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Two Singaporean/Malaysian places, Leicester Sq./Chinatown, London

Both on Charing Cross Road, the stretch that is approximately the eastern limit of Chinatown.

• Mui & Bay
A solid wan tan ho fun - flat rice noodles with basic wok charring, under a starchy gravy with egg and a variety of seafood (prawns, squid), vegetables and meat. Not as soulful as the version at C&R, where the egg seemed to be cracked raw into the hot gravy for very light cooking. Nevertheless, pretty inexpensive for what it is. No pickled green chilli, but they do have sliced raw ones.

• Malaysian Kopi Tiam
They're newly opened, but this seems to be a reopening for them, from a prior location (iirc, Camden Town). Run by Malaysian-Chinese, and at least one of them is Hainanese. Basic teh-tarik ("pulled tea" - made frothy by repeated pouring from one container to another) could be more forthy, but is otherwise true. Genuine Hainanese chicken rice - solid chickeny flavour on the rice that is cooked in chicken stock, the hint of ginger evident, topped with aromatic crispy shallots. Good poached chicken, fairly tender, deboned (a nice convenience) and generally delicious even if it pales against the very best back home where the poaching is more gentle and the resulting chicken more silky. An ok chicken consomme with scallions on the side.

This place shows promise and I would recommend more people check it out. It's a bit hidden, at the back of the space that houses a sushi bar at the front. Hope to hear more about it, especially wondering about the quality of the other dishes. The roti canai that the next table got looked good, and seemingly resilient and flaky, from watching them tear into it.

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  1. I got a takeaway from Malaysia Kopi Tiam last night because of your recommendation, and I really liked it. I am no expert on Malaysian food, but I could tell that it was good cooking, and that someone in the kitchen knows what they're doing.

    I'm afraid I didn't try many things, as the meal was only for me. I had the Hainanese Chicken Rice, which was lovely - although I didn't get any of the crispy shallots on the top! It's a very delicate dish, and quite comforting to eat - the rice was delicious, with a lovely sesame oil flavour, and the chicken very tender and succulent. I liked the consome which comes with it too - again, very delicate flavours.

    I had the roti cannai too, and it was very good - crispy and flakey at the same time, and not too oily. The curry sauce with it was good too.

    I saw someone eating the fish head curry, and it looked amazing - I wish I'd been able to order that too - maybe next time. Thanks for the tip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Theresa

      Cool - thanks for reporting back. Love to hear more about it as one never knows based on a single experience how things really it. Will probably be back to sample other things in the future.

    2. adding more stuff from the last few months:

      Penang style char kuey teow -- a very solid rendition of the version with a lighter soy sauce, prawns, egg, squid, green onion and bean sprouts, deftly stir-fried at high heat with a nice "wok breath."

      Fish bean curd -- good crispy deep frying, decent flavour - fish cake-like in some respects.

      Hokkien mee -- fairly good, with an appropriate dose of the dark soy sauce to create the important and deeply flavoured gravy. Good noodles, with appropriate softness.

      Curry mee -- another solid item, but very different from the nyonyah style laksa lemak. The curry broth has more intensity from curry leaves and perhaps more earth spices (coriander etc.). Fish cake slices, bean sprouts, chicken cooked in the curry accompany the thin rice noodles.

      Kangkong belacan - a good textbook example, brisk but high octane stir-frying, chilli heat and pungence (from the belacan, a fermented salty prawn paste) flavouring the crunchy kang kong aka water convolvulus.

      Hakka mee - hakka style noodles, medium thickness, slightly knobby, perhaps signs of it handmade origins (as claimed on the menu), stir fried in a dark soy sauce, with chye sim/choy sum, a green leafy veg, mushroom iirc, and slices of pork.

      Carrot cake with sambal - actually it's a turnip cake, but in Singapore and Malaysia, carrot cake is a common name for it. Not bad, decent touch of turnip flavour, stir-fried with the salty pungence of belacan, and plenty of bean sprouts.

