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Feb 24, 2009 05:18 AM

Ipoh, Malaysia: Hot Eating Places

This thread is started from my exchange with Singapore Chowhound Fourseasons in another thread, since he asked for Ipoh eating places.

Here are some of my favourites, for a start -

(1) KONG HENG COFFEESHOP in cnr Jalan Panglima Garang/73 Jalan Pasar (OLD TOWN). This is the favourite eating spot for Ipoh's own Hollywood star, Michelle Yeoh. Even her parents Dato' & Datin Yeoh are regulars there. Four items NOT-TO-BE-MISSED at Kong Heng:
- (IPOH) KAI SEE HOR FUN, flat white rice noodles with really delicious prawn/pork broth. The stock is so rich, there's an orange-coloured oil atop the broth (from the prawn roe). The thin, silky koay-teow rice noodles is perfect - so smooth, which Ipoh people say is due to the use of clear mineral water from Ipoh spring-streams to make the noodles. It comes with toppings of shredded chicken & prawns, and ultra-crunchy taugeh (beansprouts)
- CHINESE-STYLE PORK & PIG INTESTINES SATAY. Heavenly sticks of char-grilled satay
- CHINESE LOH BAK - an assortments of fried minced pork rolls, prawn fritters, tauhu/beancurd, stingray fillets. Simply scrumptious, crisp on the outside, bursting with flavours inside
- POPIAH - thick, rich with bangkwang/turnips, prawns & egg.
Also, if you want some refreshing desserts, try the ICE-KACHANG with COCONUT MILK, sinfully rich. Or pop over to the THEAN CHUN coffeeshop right next to Kong Heng for its CREME CARAMEL dessert. As far as I'm concerned, I have been to those 2 coffeeshops for over 40 years, and all their dishes' tastes haven't changed one iota!

(2) Oneof the most well-known IPOH HOR FUN can be found at RESTAURANT LOU WONG TAUGE AYAM KUETIAU, 49 Jalan Yau Tet Shin. Opens from 5pm to 2am (or 3 am on weekends). Delicious chicken - free-range "woo soh kai". Pork balls & fish balls soup, plus beansprouts in delicious soy/chicken stock sauce are great accompaniments to the silken Ipoh hor fun noodles

(3) CURRY CHICKEN NOODLES from RESTORAN XIN QUAN FANG, 174 Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah. Open from 7.30am to lunch. You must come for breakfast very early - 9 am onwards is crazy-crowded. Been operating since before World War II. The delicous soupy curry gravy on yellow Hokkien noodles is unbelievable, served with roast pork (siew yoke), char-siew, fresh prawns and beansprouts. To die for!!! So popular, they have opened a branch in Hong Kong.

(4) HAKKA NOODLES from YIN YAU KUI, 153 Jalan Sultan Iskandar. Open from 7.30am until 12.30pm. Egg noodles (mee pok) with very tasty minced pork/fish sauce/soysauce/onion oil topping. Served with an assortment of stuffed beancurd, minced pork balls, fish balls, etc. More than 50 years old - another Ipoh legend.

(5) FAMOUS IPOH WHITE COFFEE can be had from the famous twin rivals SIN YOON LONG, 15A Jalan Bandar Timah and RESTORAN NAM HEONG, 2 Jalan Bandar Timah. Both open from 6/6.30am thereabouts until 6/6.30pm. Both coffeeshop have an assortment of food stalls selling almost every kind of Ipoh street food you can think of, but the star remain their incredibly rich, buttery, mellow coffee - SIMPLY THE BEST coffee you'd have ever tasted in your life. Both serve kaya toasts & other finger foods, but Nam Heong also have a famous fried koay teow stall in front. BE PREPARED TO QUEUE & JOSTLE for a table - they are both very popular with Ipoh office workers & gourmets/gourmands.

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  1. I had the best rice dumpling from Guan Kee, Ipoh, but I can't remember the exact address - Cowan Road?

    Their Hokkien-style bak-chang has the most perfect glutinous rice texture I've ever had anywhere in the world! The stuffing's delicious, too: well-seasoned, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, fragrant shiitake mushroom, whole chestnut, moist-centred salted duck's egg-yolk, dried oysters, etc.

    In fact, their bak-chang is so popular, they even "exported" them on a daily basis to a coffeeshop in Sea Park, Petaling Jaya (near KL). I usually get my supply from there since it's nearer to Singapore, and the last time I visited Ipoh was 2000.

    1. Hi penang_rojak:

      Thanks so much for the valuable guide on Ipoh. I just print it out; hopefully, I will be able to visit Penang/Ipoh on August. I will report back if I do so.

