KLANG: The iconic Chong Kok Kopitiam here is more than just a place to dine. It’s a showcase of racial diversity as Malaysians share tables with friends and strangers while savouring hot cups of coffee, toasted roti kahwin (bread slathered in margarine or butter with kaya), nasi lemak and half- boiled eggs.
The kopitiam has been depicting the Malaysian slice of life since it opened its doors in 1940. Eighty years later, the bond among patrons of all races is still strong.
Chong Kok Hotel, as it was known then, was founded by Foo Wah Ling and his four friends, who came here from Hainan Island in China in the late 1930s.
Foo’s granddaughter, Mee May, 63, grew up watching her father, Hee Hoe, and family members run the business from a three-storey prewar shophouse in Jalan Stesen.
“Nothing much has changed. The spirit of unity and harmony among Malaysians is strong and unshaken.
“No one would think twice asking if they could share tables here.
“We have 26 tables, which are taken up most of the time.
“So no one sees a problem with sharing tables with patrons of other races.
“It is heartwarming to see that they are able to forge friendship and banter as they savour the food and drinks.
“I, too, have made many friends who are regular customers and they do not even need to order.
“I know what they want the moment they walk in.
“I am happy to see Chong Kok becoming a centre of multiracialism.
“It would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the overwhelming support of Malaysians,” she told the New Sunday Times.
Mee May, along with her five siblings and daughter-in-law, oversees the daily operations of the kopitiam where recipes used to make coffee and kaya by her grandfather are still used.
She recalled before the kopitiam came about, they operated a restaurant at the eight-bedroom Chong Kok Hotel, serving their signature Hainanese chicken chop.
In the 1970s, Wah Ling offered space at its five-foot way to a Malay food peddler to sell nasi lemak with rendang ayam and sambal sotong.
Known as Nasi Lemak Haji Amin, the stall is still operating today. The nasi lemak will be sold out by 11.30am or even earlier during weekends.
Mee May said the hotel ceased operating some time between the 1970s and 1980s.
In 2000, they closed down the restaurant to focus on the kopitiam business.
“We brought in Malaysian favourite dishes such as Nyonya kuih, cucur udang, pisang goreng and ready-packed chicken rice.
“Our customers taught us how to make roti telur goyang, which has been added to our menu.”
She said the kopitiam opened at 6.30am daily.
There would be a long queue, comprising parents and schoolchildren, as well as office workers, eager to have their breakfast.
Patron Tan Boon Heng, 66, has been having his coffee, roti kaya and half-boiled eggs at Chong Kok Kopitiam daily for the past 30 years.
He makes an effort to drop by even though he stays in Teluk Pulai, a 20-minute drive away.
“I come here every day. If I don’t, I will feel that my day is not complete. My head ‘spins’ when I don’t have my coffee fix.
“I get to meet many of my friends here.
“There is no need to call them. Everyone in Klang comes to Chong Kok Kopitiam.”
Steven Chan recalled when he was little, his father would take him on his bicycle to the kopitiam as early as 6am for breakfast.
“I would have steamed bread and eggs, and either coffee or tea. I have since moved to Setia Alam, but would still come back here when I have the cravings.
“Here, you can enjoy good food in a multiracial atmosphere. It cuts across ethnicity, religion and culture.
“The spirit of Malaysian togetherness is alive and well here,” said the 60-year-old.