Help the Small Businesses: Mahraj’s Kitchen

Mahraj’s Kitchen

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon revisits Mahraj’s Kitchen 

The most beautiful moments always seemed to accelerate and slip beyond one’s grasp just when you want to hold onto them for as long as possible.

E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

I checked my last review on Mahraj’s Kitchen when it was newly opened and it’s been almost 7 years. The food I had then was exciting, as stimulating to my taste buds as almost a “new” cuisine. Yet, holding on becomes a chore and soon the taste sensations became memories, lost in time.

Recently my taste memories were jogged, a sharp prod into that area of the brain where it resides, the taste cortex, found in a relatively insulated area of the human brain known as the insular cortex. 

It was a revisit to Mahraj’s Kitchen, the home of Hyderabadi cuisine, a blend of Telugu and Nizami cuisines that brought this sudden realisation of “Why haven’t I been back before? This taste is unbelievable”.

Telugu cuisine is a cuisine of South India, native to the Telugu people from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Generally known for its tangy, hot and spicy taste, the cooking is very diverse due to the vast spread of the people. Andhra cuisine is largely vegetarian, yet has a huge range of non-vegetarian options, and is perhaps the most fiery of all Indian food.

Srinivas and Premila are the owners, a pair of unlikely restaurateurs if we look at their backgrounds. Sinu, as he is fondly called, used to be in the graphic design business and Premila a lecturer. Yet Mahraj has been thriving for 7 years. And chef Vailankanni Pushparaj from India has stayed with them from the beginning, dishing out delectable Hyderabadi dishes.

The most amazing part of eating at Mahraj is their not using MSG in their cooking. I usually have allergic reactions to MSG and not only do I not have them after a big meal here, but I also don’t get the uncomfortable reflux that comes from a big meal at other Indian restaurants. 

Perhaps this comes from their fastidious insistence on importing all their spices from Hyderabad, grinding and mixing their own masalas for all the different preparations. It also lends each dish its own unique aromatic dimensions, shimmering on the tongue, darting between bracing and bold, mellow and buttery.

Now let’s get to the dishes. 

One of my favourites was the Fried Tullagadda, Kerala style stir-fried potato with coconut oil and mustard seeds, cumin seeds, grated coconut, onion and black pepper. I could just eat this and die happy! How can a simple potato taste this good! RM8.90 (S); RM11.90 (M).

Fried Tullagadda

Another dish that I feel that I could die happy about was the Fresh Lemon Garlic Fish, boneless morsels of Dory, first battered, then fried and tossed in a separate pan with slices of lemon, chunks of lemon rind, fried onion, garlic and curry leaves. Tart, umami, and a wake-up call to one’s taste buds. RM8 (S); RM13.90 (M). 

Crab Soup using flower crab is always available and does not need to be ordered in advance. There is always a distinctive taste to Indian fish soup that is quite addictive to my palate. Whether it’s the combination of mint leaves, coriander, curry leaves and of course, onion, garlic and the flavour of the crab itself—I find myself craving for more. RM10.

Crab Soup

A wonderful starter was the Pani Puri, a typical Hyderabadi street food of little fried dough balls which puff up to become hollow inside, filled with a potato masala filling and served with mint water fragranced with mint, coriander, green chilli, masala and a pinch of black salt which helps to develop the taste. RM5 for 6 pieces. 

There were so many dishes on the table for our tasting that while I sampled every single dish (about 25 in all including breads and snacks) and found them delectable, I will only describe the unusual and the spectacular ones. 

There were two new dishes that were spectacular. The first was their Octopus Varuval, thumb-thick chunks of octopus tentacles cooked tender in a dry masala paste, looking dark and ominous on the plate but in the mouth, a burst of robust flavours, fiery, buoyant, and scintillating on the tongue. A joy and delight for anyone who enjoys seafood tastes and textures. Wrap it in a piece of garlic butter naan, and you have heaven in a mouthful. 

Octopus Varuval

They also make a Black Pepper Octopus Biryani using baby octopus, the basmati rice light and fluffy and the fire coming from peppercorns.

Black Pepper Octopus Biryani

The Pomfret Biryani is the piece de resistance to soon make an appearance on Mahraj’s menu. An impressive platter with a large black pomfret sitting on a bed of fluffy Dum biryani (cooked in a pot sealed with dough), the fish is smothered with a robust blend of freshly roasted spices for the masala, cooked separately, then placed on the rice. This one dish is enough to serve four to five people, and with a thick curry sauce and a thin raita (yoghurt with chopped onions and cucumber) served with it, is a delectable meal in itself. RM84.90.

Pomfret Biryani

But greedy foodie me just had to try everything else so the dishes kept on coming. 

The Palak Paneer, creamed spinach with homemade cottage cheese, was one of the tastiest I have eaten, RM9.00 (S); RM13.90 (M). Equally delectable was the Mushroom Palak, RM9 (S); RM13 (M). Because both were saucy, they were the perfect “dips” for the Butter Kulcha (RM4.90), a Naan bread dotted with sesame seeds and topped with coriander leaves which lent its fragrance to the bread.

Mushroom palak and paneer butter masala

The Mutton Chukka was a dry recipe, masterfully tenderised in the cooking with the spices well permeated into the meat. It was fiery but absolutely to my palate. RM11.90 (S); RM16.90 (M).

Hyderabadi cuisine is famous for its Biryanis, coming in many guises. The Chicken Dum Biryani came with a boiled egg, the chicken pieces well buried inside the rice, its masala permeating the rice as it cooks. RM11.90.

Fried Pepper Mushrooms were delectable, fresh Shiitake mushrooms with their inimitable earthy flavour and meat-like texture, fried with a generous helping of black pepper and spices. RM8.90 (S); RM12.90 (M). Eaten with the Garlic Naan (RM3.90) was my idea of heaven.

And more was to come. 

Kadai Chicken was fiery, tender on-the-bone chicken chunks, cooked in its own special masala, RM9.90 (S); RM14.90 (M). That, along with Fish Masala, a dish with chunks of Ikan Siakap cooked in their own masala sauce (RM8.90 (S); RM15.90 (M)) and Paneer in Butter Masala (RM9 (S); RM14.90 (M)), with all heady aromas wafting from their serving platters, made the perfect marriage with the fragrant Jeera Palavu (RM7), a rice cooked with fennel seeds. 

Kadai Chicken

Diners who wish to splurge can indulge in the Lobster Biryani set which comes complete with drinks at RM129.90. Or if its a simple meal you’re looking for, try the Mutton Keema Spaghetti, aromatic minced lamb cooked in its own secret masala and used like a Bolognese sauce which you ladle on over al dente spaghetti. RM13.50.

A Vegetarian Thali is available for RM7.90, and while all other dishes are available for delivery, this is not. Also, do check out their Dosas, idlis and other snack dishes available from 4pm onwards. 

Vegetarian Thali

Mahraj’s Kitchen is pork-free, with all their ingredients sourced from Halal sources.

