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.  

 

Address:
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 

 

Address:
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

 

Address:
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: 

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

Credo:
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. 

 

Address:
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.

 

Address:
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.

 

Address:
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

 

Help the Small Businesses: Dana’s Bamboo Biryani & Curry House

Dana’s Bamboo Biryani & Curry House

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon is bowled over by Bamboo Biryani 

How deep is my love for biryani ? The mere mention of them makes my pulse race, starts me salivating and my mouth drools. And then some clever chef somewhere invented Bamboo Biryani and my love was sealed for eternity.

The intense combination of flavours, the spices adding their aromatic dimension and the steaming in the individual bamboo containers holding the rice and meat filling lending its own subtle nuances of flavours makes this a heady temptation only a corpse can resist.

A ‘new kid on the block’ in the biryani game, Dana’s Bamboo Biryani & Curry House only opened in August and on the day we went, already had a full house, all enjoying the variety of Bamboo Biryani.

The name Dana is taken from Co-owner Geevakumaran’s mother-in-law who loaned some of her recipes to the restaurant. 

The menu is simple: 6 types of Bamboo biryani ranging from Vegetarian (RM9.90), Chicken (RM14.90), Mutton (RM18.90), Prawn (RM17.90) and their specials, the Signature Norwegian Salmon Trout (RM21.90) and their Signature Blue Lobster with Prawn at RM27.90.

Mutton

Add-ons include their Chicken (RM8), Mutton (RM15), Salmon Trout (RM15 per piece), Fried Tenggiri or Mackerel (RM7 per piece), Crab Masala (RM11 per piece) and additional Vegetables (RM1.50).

Tomato chutney and raita (cucumber and onion salad) are provided on the side for all biryani dishes, along with mutton or chicken curry (fish curry can also be requested). Malawi Dhal curry is provided for vegetarians. 

The Vegetable Biryani uses 3 types of mushrooms for the Masala, their natural umami flavors infusing the whole dish. Their Chicken and Mutton Biryani were robust, the rice redolent with the respective flavours of the meat and tantalising to the last mouthful.

Chicken Biryani

The Signature Blue Lobster and Prawns Biryani was impressive. A small whole lobster together with several large prawns came tumbling out of the bamboo container and had our group riveted. The umami taste of shellfish was evident in the rice as those of us who liked our rice more “wet” added additional fish curry sauce to the mixture. A sure winner with local palates as an occasional affordable treat.  

Blue Lobster and Prawns Biryani

The portions were large so we decided to stick to ordering a la carte side dishes which was what we did with the Salmon Trout to have with the other biryani rice. The masala for this was robust and fiery adding an additional dimension of flavour to the salmon. The portion was large, easily satisfying all 4 of us with extra to spare. 

Salmon Trout

We also had a portion of their Pumpkin Masala, mildly spiced and a good contrast to some of the other fiery items.

What came next was a surprise. A large chicken chop, topped with melted cheese and listed as Cheesy Chicken Chop (RM15.90) was one of the best I’ve had in Ipoh. Crispy on the edges, tender inside, this thick chop had all the right makings of being a star item if you eschew the biryani. But I say to order it anyway in addition to the biryani. Served with a delicious pepper onion sauce, this will be served with plain or vegetarian biryani in the future. 

Cheesy Chicken Chop

We finished off our gargantuan meal with Mango Lassi (yogurt) Soft Serve Ice Cream churned from a special machine. Using imported canned Alphonso mangoes touted as the “King” of mangoes known for their distinctive fragrance, Geevakumaran proudly explained that these mangoes are not available anywhere else and have to be imported from India. A ‘must try’ at RM6.90.

Mango Lassi Soft Serve Ice Cream

Dana’s is pork free and will soon be applying for Halal certification. 

*Dana’s is also vegetarian friendly 

Address:
30, Jalan Bercham Bistari 1, Medan Bercham Bistari, 31400 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
11am-9pm, opens daily
Delivery/takeaway available through Foodpanda, Bungkusit, and soon Grabfood 

For inquiries:
018-669 0076

Help the Small Businesses: Leaf Garden Cafe

leaf garden cafe

SeeFoon Wants More No-MSG Restaurants

Maybe it’s the Covid pandemic but I find myself leaning towards eating less meat and meat products and instead enjoying vegetarian food. Hitherto, I generally avoid vegetarian restaurants here as they tend to use a lot of MSG which gives me an immediate and intermediate reaction. My initial reaction is to feel very thirsty followed by tiredness which makes me want to go to sleep. Then by the next morning my ankles and calves would swell up like elephant trunks. 

Today, new vegetarian restaurants are popping up like mushrooms and most promise no MSG. Hallelujah! 