      Nasi goreng - fried rice, with bits of prawn, chicken and squid. Keropok (prawn crackers) on the side, the standard topping of a fried egg, and garnished with cucumbers. The rice could be a tiny tiny bit more dry, but perhaps it's a bit nitpicky on my part.

      Chicken Satay - surprisingly tender chicken breast pieces, an ok but not out of this world marinate. Pretty thick and proper peanut sauce with lots of chopped peanuts cooked down.

      Ban Mian - handmade noodles, reasonable texture, not too soft but certainly not al dente. Decent broth, topped with ikan bilis (fried anchovies), along with chye sim/choy sum greens, shiitake, slices of pork.

      I'd say that the chicken rice and penag char kway teow are probably my favourites there for now. Will try more as I go along.

      2 Replies
      1. re: limster

        Limster, is this Miu & Bay or Malaysia Kopi Tiam? Sounds good regardless. I have been seeking out good Singaporean and Malay food in London for a while, and I have to admit, each time I find myself disappointed. I went to Rasa Sayang with high hopes, just to have them dashed. There was none of the appetising "wok breath" in the char kuey teow (in fact, I would say the renditions I have had at Cha Cha Moon have been preferable). Moreover, whilst the rice in my Hainanese chicken rice was good, and had some lovely flavour from the stock it was cooked in, the actual poached chicken left a lot to be desired.

        I shall definitely have to try Malaysia Kopi Tiam and see if it is an improvement.

        1. re: Sharmila

          Woops, sorry about that - it's Malaysian kopi tiam. please do try them so that we can get more info. I've been generally happy with them, although I haven't had a "wow" type experience.

          I wasn't that happy with the cha kuey teow at Rasa Sayang either, but I've had better luck with chicken rice (but I had it a few months ago). Thanks for your post - it's great to hear more about them, so we can get an overall sense of the variation. I had the nasi lemak again and it didn't seem as good as the first time, but it was on different days, wondering if it's due to different chefs on duty or just general inconsistency.

      2. I see three listing of Kopi Tiam when I plug this into Google maps. Is it a chain? Am thinking of going there this week.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Lina

          The menu had an image of its prior location in Soho, maybe that's the location that is popping up?

          1. re: limster

            Went here last night for dinner. The place was jammed by 7 pm, every table was full.

            I tried the pickled veg starter which was really nice, covered in crumbled peanuts. The chicken curry laksa was fantastic, couldn't imagine a better comfort food. Had the hakka mee which was less impressive but not bad. All this plus beer for £25. I was delighted. Good call, limster!

        2. Thanks for the tip, im going to try Malaysia Kopi Tiam on my way to Hackney tonight. I'll report back!

          1. Tried Kopi Tiam today. Hainanese Chicken, Fish Balls and Pig Skin Curry, and Chicken Satay were all quite tasty, but a bit on the pricey side (particularly the 5 pound for 4 chicken satays.) Otherwise it was nice and I'd be up for another trip. Curious about the fish head in a clay pot dish.

            1. Finally made it to Kopi Tiam on a Sunday when they serve Assam Laksa. Deliciously refreshing with just the right amount of tamarind tang and chilli heat, toppped with mint, cucumber, pineapple shreds and onion. One of the tastiest dishes I've had in a long time. Highly recommended. They also serve it on a Monday I believe.

              3 Replies
              1. re: zedman_1

                If you like a balanced taramind tang et al, try the curry tumis fish or prawn at Sedap.

                1. re: zedman_1

                  Went with friends (mainly from S.E.Asia) to Malaysia Kopi Tiam recently after reading reviews here. Enjoyed both the Malaysian and Thai food on offer at very reasonably priced indeed. Not surprised Kopi Tiam is listed as one of many current Cheap Eat reatuarants in London by the Time Out magazine. We had Teh Tarik, Soya with grass jelly, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Nasi Goreng, Roti Canai, Carrot Cake (with sambai), Yam Cake, Tom Yam soup, Pad Thai, Curry/Laksa Mee, Wat Tan Ho, Hokkien Mee etc. and finished off with ABC ice kachang. We were seated up-stairs and saw people eating 'mini-steam boat', and must try this during Autumn/Winter time. Will definitely go back to Malaysia Kopi Tiam again shortly.