They also have a banquet hall upstairs that can seat 75 people, equipped with all necessary sound systems. It is recommended for reservations to be made 2-3 days prior to an event. 


14, Jalan Sultan Yussuf, 30000 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
10am-10pm, opens daily
Takeaways available
Deliveries available through GrabFood and foodpanda  

For inquiries:
05-242 6973 | 016-287 9492 | 016-427 6973

SeeFoon Is Blown Away by Onyx Gourmet Menu   

Onyx Premier Dining

I was recently invited to an exclusive dinner together with some of Ipoh’s ‘who’s who’ to the Infinite Room at the top of Regalodge where Onyx Premier Dining was launched.

The who’s who

I had reservations about accepting given our pandemic situation, and the idea of mingling with a large group filled me with trepidation. My fears were soon allayed as I entered the room and discovered that a very long and beautifully laid out table was set for 14 people, each seat socially distanced but close enough for conversation across as well as on both sides. 

The table

The host for the evening Madam L.C. Ng, a most affable and gracious lady, lawyer by profession but a gourmet at heart, had been nursing a desire to launch a fine dining venue and what better place to have one than in Regalodge, a small, centrally positioned hotel in Greentown which her husband Steven Yeoh, acquired two years ago. 

Host Madam L.C. Ng and Dato Ding
Karaoke time with Dato Gan, Anita Phang and SeeFoon
Puan Sri Datuk Sandra joining in the fun

And what a successful launch it was. A beautifully printed information kit at each place setting heightened my anticipation of a good evening to come. And I was not disappointed. 

The stellar menu was curated by Jeff Yeoh, the young and innovative Sous Chef who has packed more than 18 years experience in operations for renowned restaurants with the last 10 years in Singapore, including 5 years as Sous Chef in Marina Bay Sands Singapore in his last posting before returning to Ipoh. He is proficient in numerous cooking techniques and cuisines, with a talent for working with ingredients from countries around the world. General Manager, Christopher Wong was the one responsible for sourcing and bringing in all the gastronomic delights. 

The specially curated menu that evening was a masterpiece, both in gastronomic and artistic terms. With skillful sourcing, the marriage of ingredients worked perfectly for each dish and the result was as well a feast for the eye as the palate. 

Paired with specially selected wines from Geovinum Sdn Bhd, Edward Chong, who is a Spanish Wine Scholar candidate with 8 years of experience in the wine industry, was on hand to brief us on each wine as we worked our way through the extensive menu. Geovinum is an exclusive distributor of many boutique wineries as well as iconic winemakers like Carlos Moro, Alvaro Palacios, Maria Luz Marin, Peter Sisseck, Mariano Gracia, Yves Cuilleron and Gérard Gauby. The creme de la creme of the evening in addition to the various wines served was the Cognac Pierre De Segonzac “Extra” Selection 1st Cru 50 years Grande Champagne, smooth like honey and velvety caramel going down my palate. 

Specially selected wines

We had an extravagance of appetizers to start. The first was tuna tartar cubes with Osetra caviar on a buckwheat blini, topped with a quail egg and a delicate lattice of spinach puree crisped by molecular magic into a lacey wafer. Edible flowers completed the plating and I felt almost guilty breaking up the alluring presentation. Paired with a Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Rose Brut 2004, this first appetizer augured well for the dishes to come.

Osetra caviar and tuna served with buckwheat blini, quail egg

The second appetizer was an imported Japanese shrimp: the amaebi, a high-end ingredient in Japanese restaurants. Cooked in the shell to a degree of perfection (slightly under-done), the meat was sweet, yielding and umami. Served with Romanesco broccoli (or cauliflower as some call it) fresh flown in from France, which has a similar but milder, sweeter, and nuttier flavor than both broccoli and cauliflower. It is also almost impossible to get in Ipoh and is highly prized and highly priced. Avocado, cucumber rolls and a mango relish complete the dish. Paired with a Chateau Bonnet Blanc AOC EDM 2017.

Sweet Shrimp with Avocado & Mango Relish

The third appetizer was fresh Sea Urchin, the Bafun Uni (red in colour) flown in direct from Hokkaido with Hokkaido Scallop and slivers of Black Truffle from Italy. This was a totally decadent flirtation of torched scallop with velvety smooth uni and the earthy aromatic dimension of truffle, the flavours shimmering on your tongue, darting between the elements of earth and sea. Paired with Vina Soledad Reserva 2006.

Sea Urchin with Hokkaido Scallop and Black Truffle

Now for the fourth appetizer (they just kept on coming!!), White asparagus with lemon and served with Orange Beurre. White asparagus is a delicacy which I haven’t had in years and certainly not in Ipoh. The few that I have come across in high-end supermarkets in Kuala Lumpur were usually sad and withered-looking as most people would never pay the high price demanded. So there it was: all five pieces of shimmering white, fat asparagus decorated with edible flowers sitting on a bed of orange butter. Juicy, succulent and fresh, the orange butter adding a citrusy touch. Paired with a Margan Aged Release Semillon 2009.

White asparagus, Lemon served with Orange Beurre

For the main course, I opted for the Tournedos Rossini, served with imported Foie Gras from France, Truffle and a Madeira Sauce. The tenderloin, a piece of Wagyu M9 was so tender, you can almost cut it with a fork and the very generous piece of foie gras was pan fried to perfection, its fragrance heady and mesmerising. Topping it with slices of black truffle was really the “icing on the cake” as I lingered on the last slice, hoping it would last forever. Paired with Bodegas Roda Cirsion Rioja 2009 and Bodegas Matarromera Pago Las Solanas 2001.

Tournedos Rossini served with Foie Gras, Truffle & Madeira Sauce

For dessert, the Double Boiled Bird’s Nest with Coconut Milk was a pure delight. 5th grade 5A birds nest double boiled for 4 hours topped with coconut milk, an ambrosial offering fit for the Gods. Paired with the Cognac Pierre De Segonzac “Extra” Selection 1st Cru 50 years Grande Champagne which was smooth and mellow, a fitting ending for an unforgettable meal. 

Stewed Birds Nest with Coconut Milk

Onyx Premier Dining can host a maximum of 20 people and surprise, surprise, a minimum of 2. 

According to GM Christopher, someone actually booked the room, arranged a sumptuous meal and proposed to his girlfriend. Now with a menu like the one I’ve just described, can any girl say no?? 

The meal is priced at RM300-RM900 per pax depending on the menu preselected, excluding wine pairing where the sky’s the limit.


Regalodge Hotel
131, Jalan Raja Ekram, 30450 Ipoh. 

Business hours:
7am-10pm, opens daily  

For inquiries:

For Onyx Premier Dining, call Sherry Chan: 019 510 5925

Help the Small Businesses: Legen Indian Fusion Restaurant

Legen Indian Fusion Restaurant

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon is served a King’s Banquet

When you have been the personal chef to the Sultan of Brunei for 10 years, you develop a certain savoir faire in all culinary styles, and whether you’re cooking Western or Asian or Fusion, your skills are bound to dazzle. 

And bedazzled they are, as customers who step into Legen Indian Fusion Restaurant, the ‘new kid on the block in Old Town, will find themselves. 