One such new restaurant is Leaf Garden Cafe in Ipoh Garden South, a bright, cheerfully decorated restaurant abiding strictly to the SOPs. 

Host Christine Lam is out front, taking orders and making suggestions while husband Ho Swee Lim is the Chef and creative menu designer in the kitchen. Together they have created a lovely vegetarian haven, a respite from the carnivorous world outside.

The menu is quite extensive and the portions generous. Just any selection from the appetizer section is enough to satisfy young palates or adults for that matter, particularly the Cheesy Bites, thin crust pastry oozing with cheese and a choice of marinara, white or pesto sauce. Scrumptious and satisfying. RM11.90 for the first two and RM12.90 for the pesto which is homemade.

Cheesy bites

For drinks, we first had the Signature Leaf Garden Fruit Tea. The tea is steeped with 11 types of fruits (passionfruit, dragonfruit, lemon, blueberry, watermelon, green apple, pineapple, mango, orange, strawberry and kiwi) and the longer it is steeped, the more the fruit taste is infused. Plus you get to eat all the fruits. Wellness in a glass! RM15.90.

The was followed by Fizzy Ribena with Ice Cream at RM10.90 and my favourite, the Avocado Milkshake, made using a type of barista milk and sweetened with homemade syrup used sparingly. RM15.90.

Fizzy ribena with ice cream
Avocado milkshake
Kimchi pancake

For mains, we focused on their Korean-style dishes starting with their Kimchi Pancake where I could actually taste the homemade Kimchi, mildly tangy at RM17.90. This was followed by their Cabbage Kimchi Soup made with fresh button mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, Korean potato starch noodles, tofu, and tteokbokki, the Korean dried rice sticks. Simmered for two hours, tart and umami, the Kimchi imbuing its goodness and mushroom granules enhancing flavour, this is a complete meal in a bowl. Served with rice at RM19.90.

Cabbage Kimchi soup

The Mouth-watering Szechuan style King Oyster Mushroom with its characteristic springy bite was scrumptious, requiring no meat enhancement, the spicy sauce providing all the excitement it needed. RM10.90.

Mouth-watering Szechuan style king oyster mushroom

We were a large group that day at lunch and the dishes kept coming. 

The Spaghetti with Pesto Sauce and Pine Nuts topped and baked with mozzarella cheese was yummy at RM23.90, while the Spaghetti with Portobello Mushrooms in Sesame Sauce was a tad on the sweet side for my taste but the pasta was nice and al dente. RM18.90.

The piece de resistance came last in the shape of the OmniMeat burger. Sandwiched between a charcoal bun, this vegetarian burger tastes like chicken. Together with the homemade burger sauce, sesame sauce and signature black pepper sauce and topped with a cheese slice, it was a delectable meal in itself. Move over Big Mac, I’d rather eat this any time! RM24.90.

OmniMeat burger

 

*Leaf Garden Cafe is Muslim friendly, Vegan and MSG-free

Address:
11, Jalan S. A. Lingam, Taman Ipoh Selatan, 31400 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
10.30am-3pm, 5-9pm, Closed on Tuesdays
Breakfast is available from 8-10.30am on the 1st and 15th days of the Chinese calendar
Takeaways available
Delivery available within 10km of their shop for orders amounting to RM30 and more

For inquiries:
05-517 4356

Help the Small Businesses: Stone Pot Kitchen

SeeFoon gets a brain tune-up 

Finding fresh pig’s brain is almost a rare occurrence these days. Most of the younger folk are squeamish about it and it’s only oldies like myself and some of my friends who appreciate its taste and texture which is like soft Tofu when cooked. 

Pig’s brain

So when I found out Stone Pot Kitchen had brains on the menu, I went with alacrity to eat a delicacy whose taste memory has been relegated to the recesses of my mind. RM18 (order at least a day in advance). 

I grew up with the Chinese belief that eating organ meat helps the particular organ in one’s body and therefore Pig’s brains are highly prized. So I did some research: 

According to Medical News Today brain meat contains omega 3 fatty acids and nutrients. The latter include phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine, which are good for the nervous system. The antioxidants obtained by eating brain meat are also helpful in protecting the human brain and spinal cord from damage.

Organ meats are sometimes referred to as “super foods” because they are dense sources of vitamins and nutrients, including: vitamin B, iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. 

And there are organ meats galore on Stone Pot Kitchen’s menu. Items like Duck Tongue (very hard to come by); Duck’s blood; Duck intestines; Chicken kidneys; chicken testicles (rare!!); pig’s tripe—altogether 9 items of offal on the menu, not to mention a very unusual item, Yoke Ngan Gun or pork fillet tendon. 

As its name implies, Stone Pot Kitchen serves all its soups in large stone pots imported from China, which boils fast and keeps its warmth well and very evenly. They are touted to bring out the flavours of the various ingredients.

