Episode 35: Kopitiam + Malaysian Breakfast

Photo credit: Nooklyn

Lynda and Iris sat down with Kyo Pang, owner and chef at Kopitiam for another Asian Breakfast episode! Kyo Pang enlightened us on what breakfast looks like in Malaysia, why she followed in her family's footsteps to open her own cafe, and what is Baba-Nyonya food.

First, we reflect on the best things we ate in the past week: Lynda made a bangin' cheese plate and Iris finally understands why Pret is so popular. Sometimes it's about the simple things in life.

We then turn the discussion toward Malaysia and introduce our guest, Kyo Pang. She tells us a bit about her Baba-Nyonya heritage and how the cuisine came about from Chinese, Portuguese, and local Malay influences. She tells us about her family's coffee shop in Malaysia which has been around for three generations. Despite her lack of enthusiasm to be involved in her father's business when she was younger, she ended up continuing the family legacy by opening Kopitiam in New York when she was 29.

She then talks about Malaysian breakfast and how Malaysians don't shy away from strong flavors nor snacking first thing in the morning. She talks about how pandan is an important ingredient, and of course, the labor-intensive but delicious kaya which is served on toast. Kyo also talks about white coffee—an iconic beverage—as well as how Malaysian tea is prepared. We then discuss the savory and sweet snacks she serves at Kopitiam; and her family's purist attitude toward making things from scratch and and making the gorgeous colorful items served at her coffee shop without artificial food coloring.

Lynda asks why are there only a handful of Malaysian restaurants in New York City, and Kyo offers her the theory that the food is so labor intensive that Malaysians would rather prepare it for their family at home than run a food business.

27:14 "I feel that this is a responsibility that I love." - Kyo Pang on cooking Malaysian food.

Sadly, Kopitiam won't be able to stay in the same location due to rent increases, but don't worry, Kyo Pang is working hard to expand the business. But do go visit before their lease ends in December!

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