Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Star : The Birthplace of White Coffee

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

THERE is nothing quite as relaxing as sitting in a kopitiam in laid-back Ipoh, drinking the city’s famous white coffee and thinking of old times.

Sin Yoon Loong Coffee Shop at Jalan Bandar Timah would be the place to do that. It is now 79 years old and still going strong. It’s also the place where white coffee was born.

Since opening its doors in 1937, the coffeeshop has been a popular eatery as the place is packed to the brim daily with locals and tourists during the weekends.

Sin Yoon Loong was opened by Wong Poh Chew and his brother Poh Ting, who had wanted nothing more than to serve the best cuppa in town.

Both went through many trials and errors before they managed to create the perfect white coffee recipe, which is now a household name throughout the country.

Aside from the white coffee, the shop is also famed for its Chinese-style steamed sponge cakes and other local Chinese fare.

Sin Yoon Loong is now manned by 59-year-old K.M. Wong, a third-­generation member of the Wong clan, who said business was better now than when it first started.

“When the shop first opened in 1937, I was told by my parents that it was not so popular. It was just another kopitiam with the usual crowd and regular faces,” he said.

“Since the whole white coffee fad broke out all over town some three decades ago, everyone has been trying to look for the best white coffee in town.”

K.M. said he had good memories of the coffeeshop from his childhood days as it was located in a “happening” area.

“This area used to have a good nightlife scene. There were lots of things to eat with all the roadside stalls and we were also operating at night. It was quite happening back then.

“The local city council then stopped the roadside stalls from operating due to cleanliness issues and the area became quiet, which affected our business,” he said.

“Since then, we have only operated during the day.”

K.M. noted modestly that business at the coffeeshop was okay.

“The economy is still very slow. Business is all right and certainly better than the earlier days when it started,” he said.

Having been born in 1957, the same year the country became independent, K.M. said he had no idea what really occurred then as he was still a baby.

“My parents spoke little about life after our independence. I guess everything was just normal. They also did not talk about the war or the Japanese Occupation.

“All I can remember is going home after school to drop our schoolbags before running to the Ipoh Padang to play football with my friends, including the Malay, Tamil and Punjabi kids,” he said.

“We even shared our money to buy a football whenever we broke one. There was no such thing as racism then, unlike now.”

The Star : The Man Who Put Teh in Bak Kut Teh

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

VISIT any well-known bak kut teh outlet in Klang, and it’s likely to be run by a Lee.

This is because a man named Lee Boon Teh brought bak kut teh to Klang from Fujian, China in the 40s.

He had seven sons who had branched out to set up their own businesses, some of which are now being run by third generation Lees.

Lee set up his bak kut teh stall at an intersection between the Klang train station and the Klang South police station in 1945 to serve the early Chinese immigrants, many of whom had also come from Fujian.

The stall was moved into a nearby shop named Kedai Makanan Teck Teh about 50 years ago and is currently operated by one of his grandsons who has stayed true to the original recipe.

“I have not changed anything and have kept to the same spices and methods of cooking used by my grandfather,’’ said the reserved man, who wanted to be known as only Lee.

The original shop where bak kut teh started, called Kedai Makanan Teck Teh at Jalan Stesen 1, Klang. The old signboard over the entrance is still there.
The old signboard over the entrance is still there.
The shop is dilapidated and run down but it gets a steady flow of regular patrons from early morning until closing time at about 2pm.

Lee, who runs the business alone, said he is not keen on publicity because he worries he would not be able to manage if there were many new customers to his shop.

“My children are all graduates and not involved in the business. They have their own careers,’’ said the 58-year-old.

Although the dish, traditionally comprising various cuts of pork, slowly simmered in fragrant Chinese herbs, has been modified in many ways all over the nation as well as in Singapore over the years, it is only in Klang that you can get the real deal.

At Kedai Makanan Teck Teh, chunks of meat in herbal broth are served in porcelain bowls with a helping of plain white rice just as the founder had served the hardworking Chinese immigrants who came to build new lives in the then Malaya decades ago.

Bak kut teh enthusiast Lee Kew Peng whose family is also in the business, said when the dish was first brought to Klang from China, it was known merely as bak kut (pork bone).

“Since it was brought in by Lee Boon Teh, it was known as bak kut teh, meaning it was his dish.

“Over time, the Teh became part of the dish’s name,” said Kew Peng.

Kedai Makanan Teck Teh is located at Jalan Stesen 1, Klang.