[Port Klang, Malaysia] Hainanese breakfast options at Choon Guan Coffee Shop 1956, Pandamaran

Choon Guan Coffee Shop 1956 in Pandamaran is one of those typical old Hainanese kopitiams where locals congregate for their daily morning caffeine boost. Located in within the district of Klang, about 30-40 minutes’ drive from Kuala Lumpur, city-folks loved taking a slow, leisurely drive out of KL to this little sleepy hollow on weekends.

Choon Guan is run by 69-year-old Madam Foo Jee Keow, whose father, Foo Hee Hong, founded the little kopitiam on a plot of land bestowed on him by the British District Office that he’d served as a private chef from 1950-55. As the British colonial office prepared to transfer its civil servants back to the UK in the run-up to granting Malaya independence in 1957, the District Officer actually offered to bring Mr Foo Hee Hong back with him to England, to continue as his family’s chef, but the Mr Foo was reluctant to leave everything behind to settle in a strange country far away. That was when he received the plot of land as a goodbye gift from his former employer. The next year, in 1956, Choon Guan coffee shop was born, and quickly became a social meeting spot of sorts for the largely working-class community in Pandamaran - shipyard workers, rubber tappers, market vendors and residents nearby.

Today, Madam Foo carried on her father’s legacy in
serving the residents of Klang their favourite breakfast options. Her son, 28-year-old David Kan, and daughter, 33-year-old Sherry Kan, helped her manage the ever-busy shop.

Besides the usual coffee & tea beverages, and kaya toasts slathered with their signature Hainanese-style kaya, Choon Guan also offers savoury options like Hainanese poached chicken with rice balls.

Perfectly-timed soft-boiled eggs.

Hainanese-style kaya/coconut jam does not have the pandanus fragrance or green-hue of the Nyonya-style kaya. Instead, it’s usually dark-brown, with a smokey-caramelly flavour of scorched sugar. The kaya is served with toasts, together with thin slabs of cold butter.

Choon Guan’s Hainanese-style poached chicken, served with chicken rice balls are as traditional as they come and are must-tries.

There’s also Malay-style nasi lemak, if one is looking for something really spicy to start the day with. The version here comes with a tongue-searingly hot sambal.

Caramel custard, reminiscent of the one served at Ipoh’s legendary Thean Chun aka Hall of Mirrors, is not to be missed.

Pandamaran’s a short 10-minutes’ drive from Port Klang in Selangor, and has quite a few hidden dining gems, if one knows where to look. Time seems to stand still in this little enclave.

Address
Choon Guan Coffee Shop 1956
Lorong Amarasegara, Kawasan 12,
42000 Port Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: +603-3168 6828
Opening hours: 6am to 4pm daily, except Thursday (closed).

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Great back story as to how Mr Foo started his Kopitiam, Peter.

Pictures are terrific–as always. Loved the shot you got of the Nasi Lemak! Put this in front of me, and I would brave the heat.

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Man, I’m missing eating food in Asia. Thanks for whetting my appetite. Another 6 months?

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Thanks, Jim. Nasi lemak is always dependable to give one a wake-up nudge: a mound of coconut milk-enriched rice, fragrant with pandanus, with small bits of savoury items: crisp-fried anchovies, peanuts, or even a tiny piece of fried chicken or fish, a quartered wedge of hard-boiled egg, all slathered with spicy red chilli sauce.

This one’s offered at a small take-out cafe inside KL’s Central train station (KL Sentral).

You can cook nasi lemak at home, Jim - pretty easy. The only challenge is to find pandanus leaves, to give the rice its signature fragrance.

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It’s anybody’s guess at the moment. My visit to Choon Guan took place a couple of months back, before this COVID-19 crisis came to a boil. The whole of Malaysia has been locked down for the past 1 month, and all the eateries are closed to dining in service. Some chose to offer take-outs - to keep themselves in business and continue to offer their staff employment - but, even then, their business have gone down by 80%.

Singapore just started its one-month lockdown last week.

I’ve had to cancel a trip to Colombo, Sri Lanka, this month, and another to Mumbai next month. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go - maybe next year, or maybe in 2022 even.

Dang. Just dang.

That is a thing of beauty.

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I wonder if it’s worth taking a drive out now to see if it’s open?

I’ve been slowly poking my head up in KL. Eating mostly in my hood (KLCC, Pudu, Chow Kit, Brickfields)–anywhere I can walk to. I’d say it’s a solid 50% of spots are open for dine-in, maybe 60-70% for take away. I do what I can to support the small places.

The chain restaurants in the malls are mostly open now, and are a decent option, so long as they are not mega-chains.

Call ahead before you drive down.
The people running the place are very friendly - the current family member managing the place, David Kan, is an earnest young man, Monash Uni graduate from Melbourne.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold