There’s a reason I require walking (a lot of walking) of trips to another country. It’s that I get to discover things that are not focused on paying the tourist guide more money than he or she is already getting for the usual services.
It’s places like Kedai Kopi Yee Fung that surprises. How? Well, if there’s only one store along a very busy street that has lines and lines of people waiting to be seated at a very unassuming restaurant covered in simple white and even simpler chairs and tables in tandem with bright green utensils – then they must be selling something really good for both locals and tourists alike to get a taste of what they have to offer.
What they did have to offer is the humble laksa and claypot chicken rice. Nothing special to the name apart from the same dishes available almost anywhere within the vicinity of a few meters. In fact, quite literally a store right in front offers the same claypot chicken rice. What makes it different, of course, will come down to the subtle changes in the recipe – a trade secret, strictly, for any of the stores seeing success much like this one.
The restaurant is only open for less than twelve hours starting from 6:30 AM until 6:00 PM on weekdays and only until 4 PM on weekends and holidays. Regardless of when and what time you arrive, expect a long line of awaiting diners. This has been the case for them since 1984.
It is highly suggested for you to arrive early since stocks start running out from 12 PM onward as was the case on multiple occasions.
The standard order will be the curry laksa or the claypot chicken rice paired with teh tarik (iced if and when the weather is looking hot).
What sets their version of a local standard is the stock they use. Typical laksa tend to be overpowering and make you want to stop mid-slurp. Their take on it is very subtle in a way that the flavor is still there, more watery than the usual, but leaves you wanting more. The chili is easily within reach in case you sit on the hotter side of the scoville scale.
The noodles are firm and chewy with the right amount of bite and disintegration under the molars. The topping include chicken shreds, tofu, celery for freshness and lime for a little bit of tang over the stock. All of these textures dancing around under the wonderfully crafted stock.
The claypot chicken rice emulates a lot of the strength of using claypot to meld the rice together with their secret sauce and spices underneath the pre-cooked chicken accentuated with the earthy and smoky flavors from the earthenware burnt but not charred.
Finally, imagine all those flavors being washed down but properly complementing the teh tarik, also a local standard on drink options, with the silky texture dowsing the flavors of the meal all thi while refreshing and cleansing the palette just a touch to make you want to eat more.
In case you plan on visiting, try Yee Fung for yourself located along Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu. In case you’re lost in translation as to looking for the spot, just ask for the street. Then, look for the only restaurant with the longest line. Enjoy.
If you’ve tried it out for yourself, was your experience the same?
Mabuhay Malaysia. Mabuhay Manila.