Help the Small Businesses: La Formule Bistro

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

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

Help the Small Businesses: Lubiantan

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon discovers a ‘roadside stall’ 

Called Lubiantan (meaning ‘roadside stall’), this is a relatively new eatery situated upstairs of a shop specialising in Musang King and other durians where they sell the fresh variety as well as durian desserts. Owned by the same people, the two work synergistically where you can eat your mains and savouries upstairs and go downstairs for desserts. Perfect for our durian-lovers and sweet tooth readers.

Lubiantan is a tiny eatery serving only about 20 people at a time. Very strict about their SOPS, places are marked off with big X’s where you’re not allowed to sit. It’s a place where you go and eat your plate or bowl of your choice and quickly go downstairs to enjoy their desserts or fresh durian as you wish, just like you would do at a roadside stall. It’s not a place to linger and chit chat as they have to serve the next customer.

The menu is a simple one, with their signatures featuring their special handmade Teochew Style Bamboo Noodles, “KAO” noodles and the Pahang Bentong Homemade Tofu Pok

The Teochew Style Bamboo Noodles are distinguished by the irregular shape of the handmade noodles and a hint of saltiness. They are made without any preservatives and produced the traditional way by sun-drying the noodles and steaming them on a tray lined with coconut leaves. 

“KAO” Noodles are handmade noodles also known as Teochew “Mee Sua”. Served with the springy, irregular shaped noodles are mushroom strips, minced pork, house-made dried shrimp sambal and poached egg. First, dig into the poached egg, then mix the noodles well. When you eat it, every bite of the minced pork, the smoothness of the egg and a hint of spiciness will make you fall in love with this dish. 

Pahang Bentong Homemade Tofu Pok is famous among Malaysians and it is also a must-buy when visiting Pahang. The texture of this tofu pok is fluffy and soft and can be stuffed with a meat farcie. These can be ordered as a side dish or added to the various noodle dishes. Lubiantan’s mission is to bring the best to their customers, so it is a MUST in their Curry Noodles.

The day we were there, the special of the day was the Mah Lat braised chicken in Szechuan style. Mildly spicy, with a faint hint of the Mah Lat or Szechuan peppers which numb the tongue. Served with rice, vegetables and “Tsoi Po” fried egg. RM8.80.

Malat braised chicken in Szechuan style

Their signature dishes are their dry and wet Curry Noodles. We tried both, with the dry Curry Noodles arriving first. Using handmade noodles from Pangkor, these were quite al dente and I could tell they were handmade owing to their uneven thickness. The thick curry sauce was piquant and can be spiced up with the very tasty sambal served with it. Topped with the Pahang Bentong Homemade Tofu Pok which tasted soft and absorbed the gravy nicely, smallish prawns, long beans, bean sprouts, fried scallions and roast pork slices, this curry noodle is a tasty mouthful. RM9.80.

Dry curry noodles

The wet Curry Noodle with Hor Fun rice noodles and yellow mee had a slurp-worthy thick curry soup, tangy and again can be spiced up with sambal. It is served with large sea-fresh prawns, tofu pok, squares of tender fried pigs skin and topped with mint leaves. RM9.80.

Wet curry noodle

The Special Pigs Trotters in Soy Sauce served with white rice or noodles was well braised, the trotters tender and the sauce well blended in its light and dark soya sauces. RM12.80.

Special Pigs Trotters in Soy Sauce

We followed this up with a clear Lettuce and fish paste (Yu Wat) soup (ours came without the noodles as we were quite full). Umami with a clean taste, the fish paste was soft and fresh tasting with dried squid added in to further lift the flavour. RM7.80.

Lettuce and fish paste soup

And for a pre-dessert treat, we finished our meal upstairs with the Classic toasted bread with premium butter and kaya. Sliced thin, the bread was crispy and the homemade kaya not too sweet, which suited my tastebuds. RM3.80. 

Classic toasted bread with premium butter and kaya

Service was fast at Lubiantan to facilitate a quick turnover. Soon we were headed downstairs to the Musang King dessert shop where we just had to finish our meal with a slice of durian burnt cheesecake (RM28) which was quite dense and very filling so we shared one between four of us. We did not get to try the layered durian cake (RM18.80) but promised to return.

