KUANTAN: In small towns throughout Malaysia, one would most likely find old restaurants with decades of history. These businesses, often family run, use recipes that have been preserved and passed down from one generation to the next.
One of them is Kedai Kopi Tan Kow Po in the quaint town of Bentong, Pahang. Despite its name, curiously, this shop is popular for their homemade ice-cream.
The business is currently helmed by second-generation owner, 90-year-old Tan Kow Po. Speaking with FMT Lifestyle, he shared the business’ history which dates back to pre-independence Malaya.
That’s when his father migrated from China and settled in Alor Setar, Kedah. To make a living, he sold ice cream on foot. “Back then, ice cream was not popular,” Kow Po said.
The senior Tan subsequently moved to Bentong in 1956 where he continued his business. In the 1960s, Kow Po started helping his father and subsequently opened the shop in the 1970s.
Chee Oon, Kow Po’s son, joined the business after completing his Form Five education. “I decided to help my father because I was interested in the business,” said Chee Oon, 58.
While Chee Oon is “happy” to play his part in continuing his family legacy, he added that he would leave it up to his three children to decide if they wanted to do the same.
According to Kow Po, their ice cream is still homemade – and the recipe, he added with a smile, remains a secret! Besides ice cream, they also sell ABC and cendol.
One bite into the ice cream and it is easy to understand why it’s so popular – they are simply decadent with great texture!
The chocolate ice cream is rich and indulgent while the sweet corn flavour is smooth and creamy. The coffee flavour is also delicious, as are the coconut and pandan flavours – truly, it’s tough to decide which is best. Other available flavours are vanilla, strawberry, peanut and banana.
Meanwhile, the Kow Po Special is a decadent bowl of shaved ice, green jelly, corn, red beans, fruit cocktail, palm sugar and thick coconut milk.
It is topped with a dollop of ice cream and the team enjoyed theirs with durian flavour. Chee Oon revealed that it is made using fresh fruit from Bentong and it is simply decadent!
Looking for something savoury? A stall outside the shop sells a variety of local favourites like nasi lemak, pulut, sambal sotong, ayam and beef rendang as well as cucur udang (prawn fritters) and “tauhu sumbat”.
According to Nurmaini Zaher, 63, she has been operating the stall for 23 years. The food, she added, is made using recipes that she inherited from her mother and sister-in-law.
Nurmaini’s nasi lemak meanwhile comes with fluffy and fragrant rice rich with santan. When paired with the flavourful ayam rendang, it is truly scrumptious.
The fried egg has a lovely runny yoke and is perfect when paired with the piquant sambal, which leans towards the sweeter side.
Also, don’t miss trying the pulut or steamed glutinous rice. Deliciously sticky and not too oily, it is perfect with a side of sambal sotong, ayam or beef rendang.
If you still have room in your tummy, treat yourself to a second helping of this scrumptious dish.
For teatime or even to complement your main meal, how about some cucur udang or prawn fritters?
Fried to perfection, they are crispy on the outside but moist on the inside. When paired with the peanut gravy, this can be rather addictive.
Enjoying a meal at Kedai Kopi Tan Kow Po is a simple affair, but a no-frills dining experience can also be a memorable one.
Kedai Kopi Tan Kow Po
2, Bentong Height
Business hours: 11am-6pm daily
Contact: 09-222 1258