Form being inconsistent to waaaay down bad!

Okay, their website is quite impressive and they started business since 1959 but I have only heard of this brand in less than 10 years. It was right after we have abandoned the traditional way of making Kopi-O.

They started good and probably one of the very first Kopi-O manufacturers to have their product available in hermetically sealed foil packs. It became our staple Kopi-O brand and would even bring along with us for long trips overseas. Whenever my eldest sister paid us a visit, she would bring back with her bags or boxes of these Kopi-Os, and as much as we could in boxes when we paid her a visit in Perth or Singapore (before it was available there in Singapore and costs a bomb in Perth).

Unfortunately with MOST product in this country both edible or not, and especially when they are successful, they tend to slack in their quality control and sometimes to save cost! Since the past three years or so, the quality of their product began to fluctuate from being rightfully aromatic to almost no Kopi aroma at all. Sometimes the coffee/Kopi powders come with a burnt taste! Lately, the aroma is just plain weak and my eldest sister informed us a month back that the last two packs that we got for her during last Chinese New Year was so weak that she threw them out!

I found out that there are other brands out there that are not only cheaper but are better in taste and aroma even though this brand costs a little more than most competitors. This is very similar to the taste of our Milo Chocolate beverage. It tastes nothing like the rich, milky ones that you get from Australia but manufactured by the same company.

Of course we have chosen another brand now to be our family’s choice of Kopi-O brand!

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Restoran Yekee (Section 17, P.J.)

This coffee shop was first introduced by my friend and boss, Ray. We would go there occasionally for lunch but the taste of the Kopi-O is quite inconsistant. It’s above average on some days but a bit over-diluted or with a slight sour after-taste on other days. Or, could I say it depends on your luck on that day on who would be making your Kopi-O, or what sort of mood he or she would be in to determine the outcome of your cuppa! However, I would still give it a 3 to 4 star-rating out of 5 because on the worst of days, their Kopi-O is not like they are repulsive or so watered down that you just have to spit it out! It’s in a way still okay.

Food-wise, I have tried the Fried Kuah Tiaw (3/5 Stars), Fried Rice(3/5 Stars), and my favorite would be the Kampar-styled noodles (pictured above). Again, if you haven’t tried the original Kampar noodles, you would rate this as a 4-stars but since I have, I would give it a 3 out of 5 stars for the noodles, 2-3 stars for the fish cakes, wantons and fish balls!

Images courtesy of Raymond.

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Warmth and childhood

My friend gave me a pack of this kopi and I thought then that it had a funny brand name. When I took my second sip, I was suffused with the feelings of warmth and nostalgia – of childhood where coffee was almost free-flowing, and the world that idealistically perfect through a child’s eyes. I never thought I could lose myself in caffeine!

With just the right amount of kopi powder and sugar per sachet, you get a perfectly made cup of kopi that taste like those age-old methods of kopi-O making from those kopi-tiams (coffee shops) of old. At this point no other brands could match this one!

I saved the wrapper and went everywhere in KL looking for it but to no avail. I thought this couldn’t be just available in Kluang, Johor and I didn’t know anyone residing in Kluang or Johor!

Then a new colleague gave me a pack after she had gone back to her hometown for the Chinese New Year holidays! Yup, her hometown is Kluang! After knowing how much of a kopi-O freak that I am, she gave me another two packs of 10 sachets! I am down to my last pack as I am writing this and I will have to email her that my supply is dangerously/desperately low!

According to her, THIS is the most popular kopi-O in Johor for decades. People from all around (outside Kluang) would travel there and buy by the dozens or load up their car boots with them! It is also the company’s policy for making it available exclusively only in Kluang! They are so successful that they have also gone into the real-estate business!

I have asked her to get me 20 packs of 10 sachets on her next trip hometown bound. Maybe I would just add another 30 packs for my sisters in Australia who are also kopi freaks like me!

Note: I have to blur the brand name due to lalala…circumstances but if you ever go to Kluang, just ask for the most famous kopi sachets around.

A definite 5/5 stars!

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Restoran Sin Hoy Kee – an old world kopi-tiam (Kg. Cempaka)

Kampong Cempaka was a typical Malaysian-Chinese village that was far away from “civilization”. The only access was a dirt road where any vehicle would stir up a trail of thick white dust or dirt behind!

