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Mar 25, 2012 02:49 AM

Ipoh, Malaysia - Local Ipoh Culinary Delights at Thean Chun aka "The Hall of Mirrors"

I caught "The Lady", Luc Besson's new film on Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, at the theatre in Singapore last weekend.

The lead role, portraying the heroine, was played by Ipoh-born veteran Malaysian actress, Michelle Yeoh. Watching her on-screen made me want to re-visit Ipoh then - and also Thean Chun, one of Ipoh's most popular coffeeshops, and a favorite dining spot (together with Kong Heng coffeeshop next door) for Michelle Yeoh whenever she visited her Ipoh home.

So, I took a 2 hour drive up to Ipoh from KL this morning to savor the city's culinary options and ... visit Thean Chun :-D

Thean Chun is also known to local Ipoh-lites as "The Hall of Mirrors", owing to the large mirrors lining one side of the ever-crowded coffeeshop.

We ordered most of Thean Chun's staple hawker foods today:
- Chinese pork and pig's intestines satay skewers, served with a deliciously-rich spiced peanut sauce;
- "Chee cheong fun" (豬腸粉) - steamed rolls of rice noodles sprinkled with a thin soy-based sauce, and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds & crisp, brown shallots;
- Ipoh "hor fun" (河粉) - thin, flat rice noodles served in a delightful prawn-chicken broth, topped with fresh prawns, slivered chicken and chives. The broth was tinged orange from boiling prawn heads and shells to extract the flavors. Utterly delicious!
- Creme caramel - perhaps Thean Chun's claim-to-fame. This French dessert was produced perfectly here and a must-order.

Address details
Thean Chun Coffeeshop
73, Jalan Bandar Timah
Old Town
30000 Ipoh
Tel: +605 255 3076

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  1. How did you manage to see a movie in Singapore in the midst of all that eating you did, let alone visit with your family? (((wonderingexpression)))

    Interesting place & wonderful looking food. Not sure I would have hankered for the caramel (although, oddly, I like crème brûlée) but the rest - yessss!

    Ipoh hor fun in KL - that used to be a not-infrequent meal for me too. I suppose this one here tops the versions you have had in KL?

    The "chee cheong fun" - always a delight anywhere, especially when well-made. Hmm, I've got a slight itch to go for dim sum now...

    The satay sauce - for my info, was it just spicy or spicy-hot (chili-hot) as well? What about other satay sauces in Ipoh?

    13 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      That's what's wonderful about Singapore - everything's so convenient, one can catch a movie between 2 laksa meals! I actually caught "The Lady" at Katong I12, a new mall opposite the famous laksa row :-D

      No "Ipoh hor fun" outside Ipoh tasted like the real thang here! This one was a sheer delight.

      The satay sauce didn't taste chilli-spicy at all, but was delicious. I'd not had a chance to try other satay spots in Ipoh yet. Probably make a return trip there next month.

      1. re: klyeoh

        I was there enroute to Penang, 2 weeks ago. Great stuff huh? The intestine satay is prob the best I've ever had. Ditto for the Ipoh Kway Teow. The popiah is also very good.

        1. re: mikey8811

          Oh yes, the popiah - the lady who made them started off as a young girl making popiahs in the 1960s. Now a middle-aged woman, she still made the best popiah in Ipoh!

          1. re: klyeoh

            As an aside (and speaking as a member of the "Ipoh Diaspora"), there is also an excellent Ipoh hor fun at Kong Heng next door. Both coffee shops allow their customers to order food from the other, so you can compare the two bowls side-by-side! I find the Thean Chun version has more prawn-sweetness, but for some reason or another, I find myself always going back to the Kong Heng stall.

            1. re: Julian Teoh

              Oh yes, the Ipoh hor fun from Kong Heng - absolutely delicious. I first had that in 1972, I think. When I had it again in 2009, the flavors were *exactly* as I remembered it!! You know how we oftentimes think that our memories seemed to paint a rosier picture of things past, i.e. some building from childhood seemed larger than its real size, or some food from childhood was remembered as tasting much better than it really did? Well, not in *this* case, the taste, textures and even color of the broth were all as I remembered as a kid back then.

