Illustration by Norman Teh for POSKOD.SG, all rights reserved
I've written my first piece for POSKOD.SG, "Consider the Kopitiam". No, I did not review any food or drink stalls for this story.
The coffeeshops I remember well are the ones where there were always some regulars at their usual tables, slouched over a tepid cup of coffee or well-iced glass of beer, yet the place felt like anyone could walk in to buy a meal or a drink and they wouldn’t feel unwelcome. At the coffeeshop, you can sit in fan-cooled respite from the heat, and watch Singapore go by on the street or the world go by on the 50-inch widescreen TV set. You can kibbitz with complete strangers about how Singapore or the world is changing all too quickly, yet rest assured that if you shout kopi siew dai ping at the drink stall assistant, he or she (even if non-Chinese) will faithfully bring you the exact concoction of coffee, condensed milk and ice that your encoded order requests.Read the full essay here.
Many thanks to Kennie, Jeremy, melanderings and the POSKOD.SG editorial team for their extensive comments on earlier drafts, and to my history/researcher contacts who pointed me to useful historical and sociological work on hawkers and coffeeshops. Daniel Goh, ampulets and mr brown also offered helpful background info on some of the mysterious inner workings of our delightful kopitiams.
Finally, a bonus for my blog readers: a sentence that was excised from the final version of the essay because it didn't quite fit. I'm including it here because I think it suits my blog better:
At the basic level, it’s reassuring to know that wherever I live in Singapore, there’ll almost always be a kopitiam close at hand, where eventually the stallholders will remember that I prefer my noodle dishes without chilli, my chicken rice heaped with chilli sauce, and my kopi as black as they can make it.Comments welcome. Just don't ask me where to find the "best" kopi-O kosong in Singapore.