Thunder struck a window shattering glass with a crash and a ear deafening boom. Shards hit the road spiking down 30 floors from the sky to solid ground. Loud claps of thunder echoing across the block, shuddering window panes with fright.
Below everyone ran for cover, running feet in all directions, as rain hit the Earth with a ferocity so sudden, unleashing torrents of water to cleanse a humanity awake. More thunder, more flashes of light streaking across a dark luminous sky. Deafening sound of car horns blaring in panic, a sea of red flashing lights with tyres bumper to bumper humming an uncomfortable buzz of electric wind wipers sploshing and splashing water to the left to the right. There was no end to the traffic, piling like a junkyard on Jalan Doraisamy Street.
Jane had set out of home with sunshine in her heart, and suddenly with no warning, a storm had hit the city. And now she was trapped in a metal pile of machine and petrol fumes. Getting out of her car she decided to hit the road running. The rain hitting her as hard as a cold slap on her cheek. She belted her trench coat tightly around her waist, grabbed her shoes, stuffed them into her tote bag and began running….
There is a vibe so gypsy like, free spirited and flowing at Kwong Cheung Loong Kopitiam Bar (The Row, 34-G, Jalan Doraisamy, 50300, Kuala Lumpur), that it is the abode for gypsies, elves on a crossing, and Chinese food hunters. I am sure they gather in spirit through the day, sitting at tables only few eyes can see, watching a world they do not relate to, driving by. That’s how I knew Jagger and Chiko had got wind of me when they walked in.
Sitting across my table with their beautiful mistresses chatting non-stop about sundry matters of heart and boys, they had just been deposited on the floor and seemed happy to be rid of the bag that required them to sit unmoving. `Pffft, those bags,’ I heard Jagger huff as he connected with his reality, suddenly turning around to stare me straight in the eye. `Oh, you,” he said as he shuffled on tiny four feet, dusted his coat of groomed hair, and sat on the floor staring at me. I was just beginning to soak in the vibe of the place, as handsome Ming Yu with looks of a Chinese movie star, pulled a chair and sat down to greet me. `You finally made it,’ he smiled, eyes crinkling at the corner of his face, and a warm energy floating around his well-toned body. `You’re a busy woman,’ he chided.
A WOMAN, WINE AND FIRST SCENE
A chilled bottle of Wolf Blass Bilyara South Australian Chardonnay popped Jagger to attention. He moved closer to my chair as if for a better view. `Good to see you too,’ I murmured to him, while little Chiko, calm yet nervous, finally left the safe space of his mistress’ chair and came over to survey the commotion. Kind, nervous eyes darting from Jagger to me, to Jagger back. Thinking, perhaps, a fight or flight response. ‘It’s ok, you can relax now,’ I urged him, as the Chardonnay sank deep into my blood stream. Little patches of dreamy plants cascading down the roof, walls full of Chinese movie posters, a Hollywood wall of fame, a gorgeous painting by local artisans poised against a brick wall, beams of sunlight peeking in and out, modern and old furniture enjoying their `live in’ synergy. An old charm Chinese bistro on a modern high-street location. The ROW has really begun buzzing as a hub for local and international delicacies.
Ming, an ardent gardener, with a special talent for interior landscaping, and an eye for creating a hippie state of space. “I’ve lived in Thailand for a long time,” he shared. “I wanted to bring the island vibe to this place right in the middle of the city,” he smiled. Well, he succeeded. Chloe was to be my guide for the day’s experience, a shy and introverted girl, opening up easily once comfortable. That’s the beauty of working with energy. You create your happy space and invite people in
It was also the right time for a Nasi Lemak with hometown Fried Chicken – a speciality best seller at Kwong Cheung Loong. Tasty sambal, cucumber, crispy anchovies, fried egg, chicken and roasted peanuts with a portion of rice accompanying it. As I dug into this canvas of Chinese history – food cultures, as we know, are all about stories of its origins –I loved it. Tasty, comfortable, affordable and delicious. Peanut and anchovies enabling a mood of salty naughty, while the chicken with a dose of protein just right to blend happy space with happy food. The portion more than generous, and therefore is the fastest moving dish on the menu.
Through my food explorations of Malaysia, I am convinced the locals are a happy people because of their happy food. Simple truth. Meanwhile, Jagger and Chiko comfortably settled under my table feasting on treats generously fed on by the team of Kwong Cheung Loong. Yes, you know by now that it is a pet friendly restaurant. And they make their own healthy dog and cat treats for their furry guests
NEVER SAYS ENOUGH. THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE. SCENE TWO
With the traffic trapped in a serpentine unmoving grid, Jane darted across the streets trying to calculate the distance to home, or a safe place. The streets had erupted into chaos. Frightened people running across car piles, while the roar of incessant rain and the blast of thunder continued to echo through broken doors and abandoned alleys. Night was just beginning to crawl in, and along with it, the shadows from beyond. Jane hugged her arms tightly across her chest. Skin shrivelled from drenching rain and wet clothes, her hair plastered to her face, eyes wide with alert caution. If she could just find a place for a hot cuppa coffee….