Bright and sparkling clean, the ambiance is wholesome, with female serving staff in shimmering saris adding sparkle to the place. Along the right wall, a long table is fully loaded with tureen after tureen, all warming over tea lights. More than 20 dishes are on offer every day, with the menu choice changing on a daily rotating basis.  

Partner owners Gopi Subramaniam and Executive Chef S. Balachandran are out front greeting guests, with Gopi seating people and Bala explaining the display on the buffet table.

I was initially hesitant to go out to eat from a buffet especially during the CMCO, knowing how people tend to linger over the open dishes on display and chat away, providing ample opportunities for droplets to land on the food. But upon arriving at the restaurant, my fears were quickly assuaged as all the dishes were covered, clearly labelled and all I had to do was to select the items as a service person would follow me, take my order and serve them at my table. 

Bala, who decided to return to his hometown of Ipoh after his long service with the Sultan of Brunei, has always nurtured a desire to operate his own restaurant, and this became a reality when he teamed up with Gopi. Bala brings with him extensive culinary experience, having worked in multiple locations including Melbourne as well as a stint as the principal of Crew Skills International College. 

The lunch offerings at Legen are Malaysian-style South Indian with most dishes changing daily. Dinner is a la carte, which Bala describes as Indian-Western fusion. Of this ‘fusion’ dinner menu, I only tasted the Lamb Shawarma Wrap with vegetables which was tasty, the lamb tender and well marinated. Great for takeaways. RM12.

Lamb Shawarma Wrap

On the buffet table the day I was there, there was such a plethora of choices that I was at a loss as to where to begin and what to order. So I decided to order small portions of delectables and since we were four, we could all taste a wide range. 

Also, the prices for many small portions were so incredibly reasonable that it seemed a shame not to try them all! (Not that we did….all 20 was a bit on the wild side!!)

Rice, both white and parboiled, is available on the buffet—but the one I chose was the Vegetarian Biryani (RM5). This biryani was so tasty, I didn’t even need nor want any of the gravy that came with other dishes. All others at my table agreed with me, and without MSG, as boldly stated on the wall above the display, this was certainly one tasty dish. The basmati rice was fluffy, extremely tasty and now as I sit here at my desk, I find myself salivating at the taste memory and wishing I had a large bowl of it in front of me. If it’s a Chicken Biryani (RM14) or a Mutton one (RM16) you’d like instead, just call ahead and they’ll prepare it for you. For me, I’d rather just stick to the vegetarian version and eat it with all the other goodies.

I shall just list all the small portions that I ordered from the buffet with their prices. Obviously, the more dishes you order, the more the meal price will rise, but the prices per portion were unbelievably reasonable. And for those on a budget, rice, two vegs and a serving of meat can come in for less than RM10.

Salted Fish with Sweet Turnip (sengkuang) was crunchy and unusual to find on an Indian table. A lovely departure from the usual vegetables, RM3. Chicken Varuval (RM4), one of Bala’s specialities, and Fried Bitter Gourd (RM2) were both my favourites.

Egg Sambal (RM2) was tasty with a tinge of brown sugar; Chicken Sambal (RM4) in a style similar to Ayam Masak Merah was a tad on the sweet side and probably appeals to the Malaysian palate; while the Brinjal Sambal was quite fiery at RM2 per portion. 

Traditional Spinach was tangy, while the Palak Paneer with homemade cottage cheese was yummy, though again on the sweet side. Both are priced at RM2

I loved the Dhal which went so well with the vegetarian biryani, and of course no Indian meal can be complete without Raita—yoghurt with onions, chillies and surprise, surprise, red beans.

Rasam, the de rigueur tangy soup which one can sip slowly throughout the meal or after as the individual wishes, and which serves as a digestive of sorts, was made from homeground spices and was one of the few dishes that had no addition of sugar.

As a special treat, indulge in their homemade Almond Kulfi, a velvety smooth ice cream-like dessert made from milk and given texture with crunchy almonds, yummilicious at RM7. It also comes as Mango Kulfi, milk and mango pulp combined into a creamy texture with the smoothest mouthfeel. RM5.

Mango kulfi (back) and almond kulfi (front)

In general, all the items on the buffet table were well-nuanced and delectable. An appeal to Chef Bala might be to go easy with the addition of sugar, as sugar-averse diners like myself— while appreciating that no MSG is used in the cooking—feel that no sugar is needed for most of the dishes. Let the spices do the talking.

With the very reasonable pricing and skilled spicing, this buffet at Legen is well worth patronizing.  

*Legen Indian Fusion Restaurant is pork-free

12B, Jalan Sultan Yusof, 30000 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
11am-10pm, opens daily
Buffet available until 3pm; a la carte menu available from 6.30pm onwards

*Takeaways available for buffet menu
*Takeaways and deliveries available via foodpanda and GrabFood

For inquiries:
014-309 8026

Help the Small Businesses: ES Kitchen

ES kitchen

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon expands her coterie of fave western restaurants

Ipoh has always been known for its local food, be it hawker or its “Tai Chau” places, and it was only when Julie Soong opened Indulgence Restaurant & Living 20 odd years ago, followed shortly by Simon Lee and Erica with Citrus, that Ipoh began to develop a collection of western restaurants that can step onto the world stage. 

A slew of ‘wannabes’ followed and failed, their downfall related to hired chefs and a difficulty in hiring service staff. 

I have always maintained that the restaurants that stay the course and remain successful are those that are opened by couples, with one half in the kitchen doing the cooking and the other out front serving guests. 

That is why I’m putting my money on ES Kitchen, opened by Chef Eric Soong and his wife, Irene Koh. In addition, their daughters Amanda and Alisha help out during their school holidays. 

I first met Eric when he was Executive Chef at Weil Hotel when it first opened. He subsequently left and went to Guangzhou where he was at Langham Guangzhou as Executive Chef for 3 years, only returning last year in October 2019. He started his restaurant ES Kitchen in May this year, after the MCO was lifted. 

Having just established himself and the restaurant, and with September showing an encouraging return, Eric now has to cope with the CMCO and the fear preventing customers from patronising his restaurant. 

I can vouch for Eric and Irene being fastidious in following the SOPs. Also, the restaurant, which is spaced over two shop lots, has their tables VERY well spaced out and are well marked with allowable or non-allowable seating. I was impressed the moment I stepped in: a quiet serene ambiance where you, my dear readers, may dine in peace. 

As for drinks, because they have yet to obtain their liquor licence, one may BYO where they charge an RM35 corkage fee—but for lunch that day, I settled for their non-alcoholic beverages. 

The Blueberry Yogurt drink blended from a mix of fresh and frozen blueberries from the US was refreshing and cooling, while their Iced Chocolate was smooth and not too sweet (my natural aversion to sweet drinks!!). The Peach Soda had a lovely fizz and combined with the canned pureed peach at the bottom of the glass, left a delightful lingering taste in the mouth. All it needed was a dash of champagne and we would have a Belleni in our hands. All at RM14.80.

