stalls usually open after 3 pm.
  2. The Lok Lok stall at Pulau Tikus Market evening hawker center. Opens from 6 pm to midnight.
  3. Esplanade Hawker Center – at night only.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Anyone knows any Lok Lok place around KL?

  2. Great intro 2 lok lok and great info too ! Some people cosider them unhygienic and a health risk, but I love them.

    Nevertheless enjoying great popularity in KL/PJ in the mobile van version ( Fatman,Fatone. Fatboy, whats next? ). Theres one such shop in Dsara Jaya(corner lot other end behind the Ship ) with fixed tables.

  3. Audrey Cooks says:

    Oh those cockles are to die for. I had a hepatitis Jap just so that I can eat plenty of those! Ha!

  4. oops sorry should be Dsara Utama, not Dsara Jaya.

  5. Passionate Eater says:

    Thank you for educational and mouthwatering post! And yes, I agree that “collectivism” is epitomized in the food culture of the east.

  6. boo_licious says:

    I love the Lok Lok stall at Pulau Tikus – the sauces are so yummy.

  7. Tummythoz says:

    Great post! Indeed all occasions here are marked with food/eating – births, anniversaries, festivals, celebrations and even funerals.

  8. Rasa Malaysia says:

    Audrey Cooks – Yes, cockles are simply the best for lok-lok, I eat lok-lok mostly for them…with the spicy peanut sauce, heaven!

  9. michaelooi says:

    The lok-lok stall situated opposite the Macalister Rd – New Lane junction is quite good as well.

  10. Chubbypanda says:

    Mmm… It’s almost hot pot season! For me, that means dinners of Chinese hot pot, shabu shabu, lok lok, and, my personal favorite, hot oden with cold beer. I love winter. I miss the cold of the North.

    – CP

  11. similiar to lok-lok of course is the steamboat dinner/lunch, where the dishes were not on skewered pieces but on plates. nowadays in penang, many steamboat restaurants are mushrooming e.g. the one in krian road’s 8th row (think the name is jolly or something liek that), burmah square and one somewhere opposite USM (sg dua side) is very popular with youngsters. oh yeah, this steamboat restaurants also offer barbecue – that is you can choose to cook the dishes over steamboat or barbecue.

  12. Rasa Malaysia says:

    Michael – Thanks for your suggestion. Yep, I totally agree. They should really set up Lok-Lok tables for the patrons. It would be nice!

    Chubbypanda – I can’t agree more with you regarding hot oden withe beer (or sake!). Have you been to Honda-Ya in Tustin? They have great Oden. :)

    Lucia – wow, I will have to try them out. I love Lok-Lok, steamboat, Shabu Shabu, etc. where I can cook my own food. It’s just so much fun.

    Talking about traditional steamboat, I still think Goh Huat Seng is the best, with the old Chinese-style copper (?) hot pot.

  13. Lok- lok is my all time flavor!! In Penang at weld quay next to shell station there is a lok lok -place must try!! the source is good, lot of choices n price is very reasonable.

  14. I prefer to eat lok lok standing at the stalls…. brings back childhood memories. Hehe.

  15. buddyholly says:

    Love how you have politicized eating, as if all Westerners sit around a table with their own food and don’t talk to anyone.
    And anyway, you describe a method where everyone INDIVIDUALLY cooks their own food. Hardly a collective affair!

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