Malaysia makes it to Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ inaugural ‘Essence of Asia’ collection

Lee Khang Yi
·2-min read
Penang’s Siam Road ‘char koay teow’ has been honoured with a listing on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants inaugural ‘Essence of Asia’ collection — Picture by K.E. Ooi
Penang’s Siam Road ‘char koay teow’ has been honoured with a listing on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants inaugural ‘Essence of Asia’ collection — Picture by K.E. Ooi

KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — Four Malaysian eateries are featured in the first-ever “Essence of Asia” collection — an unranked listing by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Kuala Lumpur’s Bijan Restaurant, Penang’s Siam Road Char Koay Teow, Kota Kinabalu’s Kedai Kopi Yee Fung and Ipoh’s Artisan Handmade Bread.

Bijan Bar & Restaurant showcases Malay food in a fine dining setting — Picture by Choo Choy May
Bijan Bar & Restaurant showcases Malay food in a fine dining setting — Picture by Choo Choy May

“At a time when restaurants need our support, this collection presents travellers and gourmets with an invaluable guide to some of Asia’s most authentic and diverse dining experiences. Reflecting the breadth of the region’s gastronomic scene, the range of establishments spans street vendors, time-honoured institutions, philanthropic businesses and pioneering newcomers,” said Director of Content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants William Drew.

Opened since 2003, Bijan Bar & Restaurant has built up a solid reputation for showcasing Malay food served in a fine dining style. Expect to dine on dishes such as opor rusuk or tender beef ribs served with a creamy curry or the wobbly, smooth pandan pudding paired with fragrant gula Melaka syrup.

Then there is Penang’s famed Siam Road char koay teow. The noodles are fried by Tan Chooi Hong who has been honing his skills for more than 50 years.

As he uses charcoal fire, the noodles have an added smokiness. Previously located at a roadside stall, it relocated to its own coffee shop about three years ago.

In Kota Kinabalu, Kedai Kopi Yee Fung is popular for their ‘laksa’ — Picture courtesy of Kedai Kopi Yee Fung’s website
In Kota Kinabalu, Kedai Kopi Yee Fung is popular for their ‘laksa’ — Picture courtesy of Kedai Kopi Yee Fung’s website

In Kota Kinabalu, everyone from locals to tourists flock to Kedai Kopi Yee Fung for their laksa. Other popular items include their beef noodle soup and claypot chicken rice.

The coffeeshop on Jalan Gaya is owned by Cheng Chew Wang, a Johorean who has settled in Sabah. Even though the laksa traces its origins to a Sarawak recipe, Cheng has made it his own by using his special mix of spices plus there is an addictive prawn sambal served on the side.

Over in Ipoh, chef Sam Lau who cut his teeth in kitchens around Asia and Europe runs Artisan Handmade Bread. Inspired to introduce good bread to his hometown, he used to sell them from outside Plan B, a cafe in Old Town.

Artisan Handmade Bread’s Sam Lau bakes up wholemeal and rye sourdough breads in Ipoh — Photo courtesy of Artisan Handmade Bread’s Facebook page
Artisan Handmade Bread’s Sam Lau bakes up wholemeal and rye sourdough breads in Ipoh — Photo courtesy of Artisan Handmade Bread’s Facebook page

Eventually he opened a cafe but since it shuttered, he now sells his bread from home. You can get wholemeal sourdough bread, whole wheat Italian focaccia and rye sourdough bread from him.

The “Essence of Asia” collection covers establishments in 49 cities across 20 countries. The list is based on recommendations by chefs of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2020 and 2021, 50 Best’s Academy Chairs and trusted gourmands from the region.

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