The art of slow eating is, well, an art. With just the right stimulus and environment at Kwong Cheung Loong, Chloe suggested Dry Noodles with Potato Curry Chicken and Soup. Another chart buster on the menu, as I watched plates moving from kitchen to table on rapid fire orders. It was busy for a Monday, a very good sign. And popular as a lunch spot for offices nearby and across the streets. Even better. Chunky potatoes in a red chillies coconut flavoured chicken curry with hints of lemon grass done well. But it was the warm Chicken Soup that brought back all the childhood memories of my mother so strongly, that Chloe had to hand me a napkin. Simple chicken broth with a hint of Maggie. Remember those soups? They were an everyday must on our dining table as a child in Kuwait. A fussy eater during those growing years, the soup never went down peacefully.
Soon, Chloe and me were talking about our mothers, promising each other never to take them for granted. `If only I had learnt to cook like her, or learnt to cook at all,’ I laughed aloud. Prompting a plate of Hainan Bread with a thick slice of Butter and Kaya to arrive at the table. Now this is to die for. Really. Simple, yet so portent, that it could break all your diet rules, and you would happily wheel yourself for an urgent medical. The Butter and Kaya (mind blowing coconut jam spread on thick slightly toasted bread for texture). It reminded me of my homemade school tiffin sandwiches of butter, bread and sugar sprinkled between the slices Add a hot cup of tea or coffee to it. Bite, munch, pause, linger. A must, must, eat again on my `to do’ list. While you are at it, indulge in a Grilled Chicken Chop at leisure. Another hot and fast moving dish on the menu. The dish comes with a ready salad and French fries. Food with so much soul to keep a gypsy tied down to her chair for some more. As I heard, I was not the only one crunching happily on my food. Jagger and Chiko looked very satisfied too 🙂
Chloe and Ming Yu of Kwong Cheung Loong Kopitiam Bar
Chicken Soup definitely for my Soul, and Chardonnay
THERE’S A PLAN B TO THIS SCENE THREE
Soaked to the bones, feet bruised and cut, Jane stumbled into a dingy coffee shop that had seen better days. This was definitely not one of those days, she thought, making her way to the counter jostling with frightened people, all seeking a hit of caffeine to make sense of their ruined day. Finding a spot to hold her hot cup for a quick sip, Jane turned around and froze. Blood draining from her face, and then instantly warming the tips of her earlobes. She was starting directly into the deepest brown she had ever seen in her entire life. The eyes of a frightened puppy, wet, shuddering, hungry and stunned. Jane stood still. Her breath locked in her throat. Her life flashing in seconds the instant their eyes met. Everything standing still, in a vacuum, in that moment in time. She bent down to pick up the poor soul to her heart….
In good time, both Jagger and Chiko settled down to posing for the cameras, even as a thick glass of iced Cham (coffee and tea together as a beverage) made its way to my table. A plate of juicy Chicken Wings and Ming joined in the conversation. “COVID might have hit the business, but the regulars are coming back,” he confided, introducing me to another good looking CEO of a local pizza joint in the neighbourhood who haunts the joint for regular lunch. “Everybody loves a good pizza,” he retorted, even as Grabfood, Eatsily, Hungry and Food Panda deliveries keep the Kopitiam kitchen running, and the orders coming in.
By now it was time for Jagger and Chiko to continue onwards on their own journeys. Positioned back into their doggy bags, they both darted goodbyes as I waved to them. `Have a good life,’ I wished Jagger as he made his way out into the twilight. It was way past tea-time and a right cuppa Ginger and Honey Tea to close the ceremony for the day.
Yes, Malaysia is a happy place because of its happy people. And I realise its a food coma that ensures a perpetual great mood. I know this more, as I become more and more of Malaysia. Happiness is truly a promise you make to yourself. And before you know it, she dances her gypsy dance in your soul.
As they lay in each other’s comfort, Jane knew why she was here, at this very moment. That fate had written this scene just for them. They had found their home, at long last. As she stepped into the LRT energised with a new sense of purpose, Tommy rested after what had seemed like no hope to him. He was home with Jane.
There’s always light if you look beyond the chaos. That light is YOU.
Oh, by the way, the Kopitiam turns with a speak easy oriental bar by night. And if you are lucky, you could just meet a Jane or a John of your dreams. You can always hope, right?!! 🙂
Photos credits: Kwong Cheung Loong Kopitiam Bar, Ethel Da Costa
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