Sometimes all you need is a teh tarik to put you in your happy place.
We were wandering around the vicinity of our accommodation in Melbourne trying to find a cheap but not-too-dodgy place for dinner that also wasn’t full or booked out. After searching until our stomachs were crying out for food, we stumble upon Old Town Kopitiam in Melbourne’s Chinatown. We ask if they have a table for 8 and soon we’re sitting down sipping on refreshing drinks like teh tarik and ice lemon tea, and all our frustrations dissipate.
The menu is varied with a range of noodle and rice dishes as well as main menu items like bak kut teh, curries and vegetable dishes. There is also a small section of snack-sized dishes including roti canai and kaya toast, and of course Malaysian desserts like ais kacang, cendol and pulut hitam.
I’ve decided to go with an old favourite, the Hainanese chicken rice. The chicken is steamed making it slippery and smooth and it sits on a bed of cooked bean sprouts and soy sauce. I love the sprinkle of fried garlic on top of the chicken to add a bit of crunch. The chicken rice is a sizeable mound on the plate and is fragrant and tasty with little bits of ginger throughout the rice. There is a small dish of chilli sauce if you like it hot, and some sliced cucumber on the side.
Ung orders the Ipoh Hor Fun which has nicely charred flat rice noodles in an almost soupy egg sauce. It’s loaded with squid, prawns and chicken in amongst the noodles and while the plate is massive, Ung has no trouble finishing it so it must’ve been good!
A few of the group order the crispy yee mee which is a crispy net of egg noodles over which a thin gravy is poured. This version includes some squid, chicken, prawns and fishcake on top of the noodles. The gravy makes some of the noodles soft and pliable while others that escape the gravy sea remain crisp. It’s this play on crunchy and soft textures which makes the dish so good and BLT is particularly pleased with her choice.
The Bee orders the wanton noodle with a dry base so the wontons are served in a separate bowl to the noodles. It’s a very different version to what I’m used to seeing in Hong Kong, with thicker noodles and the base being an oyster sauce base rather than a clear soup. The noodles are topped with minced pork and garlic chips and served with greens on the side.
T is particularly excited when she spots Assam Laksa on the menu and waits in anticipation for it to arrive. It’s the last dish to arrive and while she declares it’s not the best she’s had, she’s just happy to have found her beloved assam laksa. The broth is fishy and sour from the tamarind, perhaps a little too sour for T. But she loves the fishy flavour of the soup from the mackerel and shredded fish, the fragrant lemongrass flavour as well as the slippery thick rice noodles. While I find my happy place through my first sip of teh tarik, T is definitely finds her happy place after polishing off the whole bowl of assam laksa.
Old Town Kopitiam
195 Lt Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: +61 3 9639 6098
Opening Hours: Monday-Wednesday and Sunday, 11.30am-9.30pm; Thursday, 11.30am-10.30pm; Friday-Saturday, 11.30am-late