Gourmet Garden

Hunting For The Flavors & Texture Of Yesteryears'


Kopitiam is a traditional breakfast and coffee shop found in Malaysia and Singapore in Southeast Asia. The word is a merger of the Malay word(kopi) for coffee (as borrowed and altered from the Portuguese language) and the Hokkien dialect word (tiàm;?) for shop. Their menus typically feature simple yet rich foods like soft-boiled egg, toast, and kaya, plus coffee, tea, and Milo The kopitiam also houses various hawker stalls that provide choice to its patrons.

83 Years Old Hainanese Kopitiam, Nam Kie 南佳

Posted by Jason Wong On March - 21 - 20126 COMMENTS

Amidst the row of pre-war houses along Kimberley Street in George Town, Penang, there lay many hidden treasures waiting to be uncovered by the young and restless. House in these old buildings is people and businesses who have seen Penang’s development through their century old windows. In this busy street, many famous delicacies that are significant to Penang’s food heritage and culture that are key to it’s food tourism were born, koay teow th’ng stall that once used abalone as a condiment, a dessert stall that have grind through three (3) generations, Hainanese kopitiams who have brewed and fed generations of patrons, Char Koay Teow’s that have filled the tummies of movie goers who frequent the once bustling independent cinemas around town, etc.

One of the many businesses who have set a foothold on Kimberley Street is Nam Kie 南佳, an 83 years old Hainanese Kopitiam that was once a bustling meeting point for many Hainanese migrants that came to Penang in search of a better life. Then, Nam Kie 南佳would normally operate in the daytime with a non-pretentious menu of good old Hainanese Kopi, homemade Kaya, charcoal flame toasted bread and soft boil eggs. Now they have added Hianan Char to their staple. Apart from Nam Kie 南佳, Khee Cheang Leong 喜昌隆, which is still operating, was available to provide for the night dwellers with a similar offerings and may be more.Though coffee was brought into the then Malaya, it has gained much popularity and demand by the migrants be it Chinese, Indian and even the Malays who have made the once colonial trading hub their centre of business, life and home. What sets the Hainanese kopi or coffee apart from the Western world coffees is the method of processing and the technique of brewing the bitter coffee beans. The beans are roasted in a wok with sugar, butter and wheat, thus the malty rich and buttery creamy taste that is produced after brewing with the optimum water temperature, right size of cloth filter and most importantly the experience and skill of the master brewer. We were told that if all the combinations are right, the brewed kopi ‘O” or black coffee would induce a drunk or “high” sensation that many patrons seek and look forward for.It depends what is the preference of the drinker, the generic Hainanese kopi or coffee can be served Kopi “O” (black coffee with sugar), Kopi (coffee with sweeten condensed milk), Kopi-C (coffee with sugar and evaporated milk) or anything that fancies you. Nam Kie 南佳 has given me the opportunity to taste a Kopi “O” that delivers sweetness with a slight bitter after taste without the acidic end, and a Kopi that was creamy, sweet that ends with a bitter sensation to the tongue.Kaya is the Peranakan version of the Western jam, made from eggs, freshly pressed coconut cream, pandan (screw pine leaves), sugar and lots of patience.  Nam Kie 南佳 double boils their Kaya concoction for at least half a day until it naturally turns brownish in colour and develops a distinctive rich creamy coconut flavour. If the kaya is cooked thoroughly, then the longer it will last in room temperature. Quality ingredients also determine the life span of the kaya, we were told that they used to make Kaya that can stay fresh for at least 2 weeks without refrigerating. As time changes, the quality of sugar and coconut has declined and thus reducing the kaya’s life span to just around a week without cold storage.With the rising competition from organized food courts and fast food franchises, Nam Kie 南佳 has begun to dish out the family style Hainan Char or Hainanese Stir-Fried Noodles to recapture their dwindling customer base who have either moved out of this aged bustling city. Their Hainan Char is similar to the Penang style Hokkien Char minus the prawn base stock and the dark soya sauce used to give colour and taste to the carefully choreographed stir-fried yellow noodles and vermicelli. In its original form, their Hainan Char consist of lean pork slices and fresh prawns stir-fried with fragrant garlic and lard, which then serves as the base for a handful of yellow noodles and rice vermicelli and mustard leaves that are braised in a sweet soup stock for extra flavour.For added colour and taste, you may request for the dark version of the Hainan Char that infuses dark soya sauce for a nutty and savoury caramel flavour.If you are lucky enough, then you might get to try their Oyster Noodles or Oh Mee that is filled the flavours from the sea, little bit earthiness and a little bit of creaminess.If you are not rushing from place to place and fighting with the clock, try stepping back in time and savour the atmosphere it reflects and taste the flavours and feel the passion that have aged and polished with time. Give thoughts to the hard-work and discipline to those who still strive to give you the best on the table, like the Hainanese Satay vendors that hand-make the pieces of meat into works of “art”.

