"THE breakfast place to be in Kota Bharu"
We woke up and smelled coffee... in Kota Bharu. And where else would we be except for that most famous of kopitiams in Kelantan: the family run Kedai Kopi White House. Everyone in KB comes here for their fix of old school coffee and kaya toast. It's an institution and a local treasure. This place is old, and it looks it, too. But don't for one second think that's a bad thing. Nostalgia is a huge part of the appeal of White House. All the retro trinkets and signs bring you back to days gone by. I remember my mom telling me the place has been around since her childhood days... so that harkens back to the 60s. That's a long time for one place to be running any business. They must be doing something good then.
"A tasty marriage of kaya and butter...."
The quaint town of Kluang boasts one of the oldest (and probably the best) kopitiams in Southern Malaysia. Located at the local railway station, Kluang Rail Coffee has been around since 1938. It was a pit stop for travellers arriving in Kluang and the railway canteen is one of the town's famous landmark. If you ever find your way at this neck of the woods it would be sacrilege not to stop by.
The toasts here are the 'toast' of the town (pun intended). You can choose from wholemeal, white bread and buns. The buns are the most popular and usually run out first so they were the ones that we ordered. They have a softer texture compared to their white bread counterparts. Fluffy on the inside and charred and smoky on the outside, the buns are a perfect vehicle for any spread. At Kluang Rail Coffee, they're paired with yummy blocks of Cowhead butter and homemade kaya. This is the best version of 'roti kahwin' EVER. 'Roti kahwin' literally means married bread. The term is used to describe the typical Malaysian breakfast sandwich that is a wonderful marriage of kaya (local coconut jam) and butter spread on top of toast. A simple East meets West partnership that has now become a staple in Malaysian households.
"The fluffy steamed bun returns"
Kok Ee Choon started Yik Mun in Malaysia after closing his coffee shop on Hainan Island, China. Along the old interstate route connecting Ipoh to KL, his small shop started with the kaya pau. At the same time his kopitiam opened its doors, the Sultan Idris Training College opened as well. Since Yik Mun was one of the only coffee joints in the vicinity, it became the 'place to hang out'.
Yik Mun is now run by a 3rd generation Kok Family, Kok Jek Ming. The steamed pau's now come in four flavours which are chicken curry, beef curry, red bean and coconut jam (kaya). Chicken or beef curry filling has a slightly sourish curried taste that is deliciously wrapped in the fluffy bun. I love my red bean filling sweeter and my kaya generously runnier so Yik Mun's version of these are not my favourites.
True to being a Hailam kopitiam, they serve a variety of other kopitiam dishes such as Mee Hainan, Wantan Mee, King Prawn Mee and Soft Boiled Eggs. Go for the Mee Hainan, a bestseller. Yellow noodles drenched in dark soya sauce and fried with fishballs and prawns are just delicious. The soya gravy has a nice seafood taste. More »
"The first sip tickles you with flavour and creaminess"
Sipping rich Cham and crumbly soft roti bakar is the peak of happiness, especially if you add on two perfectly cooked half boiled eggs. Sublime is the word. To some, this might be a past time thoroughly enjoyed by our grandfathers as they watch the world go by over their cups of white coffee. However, the more I indulge in it the more I understand how precious old school kopitiams are.
People watching is interesting, but couple that with a pre-war structure and design that hasn’t changed for more than half a century, somehow you start drifting to another dimension and everything just tastes and feels better. Despite the vibrant and bustling atmosphere, the light floating scents of charcoal toasted bread intertwined with rich grounded home roasted coffee somehow makes this a laidback hangout.
Stepping into the premise, the urge to find a quick seat is suddenly essential. Ordering is fast while waiting is painfully aggravating. You are surrounded by spoons stirring, lips smacking, bread crumbling, egg cracking, forks colliding with spoons and the sound of people eating! The noise suddenly magnifies the wait suddenly, your tummies growl. Then clang! A froth-filled ceramic cup hits the wooden table and then it is just between you and your coffee. The first sip is so rich with flavours and full bodied creaminess that it trickles pleasure as it flows down into your tummy leaving a warm fuzzy feeling in its wake. Caffeiene buzz? Pfft.. I wave in dismissal. It is just pure simple pleasure that you get from a cuppa here. More »
"The fishballs retain fishy sweetness"
The thought of a good bowl of fishball handmade to perfection makes me tremble with delight, most of the trembling originates from the tummy, of course! Song Wan is one of those places. Uncle Lim spends a greater part of the afternoon expertly mashing the fish meat together to form hundreds of his magical balls. His fishballs I mean. And I was assured that it is the real thing. When I visited him in the afternoon as he was turning the fish meat into a gluey paste .
They use Ikan Panjang or Sai Toh ( Cantonese) fish to make the fish balls,and a lot of work goes into making the balls as Sai Toh can be very bony. But his efforts pay off in spades. His fishballs are springy, but not like the artificial bounciness you get from supermarket brands. Uncle Lim's fishballs retain the sweetness of the fish with an ever-present fish flavours, fishball lovers crave. Sooooo delicious...The soup Uncle Lim uses with the noodles does not have MSG. His trick is to supplement the soup with soy bean (soup boiled with soy bean). I don't know how he does it, but Uncle Lim is definitely an old hand at this game. More »
"Yut Kee serves Hainanese classics from your childhood"
When you enter Yut Kee, it's like a blast from the past. Think round marble tables with rickety chairs. Old fashioned wooden shutter windows and winding wooden staircase. The wall is adorned with a simple hand-written menu while an old portrait of the founder hangs over the counter. Casually dressed waiters run round the shop like clockwork ferrying dishes fresh from the kitchen to the hungry customers' tables.
Yut Kee is a traditional kopitiam situated smack in old KL that's a legendary institution for Hainanese style western or local fare. Historically, many of the colonialist families in Malaya hired Hainanese chefs for their homes. This was where they were exposed to Western cuisine and then adapted them to our local ingredients and cooking style. Until this day, the Hainanese are still well known for their versatile cooking prowess, most notably chicken rice, noodles and Malaysianised Western food.
Arriving at 11.30am, the place was packed with patrons waiting for their turn. We got our seats immediately though we shared the table with another couple. First to arrive was the soft-boiled eggs. I remember taking this during my schooldays. My granny will use this yellow plastic contraption and the eggs always came out perfect each time. Soft and smooth white with yolks cooked just right, Yut Kee's no exception. From the texture and the way it moves on the saucer, I know it's super fresh and top quality. With a dash of pepper and soy sauce, simply slurp it from the saucer til it's all gone. It slides down your throat and sits warmly in my tummy. Wonderful comfort food this is! More »