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PUBLISHED: Sep 10, 2014 7:00am

The Chinese coffee shop that brings Malaysians together

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THE RAKYAT POST By:
FERNANDO FONG

Chan Jit Keong, who operates the New Hollywood restaurant with his wife after taking over from his parents, says it took years of diligence and understanding to win the trust of his majority Malay Muslim customers that the food served is pork free. — TRP pic by Fernando Fong

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IPOH, Sept 10, 2014:

Along Jalan Lee Kwee Foh in Canning Garden, royalties and ordinary folks often go for breakfast or lunch at New Hollywood Restaurant in a manner that brings alive the 1Malaysia spirit.

But what brings these people to the Hainanese coffee shop every day, come rain or shine, is not the mouth-watering array of dishes.

It is the strong relationship between the coffee shop operator, hawkers and customers.

Chan Jit Keong, who has been operating the coffee shop with his wife after taking over from his parents, said it took years of time, diligence and understanding to win the trust of his majority Malay Muslim customers that the food served is pork free.

“It all started in the 1970s when my mother was approached by many college students who studied nearby.

“They wanted my mother to sell pork-free dishes as there were few choices for eating out in Canning Garden back then.

“Seeing the students’ need and the potential for more customers, she had a meeting with the hawkers and they decided to try it out,” he told The Rakyat Post.

The hawkers started selling the traditional Chinese dishes, such as chee cheong fun and wantan noodle, with chicken instead of pork. These were well received by the customers.

In 1978, the late Sultan Idris Iskandar Shah II patronised the coffee shop after one of his frequent walks in the area and became a regular customer, said Chan.

“Later on, other members of the royal families and former Perak Menteri Besar Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib also became regular patrons.

“Their patronage gave the public strong confidence and, in turn, trust that the food served is indeed pork-free,” he said.

Chan said other coffee shop operators had tried to emulate his success by going pork-free, but had been unsuccessful.

The New Hollywood Restaurant continues to prosper.

On Aug 31, 1988, it moved to a bigger shop lot nearby, where it is presently located.

Over the last two years, the restaurant’s popularity has increased tremendously thanks to word of mouth via local search and discovery service mobile app Foursquare and social media giant Facebook.

“Most of the Malay Muslim customers are from the Klang Valley.

“They put their trust in fellow Muslims who told them to come here for delicious pork-free local dishes,” said Chan, 43.

Chan hopes that his food will continue to bring Malaysians together in years to come.

“Malaysians are getting more racially polarised these days in their daily activities.

“Perhaps Malaysians can rebuild the spirit of good friendship of olden days with food as our common ground,” he said.

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