Alvin Ong pours his heart into Kopitiam’s pan-Asian cuisine
2017-11-01 14:18:00 -

The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin

A man of few words but many skills, Alvin Ong’s life is all about cooking and making people happy. 


Alvin came to Ireland as a young man in 1981 from Malaysia, a crossroads of sorts in southeast Asia where Malays, Indians, Eurasians, Chinese and several other ethic groups live together and share their cultures.


It’s resulted in some mouth-watering cuisine, but it was business, not food, that took Alvin’s focus when he enrolled in a business studies course at Pearse College in Dublin. During his studies, however, he worked part-time in restaurants, satisfying his fascination with food developed since he started cooking at home in Malaysia at the tender age of 10.


Today, in his 50s, Alvin is a proficient cook whose heart and skills are centred on the Chinese, Indian and Malaysian dishes that form the basis of the menu at Kopitiam, the restaurant he opened earlier this year in Dublin city centre and named for the traditional coffee shops of his homeland.


Placing on my table three incredible plates of food — namely nasi lemak (rice cooked with coconut milk), Hainanese chicken rice, and char kway teow (a popular noodle dish back home) – Alvin Ong’s face lights up with pleasure. The colourful Malaysian, Indian and Chinese delights all comprise natural ingredients and exotic flavours. And Alvin is able to make everything on the restaurant’s menu.


Kopitiam was opened on Dublin’s Capel Street over seven months ago, and has already scored a stellar review from Catherine Cleary in The Irish Times. But Alvin isn’t resting on his laurels, promising that if Kopitiam proves a continued success, “I intend to open more branches.” 


That’s the business side of Alvin talking, but he can also be accurately described as someone with food in his blood, because nothing gives him pleasure like cooking. 


“I started the restaurant business because I like to cook,” he says matter of factly, but the quality of his dishes speaks volumes. Apart from Indian and Chinese, the cuisines of Thailand and Indonesia also have influence in Malaysian cooking as showcased in Kopitiam’s menu, as varied as the multicultural clientele Alvin has welcomed over the last few months.


Away from the restaurant, Alvin’s hobbies include, you guessed it, cooking – but also playing badminton and meeting new people. “I have never experienced any form of racism and I get on well with everyone,” he doesn’t hesitate to say.


Indeed, while his love for food knows no borders, Alvin considers himself at home in Ireland: “I am Irish and proud to be.”


- Princess Pamela Toyin has gained experience since the mid 1980s working in various fields and interacting with people of different tribes and ethnicity. With her passion for diversity, she is propelled to report a diverse range of issues that facilitate intercultural dialogue and integration, which can change social, economic, and cultural stereotypes, and believes there are lessons to be learned from everyone. Talk to her on +353 (0) 87 417 9640 or email



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