One good thing that has come out of the pandemic (it’s important to always look for the silver lining) is the mushrooming of home chefs and bakers. Where many have been hesitant about showing their prowess hitherto, the pandemic and MCO has some of the best of them posting and sharing about their products on Facebook, and through recommendations of friends the larger community gets to hear and learn about them.
Ann Tan is one of them. Using the German term Küche which stands for “kitchen”, where some of the best breads and sourdough starters are made around the world, Ann started baking many years ago.
Coming from a background of running a daycare business, Ann decided to bring her baked breads to the larger market in Ipoh ever since her children have flown from the nest. She also makes other baked goods (especially her yummilicious croissants made with French butter) but you, dear reader, will have to enquire individually with her about these.
Ann specializes in sourdough breads, all naturally leavened with no commercial yeast used. She has a creative range of breads to pick from, all sourdough and all leavened the true artisanal way, as indicated by the uneven holes in her products.
Some of her breads are perfect for making sandwiches as they are not too “holey”, while others with larger holes beg to be torn off with your hands, slathered with butter or whatever you like with your bread, and eaten piece by delectable piece.
Ann’s Basic country loaf is RM18, as are the Sourdough mixed seeds (white, black sesame, quinoa) and the Sourdough pan loaf (Hainanese or sandwich).
Sourdough turmeric, spinach, charcoal, purple sweet potatoes and carrot are RM20.
But these are not all as she sometimes curates some other amazing flavours. All orders require an advance notice of two days and all are self pick-up at Canning Garden where she bakes and lives.
She also teaches 1-on-1 Sourdough Baking classes online. You can discuss with her for details and arrangements.
I love dried prawns and I cannot live without chillies. Put these two ingredients together, add some magic and voila! You have Sambal Udang (shrimp sambal).
Now I used to make my own sambal udang from my mother’s recipe, spending hours standing over a hot wok stirring the mixture till dry and putting them into bottles or freezing for future use (as I certainly wasn’t going to do that too often!). I even used to take packets with me on my travels, especially for trips to the West when the craving for salivary excitement calls.
To save myself the tedious labour and hoping to find it commercially available, for years I have scoured the supermarket shelves in Southeast Asian countries for that inimitable taste but to no avail.
They were either too sweet, too salty, too oily, or simply “TOO” not appealing to my palate. And too many had oodles of preservatives as well as MSG, my nemesis.
When I discovered SAMBAL UDANG by Sambal Aunty Homemade, I was overjoyed.
Crispy, spicy, prawny, not too sweet, not too oily, NO preservatives, all natural deliciousness held in a bottle.
I now declare myself an addict. Addicted to this particular sambal udang. I sprinkle it on bread, on eggs, on noodles, on congee, on EVERYTHING!
And the wonderful news is that this is an Ipoh product, the brainchild of Tommy Woo, an Ipohite.
Not only does the packaging jump out at you, but the bright red label screams, “Try me. Try me” —or at least that’s the message I got when I saw this! So try I did and not only was I not disappointed as I have been with many other products, I also found myself proclaiming to all within earshot: “I want to eat this every day.”
There is also a paste that is great with vegetables, either spooned on top or fried with it. A little goes a long way with this paste as it is quite fiery.
This Sambal Udang may be purchased from any one of the locations and outlets listed on the Sambal Aunty Homemade Facebook page.
Prices are as below:
80g for RM10.90 (small jar)
100g for RM10.90 (packet)
120g for RM13.90 (dry shrimp)
240g for RM14.90 (oil shrimp)
120g for RM15.90 (premium)
They are also available on Shopee and Lazada. There are gazillions of sambal udang on the online shopping sites so do make sure you recognize the right label as per the pictures shown.
They can also deliver to your doorstep. Just WhatsApp 019-3288 600.
Try a bottle. Wet or Dry version, you won’t regret it.
We’re in MCO! No more restaurant dine-in meals, no more trawling Facebook to check out new openings, no more gathering the Echo troops for food tasting forays.
