Everyone knows about that famous saying ‘Blood is thicker than water’ and you know what else is thicker than water? A bowl of good hot soup. Imagine a big pot of broth of bones, spices, and the sorts that probably from a family secret recipe that has been simmering for hours. Now that’s something everyone would like to savour early in the morning.
Speaking of family-owned businesses, let’s talk about why almost every food stall, restaurant and cafes are standing strong for so many years under the management of families. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes working with family can be a little chaotic and mostly dramatic even but at the end of a busy hectic day in the business, it makes you realize that your family’s patience, understanding, and camaraderie is what made you grow together stronger especially venturing in the world of business.
Back in 2017, Malaysia has been ranked 7th globally in a number of family-owned businesses. You can tell that long-term growth and development is there when family members work together.
In the food scene, regardless of the location, it gives you an impression that the longer the lines of the stalls or restaurants and the crazy long reservation wait, the place must be serving up really good food. However, in the family-owned food business industry, the longer the restaurant has been, it’s the same quality of service and good food.
So basically, if the lines and reservation waits are long, and the restaurant is still standing strong no matter how old it is, it’s going to be definitely worth your time. The family food business takes it seriously when it comes to their secret recipes and cooking techniques. They haven’t been passing those down from generation to generation for nothing.
Let me take you to one of the most outstanding food stall in Georgetown, Penang run by an elderly couple with their daughter, who are famous for their wantan mee.
Chee Meng Cafe used to be in Tai Wah Coffee House and is currently located in Agryll Road, Georgetown, Penang. They’ve been known to be moving back and forth from their current location to Tai Wah. The cafe is famous for its Wantan Mee, which is translated to dumpling (wonton in Cantonese) noodles (mee in Hokkien). It is served differently from different countries and even in Malaysia, it can vary from region to region. A common “Malaysian touch” is the addition of char siu (Cantonese-style barbecue pork) and in some places, separating the wontons in another bowl.
The wantan mee stall has been with the local family running for almost half a century passing down probably the same wantan mee recipe from the family because everyone knows it’s best to keep the business in the family — at least this is true for homegrown recipes!
During my time there, I found it heartwarming to see the whole family running the cafe in the routine of the day. I remember giving out my order to the daughter and she had quite the warm presence. Let’s be brutally honest here… most Chinese stores are quite busy so you can imagine the stress the staff go through, therefore they’re not as bothered to consider being more friendly towards customers. They probably just wanna get shit done and give you what you want.
My Chee Meng experience was different, though. The vibe wasn’t as stressful. There were smiles going around, even between the staff. This was a nice change and my morning didn’t seem rushed.
Going back to our wantan mee craze, you can try it both as:
Wantan Mee Soup which contains al dente noodles with char siu, wontons, shredded chicken, choy sum (chinese bok choi), and it’s leading star, the flavorful broth that has been simmering for hours. Served with pickled green chilies as the side.
Wantan Mee (dry) which contains al dente noodles dressed in dark soy sauce and topped with char siu, wontons, shredded chicken, and choy sum. A little tip: this really goes well with sambal rather than their usual pickled green chilies.
Aside from the wantan mee, they also serve Malaysia’s favorite snack: Kaya Butter Toast and a refreshing glass of 932 which contains of preserved lime stuffed with plum that would kick start your day.