                  1. re: B.Boy

                    Malaysia Kopi Tiam was packed with diners when my friends and I were there on a Friday night recently. Surprised to find both the Malaysian and Thai food we ate were pretty good and authentic. Liked the Hainanese Chicken Rice, Hakka Mee, Hokkien Mee, Sambal Carrot Cake, Bangkok Lamb, Steamed Sea Bass (with lemon grass), Green and Red curry dishes etc. Very good value for what we ate.

                2. Are most Malaysian places in London run by ethnic Chinese, as in NY? When I was in Malaysia I never saw the range of items in the same restaurant as you do in NY, and it seems London. In Malaysia I'd find roti canai generally at little places run by North Indians, Nasi Lemak at Malay-run hawker stands, and Char Kuey Teow and other Malaysian-Chinese dishes at Chinese places. I also wonder why, if overseas Malaysian Chinese restaurateurs serve a panoply of dishes they don't ever incorporate South Indian items.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Peter Cherches

                    Over here seems that many are run by Malaysian Chinese, but a few are run by ethnic Malays (e.g. Makan in Ladbroke Grove iirc, and the canteen at the Malaysian embassy; haven't been to the latter yet, been meaning to go for a while).

                    Back home in Singapore, a lot of these one dish meals are sold at hawker stalls that each specialise in one dish with perhaps a few variations in ingredients. Roti canai/ roti paratha is probably more of a South Indian thing than a North Indian one and that's quite common in many Singapore/Malaysian places. Teh Tarik is largely found in Indian sarabat (drink) stalls and mee goreng is normally made by Indian stalls despite the Malay name and the Chinese noodle. They're not South Indian items per se since they were probably created in SE Asia, but are made by the largely Tamil population in Singapore and (I assume) Malaysia. In this respect it's probably similar to char kuey teow, which isn't found in China.

                    The problem is that since most stalls back home specialise in one or a few dishes, whilst the places here try to cook the whole range, it often takes a bit of work to figure out which dish they're good at and which ones are on the menu simply because it's part of the genre.

                    1. re: Peter Cherches

                      Peter, the business volume a Malaysian eatery gets in UK will never allow a single-dish place to survive, hence the wide range of dishes you'd find in a typical Malaysian restaurant. Same goes for Japanese restaurants in London - in Japan, you'll find the sushi-ya which only serves sushi & nothing else, ramen-ya which only does ramen noodles, ... teppanyaki-ya, tempura-ya, tonkatsu-ya, yakitori-ya, etc.

                      Of course, it results in a Malaysian chef in London having to stretch his abilities to come out with "decent" dishes in the wide range offered. What this means to the discerning diner in London (& NY) is really to know which are each chef's "specialty dishes", i.e. the chef can do an awesome laksa and a rubbishy fried koay teow!

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        That's true for Malaysian in New York, but not Japanese.

                        1. re: klyeoh

                          Bincho is a yakitori-ya with 2 branches (Southbank and Soho), but I vastly prefer Tosa (which does serve a number of other dishes, but specialises in yakitori). Tsuru in Southbank is basically a curry-katsu place, but do serve a number of other items. Isn't Matsuri in Mayfair a teppanyaki place (haven't been myself)?

                          1. re: limster

                            FYI - Malaysia Kopi Tiam (at 67 Charing Cross Road, London WC2) also serves very good Thai food. We ate there recently and had Bangkok Lamb, King Prawns, Papaya Salad, Steamed Sea Bass (with lemon grass), Pad Thai, Green Curry,
                            Panang Curry, Sticky rice and some Malaysian dishes. Very happy to eat both Malaysian and Thai food in one establishment.

