Breakfast at the Kopi Tiam [BIMT7]

May 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm

You’d be suprised that even after a night of feasting, we still woke up rarin’ to have a go at some good ol’ Malaysian breakfast foods.

Sarah picked us up at our hotel and we soon found ourselves walking on a busy street near Jalan Petaling. We were so close to the actual road with cars zipping by I thought I’d be clipped by one and dragged to my doom.

Keeping ever so vigilant for cars that might hit me

Keeping ever so vigilant for cars that might hit me

The place that Sarah told us we’d be going to was called a Kopi Tiam. The translation literally is “Coffee Shop,” but it was so much more.

I probably sound like a dumb tourist for being so enamored with what was basically a glorified food court, but hot danggit it was neat.

Inside the Kopi Tiam

Inside the Kopi Tiam

Basically, vendors rent out stalls in an open space (which is akin to a hotel lobby) and sell their specialized dishes. No two vendors sell the same thing, and so when one visits a Kopi Tiam, they have a veritable smorgasbord of choices.

One of many menus offered

One of many menus offered

Now the difference between this and the food courts I’m accustomed to is that these stalls aren’t just franchaises or soulless extensions of a bigger company. They’re run by the very people who make the food, who are passionate about their dishes and the keepers of a secret family recipe. No angsty teenagers out to make a quick buck here; only real, dedicated entrepreneurs who cook delicious foods for passers by.

We sat down and were greeted by a nice lady who took drink orders. According to Sarah, this is the “landlord” or the owner of the Kopi Tiam. Sarah then ordered two great examples of breakfast foods in Malaysia:

Nasi Goreng

I love fried rice, and thought I had experienced the whole gamut of what the Asian world had to offer me with regards to this seemingly simple dish. Yang Chow fried rice, Kim Chi fried rice, salted fish fried rice…I’ve tried them all, and they all spoke to me in their own way and charm. Then I had Nasi Goreng (Malaysian Fried Rice). I don’t know what it was, but this dish spoke to me in ways I could never imagine. It was as though Jack Frost whispered sweet nothings into my ear on a hot summer day. Hands down, it was the best incarnation of my favourite dish ever.

The flavours were smoky, savoury, a little sweet…and all present in each individual kernal of rice. I was blown away.

Mee Prawn
Gettin' my Mee Prawn on

Gettin' my Mee Prawn on

Noodle soups aren’t really my bag. I enjoy them once in a while but I’ll never crave them. And of course, being Vietnamese, it’s a bit tough to dethrone the champion of noodle soups in my heart, Pho (Beef noodle soup!). Mee prawn was a good tasting dish, the noodles and toppings were cooked nicely, and the broth tasted decent enough…but the dish on the whole was nowhere near complex or memorable as other dishes we had in Malaysia. That being said, it was a well needed change from all the fried or baked bread based foods we’d been eating.

Needless to say, by the end of breakfast I was a very happy man (as the pictures surely indicate).

One thing I should note are the utensils. The interesting thing about them is that each dish comes with its own set of forks, spoons or chopsticks – but how do each of the vendors know which utensil is theirs?

A dab of colored paint marks the property of each vendor, so when the bussers come to take away spent dishes, they know where every fork, spoon and chopstick is supposed to go!

Paint dabs to identify ownership

Paint dabs to identify ownership

…HEY I thought it was interesting ok??

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5 Responses

  1. abiola says:

    I really love your site keep it up.

  2. abiola says:

    where can i get my breakfast.

  3. Bruce L. says:

    Thanks! This kopi tiam was in the middle of Chinatown. If you’re facing Jalan Petaling’s “Green Dragon” gate from across the street, just walk a block or two to your right.

  4. [...] place we ate at was called Cafe Long Beach – imagine a Kopi Tiam, but ALOT bigger… and outside…and under a [...]

  5. this place is amazing for cruisine

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