Ipoh, Malaysia - Curry Noodles from Xin Quan Fang
This famous curry noodles (咖喱面) spot is known to local Ipoh residents as "the curry mee place opposite the police station", as it's located near the Ipoh central police headquarters. Many regarded this 50+ years old eatery as serving *the* best curry noodles in town.
A few things one needs to know about Xin Quan Fang:
- it opens from 7.30am daily, and usually sells out by late-morning. So, do try and get there early. Usually, they are moping the floors and getting ready to down the shutters by noon;
- it shuts down for a week every 2 months or so - so call ahead before you go to avoid disappointment;
- the crowds there are *crazeee*. They'd stand around for up to 1 hour, waiting for a table to be vacated in the ever-crowded, dingy little restaurant;
- once you get your table - you *don't* call the waiter or approach the counter to place your order. Instead, you sit at your place *until* one of the chaps approach you for your order. Break this unwritten arrangement, and you might get a snide remark and rude brush-off from any of the wait-staff. And the wait for your order to be taken can take another 30 minutes, followed by another 15-20 minutes before you get your food!
Anyhoo, if you are still not intimidated by the above Xin Quan Fang quirks, you'll get rewarded with a delicious bowl of what Ipoh-lites regard as the "numero uno" curry noodles in town.
What I found interesting about Xin Quan Fang's curry noodles:
- your individual bowl of noodles (usually a combination of yellow egg noodles and thin white rice noodles) comes in soup-form (thin curried soup, scented with coconut milk) or dry-form (smothered in curried sauce). Each diner also gets a small side-bowl containing a bit of curry sauce and a dollop of raw, minced garlic - for dipping, and also to add to one's noodles, if so desired;
- the curried soup/sauce was heavily-flavored using curry powder - a family secret recipe conceptualized by owner-chef, Kok Tong Choon's mother;
- the accompanying ingredients come in a large communal bowl and usually consisted of: crisp-skinned roast pork ("siu-yuk"), caramelized BBQ pork ("char-siu"), stewed pig's ears, poached chicken, par-boiled shrimps and loads of the famous Ipoh beansprouts - fresh and crunchy. That's all. No cockles (unlike Singapore laksa), no aubergines or long beans or tofu-puffs (unlike KL-style) and no pig's blood (unlike Penang-style).
I liked the curry noodles - the rich selection of ingredients. and the combination of different textures & flavors was a delight. But the dish overall was also blander than I'd expected, and certainly *not* as piquant as Penang-style curry noodles, nor spicy & assertive as KL-style curry noodles. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Was the lengthy wait (for a seat, for order to be taken, and food to be served) worth it? Good lord, NO!!
Xin Quan Fang (新泉芳咖哩面茶餐室)
174, Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah
Tel: +6016 531 4193
What a wonderful and entertaining write-up. Great reading!
WOW, the folks who do this regularly must be masochists. Talk about abuse of patrons!
How does one "find out" about the "unwritten rules", if one is a newbie? (One might not have the wit or the awareness to be observant about how the "regular patrons" are behaving, especially if by some stroke of fortune one is able to sit down at once; or if one is an impatient alpha male or whatever :-D )
It sounds like there really aren't many options or choices, really, other than how many orders one wishes to have and whether one wants it dry or wet ?
As for your overall verdict - heh...I mentioned something about "the chase" on the other thread about Keng Nam. :-)
Gawd, you could just tell who the poor first-timers were when you hear someone being rudely told off by one of the waiters every so often. What is it about these Malaysian customers?! They'd endure the abuse just to have a taste of Xin Quan Fang's noodles. And then they'll come back for some more! :-D
Hmm, it looks like the address is Jalan Sultan Iskandar, not Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah, when I went searching for it...
Xin Quan Fang was featured in "Food Surprise", hosted by Singapore foodie and founder of Makansutra, KF Seetoh, on the Asian Food Channel this evening. The lady boss of Xin Quan Fang said they'd been selling their curry noodles for 58 years!