Tag Archives: Nasi Lemak

The Kopitiam Experience in NYC

malaysiaKopitiam (151 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002) has been on our radar for a while. When we visited Singapore and Malaysia we were first introduced to Nyonya (also known as Peranakan) cuisine, which is a mix of the Chinese and Malaysian cultures that settled in the region. Since then, we have been on the lookout for this delicious cuisine stateside. Kopitiams are traditional coffeehouses/eateries found throughout Malaysia (the name comes from the Malay word for “coffee” and the Hokkien word for “shop”), and the NYC restaurant is a modern take on this restaurant genre. Kopitiam is inspired by the Nyonya heritage of chef/co-owner and James Beard Semifinalist Kyo Pang. The restaurant is co-owned by chef Moonlynn Tsai.

We were lucky enough to visit Kopitiam last year with a friend, so we were able to sample a wide variety of dishes in simpler times. Fortunately, Kopitiam is still open for carryout during Covid. As a result, the menu is more limited, but many of the favorites we tried last year are still there. Under normal circumstances, Kopitiam is a quick-service restaurant, no reservations accepted.

Kopitiam serves breakfast all day, featuring some iconic favorites including iconic kaya butter toast ($5) slathered with kaya (pandan coconut jam) and butter. This is one dish we are sorry we missed, and we hear it is amazing. Also available for breakfast is nasi lemak, which is perfect for any time of day ($9). The components of nasi lemak are coconut rice, egg, cucumber, and crispy anchovies, all topped with homemade sambal sauce, and it is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

True to its coffeehouse moniker, Kopitiam serves several varieties of coffee and black tea, hot and iced, and served with and without condensed milk. One of the most famous drinks is the teh tarik (seen above), tea foamed with condensed milk. There were other non-caffeinated options like Bandung ($4.5, the pink drink above) made with condensed milk and rose cordial syrup, or if you want a throwback taste of childhood, you can order Horlicks or Milo ($3.75) malted milk drinks.

We ordered two chicken dishes, which served as appetizers. First up was the pandan chicken ($6.5) steamed chicken dumplings steamed in aromatic pandan leaves. Those who like chicken wings, will love the Belacan wings ($7) bone-in chicken wings coated in a salty-sweet caramelized shrimp paste chicken. Our favorite light bite was probably the cold spicy sesame noodles ($8), the house-made spicy sauce was both rich and savory – a total umami bomb – and perfectly served cold. We can’t turn down handmade noodles, so we had to order the Pan Mee ($12) flat homemade flour noodles in anchovy broth, fried anchovies, wood ear mushroom, spinach and minced pork. This was probably my favorite dish, and the mix of flavors with the salty anchovy kick was amazing.

Don’t sleep on the desserts either. We were really excited to see a variety of Kue Lapis, a many-layered flavored cake, here served in a cinnamon version ($3). You can also order rose and lychee flavored mochi, or honeycomb cake. Kopitiam is a real taste of Malaysia in New York, and we can really appreciate the dedication and care the team brings to every dish. We are looking forward to getting back to NYC some day soon and sampling more of what Kopitiam has to offer.

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Nasi Lemak: National Dish of Malaysia

Until a few days ago, every medal won by the country of Malaysia had been won by a male in badminton,. That all changed with 19 year-old Pandelela Rinong, who won a bronze medal in women’s 10 meter platform diving. Rinong was also the flag-bearer for her country at the opening ceremony, and it is easy to see why: the interview she conduced with NBC reporters after winning her medal could have been a commercial for the Malaysian tourism board, with Rinong endlessly beaming with pride over being Malaysian.

The national dish of Malaysia is Nasi Lemak, a rice-based dish cooked in coconut milk and served on a pandan leaf. The name translates to “rich” or “fatty” rice, a name derived from the cooking process: the rice is steamed and simmered in coconut milk, giving it a rich and creamy texture and flavor. That done, the nasi lemak is served with any number of accompaniments, depending on the time of day (it can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner): this usually includes sambal, along with sliced cucumber, hard-boiled egg, anchovies (usually fried), roasted peanuts, and meat. Then, just mix and match the flavors any way you wish! We can only assume the dish is plentiful at all times of day on Jalan Alor, the main eating street in Kuala Lumpur, but unfortunately we did not sample it on our 12-hour layover tour of KL in 2010. We’ll have to go back – Pandelela, want to take us on a tour of your capital? You seem just like the person to do it!



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