Hopefully not for long.
So I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting into the kitchen to cook some of the recipes on our Echo website from my amazing home chef good friend Margarita Lee.
Or when the lazy MCO bug hits me, going out to pick up some of my favourite small bites with big delights and enjoying them in the comfort of home.
One of my favourite restaurants, Hao Xian Wei, had to close when the first MCO in March last year left proprietor William no option but to cut his over-heads and find new avenues to deliver his yummilicious food. Ever resourceful and creative, William now mans two food stalls, one in Woolley Food City in the day and one in Tong Sui Kai (Jalan Carey, Taman Jubilee) in the evening.
Here William sells his stuffed YeongTau Fu Pok(fried tofu puffs) and other goodies. When I say stuffed, I do mean stuffed because his tofu puffs are filled to overbrimming, with a brawny minced pork, prawn and fish paste. All it requires at home is a quick steam and voila, it’s ready to feed the family. I don’t even require a sauce to dip it in (your choice) and two of these hearty, homemadeYeong Tau Fu Pok at RM3each is enough for me.
But then I cheat! I’ll often take away a box or two of hisChai Kuei, dumplings in a translucent casing filled with a choice of sengkuang (sweet turnip) with dried shrimp or Chinese Chives; or one with a mixture of both. RM1.60 each.
Then there is the Tsam Tau Tsungor pillow dumplings, the ultimate comfort food, in either fried or plain glutinous rice, speckled with black eyed peas and filled generously with pork, salted egg yolk and shiitake mushrooms. What gives it its unctuous velvety touch are chunks of pure pork fat dotted throughout the “pillow”. Forget your cholesterol woes, throw caution to the winds and tuck in!! RM10 each.
A more recent addition to his repertoire at the stall is a very interesting food item that is not only testimony to Williams ingenuity and creativity, but also touted to be great for health.
This is Fish Scales Jelly, sold in boxes for RM7 each.
Fish scales? You, my dear reader, may wrinkle your nose in disdain and I have to confess that the first and only time I had this was in a fish restaurant up in Gerik and I did not like it. Fishy and not appetising.
I was quite sceptical when William got me to take a portion home. By the time I got home, the jelly had partially melted but reassured by William, I immediately put it into the fridge where it promptly gelled again.
William explained the process, which is a painstaking boiling of fish scales (from large fish only) for more than 6 hours, then cooled and refrigerated.
As for the taste: I was pleasantly surprised. There was no fishiness whatsoever, only a faint aroma of Pandan (Screwpine) and Serai (Lemongrass) and most delightful of all, not too sweet as the sweetening is from Stevia leaves. All in all, a portion of healthful goodness.
Wikipedia says that fish scales are a surprisingly nutritious food source, containing layers of keratin and enamel, as well as a dermal portion and a layer of protein-rich mucus. They are a rich source of calcium phosphate. Think collagen, dear reader. Instead of buying expensive collagen powders, think fish scales!
William’s stall at Woolley Food City is the second stall on the right as you enter the main entrance.
Woolley Food City 48-50, Lengkok Canning, Taman Canning
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 Pushparajfrom 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).
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.
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.
They also make a Black Pepper Octopus Biryani using baby octopus, the basmati rice light and fluffy and the fire coming from peppercorns.
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.
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.
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 Paneerin 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.
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.
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.
Address: 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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 Romanescobroccoli (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Address: Regalodge Hotel 131, Jalan Raja Ekram, 30450 Ipoh.
Business hours: 7am-10pm, opens daily
For inquiries: 05-2423241
For Onyx Premier Dining, call Sherry Chan: 019 510 5925
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.
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.
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
Address: 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
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 Alishahelp 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 Cheffor 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Address: 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
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 toMcDonalds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
SeeFoon treats herself to charred and sticky sweet perfection.
Char Siewliterally 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.
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.
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.
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.
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