>> QQ Kopitiam | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday 2 March 2020

QQ Kopitiam


EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (12 January 2024) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here: 
If you have ever traveled in Singapore and some of the larger cities of Malaysia and Indonesia, the letter Q used twice in names will be very familiar. Small street vendors, hawker stalls, and full restaurants all use it similarly, most of which have nothing to do with each other. The term originated in Taiwan and has spread throughout the Chinese-speaking world with many meanings and usages.

In terms of food, the literal translation is akin to "chewy," the Taiwanese version of which sounds like the way people say the letter Q in English. Chewy does not tell the whole story of QQ though, as it implies that the item in question has a good resistance and mouthfeel. Not too soft, a good bounce, nice and chewy.

Right across from Pasadena City College, the simple shop that was birthed in 2014 and shares this name is Singaporean-run and features the Peranakan foods that you find in hawker stalls all over the tiny island nation and beyond. These familiar dishes are rich in the influences brought by Chinese immigrants for centuries. The food is not limited by this assessment though, it also reaches out and grabs bits of Indian and other Southeast Asian cultures that have blended in Singapore and Malaysia forever.

With both a rice and noodle section of the food menu, QQ Kopitiam has most of the bases covered. Unfortunately it looks like Singapore's most ubiquitous dish of Hainanese chicken rice is no longer available. The permanent-looking piece of tape (which ironically reads "temporarily not available") over it on the menu board hints of this at least. But different fried rice styles, meats over rice, perennial favorites like Hokkien mee, chor hor fun, and Singapore laksa all look so good.

A good introduction and a wonderful barometer of how satisfying the QQ here will be is a handsome plate of Singapore char kway teow ($9.95, above and below). Also full of the other textures from meats, vegetables, and egg, the broad flat noodles have some of the best QQ in town and are the perfect vehicle for a well-balanced blend of seasoning and good spice level.

Each bite of the char kway teow reveals a deep level of skill by the chef and just the right amount of each ingredient. When the meats (beef, Taiwanese sausage, shrimp) and vegetables are slightly charred, they give the surrounding elements even more flavor, a technique Cantonese chefs describe as "wok hei" or "wok's breath" in English. This simple phrase might be the best way to describe the simple satisfaction that comes from eating the dish.

Kopitiam means coffeehouse, and their fine selections should be a part of any meal here. Bubble teas are on offer, which students come in for alone, but the different types of kopi really go well with meals.

A lot of Southeast Asians enjoy their coffees with plenty of sugar and/or condensed milk (kopi O or kopi), but you can also get kopi kosong which is simple black. A good compromise is kopi C ($2.95, below), a version that uses evaporated milk and can be further sweetened as desired with sugar.

Coffee culture on the Malay Peninsula often includes a plate of kaya toast in the morning, but if there is one strike against QQ Kopitiam it is the lack of this snack. The 11am opening time probably rules this out of the question. Seeing as how many students probably wake up late, the timing could be ignored and afternoon toast and coffee enjoyed.

Maybe one day.

PASADENA San Gabriel Valley
1491 E. Colorado Blvd

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