Our first course was the Cobb Salad, a meal on its own with generous portions of bacon, ham, egg, avocado, cheese, tomato and grilled chicken, served with Eric’s special homemade ranch dressing, a creamy yet tangy dressing that lifted the simple ingredients to a gourmet level. RM27.80.

Cobb Salad

Next to arrive and meant as an appetiser were the Crispy Risotto Balls or arancini (Italian), served with a balsamic tomato compote on the side. These six balls were divine and the first I’ve had in 30 years, since the last time I was in Italy. They were so good that I almost wanted to eat the whole plate but refrained since I had to share with my colleagues! When served, the balls look deceptively simple to make but making delicious arancini requires skills that only can come from a seasoned chef. 

Crispy Risotto Balls

To make these Sicilian cheese-filled snacks, you first have to make risotto (we all know how difficult that is as you have to stand over the stove and stir till the rice is cooked, adding stock and cheese in small dribbles); then use the risotto to make cheese-stuffed balls, then coat them with breadcrumbs and deep-fry them. It’s a labor of love, which is reason enough to make this dish a must-have. It is also worth making this one of your favourite takeaways during this CMCO. RM19.80.

Both the soups that we tasted and shared were delicious. I usually avoid soups as often they taste like dishwater especially in the hands of a novice chef. But in Eric’s able hands, both the Roasted Pumpkin Soup topped with smoked duck breast and croutons (RM15.80) and the Field Mushroom Soup served with bacon bits, buttered croutons and drizzled with truffle oil (RM18.80) were robust, ambrosial and lifted beyond the ordinary. 

Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Field Mushroom Soup

The Chicken Cordon Bleu was surprisingly juicy and tender considering it was breast meat. Stuffed with cheese, breaded and fried, it was served with a creamy mashed potato and mixed vegetables. I wish it had more cheese inside, though, as I like it really oozing! RM28.80.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

For the main course, Eric suggested we taste his signature dish which is the ES Signature Iberico Pork Ribs, a slab of juicy ribs marinated and basted with Eric’s own barbecue sauce and served with corn salsa. The ribs weigh around 700gm and he uses the DeRaza brand of Iberico, a specific breed of true blue, purebred Iberico, feeding primarily on acorns and roaming freely in the regions of Extremadura, Andalusia and Castile-La Mancha, in Spain. 

ES Signature Iberico Pork Ribs

The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and, because they were Iberico, imbued with their own special inimitable taste and fragrance. Enhanced by the homemade barbecue sauce, this was a feast for at least 2-3 people and at RM168.80, was worth every mouthful.  

For dessert, we shared an Irish Cream Tiramisu, an alcoholic’s delight with ladyfingers (the biscuit, not the vegetable) soaked with coffee and liquor, sponge cake and layered with Mascarpone cheese (this is the legitimate layering ….not whipped cream) doused with Bailey’s Irish Cream. Heaven in a mouthful. RM18.80.

Irish Cream Tiramisu

I promised myself to come back with a group of friends to experience their Tomahawk set, consisting of 1.2kg of grilled Australian Stanbrooke Black Angus M2. This comes with the arancini or risotto balls starter, salad, pumpkin soup and sides of rosemary potatoes, garlic broccoli, sauteed field mushrooms, a red wine shallot pepper sauce and a dessert of their Bailey’s Tiramisu—at RM688.80 per set. Given that their portions are generous, and although this is a set meant for 4, I reckon that 6 friends can happily share this meal and leave satiated and content.

Another item that caught my eye was one of their specials of the month. The Sanchoku Wagyu Burger (only 127 portions available) comes with pan-fried lobster tail, foie gras, smoked cheddar, port wine onion marmalade on a brioche bun, and a serving of truffle steak fries. RM188.80.

ES Kitchen is definitely on my list for many a revisit. 

148 & 150, Jalan Tasek Timur, Pusat Perdagangan Tasek Indra Bercham, 31400 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
12-2.30pm (Lunch), 6-10pm (Dinner)
Closed on Wednesdays
Takeaways available
Deliveries available between 2.30-6pm

For inquiries:
012-223 9489

Help the Small Businesses: EatUp Dining

Eatup Dining

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon discovers Halal Chinese hawker fare in Meru Raya

A few of my Muslim friends have often asked me where to go for Halal Chinese hawker food. 

Yes we are seeing a proliferation of Halal Dim Sum all over, thanks to our dynamic Ipohite duo, Ceylyn Teh and her husband YC Nang who have a huge manufacturing facility in Ipoh and opened up Halal Dim Sum places all over Malaysia.

But to find authentic Halal Chinese hawker food under one roof? “Well, not all dishes but a good representation of the usual favourites would be welcome,” said a good friend who was born and raised in a Chinese family but converted when she married her Muslim husband. 

As luck would have it, I found one in Meru Raya

Christine Liew is the savvy and amiable proprietor of EatUp Dining, a bright, cheerful and sparklingly clean eatery sitting in an easy parking location on Jalan Meru Bestari A9, just behind Mydin and next to McDonalds.

Already open for two years, the restaurant has BeSS stickers readily visible at the entrance and counter which stands for Bersih, Selamat dan Sihat” or “Clean, Safe and Healthy”, a recognition awarded by the Health Department and is the only one given in the entire Jelapang area. Muslim team members run the kitchen as well as service, and not only is the restaurant Halal certified, but they also cater to vegetarians. 

Speaking to Christine, I can sense her passion, which is palpable, for introducing her childhood food to the Muslim community and making them accessible whether as dine-ins or takeaways. 

Christine’s specialty is her homemade Lamen, more commonly known as Ramen but she has chosen to use the Chinese phonetic-isation rather than the Japanese. These are made fresh daily and are a “must-have” from here. Springy and al dente, these noodles have the requisite mouthfeel that would win approval from even the most critical Chinese gourmet, and when combined with the variety of sauces, soups and toppings—all of which are homemade—have garnered for the restaurant quite a local following.

During the lunch hour I was there, I could see a continuous stream of GrabFood and Foodpanda  delivery people doing pickups, as well as private ones. A brisk business indeed and I hope it will continue during this CMCO period. SOPs are well adhered to here as all service staff were masked and the tables were marked for social distancing.

The staff appeared cheerful and happy, giving credence to the company name of  Ria Serata – meaning “happy under the same roof”. This is all thanks to Christine’s efforts, as a boss who cares for her staff’s welfare, personally conducting service training and teaching staff in the kitchen as well. 

As for the food, plating and service was impeccable and the taste notable.

We first had the EatUp Signature Crunchy Spiced Squid which was a good starter to nibble on while waiting for the rest of the food. The spicing was more than the usual salt and pepper squid and had a piquancy that was intriguing. RM13.90.

EatUp Signature Crunchy Spiced Squid

This was followed by their Signature Pie Tee, crispy flour cups with their own unusual filling of chicken slivers cooked with sengkuang or sweet turnip. Plated with tufts of lettuce peeping from each cup and dressed in a special sauce, these cups were a delightful crunchy appetizer for the goodies to come. RM9.90 for 6 pieces.

