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Cheap Eats Friday: Penang Hawker Food at QQ Kopitiam
Laksa, hor fun, char kway teow, and other street hawker specialties hidden inside a Pasadena café
Fans of Malaysian and Indonesian cooking no longer have to venture out to West Covina to find street hawker classics like wok-tossed char kway teow and coconut milk-thickened curry laksa. In fact, if you’re at student at Pasadena City College, you don’t even really need to leave campus.
QQ Kopitiam, a small coffeehouse located across Colorado Blvd. from PCC, shares the name of a popular café chain with locations in cities like Jakarta and Singapore. Ostensibly, it’s a coffee house (kopitiam means coffee shop in Malay) but alongside plastic cups of kopi (black coffee sweetened with condensed milk) and various types of milk tea with boba, you’ll find a menu of rather impressive Penang dishes.
Char kway teow ($8), a dish of lightly charred wide noodles stir-fried with shrimp, egg, beef, Taiwanese sausage, and fishcakes is immensely savory, given depth of flavor from it's toss in a screaming hot wok. There is also a fine rendition of coconut milk laksa ($8), the famous curry soup of Southeast Asia, that comes with two types of noodles (one rice, one flour) and a sprinkling of diced laksa leaf and copious fried tofu on top. Add a bit of house-made belcacan sambal (shrimp paste mixed with chili and lime) from the jar on the table for an added punch.
You'll also find a tantalizing wonton and noodle soup served with braised mustard greens, the gravy-topped noodle dish known as char hor fun, and and fried egg-topped version of Hainanese chicken rice. When it comes to street food, this café is a Pasadena gem-in-the-rough.