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May 2010

” Tau Foo Far ” from Nam Foong Coffee Shop 南风茶室之豆腐花 – A taste from the past

By |2010-07-04T00:28:56+08:00May 28th, 2010|Categories: Ipoh Town, Memories, People|Tags: , , , , , , |


         Bush Radio                       Marble Table                           Wooden Chairs


Besides being a home to my family, 188 Hugh Low Street was also once a coffee shop.

In 1945, an English man who was working and staying in Batu Gajah, retired and planned to return to England for good. He has a collection of marble tables and wooden chairs in his rented house. Unable to bring them along, he gave them away to the villagers nearby.

Dad got some tables and chairs and hired a small lorry to transport them to his newly rented shop in Ipoh. He bought a Bush Radio from a second hand dealer a few years later. Two hanging fans and fluorescent lamps were added to complete the ‘old world charm’ look. And voila, Nam Foong Coffee Shop南风茶室 was born!

Nam Foong is famous for its tau foo far, served with essence of almond in a small porcelain bowl. They are served either warm or chilled. It was sold at 5 cents a bowl in the 40s and 30 cents during the 60s.

It was hard work to make tau foo far. First, soya beans were soaked before being placed in between 2 round stone slabs to grind them. It is then cooked in a big wok using slow fire. Once it is boiled, it is filtered and poured into wooden tubs. Roasted lime stone powder is added to give it the right texture. Finally, they were scooped into hundreds of porcelain bowls.

Dad could take the easy way out by cooking gula Melaka or rock sugar to go with tau foo far, like what you are getting nowadays. But he will have none of this. To him, tau foo far is best eaten with essence of almond and nothing can convince him to think otherwise!

To produce the aromatic and sweet essence of almond call for skill. They were steamed and pounded to extract the essence which if done incorrectly, will give a bitter taste instead.

In those days, everything was done by hands. No machine is use, unlike now. The work was done by my parents and paternal grandma from night till dawn when everyone was sound asleep.

And do you know that the outcome is not the same every day? Dad was very strict with the end result. He will not settle for anything less. If he was satisfied with the texture, he will sell them. Otherwise, he would just pour them away and for that day, he will sell the normal stuff like coffee or toasted bread only.

The best soya beans came from Indonesia and Vietnam. Different batch of beans from the same source yield different results. The secret lay in choosing the right beans and using the right amount of each ingredient. It was a skill he learned from paternal grandpa who is very skillful in making soya bean products.

Soon words spread around about the smooth and aromatic tau foo far . Before long, it sold very well and on a good day, almost 200 bowls were sold. Patrons would park their cars near the shop to have a taste of this delicious dessert because back then, Dad would not allow take away in plastic bags. He insisted the tau foo far to be served in porcelain bowls to bring out the best in taste, aroma and texture.

A myriad of customers came in for this dessert. My elder brother’s headmaster, who is a Christian brother at Sam Tet School, occasionally cycled over for a few bowls in the hot afternoon. He came in his white robes and all!

Then there is the old blind masseur who roamed the town offering his service. When he called it a night, he would drop in for a bowl or two. Whenever I saw him coming, I would quickly ran and squatted under tables or hid behind doors because the sight of him wearing big dark glasses with bells in his hands simply petrified me. I was about 5 or 6 then.

The policemen from the police station opposite would come for the tau foo far too. Some of them would ask Dad, “Eh, towkay, apa benda ini hah…….sungguh sedap?”

Dad would reply, “ Ini tau foo far !”

“Apa….oh….tau foo farrrrrrrrr…..” and everyone would laugh.

Business was stable and the family could make a decent living.

However, some 25 years later, one day, Dad received a notice from the Ipoh municipality which changed our lives completely……


Note: The photos above showed a marble table, some wooden chairs and the old radio from Nam Foong Coffee Shop. Except for the radio which was broken down, the rest are still in use till today. During its prime, we can listen to stations all over the world, just imagine that!

天长地久 ……Forever and ever…….

By |2010-07-04T00:44:05+08:00May 12th, 2010|Categories: Ipoh Town, Memories, People|Tags: , , , , , |


“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

 After the Japanese left Malaya in 1945, Dad had wanted to resume with his apprenticeship at the village workshop in Batu Gajah but found it was burnt down. The owner and his entire family were killed by the Japanese soldiers.

He was already 25. So the next step would be to move to Ipoh to start a new life. With RM300 in his pocket, he rented a place and started a coffee shop with his mother and sisters. That was how Nam Foong Coffee Shop at 188 Hugh Low Street began.

As time went by, business began to pick up and he needed an extra pair of hands. It was also time he needed a companion too. So he was looking for two persons rolled in one.

At the same time, Mom was hoping to escape from childhood poverty and a nagging stepmother. She was a young girl of 15 staying in Kampung Kuchai.

Through a match maker, photos were exchanged and a meeting arranged for them. And it turned out to be love at first sight for them both. Months later, they were engaged.

During their courtship they like to stroll along Hugh Low Bridge, People’s Park and Birch Bridge in the evenings. Sometimes they would go to cinema halls to watch a movie or two and to Jubilee Park for amusement. They often took a ride around town in a rickshaw because Dad could not afford to buy a car.

Mom and Dad eventually got married on November 22 1950 immediately after she reached the age of 20. It was a modest wedding attended by family and friends from both sides. A wedding luncheon was held at the Nam Hoi Wui Khun (Nam Hoi Association) along Clare Street.

Like any couples, they had their fair share of quarrels and fights but nothing could rock their strong and solid union. Despite everything, they stayed glued together to weather out all the hardships and obstacles that came their way in raising a large family.

In April 2000, Mom was diagnosed with end stage kidney failure. Dad was very devastated. He just broke down and cried. It was almost like his whole world collapsed on him. Knowing her end was very near, he helped me to take loving and tender care of her although he was already 80 and frail.

Mom succumbed to a heart attack on 24 November 2000 at home with Dad and me by her side. It was only 2 days after their 50th golden wedding anniversary which they could not celebrate due to her illness. Dad was beyond consolation. He had lost a partner of 50 years and the greatest love of his life. A loss so profound he could not recover from, even after many years.

When he passed on later, after 7 lonely years, their ashes were finally placed side by side at the Paradise Memorial Park in Tanjung Rambutan.

                      天长地久 ……Forever and ever……..


* HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY 母亲节快乐      http://www.ipohworld.org/?p=1585

* At the doorstep of hell….well,almost.   http://www.ipohworld.org/?p=1489

January 2009

Anyone for Pork Rice?

By |2009-01-26T04:51:10+08:00January 26th, 2009|Categories: Identify Photographs|Tags: , , , , |

This is a rare photograph of a Kopitiam hawker cutting roast pork from a joint hanging above his chopping board, on which there is already a hearty portion of cut meat. Note the thickness of the board and how it is worn away on the side nearest to him. No doubt there is a customer anxiously waiting for his “Roast Pork Rice and Chilli Sauce”.

In the background can be seen a selection of tins and packets and partially visible,behind the hawker, is a traditional round wooden table with marble top.

Now, the key question is if anyone can recognise the man, said to be from Ipoh. If you can, please click on ‘comments’ below and share his details with us.

If anyone has any similar photographs showing the inside shops, coffee shops or restaurants, we would be delighted to include them in this archive.

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