Signature Pie Tee

The EatUp Signature Chicken Rice Combo served with two cups of Pie Tee and saucy chicken (as in soya sauce) was a well rounded meal in itself, complete with salad garnitures and crispy fried shallots and crispy fried garlic. The rice was very tasty on its own (as chicken rice should be) and the homemade chilli sauce, together with the cup of chicken soup, completed the combo. RM17.90. 

Never had Chinese Chee Cheong Fun (CCF) for fear it may contain lard? Now you can eat the Halal version with impunity and understand why this has been a favourite breakfast dish for centuries in China. The key is in the smoothness and velvety mouthfeel of the rolled rice sheet. Just rice flour steamed and rolled up, topped with sauces. Here, the CCF is embellished with Christine’s special secret recipe Dried Shrimp Sauce, tangy, quite spicy and redolent with dried shrimps. Drizzled with sweet black soya sauce and sprinkled with crispy fried shallots and sesame seeds, this is a must have at RM5.90.

Chee Cheong Fun with Supreme Dried Shrimp Sauce

Next to arrive was the Wok Fried Radish Cake with Superior Spicy Sauce. This was a  homemade radish cake, soft and tender and pan-fried with beansprouts, spring onion, chilli sauce and topped with crisp fried shallots. Yummilicious at RM8.00.

Wok Fried Radish Cake with Superior Spicy Sauce

The Teochew Porridge with Condiments was a surprise on the menu. Plain rice congee boiled to the right consistency, velvety and smooth; served with ikan bilis, salted egg and salted fish. A clean, wholesome farmer’s meal. They also serve a chicken version. RM7.90.

Eatup Signature Teochew Porridge with Condiments

Then we came to the Lamen, the EatUp’s homemade specialty. Used for all dishes calling for noodles, these noodles with its al dente springiness is paired in different ways. 

Nyonya Chicken Curry Lamen Soup had whole chunks of chicken, potato, onions, cucumber slivers, lettuce, egg and taufu pok in a spicy, well nuanced curry sauce that was totally satisfying. RM14.90.

Nyonya Chicken Curry Lamen Soup

The Chicken Chilli Lamen was a dry variety, with a soft boiled egg, ikan bilis, chicken cubes, and given oomph with the home-made chilli sauce. RM10.90.

Chicken Chilli Lamen

The Dry Wonton Noodle with Crispy Shrimp Wonton at RM12.90 was the icing on the cake – the noodles springy and the shrimp wonton crackling in the mouth.

There are drinks galore on the menu here with notable ones unanimously voted tops by my cronies at the table being the Lychee Lime Mojito (RM9.90) and the Mojito Tiga Rasa, an interesting concoction of an ice cream popsicle melting into soda producing three flavours.

Mojito Tiga Rasa

My favourite was the Pearl Teh, a homemade blend of tea mixed with condensed and evaporated milk that was not overly sweet combined with yummilicious chewy pearls. RM6.90.

EatUp Dining will be opening another branch at PTTC (Perak Techno Trade Center). From my taste of the lovely menu, the new venture will doubtless be successful.

Christine has succeeded in interpreting Chinese hawker food to the Halal audience with a blend of fidelity and freedom that is rare. Her homemade chilli sauce is worth taking home in bottles for adding to one’s own dishes. I wish her much success in the upcoming new restaurant.  


60-G & 60-1, Jalan Meru Bestari A9, Medan Meru Bestari, 30020 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
9am-10pm; closed on Tuesdays
Takeaways available
Deliveries available via Foodpanda and GrabFood

For inquiries:
05-210 7287

Help the Small Businesses: Rish’s Kitchen

Rish’s Kitchen

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon delights in “Melangerie” at Rish’s

As the word “fusion” has been done to death by the culinary world (the description, not the art), I have decided to call the combination of eastern and western styles of cooking “melange-rie” to describe the cuisine at Rish’s Kitchen, a recently opened restaurant on Kuala Kangsar road. 

Melange got mixed into the melting pot of English back in the 1600s. It derives from the Middle French verb mesler, which means “to mix.” And this is what Harrish and his brother Shyaam have done for the menu at Rish’s. 

Harrish Kumar, who has garnered for himself a large following at Tamara’s, the Sri Lanka/Indian restaurant in Greentown where the vegetarian dishes are unusual (fresh, bold and packs a punch) and the meat dishes are equally fiery, has now joined forces with his brother Shyaam Prashanth Kumar to open Rish’s Kitchen. 

Don’t worry fellow foodies, Tamara’s is still operating as usual. 

Mixing east and west on a menu can often end in disaster but at Rish’s, the team have succeeded in creating a ‘melange’ of unusual dishes combining some of the best elements from both traditions.

As in their Cheesy Nachos with Spicy Lemongrass Chicken, mildly spiced morsels of chicken topped with melted mozzarella and cheddar on homemade tortilla chips and capped with alfalfa sprouts. The tortilla chips, whose roots are Mexican and originally made from ground corn, have been transformed into flour chips, a crispy and crunchy accompaniment to the tender chicken pieces and the fresh green taste of the alfalfa sprouts. RM18.

Cheesy Nachos with Spicy Lemongrass Chicken

Rish’s Special Pizza is Mutton Masala on a mini pizza, showered with cheese. The crust could have been crispier, but nevertheless the mutton masala topping more than made up for the lack of crunch, a big bodacious South Indian flavour married to an Italian base. The mutton was tender and juicy, mildly spiced to suit the tamer palates, while the cheese ameliorated the more fiery elements. RM35.

Rish’s Special Pizza

We then had the NZ Lamb Rack Infused in Rish’s Special Aroma Oil with a traditional Peranakan sauce handmade by Harrish. The lamb was very tender and redolent with the flavours of Nyonya spices. RM39.

NZ Lamb Rack Infused in Rish’s Special Aroma Oil

The Dry Curry Noodle, unlike our renowned Ipoh hawker variety, was made with Fettuccine, a broad Italian noodle served with fish cake slices, squid rounds, bean sprouts, egg and topped with a very spicy Sri Lankan rich and creamy curry sauce. Personally, I could have had the noodles more al dente but it’s definitely worth trying as a departure from the norm. RM20.

Dry Curry Noodle

The Signature Crispy Chicken Cutlet served with their homemade black pepper sauce which was chock-full of crushed black peppercorns certainly packed a punch, harking back to the days of the traditional Hainanese chicken chop, crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. The pepper sauce certainly had the requisite bite, spicy from the pepper. RM14.90.

Signature Crispy Chicken Cutlet

For the steak lovers, you can also order the Australian Sirloin Steak served with the same peppercorn sauce for RM38.

The Macha’s Signature Claypot Mutton was bold and robust, served with lemongrass rice. If mutton is not your thing, order it with chicken. It has an equally robust taste but be forewarned, do tell them to go easy on the salt. Tangy and a ‘melange’ between a Chinese braise and an Indian spiced stew, it went well with the rice. RM14.