Nam Kie 南佳
Address: 116 Lebuh Kimberley, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Yummy Tunes at Song River, Gurney

Posted by Jason Wong On July - 30 - 20104 COMMENTS

Song River is located right smack on Gurney Drive, just a few doors up from Evergreen Hotel. We usually don’t patronise the place but because of its grilled fish, we have put in some time to try the other hawker stalls and their offerings available for the dinner and late night crowd.

Charcoal grilled chicken parts are one of the attraction in Song River, especially for the beer drinkers and those looking something snack on while they chit chat. So far our favourites are the chicken wings and bishops’ nose, the whole thigh is not our cup of tea. The chicken wings when prepared properly (depending on luck) offers a taste of smokiness, caramelization, savouriness and sweetness (sometimes slightly too sweet for us). When it has the balance of the flavours, no further chilli sauce is needed (but that depends on individuals) as it would overwhelmed the natural sweetness of the chicken and the taste of the marinates.


  • Order one piece to try, if it is up to standard on your particular visit, only then ask for more.
  • One serving 10pcs of bishops’ nose is more than enough for 2 persons.

Another stall that one may like to try is the “Fried Oyster” which is manned by an old uncle. The servings that we had were rich in egg flavour and the oysters were nicely cooked (tender and neither under nor over cooked). The spices added some aromatic fragrance to the omelette without overpowering the eggy fragrance and the sweetness of the oysters. The sprinkle of spring onions gave it a touch of freshness and sweetness. The usual fried oyster omelette would constitute the usage of some form of starch to give it “extra body” and act as a binding agent, this stall uses it sparingly, and thus one would not feel overwhelmed after a serving or two.


  • Order the smallest serving and request for crispier omelette.
  • Spring onion and coriander gives some freshness to the omellete.

Our favourite stall here would be the Grilled Fish which opens for business at around 10:30pm on week days and 8:00 plus on Sundays. This stall has the usual stingray and other local fishes ready for the pan, but the prize selection is the meat from the belly part of a fish(鱼腩). We frequent this grill fish stall because of the marinate that is uses for its grilling. The marinate consist of lots of raw garlic and birds eye chilli, fermented bean paste, sugar and “asam”. It is different from the usual grill fish stalls in other hawker centre and food courts. The after product would taste rich, sweet, spicy and nutty with slight acidity, but yet would not overwhelm the flavours of the fish.


  • Be there early for the fish belly(鱼腩).
  • Ask for less bird’s eye chili padi if you could not take spicy
  • Ignore the chattering of the stall owner.
  • The asam deep also goes well with the BBQ chicken wings and bishops’ nose.

The bah kut teh stall is one that we won’t be going back for seconds after our first try. We have tasted better ones. The soup base was blend and the portion for was little compared to price we paid for.

Overall rating for Song River and its hawker stalls:

Taste & Texture: 3.0/5 (lacks consistency, except the grill fish stall that has a higher ratio of hitting the right balance)
Money Value : 2.5/5 (above average pricing due to its location)
Service: 2.5/5 (average unless you know them for some time)
Cleanliness: 1.5/5 (open air places near the sea normally gets visits from more than two legged friends)
Atmosphere: 2.0/5 (open air kopitiam, can’t ask for much)


Food Trail in Kluang, Kluang Rail Coffee.

Posted by Jason Wong On June - 13 - 20104 COMMENTS

Too many backlogs! This was trip to Kluang that we had to take for a friends wedding. We drove all the way down and took us about 6 to 7 hours. Never the less we enjoyed every bit of the short excursion as we were able to sample food in Kluang and Muar.

