(THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The sky is still dark. It’s 5am and most people are only just waking up to start their day, but a certain shop is already preparing for its customers.
Five freshly prepared ducks and multiple chickens are brought out to the front of the shop to a hawker stall-like stand complete with an extended table already full of various ingredients. As the owner of the shop skilfully cuts various pieces of meat into serving sizes, his wife is chopping up vegetables and boiling the vat of water that will be used to cook noodles. Their son assists in the arrangement of the tables and chairs in preparation for the 6am breakfast crowd.
Restoran Chong Loy is the shop in question. As the food is being prepared, the strong smell of Chinese five spice that is used to marinate the poultry drifts out of the shop as though signalling that it is open for business.
As the clock strikes six, the first customer appears – an elderly man on his morning walk. He’s a regular patron of the shop and is greeted with warm smiles from both the Lee family and the female servers. His drink, a hot cup of coffee, is poured and delivered to him as he sits down to enjoy his morning paper among the familiar sights and sounds.
Restoran Chong Loy was opened way back in 1980 by Lee Khuan Chong, the father of Lee Hon Kiong, the current owner of the shop. At the time, the Sunway area that it is located in was not even properly developed and barely 300 people lived there.
“When my father started, he had no idea how to do this, and depended just on advice from friends and his own determination,” recalled Hon Kiong. Through the elder Lee’s grit and perseverance, the shop endured and gained a name for itself via word of mouth, becoming known as one of the best if not the best place for chicken rice and duck rice in the area.
Hon Kiong initially worked in construction before deciding to help with the family business. Learning the various skills and honing them through repetition, he soon mastered the business, taking it over and making it into the shop we all know today.
Hon Kiong is now grooming his own son, Bou Kit, to take over from him as the third generation to run the shop.
The shop has remained virtually unchanged in the past 38 years – the light green tiled floors and the decorative holes in the walls that used to serve as ventilation still exist today.
“The shop has never moved. This is where it was opened,” said Bou Kit, chuckling when asked about the history of the old chicken rice place.
To the back of the shop is an old but well-maintained altar dedicated to the worship of Guan Yu (Chinese God of War). On it are plates of food, a small urn in which to burn joss sticks, a figurine of Guan Yu, as well as several old tags with inscriptions on them.
The counter at which Hon Kiong’s wife, Thong Tiong Choo, sits when she collects payment from customers is also decorated with various gold frog statuettes and waving cat toys, inviting you to come in and enjoy their food.
Throughout the day, they receive an interesting demographic of customers. The shop is a meeting place for many elderly people, and their rough but lively laughter gives the shop a friendly atmosphere. These old uncles will sometimes chat with complete strangers, bringing a smile to even the shyest of patrons.
Many parents bring their children to the shop after school for lunch. It seems that even the children are regular customers as they will banter with the serving staff and shop owners, and tell them about their day.
The shop may be famous for its food, but it should be noted that it is also one of the most affordable places to eat. A full meal with drinks costs an average of RM10 (S$3.40).
Known around PJ as one of the best places for chicken rice, Restoran Chong Loy also boasts an impressive line-up of food options that are just as good as its speciality. Their duck meat, for example, is a hot item, and all five ducks that are prepared sell out every day.
Besides rice, the restaurant boasts several types of noodle dishes. And let’s not forget the char siu (roasted pork), and siu yuk (roasted three-layer pork) – patrons have described both these dishes as mouth-watering.
Every rice meal comes with a complimentary bowl of soup. Customers can also ask for wonton (dumplings) either in soup or deep-fried.
The next generation
Bou Kit is only 22 years old but has been working at the shop since he was a boy. That has given him the sort of experience he needs to properly inherit his family’s legacy. He is now already in charge of the day-to-day business and even determines when the shop opens.
Bou Kit has plans to expand the shop, maybe even open a second branch in the near future, but first he must properly work to inherit the shop.
Despite Bou Kit’s young age, Restoran Chong Loy seems to be in good hands and will likely see a long, bright and delicious future ahead.
Restoran Chong Loy
Jalan PJS 10/9
46150 Petaling Jaya