Durian burnt cheesecake
Layered durian cake

For those who eat upstairs at Lubiantan, there is a 10% discount at the dessert shop when you show your receipt within the same day of issue. Don’t worry if you don’t think you can stomach the desserts after a hearty meal; you can still get a 5% discount up to a month after the date when your receipt is issued. The outlet downstairs is open from 10am-10pm.

 

Address:
56a, Jalan Theatre, Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
Mon-Thurs, 8.30am-4.30pm; Fri-Sun, 8.30am-10pm
Takeaways available
Delivery available within town area for orders with more than 3 items

For inquiries:
012-591 8175

Help the Small Businesses: Laksa Leaf Cafe

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon Loves Laksa

I am a big fan of Laksa. In all its manifestations, be it Lemak (with coconut milk), Assam (with tamarind) or as I have recently discovered, even a dry variety without soup. 

All this and more. And all can be found in one place! At Laksa Leaf Cafe.

Located in a small bungalow on the main road of the easily accessible Jalan Canning Estate, the cafe is spacious, bright and airy and air conditioned. Which makes eating a very comfortable experience—and now with all the SOPs in place, even more comfortable with spaces where you are not supposed to sit clearly marked on the table.

The menu is uncomplicated. Under the Noodles section are three types of Laksa, a Curry Noodle Soup and a Fish Ball Noodle Soup.

To order, you first choose which Laksa you would like. Then decide on the type of noodle. The choice is between Lai Fun or Laksa noodle, the thick white rice noodle; BeeHoon, the thin rice vermicelli; yellow noodles; or Hor Fun or Kway Teow noodles. 

Because I like to graze, I always go with my troupe from the Echo office so we can order a variety and share a bit of each type. This not only gets me to taste a large selection without getting too full, but it allows me to sample as much of the menu as is possible in order to give a fair review.

Which is what we did. Beginning with the Nyonya Laksa, I found the thick rice noodles very appealing. Slipping smoothly down the gullet, these were really velvety and unless you slurp them down and risk ruining the front of your clothes, the best way I found was placing them onto a spoon and eating them this way. The sauce was slightly “lemak” (with coconut milk), tangy and had quite a bite from chillies. It came with fish balls and the two large prawns served with it were very fresh. Slivered cucumber and onion shavings with “Taufu pok” or fried bean skin rolls with an accompanying yummy sambal belacan paste completed the dish. RM10 (R) and RM15 (L).   

Nyonya Laksa

We then had the Assam Laksa, served with “Haeko” or black prawn paste (a very Penang touch) with sliced lettuce, slivered cucumber and onions. Chunks of fish which is the base stock could be detected and hints of Bunga Kantan or red ginger flower topped it off. RM8 (R) , RM10 (L).

Assam Laksa

Next came the Fried Laksa, an unusual offering wrapped in an omelette, with all the flavours of an Assam Laksa: slightly tart, spicy and served with the rest of the usual garnitures including the “Haeko” and the sambal belacan. I actually prefer this to the soup version although you can actually order a bowl of the Assam soup to go with it. A great choice at RM9. Assam soup comes at an additional RM2.

Fried Laksa

I loved their Nasi Lemak. Their blue rice coloured with the blue pea flower was redolent with santan, hints of serai and pandan and the chicken rendang was delicious with a thick sauce served with the usual condiments of sambal, half a boiled egg and crispy ikan bilis and peanuts. Yummilicous at RM10.

Nasi Lemak

Additional fishballs (RM1 for 2pc), taufu pok (RM1 for 2pc) and asam laksa fish soup (RM2) may also be ordered.

Then came dessert time. 

Bubur Cha Cha is highly recommended. Thick santan, chunks of taro, sweet potato and pinto beans. Not sweet and absolutely to my taste. RM4.

Bubur Cha Cha

Or you can have the Ice Kacang. A lavish mound of shaved ice with sweet corn, peanuts, grass jelly and laced with gula melaka. And there is also the irresistible Cendol with santan, cendol, pinto beans and sago. Some at my table thought it wasn’t sweet enough at which you can always ask for more gula melaka but for me, it was perfect. Both at RM6.

Ice Kacang
Cendol

As there were four of us, we ended our meal with the Yuzu Aiyu Ping, consisting of yuzu syrup and jelly; the syrup tart and fragrant, with aiyu and lemon jelly at the bottom. RM6.

