The Kopitiam Pasta

I think it was Alisan coffee shop in the Masjid India area that pioneered the food court within a kopitiam. That was in the early 1980s and the concept has since been adopted by many Chinese coffee shops. The big and popular ones may squeeze as many as two or three dozen food stalls into a single shop lot.

Currently, one of the less common types of food served at such places is pasta. With the new burden of GST and the Shringgit (a term attributed to my friend Sidek Kamiso), the poor man’s Italian dining should become more popular.

If you are not a snob, this Seafood Pasta is good value as the portion and ingredients are generous at RM 9 nett. Of course, it won’t taste as good as that from an Italian chef who hand craft his pasta and blend the sauce from some time-tested family recipe.

Nevertheless, I like that I can customise it in whatever way I want at the kopitiam. No snooty chef or maitre d’ protesting because it is heresy to even suggest.

The fat Chinese cook here nodded his head happily when I requested a tomato-based sauce even though it is served dry.

I also like that I can order a barley drink to go with it and have dessert of Nyonya Kuih Lapis bought from another stall outside.

The coffee shop is at one corner of Jalan SJ6, Selayang.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 320, f6.3, 1/250 sec.

Yik Mun’s Hainanese Chicken Chop

Yik Mun kopitiam in Tanjung Malim was a popular stopover during the heydays of Federal Route 1. The Chinese steamed buns shop was an institution.

Now run by third generation descendents, the restaurant is located outside the old town. A shophouse factory in town churns out the assembly-line buns. They are no longer hand-made.

I didn’t order their famous pau (steamed bun) this time. It tasted lousy on a previous visit. Fortunately, the shop sells other local food including the famous Malaysian invention; the Hainanese Chicken Chop.

I am a bit OCD when I see salad dressing carelessly splashed all over the dish. The Hainanese chicken chop’s gravy is a speciality by itself. Typically, it has oyster sauce, HP sauce, Worcestershire sauce and blended secret ingredients in it. It must not be contaminated with Thousand Island dressing.

That aside, the chicken chop here tasted “so so” and the portion seems to have gotten smaller. At RM 14 ++, it is not cheap for a small town.

Nevertheless, the shop was packed when I was there. I guess a good reputation from the past can go a long way. Try it yourself and let me know what you think, if you are in town. Yik Mun is Halal.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 1000, f4, 1/60 sec.

Hitz Cafe

With a silky curtain acting as sunshade and intentionally mismatched kopitiam chairs, Jolene’s Hitz Cafe has all the cues of a hipster cafe. But since there are no hipsters in Tanjung Malim, how do they survive?

With good food, patronised by staff from nearby banks, UPSI lecturers, Proton City execs and other local folks.

Uniquely, there’s a Malay, a Chinese and a Orang Asli cook in the kitchen. According to owner Jolene Bateman, the menu was customised by her brothers (and partners) who used to work with hotels in England.

The grilled chicken I had was juicy inside and crispy on the outside. Like any respectable hipster outlet, there are sprinkles of finely chopped parsley on the food and a slice of lemon in the glass of water served.

There is even a special selfie corner with an old bicycle inside. Isn’t it nice to pay humble Tanjung Malim prices for a Bangsaresque dining experience?

Hitz Cafe is halal certified and is at 10 Jalan Chong Ah Peng, Tanjung Malim old town.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 500, f8, 1/60 sec.

Yellow Noodles On A Red Brick Road

I’m still in Kuala Kubu Bharu town and at a shop famous for Ulu Yam ‘Lor Mee’. It is a Hokkien dish of yellow noodles cooked with a thick gravy of corn starch, spices, meat and eggs. It also tastes sour as vinegar is added for the distinctive flavour. What is special about authentic Ulu Yam Lor Mee?

The yellow noodles are hand made or hand-pulled. According to chef and owner Lim Kwee Hock there is no artificial colouring, flavouring, preservatives nor is brine added. Brine creates the familiar love or hate pungent smell.

Now that you know, you may want to check out Restoran Xin Yuen Kee (non-halal) when you are in Kuala Kubu Bharu town. Lim’s grandfather opened the first restaurant in Ulu Yam Lama. A 2nd generation successor opened another shop in Batang Kali. Their grandson is operating this outlet in KKB.

It is not that common to see a third generation descendent interested in a family business enough to inherit the recipes and to cook. Young Lim and his wife Elaine operates this simple eatery by themselves. The Lor Mee and other dishes taste very good and prices are reasonable.

Photography Tip: Sometimes, the best food shots aren’t just on the table. Ask for permission and go for some unconventional or less seen angles in the kitchen. Traditional Chinese kopitiam kitchens are usually dark, moody and full of character.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 320, f4, 1/60 sec.