Brunei Darussalam

Soi Heng Coffee Shop An Oil Town Legacy

soi_hing-1.jpgsoi_hing-2.jpgsoi_hing-4.jpgsoi_hing-3.jpgSoi Hing Coffee Shop © Jan Shim Photography

There are four districts (daerah) that make up Brunei Darussalam. Of the four, Belait is the largest district where oil was first discovered and deemed commercially viable by then British Malayan Petroleum Company in a town called Seria in 1929. Brunei Shell Petroleum Co. is the present day company that carries that legacy for many more decades to come.

Which brings me to another piece of Seria history that holds its very own—Soi Hing Coffee Shop. Located at a vantage point right next door to Standard Chartered Bank and at the entrance to Seria town, Soi Hing is in its third location after having moved twice from a stone’s throw away. In the 78 years that Seria enjoyed the ‘oil town’ opulence, the Soi Hing coffee shop business was born roughly in the middle of that period 45 years ago, according to one of the owners I spoke with. That’s an awfully long time for a business to have come this far though it’s often joked by patrons that coffee shops are perhaps the only business that makes sense in today’s roller-coaster economy and much publicised bankruptcies.

I moved to Seria from Kuala Belait four years ago and did not discover what I like about Soi Hing until fairly recently. Like most people, we tend to hop from one joint to another in search of interesting places to have a meal. I’m happy to have just a couple of places that I can frequent and have a predictable meal. Soi Hing is one of such places in Seria and the one thing that have me going back week after week is their delicious fried kway teow. Soi Hing serves theirs with a small but killer teaser serving of sambal chilli that hits the right spot!

This has to be the first time I talk about food succulence without backing it up with a wow photo. Thing is, I have done a number of food photography both leisurely and commercially and I’ve found kway teow incredibly difficult to photogaph. I’ve yet to see one that can successfully convey its succulence to the audience. For that reason and that reason alone, I’m not even going to waste my time! That said, you shouldn’t waste your time either trying but instead head down to Soi Hing the next time you’re in town. Don’t hold back, when you pay, let them know you read about them here—Enjoy! SW

p.s. Notice the two signages with two different spelling? The one outside of the shop (top pic) is spelt Heng while the one inside is spelt Hing. Sometimes typos happen during business registration renewals but I’ll have you know that the signage on the kitchen wall is the real deal—the original SOI HING sign board since day one, some 45 years back!

14 thoughts on “Soi Heng Coffee Shop An Oil Town Legacy

  1. We called them coffee shop here in Singapore and due to modernization we are going to lose them one by one pretty soon. I am remembered as a little kid, my parents will bring us to these place to have our meals and looking at these pictures brings back fond memories, especially those tables and chairs…they are so kewl!


  2. I grew up in Seria and remember frequenting Soi Heng for their delicious kolomee and thirst quenching home made soya bean. Great write up and pics Jan. I know what you mean about photographing kwayteow. Its pretty darn hard. This is my humble attempt at seria kway teow.


  3. juz to add up a bit ere…i grew up with soi heng in seria town, not by having their food nor drink but by living next to them for 13 years…suffering with Black Doverman Dog Fights, Dog Barks and dog sneers…everytime, i pass them by…before and after skool…well dats life in a shophouse…I know the whole family too darn well…with the rare chinese black moustache son of the owner…those were d days….


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  5. Great post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Bless you!


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