Aside from the stone pots, the main attraction of this restaurant is its soup base: Pure coconut water. Huge piles of young coconuts in the back testify to the freshness and purity of this “soup” base. 

Studies show that  coconut water acts as a digestive. It helps in quick digestion and prevents bloating after meals. Regular consumption of coconut water also helps in maintaining the electrolyte balance in your body and thus, keeps your blood pressure under control. It is also brimming with potassium and magnesium, acting as a natural sports drink. It is a brilliant idea to use it as a soup base.

There are 13 soup bases to choose from, 6 of which use coconut water. The rest are made with chicken stock. Our group had the Chicken with coconut water base (RM49). Herbs are added to the raw chicken in the stone pot, then followed by the coconut water. This is then brought to a rolling boil, and once it can be turned down to slowly simmer, it is time to eat the chicken pieces first before adding in other ingredients.

The soup can be topped-up regularly as it cooks down, and if the coconut water becomes concentrated and may become too sweet, ask for the chicken soup top-up which is what I did. 

The usual ingredients are available including Iberico pork, Wagyu beef slices and seafood, though these must be pre-ordered before your visit as Stone Pot Kitchen only serves them fresh. 

On the daily menu, on the other hand, the list is endless with many health-giving dried mushrooms (12 types). The most interesting part of this is their homegrown mushrooms with a good range of different types to choose from. These are grown in the shop and range in colour from woodsy to yellow and pink. Presently blooming are their Oyster mushrooms, with the common Abalone mushroom being the cheapest (RM12), followed by the yellow variety at RM20 and the rarer and more delicate pink variety at RM22. 

Common abalone mushroom (RM12)
Pleurotus citrinopileatus (RM20)
Pleurotus djamor (RM22)

Vegetables are also abundantly (25 items) on offer, ranging from RM5-RM7 with the most expensive being Asparagus at RM10 and Crystalline iceplant at RM12.

Handmade meatballs

The handmade meatballs were tasty at RM12 for 8 pieces. But my favourite was the Handmade Pork paste which came on a plate topped with a raw egg. Water chestnuts, wood ear fungus and scallion livened up the delicious meat mixture with crunch. RM12 and a must have.

Handmade pork paste

More prepared pastes, this time the minced prawn, came in delicate bamboo holders which you then scoop into the broth, spoon by spoon. RM15 for two bamboo ladles-full. 

The handmade dumplings were large and flavourful at RM10 for 6 pieces, and by this time after adding in the mixture of vegetables we were stuffed to the gills.

Handmade dumplings

I must also commend them on their sauces on offer. A homemade chilli sauce is served for every person but there is also a combination which you can mix yourself. 3 small tubs of minced chillies; chopped kencur or Sah Geong (sand ginger), an aromatic ginger belonging to the Galangal family; and a full tub of Calamansi or Limau Kasturi are provided for you to make a sauce to your taste with the soya sauce. I loved the inclusion of the kencur which is not sufficiently appreciated here and not used as often as the other gingers. There is also a sweet and sour mustard sauce for those looking for less heat. 

I will definitely be back for more especially now that their mushrooms are blooming. This is definitely a first for a restaurant in Ipoh. Fresh off the “mother” (whatever is the name of the medium on which they grow), these mushrooms have to be better than the store bought variety and I want to taste them. The mushrooms were not blooming when I was there last.

 

Address:
8 Jalan Seenivasagam, 30450 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
11am-11pm, opens daily
Takeaways available

For inquiries and reservations:
017-3280782 | 012-4678999

Dim Sum Paradise: SeeFoon is Mooning over Mooncakes

Mid Autumn Festival is fast approaching on October 1 and my dear readers, before you go dashing out to buy your mooncakes, for the durian lovers amongst you, have you considered trying Durian mooncakes?

I don’t mean the ones with a hint of durian flavour or a small dollop of the paste. I am referring to a filling that is pure unadulterated top grade Musang King paste hiding in a snow skin casing, molded into mooncakes and creating frisson(s) of ecstasy amongst the durian diehards like myself. 

If you’re one of these durian diehards, hurry to Dim Sum Paradise and buy their 

Snowy Musang King Mooncake. They have fresh supplies every day right up to the Mid Autumn Festival and beyond. 

Prices are as below:

  • 4 pieces – RM158 (pink box)
  • 4 pieces – RM168 (red box)
  • 8 pieces – RM238 nett (before 10% discount *pink box*)
  • 8 pieces – RM268 nett (before 10% discount *red box*)

 

*Purchasing your first 8 pieces entitles you to a 10% discount.

*Purchasing 2 boxes of 8 pieces entitles you to a 15% discount.

Dim Sum Paradise
48, 50, Lengkok Canning, Taman Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh
05-541 7738