Malaysian kopitiams, in my humble opinion, is one of the best coffee establishments in the world. Sure, it is not as refined or as posh as its contemporaries but it has its own uniqueness.
A Legacy Shared with All
If you have never been to Malaysia (you are seriously missing out, btw) or have been here once or twice, it must be such a bizarre sight to behold when you enter a typical Malaysian Kopitiam setting.
Customers come in droves as early as 6 in the morning, sitting on tiny red plastic stools around rickety tables that will tilt at the slightest movement. In a kopitiam, you can never hear yourself think, let alone talk!
The bursts of shout from busy waiters scurrying through carrying a large tray filled with food and drinks, moving in the packed room with surprising agility of a wild cat while wordlessly dropping orders on the tables of hungry customers without a cursory glance to their notepad just to check if they got their orders right. Don’t you worry though, they are usually right.
Simplicity is Key
Kopitiams don’t offer you extravagant, beautifully-plated dishes yet they give you something better instead; simplicity. There’s nothing pretentious or lavish when in comes to kopitiam fare. It is not made to please your eyes but all of your senses. If you have the chance to sit in a Malaysian kopitiam, close your eyes and take a deep breath. The sweet smell of buttery freshly made buns wafting in the air. The aroma of bitter coffee and fragrant tea engulf the senses. As you take the first bite, these stimulation will make the food taste even better. Despite their simplicity, the balance of taste and flavour from food to the drinks, are made with care, focus and expertise that can rival an experienced barista in a posh coffee shop.
Based on current events, it is quite unlikely for you to come here and gain your own kopitiam experience. However, there is a way you can turn your home into a typical Malaysian kopitiam in no time at all. All you have to do is trick your senses. How? Listen up!
Kopitiam Drinks to Die For
The first step into turning your house into a kopitiam is by learning how to make the drinks first. The strong aroma of kopitiam drinks made us think that they are indulgent and rich to the point they will be cloyingly sweet or overwhelming.
It’s easy to make these drinks. You don’t need expensive ingredients nor you need fancy equipment. What you need to get are Malaysian local coffee and tea, sugar, grass jelly, rose cordial, soy drink and cocoa powder. That’s all. I bet most of them are already in your pantry, right? If not, get the missing items and quickly go to your kitchen because it is time for coffee-break, Kopitiam style!
Teh Tarik (Malaysian Pulled Tea)
Teh Tarik or Malaysian Pulled Tea is a must-try when you come to Malaysia. Seriously, don’t go back without trying it first. It’s like going to Vietnam but not trying the Banh Mi. Made simply with tea and condensed milk, the uniqueness of this tea is not the ingredients used but the preparation method that involves you pouring the tea in a pulling method which will give the tea it’s legendary frothy foam.
- 1 liter of water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of loose tea powder
- 1 teabag of Malaysian tea
- 1/4 cup of sweet condensed milk
- 2 tablespoons of evaporated milk
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- In a large pot, add in the water and heat it up on a medium high flame till boiling.
- Add in the tea powder and teabag. Let it infuse for 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the condensed milk, evaporated milk and salt. Stir and let it simmer for 3 minutes.
- Taste and adjust the flavour according to your taste, either the sweetness or the darken the colour of tea by adding a tablespoon more of the tea powder.
Kopi Cham (Coffee with Tea)
Kopi Cham or Yuenyeung basically means ‘coffee with tea’. And this drink gives the best of both worlds. The bitterness of the coffee and the subtle fragrance of the tea gives the unique flavour of kopi cham.
The recipe for the best kopi cham is shared by the redpathsugar.com.
Kopi Peng (Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk)
If cold brew is your poison, this drink might just be your favourite one yet. Kopi Peng is basically a milky and thick version of the usual iced coffee you can find in your local cafes. No, don’t be discourage by its ‘thickness’ because the rich, milky texture gives kopi peng its delectable flavour.
- 250ml water
- 1 packet of Malaysian coffee or 2 tablespoons of Malaysian coffee powder
- 3 tablespoons of condensed milk
- In a pot, boil the water at medium heat. Wait for 2 minutes until the water starts to boil.