Signature Macha’s Claypot Mutton

For drinks, we had the Masala Coffee from Sri Lanka, RM6; their Serai Pandan Soda – very nice and not too sweet, RM8; their Passion Fruit Tea brimming with fresh passion fruit kernels, RM8 and their Assam Boi Mint Soda, RM8. The cold drinks were most refreshing while the Masala coffee was redolent with herbs. Sugar levels can be adjusted as they can make them fresh to taste.

As Harrish tells it, there is a 30-room homestay attached to the restaurant where bookings can be made through Agoda. While not fully operational, it is ready to accept guests once the CMCO has eased. 

There is also a Function and Banquet facility with a capacity to seat 70 people with meeting equipment like a projector, mic system, tables and chairs provided.

For hall reservations, contact: 018-579 1312 (Ruvanesh).

Rish’s Kitchen has a spacious, light and comfortable ambiance with seating nooks and well spaced-out tables all complying to SOPs. A private room is also available. And they have ample space for parking outside!

Afternoon tea is offered all afternoon with little petit fours and other rotating cakes on their menu and can be served in a private nook or in the main room. All in all a delightful interlude to look forward to.

*Rish’s Kitchen is pork and alcohol free 

62, Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Taman Malaysia, 30100 Ipoh, Perak 

Business hours :
12-10pm; closed on Mondays
Takeaways available
Deliveries available through Foodpanda, GrabFood, and they are planning to do their own delivery

For inquiries:
010-395 8821

Help the Small Businesses: Uncle Long

Uncle Long

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon treats herself to charred and sticky sweet perfection.

Char Siew literally means “fork roasted” (siu being burn/roast and cha being fork), named after the traditional cooking method for the dish where long strips of seasoned boneless pork are skewered with long forks and placed in a covered oven or over a fire.

Cantonese in origin, the pork meat is marinated and then roasted in the oven to a charred and sticky sweet perfection. 

It’s ubiquitous in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, where Cantonese cuisine predominates and here in Ipoh, where our cuisine is more eclectic, it’s quite rare to find a restaurant dedicated to roast meats. 

Uncle Long is one of them. 

Opened barely a year ago, this restaurant in Ipoh Garden South already has quite a following, judging from the queue at lunchtime waiting to “tapau” (takeaway). 

Uncle Long also sells roast duck and chicken, as well as their own Siew Cheong (sausage) and roast pork, all home roasted by the proprietor Ray Lim Tze Kee who has a long history as a chef, doing just this: Chinese roasting.

The signature here is the Char Siew, so popular that he sells up to 30kg a day! 

I am fussy about my Char Siew. Not for me the lean and dry slices you often get in noodle soups or curry mee. Those are for people obsessed with their cholesterol or weight. 

Give me a Char Siew with a proportion of 40:60 of fat to meat, oozing oil from its glistening sides, the honey or maltose glaze charred in sections, and the marinade flavors shimmering on my tongue. 

This is the Char Siew at Uncle Long.

Char siew, Roast Pork & Siew Cheong (sausage)

The rest of the roast meats pale in comparison but nevertheless make for good companions to the star dish.

The Roast Pork had the requisite crispy skin and went well with their homemade chilli sauce that was tart, not too sweet (perfect for my non-sweet tooth) and spicy, ameliorating the high fat mouthfeel of the pork. A perfect match. RM7.50 for 100g, RM37.50 for 0.5kg, RM75 for 1kg.

The Roast Duck (RM13-50 depending on portion size) and Roast Chicken (RM10-36 depending on portion size) were moist and the soya sauce eggs (RM3 for 2 pieces) as a side order were great with both the duck sauce and the sauce on the plate.

Roast Chicken & Roast Duck

To go with all the roasted goodies, we had a choice of rice or noodles and we ordered one of each. The rice was fluffy and flavoured exactly the way a chicken rice should be: umami and fragrant. RM0.70 for small; RM1.30 for large. My noodles came as a surprise. It was the broad wonton noodle which I miss and often look for but alas seldom available. Here it was in front of me, al dente, coated in sauce and paired perfectly with the delectable Char Siew. RM1.50 as an add-on.

Char siew with rice
Add-on Noodles

They also sell a bottled chilli sauce (RM13) manufactured from a personal recipe with no sugar, no preservatives and no MSG, but alas they were out of stock on the day we were there.

While waiting for our food to arrive, we snacked on their “Suin Choy” (braised mustard greens), tart and tangy with quite a kick to it. RM5(S); RM8(L). 

We also had their Acar which was a special of the day.

Suin Choy (braised mustard greens), Soya Sauce Eggs & Acar


15, Lebuh Taman Ipoh, Taman Ipoh Selatan, 31400 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
10am-6pm daily, but will close if meat is sold out earlier
Closed on the first to third days of the Chinese New Year (Chor 1-3)

Takeaways available
Delivery available through Foodpanda and GrabFood 

For inquiries:
05-216 8836

Help the Small Businesses: La Formule Bistro

La Formule Bistro

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon has nostalgia for France and finds it in La Formule 

A Formula for my Parisian blues? Perhaps. La Formule Bistro, a newly opened French restaurant near Symphony Hotel just may assuage some of that yearning of sitting at a sidewalk cafe sipping a Pastis, eating Croque Monsieur, or in a bustling bistro tucking into escargot or beef bourguignon. 

While the sidewalk sitting is out of the question in our tropical heat, the connected bar next door is a very conducive location for intimate tête-à-tête (s), albeit drinking only beer as they haven’t yet got their liquor licence, which they hope to get shortly.

Opened in December 2019, La Formule suffered the usual fate of closing down during MCO and is now slowly getting back on its feet to welcome customers. 

Sam Chin, an Ipoh girl who has spent 20+ years living in Singapore is no stranger to the F&B business, having owned and managed two French restaurants in Singapore which she sold two years ago to return to Ipoh to be closer to her parents.

Imbued with a passion for French Cuisine, Sam wants to share her love for French food with the people of Ipoh. Bringing with her all the skills she garnered while running her own restaurants in Singapore, she is all set to woo Ipoh diners with French dishes cooked the traditional way. 

And served in a setting that pleases the eye as well as the palate. In fact I found the decor warm and welcoming, elegant and very pleasing to the eye. In warm shades of tangerine and reds, the walls adorned with framed labels and corks of some great French wines and vintages, the whole ambience is French Bistro style, an enveloping cocoon that beckons.

And the menu is French Bistro for sure. All the items you would look for in an authentic French Bistro.

Like French Onion Soup, chock-full with onions and topped the traditional way with a piece of toast crusted with emmental cheeseumami and satisfying. 

Burgundy escargots with parsley butter and bread toast

Next came the Burgundy Escargots with parsley butter and bread toast. Now these are the French snails that you either love or hate. Most people shun them purely based on conjuring up visions of slimy slithering creatures but actually, they are delicious and here in Asia they come out of a can, then seasoned and served. Eschewing the snail shells and paraphernalia that come with eating escargot (the snail tongs are notoriously difficult to manage and many a snail have ended up on neighbouring tables!!), La Formule serves their snails on special plates which come straight from the oven to the table. Each snail is smothered in garlic butter and chopped parsley, topped with a round of crispy toast which is used to “mop” up the sauce at the bottom of each indentation where the snail sits. The snails were tender and for me six was not enough!! 