      Do you think I will have too much food if I arrive Ipoh at 10-11am, head out to Nam Heong for White Coffee, then Mee Pok at Yin Yua Kui, then head for lunch at Kong Heng Coffee shop for Ipoh hor fun, pork satay and popiah? If I already sampled Ipoh hor fun at Kong Heng, should I still stay over till 5pm for another hor fun at Lou Wong? Is there much difference between Kong Heng vs Lou Wong? Appreciate your reply.

      Off-topic: just look at your profile, seem like you tried all the Michelin 3 stars restaurants in Tokyo. The head chef of L'Osier, Bruno Menard, was in Singapore last week to particpate on a gourmet summit at Raffles Hotel.

      9 Replies
      1. re: FourSeasons

        Fourseason, unless you have an elastic stomach (which I assume you don't), stick to Kong Heng first. You can have a variety of Ipoh specialties in one spot.

        Kong Heng's version has an addictive prawn soup & comes in a bowl topped with shredded chicken/prawns, whilst Lou Wong a clearer soup/ or else drier version with light sauce topping, served with a plethora of side-dishes for accompaniments (much like your Lee Tong Kee shop in Singapore)

        Off-topic: Yes, I'm a Japanophile & eat out at countless restaurants in Sapporo (my favourite city in the world, best ingredients in Japan), Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, etc. in the past decades. I'm afraid Tokyo's Michelin restaurants are the only Michelin restaurants I've been to which I really liked - Asian taste!

        I didn't even think of coming to Singapore for L'osier's demo. Did sommelier Toshifumi Nakamoto come as well? Bruno Menard is very talented, when I first came across him, he's a skinny, spiky-haired lad cooking at La Baie, Osaka. Very lucky guy - got 3-Michelin stars. L'osier's old chef before him, Jacques Borie back in 1980s is MUCH, MUCH better-lah! L'osier first opened in 1973, I tried it for the first time in 1976 (oops, betraying my age) on business trip.

        Now, I eat high-class food in Japan, but will stick to Penang hawker food otherwise (BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD).

        1. re: penang_rojak

          Hi penang_rojak:

          No, I don't have elastic stomach, but the idea is to share the mee pok with my wife and kids, so that there is still enough room for Kong Heng. But I will just take your advise, go straight to Kong Heng for lunch. But do you think I should stay behind for early dinner at Lou Wong, after all, if they are the different style of Ipoh hor fun?

          Yes, me too, another Japanophile but my focus is Tokyo scene. I have tried both Koju and Quintessence, and of course, sampled Bruno's dishes at Raffles Culinary Academy last week in Singapore. He is good, surprisingly, a charming and charismatic chef when he was conducting a cooking class here. I don't think the sommelier was here but Bruno brought 3 assistant chefs along as well. Cooked onsen tamago and Mt. Fuji trout as the main dish. Regarding Michelin, there are many 2 stars, 1 star and actually non-stars that are as good as 3 stars ..... Maybe you should check out and participate on the Japan Board, I was active there too.

          Penang hawker food as "BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD" surely are raising my expectation. Hometown bias??? I actually crown Tokyo and Hong Kong as the best...well,maybe until I visit Penang, i will let you know.

          1. re: FourSeasons

            HAR-HAR - most DEFINITELY hometown bias, fourseasons. When we say Penang hawker food is best in the world, it's definitely to show we LOVE our local food. Penang has many, many food writers and food bloggers. We sometimes have Penang food bloggers' meet, where participants share their experiences chowhounding around the streets and markets of Penang.

            Sometimes, we go to search out the best in neighbouring towns like Butterworth (Penang mainland part), Taiping (Perak), Sitiawan (Perak), Kampar (Perak), Bidor (Perak), Kulim (Kedah) and other towns in Malaysia, all the way down to Ipoh, KL, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Johor, etc.

            Between you & me, I think HK food sucks. Sorry-lah - we cannot eat without our sambal belachan, cut chillis, etc. HK food got no taste to our Penang tastebuds!! HK wonton mee, for example, only prawn wonton & yellow chives - Penang & KL wonton mee is chockful of char-siew, sometimes deep-fried wontons, shredded chicken, and luscious dark soysauce/chicken stock gravy. Every time Penang people go to HK, we dread our stay!! Bland food for weeks on end can be a torture to us. Then, HK people have double-standards - take Yung Kee, they claim they serve "better quality goose" at members-only Yung Club. Aiyah, if any restaurant try to do that in Penang, NO BUSINESS, man - would I want to eat at a restaurant that serves INFERIOR goose to non-members (like me), and SUPERIOR goose to high-spending members?! Ingat saya buat bodoh-kah (think I'm so silly)?

