"Grandpa loved this place since he was a kid!", my colleague said as his eyes scanned the lofty ceilings of this venerable 80-something years old Hainanese coffeeshop in downtown KL.
Since the late 19th-century, ethnic Hainanese immigrants from Southern China are renowned throughout Malaysia and Singapore as great purveyors of coffee and colonial-British-influenced dishes like the Hainanese pork chops. In the mornings, Hainanese coffeeshops served out a variety of hot beverages, soft-boiled eggs and toasts, and they are especially famous for their kaya (eegg-coconut-jam) toasts.
Famous Hainanese coffeeshops in Singapore included Killiney Road Kopitiam, Ya Kun and Chin Mee Chin. In Ipoh (Malaysia), they included Sin Yoon Long, Keng Nam, Thean Chun and Kong Heng. Penang still has a whole bunch of them, although the most illustrious ones, Wing Look and Loke Thye Kee, had sadly shuttered down. But Penang's most famous coffeeshop, Kek Seng, has been there since 1895 and is still going strong.
In KL, I can only think of one other oldie, Yut Kee, which matches Sin Seng Nam's ambience and old-world feel.
Breakfrast today at Sin Seng Nam consisted of the inevitable kopi-C (thick, freshly-brewed Hainanese coffee with evaporated milk) and kaya-margarine toast. The coffee was GREAT, the sugar content toned down these days. I still preferred Singaporean kaya toasts - we do it SO MUCH better than anywhere in Malaysia. Plus, I'd always preferred Nyonya-style kaya, scented with pandan, over the Chinese-Hainanese brown kaya, some of which has a strong ginger flavor.
My colleague insisted that I try the KL-style "chee cheong fun". Interesting - whereas in Singapore, we have "chee cheong fun" (rice-flour rolls) slathered in hoi-sin and chilli sauce, plus a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, the KL version was much more interesting: you get to pick and choose from a variety of "yong tau fu" ingredients: fishballs, stuffed chillis, okra, beancurd sheets, stuffed tofu, etc. You take your pick, as the chef to add a couple of "chee cheong fun" rolls, then slather it with hoi-sin and chilli sauce (KL's hoi-sin sauce seemed more liquid), and you have a breakfast fit for a king :-)
I'll need to come back here for lunch - I heard that they serve a mean Hainanese chicken chop, complete with potato chips, peas (out of a can - authentic Hainanese-style, heh) and covered with the thick, brown, aromatic Hainanese sauce.
Sin Seng Nam
2 Medan Pasar
50050 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2070 2418