                            1. re: B.Boy

                              That's probably because Malaysia Kopi Tiam hires Thai chefs (Malaysian chefs are relatively scarce in UK).

                              When I went into ASAP, a Straits-Chinese (Malaysian/Singaporean) takeaway joint near Liverpool St, I noticed that all the 4-5 chefs were Thais, although the proprietress was Singaporean.

                              1. re: klyeoh

                                Went to eat in Malaysia Kopi Tiam (London) recently. Enjoyed the food, reasonable priced and of good value. Found out that there were three chefs cooking in the kitchen at the rear of the restaurant premises. The Head Chef is Malaysian and the other two were Thai and Singaporean.

                      2. i ate at malaysai kopi tan last week and thought it was very mediocre. we ate thai as i was craving pad thai which was overly sweet and dull in flavour. my companions chicken noodles (i can't remember exactly what he chose) was also mediocre and overly oily.

                        next to us people were eating various steaming bowls of soup looked good and i think i'd try those next time, if i go back.

                        1. Sedap Restaurant, Old Street Underground station closest. Best Penang Char Kwai Teow I have ever had (from my experience even in Penang, I believe they are the best!!). Family taking care of the restaurant are natural born Penangnites!!

                          1. A new Singapore-owned eatery opened at 66A Whitechapel Road last month - Kopitiam Straits Times (no relation to Singapore's national daily newspapers, The Straits Times, though).

                            Nothing on the food menu really looks particularly Singaporean, but they serve Teh Halia (ginger tea) with the ginger content toned down to suit Londoners' taste, and Milo Dinosaur, which *any* Singaporean would recognize.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: klyeoh

                              There's a newish? Singaporean place in London on Warren St. It's called Nyonya , though not sure if there's anything Nyonya about the menu. I tired the Char Kway Teow. A bit bland and not a patch on Sedap's version(not made to order either) Also no Chinese sausage, which I know not all versions have but I think it's something of a must. The roasted chilli sambal you can help yourself to is good though and saved the dish somewhat.May go back for pork belly with boiled egg.

                              1. re: Paprikaboy

                                Interesting - I've got to check Nyonya out when I'm in London next. I read that it just opened in mid-June this year. I'd be interested to find out the folks behind this café.

                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  The website didn't seem to want to play, but the menu is here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaura...

                                  1. re: Foxeyblue

                                    Thanks, foxeyblue. I wondered why the owners chose the name Nyonya for their cafe - perhaps to cash-in on the popularity of the now-defunct Nyonya at Nottting Hill (that one was run by Mary Yeoh/Yeoh Teng Chye before they quit and started their own restaurant - Sedap).

                                    The offerings at Nyonya Cafe seemed like a mix of British-Chinese (prawn toast, egg fried rice), Thai (green curry), Indonesian (ayam belado) and other dishes targetted at British diners looking for something with an exotic "Oriental" slant (crispy salmon with shallot & chilli sauce; etc.), - basically designed to appeal to the widest pool of potential customers possible.

                                    The only 3 items which looked vaguely "Nyonya" (i.e. Straits Chinese) on their menu board are:

                                    - Braised pork & hard-boiled egg in soy sauce & anise. The closest dish the Nyonyas in Singapore cook to this would use star-anise, not anise which could refer to aniseed. It's a homey dark-coloured stew called "tau yu bak" by the Penang-Nyonyas, and "babi pongteh" (which uses coriander in place of star-anise) by the Malaccan- and Singaporean-Nyonyas.

                                    - Sayur lemak: an Indonesian dish, though the Nyonyas in Singapore have adapted this dish as sayur lodeh, with our own spice mix which sets it apart from the Indonesian version (also, the Nyonyas don't use "daun salam" or Indonesian bay leaf in our sayur lodeh).

                                    - Chicken curry: this can be anything here. In Singapore, you find Malay chicken curry, Hainanese-style chicken curry, Indian-Muslim (Mamak) chicken curry, etc. besides Nyonya chicken curry.