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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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. RM RM8 (R) , RM10 (L).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*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
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.
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), RM17.90; fresh 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.
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.
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.
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 whichYau Minginsisted 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
“To Be or Not to Be”, Shakespeare’s soliloquy in Hamlet poses the big question and in this case for me, the question is whether to become a vegetarian.
More and more studies show that the carbon footprint (the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere which affects the global environment) of meat production is much larger than that of grain or vegetable products, not to mention the negative effects of methane released in the rearing of livestock.
By choosing a vegetarian diet instead of one loaded with animal products, individuals can dramatically reduce the amount of land, water and oil resources that they consume and the amount of pollution they otherwise might cause.
I certainly cannot get on my soapbox to preach. I am an avid carnivore. I love my meat as much as the next person. And my fish too.
But meat today is often laced with hormones, antibiotics and whatever other additives the animals are given. And fish are now often full of microplastics and heavy metals.
Unless you buy organic (where to buy organic fish?). Or become vegetarian!
I know I will continue on my carnivore’s path but once in a while I come across a vegetarian restaurant like Suka Kafe to make me wonder if I could become one.
Opened only at the beginning of 2020, Suka Kafe had the misfortune of having to close during MCO but since its relaxation, have been doing takeaways and deliveries. Now, the dine-in service too is in full swing with proper SOPs in place.
Eggs are served at Suka Cafe. But these are not ordinary eggs. Their eggs are unfertilized, certified cruelty-free, non-caged with no antibiotic residues and are usually reserved for 5-star hotels and high-end restaurants (see pic). Their main supplier has a farm in Kampar with a main base in Johor Bahru. So is that special or Is That Special? And they taste special too.
Vegans of course can request for no eggs.
We first had their Roti Bakar, with homemade kaya and SCS salted butter. The kaya was fragrant and not overly sweet. Made the traditional way in a double boiler (a lot of work!!), the bread was sliced thicker than in the traditional coffee shops but crispy nevertheless. RM4.50.
We then shared their Mee Jawa, yellow noodles served in a mildly spiced soupy sauce, potato cubes, fried bean curd sheets, half a boiled egg and topped with sliced green, fried shallots and cut chillies. If more spice is needed, ask for their homemade sambal which packs quite a kick. RM7.50.
Their Hakka Mee was delicious, the noodles cooked ‘al dente’, with a chopped ‘meat’ topping made from shitake mushrooms and soya protein. You would never know it’s not meat if you were not told. RM11.50.
Nasi Lemak came next, served with the usual trimmings of a fried egg, cucumber, peanuts and vegetarian ikan bilis. The rice was fragrant and redolent with santan. The sambal was for me the one ingredient that gave it ‘star’ status. Not too sweet, not overwhelmingly spicy but still packs a punch, all homemade. RM6.50.
The Mushroom Pastry Cup, a flaky pastry vol au vent case, filled with a cream based white sauce with tuscany button mushroom and flavoured with garlic. Yummy and worth returning for. RM6.50.
Noticing something on the menu that I have been meaning to try ever since it arrived on our shores, the Beyond Meat Burger piqued my curiosity. A burger that looks and tastes like the real thing? My sceptical mind has always denied its advertising hype. So here was the opportunity to sate my curiosity.
Arriving at the table looking exactly as a burger should, the trimmings were all there—a small salad with cherry tomatoes, corn, lettuce, organic cranberry, accompanied by hash browns; the only thing missing was the ketchup! The burger itself really tasted like meat, but more grainy because it is plant based, using peas and mushrooms and other ingredients. Missing was the meat aroma and the redness of medium rare meat which is the way I like my burgers. Also at RM48.00, I’ll stick to my high fat, high cholesterol real meat version.
Sorry about that, proprietor Lam Kar Weng. I love the rest of your food though. And your wife’s sauces.
Two more items for me to rave about. The Homemade Banana Roll topped with icing sugar was totally delish and the Kelava ice cream cup, sourced from KL, which uses soya and coconut milk, was totally divine at RM9.00 per cup. Suka Kafe is the only restaurant in Ipoh serving this and is good news for vegans and vegetarians alike.
Suka Kafe is Muslim friendly. In fact, the chef is a Muslim and there is no alcohol, MSG, added chemicals and the food is left as natural as possible. Their soy protein is certified non-GMO and deliveries or takeaways are served in biodegradable bags or boxes. Their juices too are fresh squeezed and healthy.
On the subject of takeaways, do try their sourdough bread which I can vouch for. Their multigrain sourdough is sold at RM17.00 a loaf. I took mine home and froze it, taking it out and slicing myself a piece whenever I felt the urge to have a snack. This way it keeps almost forever and toasted with slathers of butter makes me a happy bunny.
While I love the food at Suka Kafe, on second thought I’ll stick to a balanced diet, occasional vegetarian meals and going light on the meat and fish. In the meantime, Suka Kafe has found a fan in me.
Address: 50 Lorong Cecil Rae, Jalan Lee Kwee Foh, Taman Canning, 31400 Ipoh, Perak
Business hours: 9am-4pm; Closed on Mondays Takeaways available Free delivery for orders within Canning Garden and Ipoh Garden areas
My dear readers may not believe this but I am a picky eater. Like I seldom eat bread. When I do, it has to be sourdough. The reasons are many. I am a borderline diabetic and I watch my sugar and carbohydrate consumption very carefully. Hence: sourdough, which often has a lower glycaemic index than that of other breads – meaning, it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically.