Yuzu Aiyu Ping

*Laksa Leaf Cafe is pork and alcohol free

 

Address:
43, Jalan Canning Estate, Taman Canning, 31400 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Business hours:
10am-6pm, closed on Wednesdays. Last order at 5pm.
Delivery and takeaway available through Foodpanda

For inquiries:
05-549 2818

Help the Small Businesses: De China Restaurant

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon will come back again and again

Fresh. Homemade. Delectable.

What more can anyone ask for when it comes to food? Especially when you cook at the table for yourself.

I have seen the sign many a time, on my way to and from places in Bercham. But unless someone, somewhere on my chat groups or social media raves about a place, I often don’t make the effort to check it out. 

My lawyer friend Philip Leong is a different kettle of fish. He will check out any restaurant or signboard that excites his fancy. And thanks to him, I discovered De China Restaurant.

Thinking it would turn out to be another “Tai Chau” mixed menu restaurant, I traipsed along expecting the ‘same old’ food. To my surprise and delight, I discovered a Hotpot restaurant that is truly superlative.

Proprietor Chow Yau Ming is Mr. Affability himself. An old ACS boy, he was so taken by Philip that our first lunch lasted till way past 3.00pm.

I have to confess to a grave omission on my part as after four visits I have ordered the same soup base!! This is the Tricholoma Matsutake Pork Tripe Stewed Chicken

Firstly, I adore pork tripe. Add that to chicken stock which has simmered for a minimum of 6 hours and with fresh free range chicken added, then you have a meal on its own. My favourite is the one with Matsutake already added.  

Cordycep flowers and dried Matsutake mushrooms

Matsutake are called pine mushrooms, mainly because of their habit of growing near pine trees. The Japanese revere them. The mushrooms have a distinct flavor and are credited with a host of health benefits including being a cancer preventive. Fresh Matsutake can cost up to US$2,000 a kilogram but fortunately we now have dried ones available. At De China they cost RM28 per portion, but if you order the soup base with chicken, pork tripe and  Matsutake, the whole pot is RM88 and replenishment of the soup stock is included. Chicken and pork tripe on its own is RM58.

Another healthy ‘mushroom’, the Cordycep flower, is not technically a flower but rather a cultured cordycep fruiting body that is a fungus. It is touted to be helpful for seasonal allergies with cough symptoms, beneficial for emphysema and bronchitis, anti-aging, improves cardiovascular disease, and helps reduce fatigue. RM28.

Wow! With all those benefits, how can you not order these additions? And they taste good, to boot.

The rest of the ingredients you can order and add to the hotpot is a cornucopia of deliciousness. 

Lets begin with the fresh seafood, like Har Wat (fresh prawn mixed with meat), RM17.90fresh whole sea prawns, RM28; abalone on the shell, RM8 per piece (there is also canned abalone slices at RM18); big scallop, RM29; and sea cucumber, RM33. All highly recommended.

Meatballs and fresh sea prawns
Abalone
Big scallop

Moving to the meat choices: Australian lamb slices, tender and requires minimum cooking, RM20; beef slices, sliced in the kitchen when ordered, RM20; Sakura pork belly, RM10; and divine melt-in-mouth Iberico pork belly (you’re bound to order two portions!), RM21.90.

Iberico pork slices

Homemade additions include very well-seasoned meatballs (RM16) and Gyoza (RM10 for 10). Both of these require longer cooking time so dunk these in at the beginning and enjoy the rest after.

For choice of vegetables, we had the Sai Yeong Choi or watercress, which were young and tender, RM6; and chrysanthemum leaves or Tong Ho, RM8; sliced lotus root, RM6; and a mixed mushroom platter of shiitake, oyster, and white button mushrooms

Of course the most important ingredient for a Hotpot other than the soup base is the chilli sauce, and at De China this too is homemade and yummilicious. Spicy, not too sweet (I detest sweet chilli sauces), mildly garlicky and perfect with all the yummy ingredients.

Finally for those who like rice with their meal, instead of ordering white rice, check out their Lap Mei Fan which comes in a claypot, redolent with the fragrance of Chinese Lap Cheong sausage. RM15.

Lap Mei Fan

De China is now one of my go-to restaurants and I haven’t even explored the rest of the menu which also features individual cooked-to-order dishes like the fried Mantis prawns which Yau Ming insisted we try

*Check out our feature video of De China Restaurant by Gisele Soo here!

Address:
51, Jalan Bercham, Medan Bercham Selatan, 31400 Ipoh, Perak 

Business hours:
11.30am-11pm, opens daily
Takeaways available 

For inquiries:
05-541 6660