Old Town White Coffee is a tremendously successful kopitiam franchise chain in Malaysia. It is now almost synonymous with MacDonald in outlets coverage and popularity. Per its website, as of July 2010, the chain has 166 outlets in Malaysia and Singapore. And I believe it is still growing.
This enormous success story has a very humble beginning. Old town obviously has an Ipoh origin for only in Ipoh do they have new and old towns (which Ipoh folks still fondly refer to), separated by the Kinta River. While we were there recently, we stumbled on an almost dilapidated coffee shop which is the birth place of the famed OTWC chain.
The name of this coffee shop is Nam Heong (南香). It is located on at the end of a row of shops, at the junction of Jalan Bandar Timah and Persiaran Bandar Timah, in (but of course) old town Ipoh.
We were initially unsure if this was actually the birth place of OTWC. We asked the lady boss and she very enthusiastically confirmed that OTWC indeed had its beginning in Nam Heong and that it was started by a nephew or some other relative of hers - I don't remember. We had found the genesis of this successful kopitiam chain.
Perhaps the guy with the former PM is the nephew or some-other-relative...
Unlike its 166 off-springs, you cannot afford to go slow-slow in this coffee joint. This is one place you want to quickly have your cuppa and makan, and then disappear. It is crowded, messy and noisy. The place is apparently so popular that you need to scramble for a table. The tables spill outside to the five-foot ways behind the shop.
Being the original white coffee place, I had to go for just that. And being a hot day, I ordered a cold one. It wasn't good. I had tasted a lot better white coffee in KL and PJ. I need not come to Ipoh for this.
Like all coffee shops, there were several food stalls selling various makan - char koay teow (炒粿條), curry mee (咖哩麵) , Ipoh sar hor fun (沙河粉), etc - the normal coffee shop stuff.
Outside the shop was a pancake stall. It was very popular. My wife had to wait quite awhile for her pancakes. But I guess it was a wait in vain for the pancakes were just ordinary. Nothing fantastic.
There was also a dim sum (点心) stall. We had some egg tart and a (Chinese) chicken pastry from the stall. Both were great. So good that we tar pau (打包) several boxes of them to take home.
The Ipoh sar hor fun (沙河粉) looked ordinary. I did not taste it so I am not able to say how it tasted like.
The char koay teow was quite good. Very aromatic. I liked it.
Finally, the bowl of pork porridge was also quite flavorful. It looked plain but the taste was good.
The original Old Town White Coffee, like its 166 off-springs, was no big deal.