            Tokyo, now that's a different story. Every little alleyway, you find tiny restaurants where husband-and-wife couple prepare choice meals with meticulous attention to detail, and with the freshest ingredients they can find. Japanese people are like Penang people - food and good cooking is very important. Thanks for telling me about Japan Board, but think it's already full of Tokyo-based chowhounds. I know maybe 800-1,000 Japanese restaurants, but don't live there. Let the Tokyo/Osaka/Kyoto/ etc residents write about Japan. Most of them probably gaijin anyway. My Japanese glutton friends & relatives (got uncle live in Sapporo for 35 years, Japanese wife & grown-up kids) ALL never heard of Chowhound. They only look at Japanese food blogs, then bring me out!

            Let me knowif you need more Penang/Ipoh food tips - I'm just one of dozens of Penang chowhounds (not Chowhound board members) around.

            1. re: penang_rojak

              Hi penang_rojak:

              Surprise someone who is addicted to sambal belachan and Maggi sweet chilli sauce will like Japanese food, I mean, after all it is very light natural flavor with very fresh ingredient and maybe considered bland for spice-loving foodies. No, unfortunately, Japan Board has few Tokyo-based, just like our Greater Asia Board has few Singapore-based, Malaysia-based chowhounders, It is time to build it up since this website begins as an American-centric one. And yes, most are gaijins. You got that point correct. After all, this is English speakers-based site too. You may want to check out if you can read Japanese, or simply browse through the available photos there.

              I think I will forgo the Dim Sum at Ipoh; after all, the focus is on Ipoh hor fun. I think you have contributed enough tips for Penang/Ipoh, thanks again so much. I may just ask for more details when I am ready for that trip!

              1. re: FourSeasons

                Oh no - we Penangites don't mind Japanese food because we regard it as "foreign" enough not to compare it to our incomparable Penang food. That's why there are more good Japanese restaurants in Penang (Kampachi, Kirishima, Miraku, etc) than good Cantonese/Shanghainese/Teochew restaurants in Penang put together. Of course, Japanese food traditions are totally different from Penang (i.e. light tasting, raw sashimi, etc.) but it's those very reasons which make steak/meat/potato-loving Americans go crazy over Japanese sushi/sashimi as well!

                And my Japanese realtives and non-Chinese-speaking Sino-Japanese cousins LOVE Penang popiah (the "wet" sort which you get from Padand Brown), Penang fried koay teow & oh-chian (oyster omelette), pig's intestines porridge (chee cheong chook) and Penang sar hor fun & yee-fu mee as much as we love Japanese sashimi, tonkatsu, kaiseki meals, etc.

                But HK-Cantonese food - that we regard as a variation of Chinese food, which we end up comparing with our local food. That's why upmarket Cantonese restaurants have always struggled to keep afloat (e.g. Shang Court in Rasa Sayang Hotel and the Chinese restaurant in former Sheraton Hotel closed down, Shang Palace in Traders Hotel re-branded, Evergreen Laurel Hotel's restaurant has downsized its offerings). Old faithfuls like May Garden, Starview, Corner Club, CRC, etc, don't approach the standards of the Cantonese restaurants in KL at all.

                1. re: penang_rojak

                  Hi penang_rojak:

                  This is off-topic again, you may want to try non-Cantonese food in Hong Kong as well, like Chiu Chow etc that you won't feel it is a variation of Ipoh/Penang version of Cantonese/Hokkien food. I always bring my spice-loving friends to this Si chuan private kitchen Da Ping Huo which most will give thumbs up. You definitely don't need belachan there!!!

                  1. re: FourSeasons

                    Thanks, 4seasons, we'll try Da Ping Huo the next trip to HK, maybe end of this year. For Chiuchow/Teochew food, we also have a few restaurants in Penang:- Goh Huat Seng in 59-A Kimberley St (or Swatow Kay) Tel: 04-261 5811/5646. Lunch: 12 noon to 3pm, Dinner: 6pm to 9.30pm (Closed on alternate Mondays) which has been around for 50 years or so, and Goh Teow Kee (very popular, but in Bayan Lepas).

                    Penang has 7 Teochew sub-dialect groups living here, compared to only 5 Teochew sub-dialect groups in Singapore. If you go to Ayer Itam market, you can find the spiral, twisted Teochew tauhu which you can't find in Singapore.

