[Kuala Kangsar, Malaysia] Hainanese lunch at Yut Loy

It was a long weekend in Malaysia & Singapore last weekend as we celebrated Vesak Day (Buddha’s Birthday). 5.6 million Malaysians (19.8% of Malaysia’s population) and 1.1 million Singaporeans (33% of Singapore’s population) identify themselves as Buddhists, and Vesak Day is a federal public holiday in both countries. I took advantage of the long break to go foodhunting in Ipoh, a major Malaysian gourmet/food city in the state of Perak. Ipoh is a mere 160km (100 miles) from Penang. On the way back from Ipoh on Monday, we stopped for lunch in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, where the Sultan of Perak’s palace is situated.

There is only one dining place worth noting in Kuala Kangsar - Hainanese institution, Yut Loy (founded 1939), which is a long-time favourite dining spot of the Perak sultan, members of Perak royalty and students from the prestigious boys’ school, Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK).

Now into its 90th year of operation, Yut Loy soldiers on despite the passing of the long-time owner, Chong Kong Meng aka Ah Meng, last Aug 2018. His twin sons, Cheen Yee and Cheen Wah, who’d been doing all the cooking the past few years, now run the coffeeshop started 90 years ago by their grandfather, Chong Ah Loke, on their own.

The eatery has not changed much from its beginnings as a spartan, traditional coffeeshop that somehow captured the heart of the denizens of this royal town. Boys from the elite Malay College Kuala Kangsar, modelled after their British counterparts like Eton & Harrow, frequent the little eatery, and particularly loved its steamed meat-filled bao buns.

What we ordered for our lunch today - all the items on the menu are one-dish lunch plates:

  1. Sweet-sour chicken on rice - this was done very well: crisp-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside chicken nuggets, covered with a well-balanced sweet-sour sauce with tomatoes, onions and green peppers. A fried egg completed the ensemble.

  2. Shrimp fried rice - a simple dish, but totally delicious when done well, as it was here - very good “wok hei”, as the Cantonese like to describe well-seared cooking, with the aroma from a fired-up wok.

  3. Ginger chicken & scallions on rice - a homely dish of boneless chicken meat, pan-fried with onions, ginger, carrots and scallions, in a brown gravy, served on a bed of steamed white rice.

  4. Hainanese chicken chop - this is a Hainanese classic of batter-fried chicken, served with potato wedges or crinkled fried potatoes, peas and onion rings, smothered with a brown sauce. One finds this dish all over Malaysia and Singapore at Hainanese-run eateries.

  5. Fried bee hoon (thin rice noodles) with shrimps and egg - a classic Chinese restaurant stir-fry, it’s actually more Cantonese than Hainanese, but that’s perfectly fine, as Cantonese-style noodle dishes tend to fare much better than the more rustic, bland Hainanese version.

  6. The famous steamed baos (chicken filling on the left, curried beef filling on the right) - Yut Loy produces only 300 of these buns daily - there are four types of filling: the most popular one is curried beef, followed by chicken, kaya (coconut jam) and crushed peanuts. The buns go on sale at 2pm sharp daily, and is sold on a first-come-first-served basis (unless one is a member of Perak royalty, of course).

  1. The thick, sweet Hainanese coffee is brewed from ground coffee beans which are a blend of 50% Arabica coffee grains & 50% sugar (plus 5% butter) when roasted. The resultant coffee is aromatic, rich and sweet.

  2. Kaya-and-butter toast - a classic, very popular for breakfast, tea or just as a n accompaniment to Hainanese coffee at any time of the day.

The Chong brothers, kneading the dough for their famous steamed bread baos.

The old-world ambience of Yut Loy.

The old signboard displayed the eatery’s name: “Yut Loy” meaning “Happiness Comes” in Hainanese-Chinese dialect:

Yut Loy
51, Jalan Kangsar
33000 Kuala Kangsar
Perak, Malaysia
Tel: +605776 6369
Operating hours: 9am to 6pm Mon-Sat. Closed on Sundays.