Redefining Ipoh's café culture
KJ Lai explores the modern face of the Ipoh kopitiam
Ipoh has always been associated with good food, whether it’s classic Chinese food from famous restaurants or affordable food from traditional coffee shops or kopitiams. Kopitiams are especially popular places where locals can bond with friends and family over a cup of coffee or a simple bowl of noodles. Some are more than half a century old, such as Thean Chun, Kong Heng, Sin Yoon Loong and Nam Heong. Having thrived and perfected their recipes throughout the years, these kopitiams lure many back to the same place to find the familiarity of comfort food.
While kopitiams are maintaining their popularity, a new kind of culture has slowly emerged in Ipoh: caféhopping is suddenly the latest trend. Over the course of the past year or so, cafés have subtly opened one at a time. Before we realised it, Ipoh has become dotted with more than 30 unique hipster cafés, forming a new café culture embraced by young and old that is sweeping across the city like a tornado.
The cafés have generated a new genre of dining in Ipoh where ambience is as important as food (sometimes even more important) and prices are at
a premium. Each café has always managed to wow me with its setting – be it Parisian, Korean, eclectic rustic, or vintage. Some cafés in Ipoh have dual functions so that you can get a haircut, attend a ukulele lesson or chat with an assemblyman while enjoying more than just coffee and cake. Food in Ipoh's new breed of cafés is mostly western with pasta, sandwiches, cakes and coffee all on the menu but a lesser number of them do serve Asian cuisine. With so many new openings, it’s hard to choose our favourites. But here are a few we think you should try…