Today, the dirt road is a major highway and the path where my brother and I once jogged by a used mining pool with water of sparkling clear turquoise and surrounding rubber plantations are now a hypermarket, shop lots and condominiums! Housing and new township developments in its surrounding areas enveloped the little village but regardless, Kampong Cempaka didn’t seemed to be much affected by their rapid growth.

Mom still does her marketing at Kampong Cempaka at least once a week. On weekends, I would have my breakfast there at the “old” Kopi-tiam (coffee shop and this one also sells liquor and getting a liquor license is almost impossible since the past 30 years or so unless you have “connections”). It used to be one of those wooden structures like its surviving neighbors’ but was rebuilt to its current state in bricks and concrete some time back.

Of course, what draws me to this coffee shop is their kopi-o that is thick, fragrant, rich and with the right sweetness. There is no sour aftertaste – meaning that the drink dispenser or barrista (?) doesn’t leave any stale coffee powder in the kopi preparation bag for too long or within the time before the old coffee power releases the stale and sour taste. Or he may have replaced the bag after a few cups with a freshly cleaned one.

Most of the food here is also above average to very good. The most popular (best, if you are a fan) would be the Yong Tow Foo or fish-paste stuffed vegetables like fresh brinjaw (egg plant or aubergine), okra, red and green peppers (chilies), bitter gourd, fried tofu skins, plain tofu and fish balls. The most popular would be the gigantic, crispy okra that sells out faster than the rest. I personally like the stuffed plain white tofu that is both firm and its natural soy bean flavor works very well with the given condiments – a combination of their sweet sauce and chili sauce. I normally give the stuffing to my mom as no matter how good the stuffing is, I still prefer this tofu “au natural”.

Next would be the Mee Jawa(noodles). It’s me and my dad’s favorite and I like mine with extra fresh lime juice. Unlike Mee Jawa served at other places, the cook would squeeze them (the fresh lime) for us to spare our fingers from getting messy or sticky. The tomato-based gravy is just thick at the right consistency and garnishing consisting of half a hard-boiled egg, pieces of boiled potatoes, fried film tofu (tau kwa), fried shallots, fried crackers, bean sprouts and julienned cucumber. The only garnish missing is the sliced squid but this version is so pleasantly flavorful, you don’t even notice that! Then again, there is no fixed rule on the garnishing and despite the “Jawa” being part of its name it was actually a Penang Baba Nyonya creation!

The Mee Jawa is only available on Wednesdays and Saturdays but her stall also sells 12 other kinds of noodles that are available throughout the week. I also like her dried stewed pork with cloud ear fungus (my grandmother used to make the best)! Since this lady (who is somewhere in her late sixties) handles everything herself without any assistants, the customer will need to practice a little bit more patience.

I have yet to try the other 10-11 stalls in this Kopi-tiam except for the roast pork rice (but unfortunately, that was a no-go for me yet a lot of customers go for the fried chicken rice from this same stall); and the fried potstickers/dumplings/ jiaozi are just average (and they stinge on the essential condiment of finely sliced fresh ginger with malted vinegar)

To me, this Kopi-tiam/coffee shop has the ambience of the old time Malaysian-Chinese village where time has stopped (feels like since the seventies or eighties)! This is a place where most villagers would still congregate in various groups every weekend to catch up over light meals, tea or Kopi; their simple life-style and dressing sense; the way the men sit; wooden shop lots and houses, this is it – a simple kopi-tiam in Kampong Cempaka (PJU1 Main Road) that is quite charming in its own rights!

Kopi –O – 4/5 Stars
Mee Jawa – 4/5 Stars
Yong Tau Foo – 4/5 Stars

Top:

A table-full of ladies congregating over tea and chatting while over the speakers, classic Chinese songs mainly from the 30’s to the 60’s play.

Below:

The Kopi-tiam, “Restoran Sin Hoy Kee”

My mom buying fresh corn right across the road from the Kopi-tiam.

The wooden shoplots next to the Kopi-tiam.

Update 19 June 2016:
The Mee Jawa stall has changed proprietress (a younger lady). The menu is basically similar but the Mee Jawa is, sadly, not as good as from the last cook.

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