KUALA LUMPUR, FEB 4 — The enticing aroma of scrambled eggs, chashu and toast wafted from the kitchen. The hiss of the steam wand as the barista frothed the milk, to be transformed into latte art moments later.
The space inside Ebony & Ivory Coffee, a neighbourhood café in Cheras had become more streamlined after a recent renovation. Regulars were glad to be back when the shop reopened on January 12; what was supposed to take two weeks stretched into a month but these days we all expect the unexpected.
The next day it was back to delivery and takeaway only. The movement control order (MCO) 2.0 had commenced.
This would have been devastating for most businesses but like many other brick-and-mortar establishments, Ebony & Ivory Coffee has had to pivot quickly. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that our local food providers are a tough lot and not ones to bemoan their fate for long.
Instead, it is always a scramble and plenty of brainstorming to figure out the best way to continue operations when it is not business as usual. With the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations, what better time than now to adapt one’s offerings in line with the festivities?
For Ebony & Ivory Coffee’s Cheong May Lee and Ejay Loi, this means adding some colour — especially copious amounts of lucky red — with some homemade acar. The sour and spicy pickle is chock-full of crunchy vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, jicama and pineapple, sprinkled liberally with roasted peanuts and sesame seeds.
What Chinese New Year would be complete without cookies? Doughappy, a home-based bakery in Taman Desa run by Lee Zhi Huey (Mia) and her boyfriend Sam Chuah, has got you covered with their CNY Gift Set full of delicious handmade cookies.
Known for their freshly baked breads that are free from preservatives, Doughappy is rolling out an assortment of made-to-order cookies such as flaky pineapple cookies; decadent Belgian chocolate oat cookies with a mildly bitter aftertaste; and peanut cookies made not with commercial peanut butter paste but from raw peanuts that they sift by hand, roast and grind themselves.
MCO 2.0 has meant that Da Niu Bake Pie, a purveyor of Chinese “baked pies” or guōkuī, could no longer ply freshly made flatbreads at various pop-ups and flea markets. Instead owner Daniel Lim has switched to selling naturally flavoured dumplings and spicy Sichuan style chilli oil online.
For the Year of the Metal Ox, Lim has assembled a CNY Gift Set which includes their signature original flavoured luncheon meat, scallion dumplings, prawn dumplings, a box of buttery pineapple tarts and a jar of their Da Niu Chili Oil. It’s quite a feast, a banquet in one package.
Those desiring something more guilt-free may want to seek out Wise Crafters, known for their clean-eating meal plans and overnight oatmeal. Founder Samantha Ng has conjured up the Wise Crafters CNY Treasure Box for a seasonal gift that is filled with hearty yet healthy foods.
Within the handmade wood veneer package, which is reusable as storage for personal items, is a trio of CNY treats: spiced apple chutney made from red apples, Spanish onions, red bell peppers, ginger root, apple cider vinegar and Indian spices; premium healthy snacks, full of almonds, cashews, goji berries, coconut flakes and raisins; and osmanthus oolong tea, directly imported from a tea farm in Nantou, Taiwan.
Looking for good fortune and wealth? Everyone’s favourite fruit during Chinese New Year is the mandarin orange. Its name in Cantonese — kam — sounds just like the word for “gold” so more never hurts.
For a truly different take on this, KITA Coffee in Bukit Bintang has come up with a Honey Mikan Roll which will be available throughout the Chinese New Year period. Regulars relish the seasonal brews from the café but also their Japanese style roll cakes, handmade by owner Rain Lee.
Imagine a fluffy honey chiffon cake enveloping light-as-air fresh cream, which in turn folds around juicy Japanese mikan (also known as satsuma mandarins). Lee is offering these in slices or whole rolls (the latter by pre-order only) as well as gift boxes with a variety of rolls.
After indulging yourself, perhaps something to wet the throat is in order. Return to Ebony & Ivory for a different citrus to quench your thirst. Barista Michael Woon has created a honey lemon brew kit for home baristas and mixologists during Chinese New Year.
Besides the requisite bottle of cold brew coffee, there is also a bottle of citrusy concentrate made from lemons, honey and spices. Consider it an über-convenient extract to which you can add water, ice or soda for a refreshing hit of tanginess.
Chinese New Year should always be a celebration. All the more when things have been rough on everyone. We need a reason to cheer.
Perhaps this is how we can have an "Ox-spicious" new year and support local food heroes at the same time; so that they, too, may have a reason to cheer.
Order from these CNY food heroes via the following methods:
1. Ebony & Ivory Coffee
No. 4A, Jalan Kaskas 4, Taman Cheras, KL
Open daily (except Mon closed) 10am-6pm
Tel: 012-508 0510
Order via ebonynivorycoffee.beepit.com/
2. DougHappy Food
To order, call/WhatsApp 018-575 3591.
3. Da Niu Bake Pie
To order, call/WhatsApp 011-2607 2866 or orders.my/seller/daniu-bake-pie/
4. Wise Crafters
2, Jalan PJS 10/2, Bandar Sunway, Selangor
Open daily (except Sat closed) 8:30am-5pm
Order the Wise Crafters CNY Treasure Box at bit.ly/3t4x7Wd.
5. KITA Coffee
D7, G Floor, Fahrenheit 88, Jalan Bukit Bintang, KL
Open daily (except Tue closed) 12-8pm
Tel: 016-246 3071