Another starter was the Croque Madame, one of the most ubiquitous snacks you can find all over France. Cynics may disdain this as ham and cheese toast but a good ‘Croque’ (meaning crunch) has quite a few steps to its preparation including good French ingredients. Sam told me that she only uses the best authentic ingredients for all her dishes and this includes French butter, French imported ham, homemade Bechamel sauce, emmental cheese and her homemade sourdough bread. Compared to a Croque Monsieur, the only difference is the addition of a fried egg on top with oozy egg yolk serving as a bit of sauce. 

Croque Madame

The result? A savoury crispy bite of French deliciousness.

We were four persons and we all chose different dishes to share, which meant that we had the final starter which came in the form of Chicken Liver Pate with Toast. This was made with pork belly and hand-chopped chicken liver redolent with herbs. This is the type of farmer’s pate that I personally enjoy instead of the spreadable paste variety, the liver and pork bits still visible and crumbly, the belly fat lending smoothness and the herbs imbuing its aromatic touches. Robust and hearty, it was complemented with the homemade sourdough made by Sam herself using a sourdough starter which she had kept from her Singapore restaurants. 

Chicken Liver Pate with Toast

For mains, we shared a Pork Loin with a homemade lemony mustard sauce and french fries, the fries crispy and done just right.

This was followed by Pan-fried Sea Bass paired with mango salsa and flavoured rice, served with vegetables laced with a tangy touch.

Panfried Sea Bass

My favourite main course was the Beef Bourguignon with dill, microgreens, carrots and button mushrooms and served on a bed of yummilicious mashed potato, creamy and irresistible. Bacon bits rendered its smoky saltiness to the sauce and the meat was juicy and tender. 

Beef Bourguignon

Then we came to the desserts, one of which was to me the highlight of our meal. 

The Creme Brulee which appears to be easy to makejust a custard with a caramelized sugar topping using a blow torchwas spectacular. I have had Creme Brulee innumerable times around the world but this one is one of the reasons I will come back for more at La Formule. It was smooth and velvety, the French cream which Sam uses distinguishing it from others and the sugar topping crumbly and light.

Creme Brulee

Chocolate Lava Cake made with 61% dark chocolate was served with a strawberry sauce and homemade vanilla ice cream. A tinge of Grand Marnier (sweet orange liqueur) lifted the flavours even further.

Chocolate lava cake

The last dessert was the Coupe Colonel, a refreshing lemon sherbet and if a shot of vodka is added for an additional RM6, the lemony tartness juxtaposed with the bitterness of the vodka will lift it to new dimensions.

Homemade sourdough bread

La Formule works from two Set menus only, one at RM68+ and one at RM98+ per person. There are ample choices in each of the categories and I found that sharing the dishes gives you an opportunity to experience more variety. 

Sam has given much attention to detail in the decor and her love of all things French, coupled with her desire to share her culinary knowledge to people in her hometown Ipoh, makes this a restaurant that we Ipohites must help support. Don’t let the per person price for the menu put you off. In some other restaurants in Ipoh that I have experienced, just one dish can cost you RM68 or even RM98!

I love their Vision and Credo (printed in their menu) which states: 

Our company aims to provide customer service that is not just the best, but legendary. 

Customers are the most important resources in the service industry. Striving to provide the best service along with a relaxed yet refined ambience is our topmost mission. 

I hope they will live up to it. 


17 & 19 Lapangan Symphony Business Park, Jalan Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah, 31350 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
For the bistro:
Tues-Fri from 6pm, last order at 10pm
Sat-Sun from 12pm, last order at 2.30pm; 6pm, last order at 10pm
Closed on Mondays 

For the bar lounge:
Tues-Sun from 4.30pm, last order at 11pm
Closed on Mondays 

*Takeaways available but not recommended
*Deliveries not available

For inquiries:
05-318 2298

Help the Small Businesses: Chow Yang Vegetarian Restaurant

Chow Yang Vegetarian Restaurant

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon goes Vegetarian. Again.

I did mention in an earlier article that my inclination towards vegetarianism is getting stronger by the month especially with this lingering pandemic. Not that I believe that being a vegetarian is healthier (in fact some vegetarians I know are distinctly unhealthy with their large amount of carbs and sugar) but cutting back on fatty meats and eating more greens and other vegetables is certainly a good idea. And certainly a healthier option.

But being vegan is a little tougher. No eggs, no butter (no animal fats period), no cheese, no garlic or onions. For some Buddhists, especially monks and Lamas, it is felt that garlic and onions interfere with meditation.

Despite these limitations, at Chow Yang Vegetarian Restaurant, they seem to manage very well, producing dishes that are not only delectable and tasty but have the mouthfeel, look and feel of the original carnivore’s item.

As in the Curry Mutton, mock mutton chunks made from mushroom stems (yes, mushroom stems!) cooked in a dry curry sauce with ladies fingers, long beans, potatoes and served on a bed of lettuce. If you weren’t told that you were eating mock mutton, you would think this was the real McCoy! And yes, the smell was missing but the meat texture was there. The sauce was robust, hearty and while it wasn’t the searing full-on Indian masala of the banana leaf variety, it was mellow, nuanced and mild enough for my two chilli averse Chinese colleagues. RM13-26 depending on serving size. 

Curry mutton

The Assam Fish arrived next, wrapped in seaweed for an oceanic flavour, fried to achieve a crispy “skin” and doused with an Assam sauce, mildly spiced, tangy and served with ladies fingers, tomato chunks and long beans. RM11, 16, 22 for S/M/L. We had a small and hankered for more. 

Assam fish

The Spicy Petai with Prawns was dry-fried with a wonderful crustacean flavour provided by the vegetarian dried prawn. The “prawns” themselves were soft, being produced from konjac, which also provided a textured crunch to the whole dish. Ginger slivers added more aromatic dimensions to the dish. RM11-22.

Spicy petai with prawns

We also tried the Butter Prawns which were deep fried with a batter (which I suspect was made with custard powder) coating each prawn. They were also crispy and from Taiwan. Although too sweet for my taste, my other table mates devoured them with relish. RM13-39.

Butter prawns

Satay Tofu arrived next. Crispy on the outside and beautifully soft and velvety on the inside,  these tofu chunks were topped with a thick satay sauce chock-full of crunchy peanuts and sweetened and toned down for the non spicy palate. RM10-20.

Satay tofu

The Siew Yoke (RM13-26) that arrived next blew my mind. Although in general too sweet for my tastebuds, each piece of the mock pork belly was perfect in its simulation including the layer of “fat” in between the “meat” layers. Quite a feat in manufacturing, which is again in Taiwan. In fact, Chow Yang is the only vegetarian restaurant in Ipoh to carry this product, a tidbit that Managing Director Derek Lee was happy to share with me.

