As I welcome the year of the Dragon, I can’t help wondering what unexplored taste treats await my ever eager palate in the coming twelve months. Yet the memories of past food explorations linger in the recesses of my mind, ever ready to spring into active service whenever a particular food topic comes up in conversation. Certain dishes and particular restaurants remain my favourites, prompting gustatory yearnings that demand to be satiated.
So this first food musings in the Dragon year will be devoted to revisiting some of my favourite restaurants and the dishes that bring on the salivary juices.
In no particular order, I will list the restaurants and the dishes that appeal to my palate. Beginning with Wong Kok in Pasir Pinji, Chef Lum never fails to satisfy with his sea cucumber salad, a tangy cold dish of sea cucumber tossed with an assortment of crunchy greens, in a dressing of sesame oil with SzeChuan pepper and other spices. Another ‘must-have’ for me is their Mo Mai Jook or no rice congee, a thick foamy broth thickened with egg white and served with crispy wonton. Tel: 05- 2435431.
A few doors away on the corner is Tuck Kee and my favourites here are their braised beef short ribs, the Har Meen or prawn noodle soup and the Wat Dan Hor, or literally translated means smooth egg flat rice noodles. Tel: 05-2419071.
Still in the Pasir Pinji area, Sun Po Po is a great place for a late dinner or a midnight supper. Order their Indian Mee Goreng, spicy yellow noodles, the Hakka noodles or their basil fried rice. Tel: 05-2537273.
Li Garden by the airport is great for its scrumptious fish head soup (must order in advance) chockfull of delightful ingredients like pig’s tendons, shark cartilage, Yunan ham, stuffed bean curd and of course the fresh-that-day fish head chunks. While here, order the fried pork belly as appetiser and if you still have room, their braised beef brisket is second to none. Tel: 012-5183370.
For the best fish noodle (these noodles are actually made from fish meat and without flour of any kind) soup, Lucky in Pasir Puteh is the place to go and while here, order their fish balls and their wonton soup. Proprietor Lucky Chong always has something fresh up his sleeves, whether its lobster, large pomfret, crab or prawns. But do ask for the price first before you order. Tel: 012-5016330.
Further up Pasir Puteh you’ll find Kafe Pasir Puteh which has, in my opinion, the best homemade Saito fish balls in Ipoh, bouncy, springy and utterly fresh-made that day. Tel: 012-5095970.
For Halal food, nothing beats Simpang Tiga in Greentown where the dizzying display of Nasi Padang dishes is accompanied by a choice of interesting sambals. For those looking for Halal Dim Sum, go no further than Greentown Dim Sum on Persiaran Greentown 4, Greentown Avenue. Especially tasty is their fried carrot cake, which is spicy, and has a generous helping of bean sprouts and preserved radish.
Indian banana leaf aficionados are not left out in my list as I often have my Thosai (available all day except between 1.00-2.00 p.m.) and other curries at Ipoh Padang Curry House on Cowan Street and once in a while I’ll send out for Samy’s specials like duck, turkey and crab curry all the way from the main road of Chemor; also Halal.
In Chemor too is another favourite haunt of mine especially at this time of the year when the giant frogs are in season. Wong Kee does them to an art, deep fried with ginger slices and when ordered with their Sang Yu (Snakehead) fish soup, is worth the trip to Chemor. Tel: 012-5182686.
For the best Tom Yum Soup in all of Ipoh, order in advance with Arun at a Different Taste in Bercham. She speaks Cantonese and although she will always have the prawn or crab Tom Yam, you can persuade her to make a fish head Tom Yam if you give her enough notice. Here too their crab vermicelli is the best I’ve tasted as are their fish balls. They also serve Frog Congee. Tel: 012-5021132.
Elsewhere in Bercham, the Steam House is a particular favourite with my favourite dishes being the Ham Har Tsing Fa Lam (steamed pork belly with preserved shrimp paste), their steamed egg dishes and their special steamed kampong chicken. Tel: 05-5486034.
When my hankering turn to thoughts of shellfish, I usually pick up the phone to Sao Mei, the proprietress of
Shing Lee restaurant, in Puncak Jelapang Maju, Sao Mei, who goes personally a few days a week to Pantai Remis to pick up seafood which can be found swimming in the many tanks in the restaurant, will also occasionally call me when she has particularly large flower crabs (all live) and roe crabs which I love. My favourites here are their Mantis prawns which I order fried with salt and pepper (with some chillies), their flower crabs steamed with cucumber and their spiny snails (an acquired taste for some). A must have is their crispy kangkong. Tel: 016-5935848.
Going even further afield is the Lemon Tree Restaurant in Matang near Taiping which has a specialty I have never found else where: the shark’s liver which comes pan-fried and tastes like a slightly fishy foie gras. Dishes here are their fried crispy prawns, the oyster pancake, the crab with salted egg and steamed Mantis prawns. Tel: 016-5963598.
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