Hearty kopitiam fare draws locals

Wing Lee is well-patronised by Sungai Way residents who linger over drinks after shopping at the market next door.

After a busy morning of shopping at the Sungai Way market in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, locals looking for a place to put their feet up for a while know just where to go.The Wing Lee coffeeshop located next to the market makes for a convenient spot.

However, getting a table there on a Sunday morning can be as tough as finding street parking in the area.

Since the shop occupies a corner lot and the food stalls are all outside, it has good ventilation and it’s possible to dine inside fairly comfortably.

Once seated, you will hear women calling out drink orders.

They are the three sisters who operate the coffeeshop.

The eldest sister, 71, prepares the drinks in the hollow space under the staircase while the other two work the floor, serving the customers and chatting to them.

Lai Kooi Yoke, 64, the youngest and chattiest of the three sisters, said her father started the coffee- shop over 60 years ago in what was then a New Village.

Her eldest sister added that the coffeeshop back then occupied half a structure with an attap roof.

The rest of the space was taken up by a watch repair shop and when that moved across the street, their father took the opportunity to expand the business.

The coffeeshop had been the first building on the road, evolving into the three-storey shophouse which the sisters still occupy today.

Ownership of the coffeeshop was passed to their eldest brother who operated it day and night.

Once the sisters took over, they limited the coffeeshop’s opening hours to half a day.

When asked about the shop’s other name “Yoon Lee” on a wooden signboard, Kooi Yoke explained that it was the name accepted by authorities for registration.

More prominently displayed is the shop’s original name “Wing Lee” that is etched on a mirrored signboard.

Unexpectedly, the kopitiam staple of toast and eggs is no longer available at this coffeeshop.

Kooi Yoke said this was because the sisters had their hands full serving drinks and manning the till.

As for their coffee, it passed our “kopi O” test as it didn’t have the unpleasant bitter taste of over- extracted grounds.

The tea was served a little light but you could request to have the strength of your drink adjusted.

Up until a few years ago, the coffeeshop was very popular for nasi lemak.

Today, the tenants are a chicken rice stall operator, a tai chow cook and – the newest addition – a wantan noodle stall franchisee.

We ordered a platter of roast meats from the chicken rice stall at the front.

The siew yoke (roast pork) had a crisp crackling while the roast chicken and the char siew (barbecued pork) were tasty and tender.

Equally good was the char siew from the wantan noodle stall at the back, which roasts its own meat.

The thick-cut glazed char siew slices had just the right amount of fat for full flavour.

The stall’s sui kow (dumplings), that were filled with minced pork and shrimp, were also worth an order.

Each dumpling was so large that it covered the width of a soup spoon.

Kooi Yoke said most of their customers lived in the neighbourhood.

Given its proximity to a brewery across the Federal Highway, Wing Lee is also frequented by blue- collar workers who show up later in the morning.

Having weathered three lockdowns in the last two years, the sisters now have to contend with rising overhead costs.

“Despite this, we work very hard to keep our prices down,” said Kooi Yoke.

She added that she and her siblings were also concerned that the younger members of their family were not keen on taking over the business.

However, their nephew helps out on weekends so there may yet be hope the shop will continue in family hands.

WING LEE/KEDAI KOPI YOON LEE, No.627, Jalan SS9A/13, Sungai Way, Petaling Jaya. Business hours: 7am to 3pm daily. Closed on Mondays.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.

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