              1. re: klyeoh

                Oddly I no longer visit these when I go home (another of Ipoh's diaspora), favoring simpler and less famous places of my youth. As mentioned in another thread, nostalgia and memories has such a hold on one's remembrance of taste and experience.

                If I had 10 cents every time I sat down scrabbling for a leftover tissue in my pocket at the end of the meal, remarking 'oh they certainly tasted better back then'....

                And though I've never visited in my childhood, I find myself heading to Menglembu almost every visit back to Ipoh. Feels older and authentic, food's usually cheaper too

                1. re: Zichar

                  Zichar, we used to travel to Menglembu for the famous wanton mee back in the 1990s. Is it still there, and how is the quality? (Sorry I can't be of more help in identifying it!). I guess we were lucky that we lived in quite a central location so we used to visit places like Kong Heng every now and again.

                  klyeoh, I totally get where you are coming from, but I can't help feeling that the quality at some of these famous places is slipping, or at the very least, they are losing their consistency. Lou Wong chicken and beansprouts is the typical example; recent visits have been spotty but we keep going back in the hope we will get them on a good day, and we do around 50% of the time. Funny Mountain Beancurd is one of the few that I know of that has managed a generational transition without any noticeable downturn.

                  1. re: Julian Teoh

                    Ahh ... iirc yes it still is :-) I know of two - one in the township and another through twists and turns on the outskirts.
                    Am not a fan though, I think for that my tastebuds have been Sg-ized, preferring some form of chilli now to my noodles (to which my dad gave me raised eyebrows the last he visited!)

                    I do love the Twins (Ma Chai) Chee Cheong Fun, just across the township's Magnum 4D outlet. Silky smooth rice rolls served with a wide array of decadent currys - sambal sotong, stink beans, fried pig skin, even cockles. Good grief, even typing this out is making me drool!

                    Funny you should mention Funny Mountain (pun intended), I would opine that you probably wouldn't go wrong with soy products. I remember growing up with the tale/rumour that the boss drives in a big white Mercedes from all the profits beans and water have made him. Oh many an afternoon spent having chicken rice at Pak Kong then a short jaunt down to grab a tall glass of 'yin yeong'...

                    As for beansprouts chicken, I'm firmly in Onn Kee's camp, diagonally opposite Lou Wong. Allegiance being pledged since my childhood, it's tough to shake off. They do fall into the inconsistency trap though and have had the displeasure of tasting their 'off-day' fare.

                    1. re: Zichar

                      Interesting. I only know Menglembu for its groundnuts but never eaten there.

                      By the way, when you say your "tastebuds have been Sg-ized", I hope you only meant the chilli part, because Singapore hawker food is, IMHO, simply awful. Most of them are mass-produced in some factories somewhere on the island.

                      1. re: penang_rojak

                        You should, quite a few treasures hidden within the township. Where bicycles roam freely and motorbikes criss-cross along even in the opposite direction with nary a care for their lives... fun times :-)

                        Yes, chilli part mostly. Was just in KL for Qing Ming, super spoilt for choice, so much to eat, so little time! Dinner at Mum's Place, my goodness I haven't had ikan sumbat in years and I've been looking around for a good rendition here ever since last Sat...

                        But to be fair there's good food to be had here, have found a few unsung heroes aka old aunties and uncles who cook with pride and passion. Then again, I cook at home more often now so that's rather moot.

                        1. re: penang_rojak

                          Same here - only know the Menglembu for groundnuts. Have never understood the appeal of both taugeh chicken stalls - long long queues and so so food. Prefer Ipoh Kway Teow anyday.

                          1. re: mikey8811

                            With tastebuds steeped in childhood tradition, I'm probably biased!
                            My usual order would be hor fun dry (surprisingly fragrant 'cooked oil'), a plate of juicy crunchy beansprouts, chicken breastmeat only (it's tender and has enough rough striations to absorb the gravy) and a bowl of pork balls. The last being a leftover from the times my mom used to make 'ikan bilis' + meatball soup with these giant pork balls purchased from Leong Sin Nam Farms. Pretty sure I turn into a ten-year-old every time I bite into one... :D

                      2. re: Julian Teoh

                        Don't think I'd ever seen a crowd of *this* size waiting to buy soybean curd (Singapore: "tau hway", Ipoh: "tau fu fah") like this one in front of Funny Mountain last weekend.