              2. re: penang_rojak

                "Between you & me, I think HK food sucks. Sorry-lah - we cannot eat without our sambal belachan, cut chillis, etc. HK food got no taste to our Penang tastebuds!! "

                LOL! That's the most honest statement I've heard in a while! I like HK food for its subtlety, gotten used to their clean Cantonese tastes though years of living there.

                But I remembered HK trip back in 1990 with 2 colleagues - we were all Singapore Airlines accountants & all 3 of us are Peranakan-Singaporeans who liked spicy food. That "spice-less" stay was the longest 3 weeks of our lives, eventhough we did enjoy Yung Kee, Yucca du Lac, Peking Garden, Hunan Garden, etc. But what we'd give to have a bottle of sambal oelek when having noodles at Cafe de Corral or Maxim's in the mornings!!

              3. re: FourSeasons

                PS - yes, do stay for dinner at Lou Wong if you want to try another type of Ipoh hor fun preparation.

                PS2 - by the way, an Ipoh chowhound just told me that Yin Yau Kui Hakka noodle shop just moved across the road to Paris coffeeshop. It's still there (phew!).

                Ipoh has many hawker centres that do night business, just as their coffeeshops only do day-time business.

                By the way, the most famous dim sum restaurant in Ipoh is Foh San at 2, Jalan Dato Tahwil Azar (formerly Jalan Osborne). You can ask ANYONE in Ipoh, and they can point out the place to you. It is very near the famous hor fun restaurants like Lou Wong and Onn Kee Bean Sprout Chicken Restaurant. Must go before 1pm. Um, I have to admit here that when it comes to dim sum, Hong Kong is KING-lah. No one can match Lei Garden, Lung King Heen (my daughter & son-in-law LOOOOVE it the last time we tried in December 2008), Fu Sing, etc. For me & my wife, lucky we bring Maggi sweet chilli sauce, otherewise cannot eat-lah!

          2. Finally made it to Kong Heng in Ipoh Old Town! Boy, we were there at 9am last Saturday and there were hordes of hungry diners there already. There's no queuing system in Ipoh - you simply stand around & pounce on the nearest table vacated by satiated customers. Then, you place your order with the stalls, all of whom I hear have been there for yonks & insanely popular for the last half century of more.

            We had, as recommended by Ipoh foodies:

            - Ipoh sar hor fun: thin, flat rice noodles in a tasty pork-prawn broth, topped with chives, and slivers of prawns & chicken. Delicious! No beansprouts though.
            - Popiah. The deft Hainanese woman who sells these scrumptious spring rolls have been rolling the crepes since Nixon was president. Her spring rolls come either deep-fried (crisp golden brown rolls) or non-deep-fried & served slathered with hoi sin sauce on top - which I liked better.
            - the Hainanese satay which I thought was incredible - skewers of either very well-marinated pork cubes, or pork liver, or pork intestines/guts, all served with a very favorsome spicy-chunky-peanut dipping sauce.
            - Lorbak, which is a selection of tasty, ultra-crisp deep-fried morsels: minced pork in beansheet rolls, prawn fritters, tofu, Taiwanese sausages, with a spicy chilli dip. Extremely addictive.

            The "white coffee" (pak ka fe) served at Kong Heng is rich & thick. You can also order the iced coffee - very Malaysian, and very, very good!

            Kong Heng Restaurant
            74 Jalan Bandar Timah, Ipoh, Perak 30000, MY

            1 Reply
            1. re: klyeoh

              More pics from Kong Heng: the satay & the lorbak:

            2. great list, on our way to Ipoh tomorrow.

              1 Reply
              1. re: debbieann

                just back from RESTAURANT LOU WONG TAUGE AYAM KUETIAU, and WOW! it was perfect, I had no idea bean sprouts could taste so good. It was so surprising to me. The noodles were so silky smooth and tender. We went a little early, maybe 7 pm, and it wasn't too hard to get a table. There were lots of people eating. We had the bean sprouts, the chicken and the bowls of hor fun. The whole dinner was delicious. and very reasonable. the beer and salty lime drink were more than the dinner. There was a van/truck selling some pastries, bought a bag of those, not sure what they are. Walked through a night market that was starting to set up selling jeans, sunglasses etc.

                Trying to decide betw Sin Yoon and Nam Heong and Kong Heng. Also trying to think about setting an alarm for 6 am.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. For Ipoh, the 2 best coffee purveyors are Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Long. I think they also produce ready-to-drink coffee in sachets widely sold throughout Malaysia and Singapore.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Had my caffeine fix at Nam Heong this morning - happy to report that it's as good as ever :-D