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Wake up and smell Nam Chau Coffee

 | January 8, 2011

A coffeeshop in Ipoh is serving up genuine Ipoh breakfast.

On the Food Trail with Tiberius Kerk

WHAT do smart people do with famous culinary choices? They turn them into a franchise business, or recruit their cousins to help out.

One of those Ipoh names that is associated with food is the Nam Chau Coffeeshop.

There are two good reasons why Nam Chau coffeeshops are sprouting all over Ipoh like mushrooms after a thunderstorm – dry curry mee and eggs on toast.

Somebody clued me in when I mooted the idea of having a genuine Ipoh breakfast. “Nam Chau” was the quick reply.

Frankly, I was thinking of House of Mirrors or Kong Heng but then that part of Ipoh Old Town can be quite stressful in the morning when one has to compete with hordes of office workers and business people for a table.

Old Town coffeeshops have basically remained the same for the past 40 years. The shops have not expanded their premises for ages so seating arrangement is about the same as those days when we were students.

So the Nam Chau coffeeshop in Ipoh Garden South seemed like a good idea to me. At last count, there were five Nam Chau outlets in Ipoh.

The one in Ipoh Garden South is a franchise business, so is the outlet in First Garden. The original coffeeshop is at 54, Jalan Bandar Timah or Leech Street in old town.

Best dry curry mee

I was given the assurance that the shop’s dry curry mee is one of the best in Paloh or Ipoh. At slightly about RM3.60 per bowl, it was a steal if you are a KL-ite.

If you want extra “kerang” or cockles in the curry mee, throw in an extra ringgit. Additional roast pork will cost you RM1.50 more. Everything has its price.

Only one of us ordered the dry curry mee. It was morning after all so curry mee wasn’t a popular choice. I was more inclined towards toast and poached eggs.

White coffee goes best with toast. We are talking of Ipoh Old Town coffee here. If you are not from Ipoh, I won’t bother with an explanation. It is an almost impossible task to embark on a lengthy
explanation that Ipohites are reluctant to indulge in.

Service, I have to admit, was swift and smooth. In some Old Town coffeeshops a customer has to shout to be heard. Even then, the solitary waiter might just ignore you because he is simply swarmed with myriad orders.

When the slices of toast arrived, with double half-boiled eggs on them, they looked rather pretty. Who eats double eggs in this age of healthy lifestyle? Me, who else!

Signature dish

With a petite cup of white coffee and the quiet atmosphere of a half-awakened suburban neighbourhood, it was a prime time for re-assessing one’s priorities in life.

Nam Chau has one more signature dish. It is called Tar Lan Woon or broken bowl. It is actually glass noodles served with fishballs, spring onion and red chilli. You can mix crullers or yew char kueh with the noodles.

You either love this dish or you will give it a pass. Not surprisingly, it has quite a large following among Ipoh folks, young and old. If you are from out of town, you really need to try it before
passing judgment.

Breakfast in Ipoh is always conducted on the slow lane. We who know our breakfast choices almost never hurry. Perhaps that is why the elderly in Ipoh live longer but that claim has to be verified.

Just a corner away from Nam Chau coffeeshop is a hawker stall selling yew char kueh and other breakfast items. It has been a long time since I have seen such a wide variety.

So Ipoh hasn’t really changed in terms of good food. The hawkers just move around a lot, or perhaps they have set up a family chain of stalls.

Clever lot, these Ipoh people. They may not be as business savvy as some KL-ites but they do know how to earn some extra dollars from sunrise to sunset.


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