Iron House Kopitiam: Pulling in the crowd with delicious local food

The must-eat here is their signature nasi lemak with fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and served with crispy golden fried chicken, sambal, hard boiled egg, cucumbers, ikan bilis and peanuts. — Pictures by Choo Choy May
The must-eat here is their signature nasi lemak with fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and served with crispy golden fried chicken, sambal, hard boiled egg, cucumbers, ikan bilis and peanuts. — Pictures by Choo Choy May

SERI KEMBANGAN, March 6 — If you thought Seri Kembangan is the other end of the world, you will be surprised to discover it isn’t. With the Seri Kembangan exit on the MEX highway, it’s actually just a mere 30 minutes from Damansara or even Shah Alam. This makes eateries around the new village like the super popular Iron House Kopitiam incredibly accessible.

Opened last August, the kopitiam is run by millenials Wong Yun Soon (or Soon as he prefers to be called) and his girlfriend, Tan Mei Syn. The 24-year-old accounting and finance graduates swapped their corporate lives to run their own F&B business. Rather than falling into the cafe scene, Soon who is a self-confessed foodie decided to open this kopitiam with a menu that preserves his own heritage.

Iron House Kopitiam is run by the young couple, Wong Yun Soon and Tan Mei Syn.
Iron House Kopitiam is run by the young couple, Wong Yun Soon and Tan Mei Syn.

Prior to opening this place, he picked up his cooking skills from his mother Yin Yoke Keng who ran a pan mee stall.

Soon keeps things safe with local crowd-pleasers like pan mee, nasi lemak, Hainanese chicken chop and steamed items paired with rice. Desserts are icy creations like cendol, ABC and tangy ai yu jelly with canned longans. A daily tong sui is also available.

Adding the final touches to the ABC, one of their cold desserts (left). You can order additional side dishes like sambal sotong and chicken rendang with your nasi lemak (right).
Adding the final touches to the ABC, one of their cold desserts (left). You can order additional side dishes like sambal sotong and chicken rendang with your nasi lemak (right).

Prices for their dishes are kept affordable, their small portion of pan mee is RM5.50. Originally, Soon’s target audience was young college kids from the nearby universities. To his surprise, his food won him fans like families and even older folks.

Taste the food served and you know why there’s always a queue for a table here... it’s delicious and well executed. Soon uses top quality ingredients and the cooking skills in the kitchen are exemplary. Case in point, the sambal sotong is perfectly cooked without any rubbery bits that often plague this dish.

Pan mee is a big thing in this area, hence you have Iron House Kopitiam’s signature chilli version served with poached egg, crispy ikan bilis, minced meat and aromatic dried chillies (left). Comfort food: Steamed pork patty with salted fish served with rice mixed with fried shallots (right).
Pan mee is a big thing in this area, hence you have Iron House Kopitiam’s signature chilli version served with poached egg, crispy ikan bilis, minced meat and aromatic dried chillies (left). Comfort food: Steamed pork patty with salted fish served with rice mixed with fried shallots (right).

It’s a smart move to introduce pan mee since the locals here can’t get enough of the Hakka noodles which can be found at every corner of the village. The pan mee is a stand out — textbook perfection with an al dente texture that makes you want to slurp down a whole bowl. You have three choices for the noodles; classic soup with a sweet tasting broth, classic dry or their signature chilli where it’s tossed with a poached egg and a mix of fragrant dried chillies and dried shrimps. The pan mee is also available with the pinched type or a choice of thick or thin strands.

The busy kitchen at the back of the kopitiam.
The busy kitchen at the back of the kopitiam.

Their best seller is the nasi lemak with their signature fried chicken leg served on an enamel plate. At RM10.50, it’s the most expensive item and also found on every table here. As Soon wanted his nasi lemak to be authentic, the rice has a rich coconut milk taste.

Here he uses basmati rice for fluffier healthier grains making each spoonful of that fragrant rice a little less sinful. Their fried chicken also gets top marks for its juicy tender meat paired with crispy golden skin. Rather than go full-on with the spices usually found in the Malay versions, he decided to be cautious and reduce them to appeal to the Chinese palate. That has worked as diners are lapping up the fried chicken, as it’s a must-eat here for everyone.

A tribute to the owner’s heritage, the Hainanese chicken chop has a home cooked feel with its use of fresh tomatoes in their brown sauce.
A tribute to the owner’s heritage, the Hainanese chicken chop has a home cooked feel with its use of fresh tomatoes in their brown sauce.

Soon also has a real respect to his heritage. As his mother is Hainanese, he insisted on serving the Hainanese chicken chop. Here it’s interpreted in a better way — the deep fried chicken chop is slathered with a homemade brown sauce made with tomatoes rather than the usual ho-hum bottled tomato ketchup.

He also prefers to not use any colouring with the dish. There is also none of those commercial French fries served on the side but homemade potato wedges. Even the simple salted fish pork patty is well executed here — aromatic with the use of salted fish blended with the minced pork and with a nice texture that has a slight bite to it. This is paired with rice cooked with fried shallots to give it an extra oomph.

Look for the zinc roofed kopitiam next to the badminton centre.
Look for the zinc roofed kopitiam next to the badminton centre.

The kopitiam’s décor is rather simple as Soon admits they were on a tight budget. He decided to use zinc roof sheets to recreate those old-fashioned Chinese kampung homes, hence the name for the kopitiam. Appealing to those who remember the “good old days”, they also have old school decorations like an old television set, PVC cord chairs and even long forgotten snacks like haw flakes. There is also an extensive use of enamel plateware to further remind diners of those old days. As Soon adds, “it’s like going back to the past when we were still kids.”

Iron House Kopitiam, Lot 65639, Jalan BS 3/1, Section 1, Taman Bukit Serdang, Seri Kembangan, Selangor.
Open: 6pm to 12.30am

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