Siew yoke

He also told me that Chow Yang has been operating since 2006 and when asked about MSG (my big bugbear), he assured me that they use the minimum and in fact I suffered very little afterwards and the next morning. 

Considering there appears to be no end in sight for the current pandemic, Derek shared an innovative move which the restaurant is promoting. 

They are now selling packs of frozen food which require a defrosting period of 3-4 hours before they can then be steamed/boiled or reheated in microwave-safe containers. (See pic of the list of takeaways frozen packs.) They are vacuum packed, sterilized and all made and packaged in-house. RM12.90-13.90.

Takeaway frozen packs menu

Chow Yang is definitely the place to go for your ready-to-eat take home food. And if you’re not inclined to make the trip yourself, put in an order on Foodpanda for a delivery straight to your doorstep.


198, Jalan Bercham, Taman Ria, 31400 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
11am-2.30pm, 6-9.30pm; opens daily
Takeaway & delivery available through Foodpanda

For inquiries:
014-974 3191

Help the Small Businesses: Hainan Kia (HBR Cafe)

Hainan Kia (HBR Cafe)

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon Enjoys an Oxymoron and other specialties

Fried Porridge struck me as an oxymoron (a self-contradicting word or group of words) and an interesting one which immediately piqued my curiosity.

This happened at the newly opened Hainan Kia (they opened in January) which of course had to close during the MCO but since reopening, is now doing a roaring business. 

I reckoned there must be lots of Hainanese in Ipoh, all pining for a taste of the food that Grandma used to make, long lost in the mists of time. Now they are all queuing for a taste of their own history, made possible by a group of four young partners who joined forces to bring the authentic Hainanese taste to Ipoh. 

Hainan Kia, which means “Hainanese Child”, is located in a small bungalow on Jalan Haji Eusoff. It was bustling on the day I went there, and even though it was late (1.45pm) there were still people arriving. 

Naturally the first item on the menu that I asked for was their Fried Porridge. How can you fry porridge which is liquid, I asked. It was then explained to me that the porridge (congee) was made first and the ingredients that go in are fried “a la minute” as per order. 

Hainan is a Chinese island province in the South China Sea, about halfway between southern China and Vietnam. The food is lighter, less oily, and more mildly seasoned than that of the Chinese mainland. Seafood predominates the menu, as prawn, crab, and both freshwater and ocean fish are widely available.

Malaysian Hainanese is a hodgepodge cuisine, a product of the country’s history as a colony. Hainanese Chinese were among the last to make their way to British Malaya, beginning in the late 1800s and continuing into the early 20th Century. By that time, Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien and Hakka clan associations, which were established to help new arrivals find work and housing, had taken most employment opportunities. So many Hainanese people ended up taking positions as cooks in British military camps and in the homes of British expatriates and wealthy Chinese, where they learned to churn out perfectly cooked roasts, make cream of mushroom soup, boil eggs just so, fry up crispy chops and knead dough for bread and pastries. 

Soon they put this experience to use in their own restaurants and coffee shops, where they combined their own cooking styles with what they learnt from the Brits and the local cuisine. Thus, Malaysian Hainanese cuisine was born. 

Seafood Fried Noodle

I had the privilege of enjoying the services of a Hainanese cook when I got married many years ago in Singapore and I still remember the taste of his curries, and his various delectables that he would serve up.

For those going to Hainan Kia expecting to find the popular and renowned Hainanese Chicken Rice, you’ll be in for a let down. They do NOT serve that here. Instead they serve some of the very authentic A Dou Mee and Bao Loh Fun, the latter dish which they claim they are the only cafe in the whole of Malaysia that serves, a must-try street food back in Hainan island.

Most of the noodle dishes at this cafe uses their homemade Zu Sheng Noodles, the dough being not hand-rolled but rather utilizes a unique method of kneading with a bamboo pole which the chef uses like a lever between his legs (watch accompanying video). The noodles after cooking will have a springiness to them (al dente in Italian) attributed to the bamboo “kung fu” rather than lye water which is commonly used in other noodles with the same springiness. 

(Video courtesy of Hainan Kia)

Undoubtedly, the secret to producing such unique noodles also largely depends on the process of rolling. The noodles which can be purchased from the restaurant (when they have extra) come in three flavours of egg, pandan and spinach.

A Dou Mee is a traditional noodle dish, its name meaning “grandmother” in Hainanese dialect. It appeals to most palates with a clean fresh broth and comes with sotong, fish paste, bean curd with optional cockles, and is served with a special homemade curry paste. Hence the degree of spice can be controlled by yourself, adding more if you’re into spicy food like me. RM12.90.

Bao Loh Fun (a type of noodle like our local Lai Fun), is one of the top four Hainanese noodles, originating from Hainan Island. Usually eaten for breakfast, the very thick and starchy gravy is the essence of the dish, cooked with minced meat and sour vegetables or Ham Choy” and “Mui Choy” or preserved vegetables. Boiled peanuts are added to the dish, as are slivered carrots and lettuce. The uniqueness of the taste seems to have impressed many people as they can rarely try this elsewhere throughout Malaysia. RM12.90.

Bao Loh Fun
Seafood curry noodles

The Seafood Curry Noodles are headily aromatic, each bowl finished with a touch of santan, the noodles vying for attention with large prawns, fish chunks, squid and a few greens. Add sambal if the need for extra spice arises, though the soup is already slurp-worthy and spicy on its own. RM16.90.

The same Zu Sheng Noodles also come stir fried with mixed seafood or in clear broth for those who are looking for a non spicy taste. 

Next to arrive was the Slipper Lobster Claypot Porridge, a large tureen of porridge (congee) that was hearty and crowd pleasing, the slipper lobster taking centre stage, embellished with Chinese crullers and fried dried slivered sotong imbuing the dish with its characteristic fragrance. Served with a garlicky, spicy sauce. RM38.80.

Slipper Lobster Claypot Porridge

Another claypot dish came in the form of the Tung Fen Hai or Claypot Glass Noodle Crab. Dominated by an extra large flower crab with the carapace on top, the noodles were accompanied by celery, carrots, ginger slivers, loofa rounds and an omelette. A very umami broth made this a very refreshing item. RM38.80.

Claypot Glass Noodle Crab

And before I forget, did I mention that the Chicken Chop here is one of the best I have ever tasted? It brings back memories of my Hainanese cook who did this perfectly, crispy on the edges and tender on the inside, smothered with a Lee and Perrin anchovy-based sauce that was superlative! RM13.90.

Chicken Chop
Kaya Toast

By this time, we were all suffering with a surfeit of food but we had to push ourselves and taste their Kaya Toast. Served with premium butter and the bread sliced thin, the homemade kaya was fragrant, making this a most satisfying dessert. RM4.50. 

The kaya is available for sale so don’t forget to pick up a jar. 

*Hainan Kia is pork-free.


48, Jalan Haji Eusoff, Perumahan Jalan Kampar, 30250 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
8am-6pm, opens  daily
Takeaways available
Delivery available through Foodpanda and GrabFood 

For inquiries: 
011-5501 6295