First Look: Wee’s Cozy Kitchen

Acclaimed Malaysian eatery moves into Royal Blue Grocery

Wee’s Cozy Kitchen in its new home at Royal Blue Grocery at Sixth & Colorado (photo by Haris Qureshi)

“Frankly speaking, I never thought I would go this far,” admits Wee Fong Ehlers, the chef and owner of critically acclaimed Malaysian restaurant Wee’s Cozy Kitchen, which recently opened at Royal Blue Grocery on 609 Congress Ave.

Ehlers credits the Asian community in Austin and at the University of Texas for helping propel her forward when she first launched her business in the back of a Shell gas station on West Campus while working at Olive Garden and in the kitchens of UT dorms. “I really felt good cooking fried rice and fried noodles,” she says about when she first started. “I thought people would like to have it. But the exposure was not enough, the customers were not enough. Until one day, after six months, my Malaysian friend said, ‘I don't know why I'm craving Malaysian food,’ and asked me whether I can cook it. So from that time, I knew that I could get a source of income from Malaysian food.”

Ehlers wipes away a few tears as she describes her unlikely path to culinary notoriety, culminating in mentions from national publications like Bon Appetit and the New York Times after locals like Lenny Dewi (@eats_n_noods) began to champion her.

photo by Haris Qureshi

“All of a sudden, someone came from Bon Appetit during SXSW [last year],” Ehlers recalls. “He told me, ‘Did you know I came all the way from New York just to try your food?’ At that time, I never believed. I never thought in my mind that somebody was trying to find out about my food… [The articles] brought exposure from New York, and then slowly people in Austin came. They came after the New Yorkers, then slowly I [got to] know them and they came and took photographs.”

The long lines meant that she could no longer operate comfortably out of a gas station near campus. When she closed that location, she found a space downtown where she has a new clientele of office workers and tourists, along with her faithful customers. “It was good timing [with Royal Blue] and their partnership with me. They helped me open in this area during SXSW,” she says. With Malaysian delicacies like beef rendang (a slow-cooked beef dish) and char kway teow (noodles served with either beef, chicken or seafood), where you swear you can taste real Malaysian grandma sweat and tears, it’s only a matter of time before Wee’s course takes her higher in the national dining scene as one of Austin’s new school culinary stars.

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Wee Fong Ehlers, Wee’s Cozy Kitchen, Royal Blue Grocery, First Look

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