- Add in the coffee. If you like a richer flavour, add in 1/4 tablespoon of hot melted butter with the coffee powder and mix well. Let the coffee diffuse for 1-2 minutes. If you want a stronger cup of brew, add in 1/2 tablespoon of coffee powder. Let it diffuse to the colour you want. Turn off heat and remove pot.
- Pour some coffee into a mug.
- Add in the condensed milk and stir. If you are happy with the taste, add ice and it’s done!
Sirap Bandung (Rose Cordial with Condensed Milk)
No matter what you call this drink, either soda gembira, ros bandung or even sirap bandung, it never fails to bring a smile of satisfaction on your face.
Made simply with fragrant roselle syrup and a generous amount of evaporated milk, this drink is just the queen of thirst-quenchers. This sirap bandung recipe is shared by a Malaysian blog, hairul.com. The recipe is in a Malay but fret not! I’ve translated it for you.
- 1/4 cup of roselle syrup
- 3/4 tin of evaporated milk
- 250ml of ice cream soda
- In a jug, pour in the roselle syrup, evaporated milk and ice cream soda. Mix well.
- Taste and adjust according to your preference. Add ice.
Soya Cincau (Soy drink with Grass Jelly)
Soya Cincau or fondly known among Malaysians as the Michael Jackson is what we called as a’hybrid drink’. Hybrid drinks are basically a concoction of two perfectly good drinks, in this case the grass jelly drink (cincau) and soy milk. How the concept first came about, I don’t know but one thing I’m sure is Soya Cincau just has its own special place in my heart right after a day under the hot sun!
- 50ml soy milk
- 50g piece of grass jelly, cut into jelly strips or 1-cm cubes
- Pour in the soy milk into a tall glass.
- Add in the grass jelly cubes. If you prefer sweeter grass jelly, prepare a sugar syrup by mixing 100ml hot water and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Pour the sugar syrup into the grass jelly-filled bowl and let soak for 5 minutes.
Neslo Ais (Iced Coffee with Cocoa)
Neslo Ais or Iced Neslo (Nescafe coffee + Milo) may look just like your run-of-the-mill Mocha but its taste, my friend, is unlike any other Mocha you have tasted before. In fact, I am going to go out of a limb here and promise that after the sip, you’ll be sticking with Neslo Ais from now on.
Unfortunately, there’s no Neslo Ais recipe in English. Therefore, I took the liberty to translate a recipe shared in a Malaysian blog, chefonezeroone.
- 2 tablespoons of Milo powder or any chocolate/cocoa powder you can find
- 1 tablespoon of Nescafe Classic coffee powder or any coffer powder you like
- 3 tablespoons of condensed milk
- 1/2 a mug of hot water
- Put the cocoa and coffee powder in a 1/2 mug cup of hot water.Mix well.
- Pour in the condensed milk. Taste and adjust according to your preference.
- Use an empty mug to pull the drink. ‘Pull’ the drink by pouring the Neslo-filled mug into the empty mug back and forth until a frothy foam is formed.
- Add in ice and enjoy!
Milo Tabur (Cocoa Drink Loaded with Cocoa Powder)
Milo is probably one of Malaysia’s most favourite drinks and if you frequent the local Mamak or Kopitiam’s, it is absolutely mandatory for you to try it! True to its name, Milo Tabur or Milo Dino comes in a towering glass, filled to the brim with chocolatey goodness.
For a first timer, maybe making the OG Milo Dino is not a good idea. You need to start at the bottom first and nothing is as perfect as Butterkicap’s own mini version of the drink. Made using only with Milo powder and fresh cold milk, you can enjoy the best of Milo Dino without being too hyped up on sugar.
A Malaysian Kopitiam At Your Home!
Who says you got to travel in order to try new things? Make your very own backyard Malaysian Kopitiam with these 7 delicious Malaysian Kopitiam Drinks.
Like what you see? Let us know what you want to know about Malaysian cuisine. We’d love to take you around the country via your kitchen. To do so, we want to hear from you.