The day after the wedding dinner, we went to Kluang RailCoffee to sample their ‘kopi’ and specialties. We have actually seen a similar brand before in ‘The Curve’ in Damansara, thus was skeptical on what it could offer to us. We are not fans of the ‘kopitiam’ type franchises after numerous run ins with poor service and poor food quality. Luckily this outlet has no direct relations to the similar named outlet in the ‘The Curve’, but is indirectly related. The owners are actually uncle and nephew.

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Setting foot to the cafeteria or canteen is like going back in time to the time I took the train from Penang to Singapore. The place is really nostalgic and homey in certain ways. The canteen is located just next to the Kluang KTM train platform which also doubles as a waiting point for people coming and going, a place to have good wholesome breakfast or light meal before embarking on their journey.

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The prices of food items available in the canteen are not exuberant as seen on the price board below. Before going, we were expecting to be whack with the ‘OldTown’ or ‘Papparich’ kind of price tags. Luckily it is not so!

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We did not get to try their famous ‘nasi lemak’ as we where somewhat late and the stack was just exhausted.  Therefore, we only had kopi, toast and soft boil egg.

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Should have ordered kopi ‘o’ but instead accidentally got their kopi susu. A mistake that me and my Gill did not regret. The kopi was smooth and was full of flavour, and the best thing is that they were not too sweet for our taste buds.

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We had two types of toast that were both individually unique in the texture. The butter was creamy and rich, and the ‘kaya’ or coconut jam was not overwhelming with sweetness.

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The soft boil egg was fragrant and rich in eggy flavours, but I like my eggs slight firmer and less runny.

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After finishing our order, we proceeded to walk around and take some photos of the place and the current owner that was mending the so call kopi station. The person did not talk much and was busy brewing his kopi, thus we did not get to get more information about the place.

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Before we left, we bought a packet of their pre packed kopi power to try out at home. It was nice and fargrant, but they still can’t compare with the original cup made by the hand of an expert.

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Taste & Texture: 3.5/5
Money Value : 3.5/5
Service: 3.0/5
Cleanliness: 3.0/5 (clean and tidy, even in the kitchen)
Atmosphere: 4.0/5 (I like nostalgic feel and a place were we can see people from all walks of life and colour sitting down together eating the same thing)


An Old Hen At An Old Market

Posted by Jason Wong On June - 5 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

If you are ever in the vicinity of our vibrant Chowrasta Market in Georgetown, you might want to pay ‘Kedai Kopi Soon Yuen’ a visit. Late last Sunday morning we chance upon a Koay Teow Th’ng stall that operates in that particular coffee shop. We have passed by this shop numerous of times and we didn’t thought much of what can be uncovered from this place. We were really wrong to have the perception.

At Soon Yuen, one could find the branch of the famous Macalister Lane Chee Cheong Fun; Koay Teow Th’ng, Wantan Mee, Hokkien Mee, Lam Mee and the breakfast favourite, toast and soft boil egss. We have tried most of what they and will be back the following Sunday to try the wantan mee which look quite nice and toast.

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The poach chicken from the KKT stall uses old egg-laying hens to make their soup and to serve as additional side dish. The chicken as compared to the Lebuh Clarke KTT stall, which also sells the old hen meat, is more fragrant and finer. The skin and fatty layer has more fragrance and a more crunchy texture. And the meat is of finer texture and has more chicken/gamy flavour. The plate of chicken with some bean sprouts cost us RM10.00.

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We were late, thus just yellow noodles were the only noodle available. May be with flat rice noodle (Koay Teow) the soup would have tasted better. But for RM3.00 per bowl is just slightly on the costly side.

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Taste & Texture: 3.0/5 (for chicken only)
Money Value : 2.8/5 (Lebuh Clarke has a better pricing as compared.)
Service: 2.8/5 (Average and informative)
Cleanliness: 2.2/5 (Table and floor was a bit wanting)
Atmosphere: 2.5/5 (kopitiam mah!)

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Loh Mee at Seng Thor Coffee shop

Posted by Jason Wong On March - 21 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Last year April I wrote about the morning hawker food stalls at Kedai Kopi Seng Thor, today we after Sunday service we made our way there again to try out something that we have not noticed before, Loh Mee.


We actually got win of this stall from Facebook and because we a lot of time to kill before we met up with the owners of Jurin Express to discuss about the dishes that they provide for our gathering, thus we decided to go food hunting for breakfast. The stall is run by this young chap, an aunty and an uncle. We normally frequent this place in the late afternoon for the ‘wantan mee’, thus we no idea of their existence.

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The Loh Mee was served up quite fast after ordering. A standard order would cost RM2.50 and the large serving would be RM3.00. The ‘loh’ or gravy was silky smooth and could maintain its thick starchy texture a lot longer compared to the gravy served by the stall at Kafe Hai Beng on Jalan Masjid Kalitan Keling. Taste wise it was blend, it lack that ‘Five Spice’ flavour and needed some sweetness and saltiness to give it more taste. Even the chili and raw garlic could not do much to save the taste of the bowl of loh mee. But all was not loss, their stewed hard boil egg was very flavourful and full of texture.

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My current experience with the Loh Mee stall at Kedai Kopi Seng Thor:

Taste & Texture: 2.7/5 (the egg offered some relief in terms of flavour and the gravy could hold its form longer)
Money Value : 3.4/5 (lots of noodles and quite filling)
Service: 3.0/5 (fast)
Cleanliness: 2.4/5 (the kopitiam is sometimes quite oily)
Atmosphere: 2.4/5 (warm at times)

GPS Coordinate: N5*24′91″ E100*20′07″


OldSkool: Smokey Char Siew & Pork Intestine Congee at Heng Kee

Posted by Jason Wong On September - 16 - 20093 COMMENTS

One faithful Sunday morning after the Church Service, we went searching for something that we have either not had for a long time or some place that is totally foreign to us. A drive around the rich heritage enclave area of Georgetown took us this shop which have passed by numerous time but have not ventured into. This particular shop has no signboard on its frontage but there is one on the right hand side pillar. The name of this shop is Heng Kee, an old Chinese style eatery that has many delights to offer.

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An old Chinese style name plate, which was very common decades ago.

What we initially intended to try at Heng Kee was their ‘Chu Cheoung Chok’ or Pork Intestine Congee, at the end we ended up having more that we chew. The congee is call so because of the usage of the pork intestines to create various toppings for this age old favourite amongst those who enjoy savouring ‘spare parts’ of live-stocks.

Ingredients or toppings  that are found in the porridge are ‘char siew’ or BBQ pork strips, poach pork intestines, deep fried pork intestine, sliced lean pork, garnish with chives and seasoned with a dash of white  pepper powder.

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At first glance of the two bowls served, we were disappointed with the outlook of the serving. It looked like nothing but just like cooked rice congee with some toppings and garnish a float for RM 3.00 per bowl. But when we stated to dig in, all the toppings were at the bottom of the bowl. The amount of toppings were sufficient to last the whole bowl of porridge was fully consumed. Good to the very last drop!  In most cases, the toppings are either on the top or a float in the porridge.

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The congee was light in taste not much MSG and seasoning, the main flavour provider was the toppings that were added into the otherwise plain bowl of congee. To me it tasted like the congee cook at home, light and comforting.

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As I mentioned earlier the flavour of this ‘Chu Cheong Chok’ is from the toppings, and the main star here was the ‘Char Siew’. It doesn’t taste like the common sweet tasting version that are abundance in the Chinese Roast shops or ‘Siew Lap Po’. The ‘char siew’ tasted like smoked bacon, very distinctive smokey flavors and light on the sugary sweetness.  The ‘char siew’ is home-made by the owner, thus the special taste it produces.

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As for the other toppings, the pork intestines, the cooked type was of the a thicker made-up. It had a more crunchy texture  but not chewy, and with a hint of its own natural sweetness. And the deep fried pork intestines were slightly thinner and crisper, and taste wise it did not have that oily after taste and had a unique sweetness to it.

Note: they only sell the congee on the morning of friday, saturday and sunday only.

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To sum up our experience :

A homey bowl of ‘chu cheong chok’ minus the heavy MSG taste, and the smokey char siew of course!

Taste & Texture: 3.5/5
Money Value : 3.0/5 (not a whole lot, but sufficient to last out the whole bowl )
Service: 2.5/5 (not much to ask for)
Cleanliness: 3.0/5 (old but clean and tidy)
Atmosphere: 2.5/5 (Old school Chinese shop)

Location: Kedai Makanan Heng Kee which is next to the Magnum 4D shop along China Street, just off Pitt Street/Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. China Street is just opposite the famous Goddess of Mercy Temple (Kuan Yin Teng)

Business Hour: 10am-3pm & 6-10pm

Note: they only sell the congee on the morning of friday, saturday and sunday only.

