Malaysian food is impossible to pin down. Each region, town and family, will have their own take on laksa, rendang, chicken curry, roti canai… This makes sense when you understand the makeup of Malaysia. The Malay are Muslim, but are not a singular group, rather a number of different communities, each with their own culture and histories. There are seven royal Malay families that take turns being ‘the’ royal family and over 100 indigenous peoples. For centuries migrants from different regions in China came, as well as Tamil Indians, and many more migrants have made Malaysia their home. It’s unsurprising the food is ever-changing.
Med Salleh Kopitiam is inspired by Malaysian ‘coffee shops’, casual spaces serving drinks alongside food stalls. Although a restaurant, the menu is representative of kopitiams with dishes now seen as quintessentially Malaysian, such as roti canai (created by the Indian community), rendang (originally an Indonesian Malay dish), and char kway teow (‘char’ meaning stir-fry in Hokkien and Teochew).
The pièce de résistance was the ice kacang atas dessert, a towering display of shaved ice, with jellies, red bean, and sweetened condensed milk
The owners are Chinese-Malaysian from Ipoh and Raub, centre-west of West Malaysia. The food leans towards a sweet palate and doesn’t have the heat of some Malaysian regions or communities. The roti canai is served was non-battered fried chicken, where the skin is crispy and meat is tender and accompanied with a curry where heat slowly builds, and a sweet-umami tomato base. The chicken satay was beautifully cooked with a sweet peanut sauce – a proper crowd pleaser. The belachan (fermented shrimp) with kangkong (water spinach) was also the right balance of delicate heat and funk; my favourite dish. The rendang was a fairly dry version made with desiccated coconut, and served with Indian-influenced rice, infused with butterfly pea flower, making it blue! However, the char kway teow lacked the classic smoky flavours, nigh on impossible to achieve in the indoor kitchens of London, but the sambal was an excellent offering of sweetness, spice and heat.
What I love about kopitiams is the array of juices and teas, hot and cold. Med Sallah Koptiam’s list is excellent. The teh tarik had bitterness to balance the milkiness, and the asam boi (sour plum) was refreshing – a perfect sweet and sour flavour. The pièce de résistance was the ice kacang atas dessert, a towering display of shaved ice, with jellies, red bean, and sweetened condensed milk, served on a plate emitting dry ice. I had it with durian (Raub is known for its durian), capturing all the elements of home and childhood.
This restaurant’s name might be a play on the phrase ‘mat salleh’ a Malay term for white people, combined with Med Pang – one of the owners’ names. If you are new to Malaysian food it’s a great introduction, and if you’re looking for a taste of home, you will find flavours here to curb any homesickness.
The vibe Relaxed but bustling.
The food A range of different multicultural Malaysian dishes, all halal.
The drink A solid selection of really good non-alcoholic drinks.
Time Out tip Save room for a spectacular dessert.