To continue with our experience at Heng Kee, please wait for our next post!


Food Trip-Penang Island in December 2008

Posted by Jason Wong On April - 28 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

It was a sunny and fruitful day for some of us foodies. We started our morning with our 1st breakfast at Jalan Paya Terubong with a bowl of Hokkien Prawn Mee. This particular stall is located at a off road junction opposite Sapphire Apartments. This stall only operates in the morning and the soup is slightly above average on taste, but their pork ribs were juicy tender.




Them we proceed to the Keadi Kopi Wah Meng for our second round of breakfast which included ‘koay chiap’ and ‘oh kua moi’. Both items tasted average to me but we were told that these are 2 most liked items in this coffee shop.





After Wah Meng, we went for walk around the Air Itam market area and at ad hoc ordered a bowl of the famous ‘Sisiters’ Curry Mee’ which is unique due to th old style of selling by the road side with charcoal burners and their special squid.


Then I took the entourage to my favourite ‘Koay Chiap’ stall opposite the Air Itam wet market. I like the ‘koay’ or dough because of the taste and its texture. The gravy or ‘loh chiap’ may some  times be a bit saltier but it seasons well the duck and other ingredients.





After breakfasts, we headed to down to Dato’ Keramat to meat Penang Tua Pui at Restoran Tong Hooi next to the former Federal Cinema. We were there to try the ‘Tai Lok Mee’, which is said to be the bets in Penang so far. I guess Kua La Lumpur’s Tai Lok Mee has captured our taste buds, to me and Gill this stall is only average on flavours.



After Tong Hooi, we headed to Kimberley street for a ad hoc food hunt and found a ‘Chee Cheong Fun’ stall which operate from a corner coffee shop which also houses the famous (not by our standards) Kimberley Street Char Koay Teow. This chee cheong fun stall has a unique chili sauce and the prawn paste equally fragrant.


At the same shop there is also a ‘Economy Rice’ stall which also sales freshly fried chicken which surprisingly tasted not bad.



Apart from this surprise find, I also found this newly opened Chinese confectionery shop which also bakes and sells my favourite tart, coconut tart, opposite a the longstanding  ‘Yong Pin Dim Sum’ restaurant.




Roti Bakar on Charcoal at Hock Ban Hin Kopitiam

Posted by Jason Wong On November - 23 - 20087 COMMENTS

Some few week back, on a Saturday morning! I had sent Gill to meet a website client of ours, as I was not involved so I drove to an old breakfast hunt, Hock Ban Hin Cafe. It is located at the corner of Anson Road and Siam Road. We used to go there for breakfast when my previous company office was still at that vicinity.

Hock Ban Hin Cafe basically serves drinks, soft boil egg, toast and curry puff(if your are early or lucky). Last time the curry puff used to cost around RM 1.00 or RM1.20, I am not sure how much is it now and whether the supplier is still supplying. The curry puff were quite tasty and value for money with egg, potato and chicken meat (which can be seen in chunk). But the main attraction there is the soft boil egg and toasted bread. The white bread is about half an inche thick, toasted on an open flame charcoal stove. It heat from the stove browns and crisps the outer surface of the bread and still leaves the middle slightly soft. The toast is either served with spreaded butter and sugar on the side, or butter and kaya (coconut jam). If you like soft boil egg to go with the toast, theirs ain’t bad either. The soft boil is cooked to how you want it, soft and watery, medium and fluffy, or just 80% done. To me it actually depnds on my mood, but my favourite is the 80% done type because of the texture of the white and the yoke. The yoke is still under cooked, the texture is like cream cheese and taste creamy. The soft and watery type is not forte. The medium and fluffy eggs are good for dipping your toast, it tends give some added smooth texture to the crisp toast.

Other than the above mentioned is served at Hock Ban Hin, there is a Wantan Noodle stall run by an old aunty and an Indian Rice stall there. I have not tried the Indian stall because it only opens for lunch. The Wantan Mee stall serves up a very traditional Wantan Mee dry and soup. I will keep this wantan mee for my future blog.

On average, I would give this place:

  • 3/5 for value
  • 3.5/5 for taste & texture
  • 4/5 for service
  • 3.8/5 for cleanliness
  • 3/5 for atmosphere

GPS Coordinates: N5*24’56.3″ E100*19’12.5″

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