Sourdough bread contains the friendly bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More Lactobacillus means higher production of lactic acid, which means less of the potentially dangerous phytic acid. And what does that mean? More mineral availability and easier digestion!
Acetic acid–which inhibits the growth of mold, is produced in the making of sourdough. So, sourdough naturally preserves itself.
So I always welcome newcomers to the sourdough scene in Ipoh.
One person in Ipoh who has entered the home food production scene is Doreen Kam. A home Chef who used to work for private clients in Kuala Lumpur, Doreen, an Ipohite, has returned to Ipoh since the MCO and finding herself at loose ends, decided to offer her specialties to the public.
One of them is sourdough bread, in various forms to cater to different palates and tastes.
Having sampled her sourdough, I am happy to add Doreen to the list of up and coming bread makers in Ipoh who are making their mark on the local culinary scene, despite COVID!
Crusty multi seeds sourdough, RM18.00 a loaf.
Soft wholemeal sandwich sourdough, RM15.00 a loaf.
Order 2 days in advance for bread and pick up after 2pm.
Doreen also makes Kimchi, that delectable Korean pickle that’s full of yummilicious friendly bacteria and probiotics, kind to your digestive system and credited with many health benefits including lowering cholesterol.
Available once a week on Wednesdays. RM22 for 500gm.
She also makes Ham Choyor Preserved Mustard Greens (which I adore) without artificial preservatives. Unlike commercial Ham Choy which I don’t trust (sealed in plastic and who knows what lurks inside the bag?), there are additives like Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), colouring, preservatives and sometimes soy sauce (with wheat). Caveat: Not all.
I love Doreen’s Ham Choy as I know she doesn’t use any preservatives and you need to cook with it within a week after you pick up.
Ham Choy, RM8.00 a pack around 200-250g.
Do call Doreen. She is always coming out with new goodies.
Doreen Kam 42, Jalan Chow Kai, Canning Garden. Call or Whatsapp +6016-5559496
At Purple Cane Tea House, everything is about tea. The manager of Purple Cane, Hew Choi Foong, is a walking encyclopedia on tea and there is nothing about tea that she cannot explain.
And when I was invited by retired veterinarian cum artist, Dr. Goh Hue Lang, for a meal at Purple Cane, I was surprised to discover that they are celebrating their 10th anniversary of operations this year.
I was under the impression that it was purely a tea shop specialised in selling teas and that food was a secondary consideration.
Was I ever wrong!
Not only is the food served here painstakingly curated, but the dishes on offer here are wholesome, with a clean taste and delicious! More vegetarian than meaty, using only free range chicken and some fish, there are dishes to suit all palates.
And all of them contain TEA. Tea in all its myriad varieties, from Black, Green, Scented, Red both fermented and non, and semi. Each one lending its inimitable characteristics to the dish being presented. Tea is a topic which will be covered in another article but suffice to say that in general, the benefits claimed for tea are as follows:
Tea contains antioxidants; Tea has less caffeine than coffee; Tea may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke; Tea may help with weight loss…Tea may help protect your bones. And the list goes on and avid tea drinkers can most likely add to the list.
We had a very mellow Puer Tea, a fully fermented tea which is suitable for drinking daily.
Our first course was naturally the iconic Loong Jing Lei Cha, “Lei” meaning to grind or pound in a pottery mortar with grooves. This is what is done to the green Long Jing tea, mixed with other herbs into a paste, water added and boiled to make a soup. This soup is served with a variety of crunchy and chewy vegetables (pumpkin, sweet potato leaves, carrots, kailan), nuts, grains or rice and tofu, all making a healthy meal. RM 17.80 for the set.
The burdock root with Oolong tea and chicken soup was umami without the oolong tea being overpowering. Burdock had been used in TCM for centuries, chock full of antioxidants and touted to remove toxins as well as inhibit certain types of cancer. A clear, clean, healthy soup without MSG or other additives. RM7.80 per serving.
The curry chicken with black tea, made without coconut milk and thickened with ground cashew at RM13.80 was superb. The curry mixed vegetable soup with lychee black tea was equally umami and thickened, delicious and a good deal at RM9.80. I could just eat the gravy like a soup, velvety smooth, with no MSG. I was transported. This can be paired with their handmade noodles (RM2.80) to create a curry mee. And slurp up the soup at the end. Also eaten with the steamedbun made with ground tea leaves is another perfect match, RM6.00.
I loved the Oolong mushroom ginger ball, made from mushroom stalks, ginger and moulded into balls with glutinous rice flour; these balls were fragrant, chewy and irresistible, RM10.80.
This was followed by fried pumpkin with salted egg yolk and ground tea, delectable morsels, crispy on the outside, the pumpkin soft and squishy inside, RM11.80.
And the dishes kept coming, Dr. Goh wanting me to taste almost the whole menu! The abalone mushroom in tea and lime sauce was lovely, the mushrooms fried to a crispy finish with vegetarian ham and curry leaves and the lime/tea sauce, with the right degree of tartness lifting up the whole dish, RM12.80. Similarly their Dory fish, in black tea, lightly fried, the batter coating crispy at RM15.80. A good accompaniment for these is the green tea rice at RM2.20.
Sweet potato balls with green tea dipping sauce (RM6.80) and green tea glutinous rice balls with black sesame paste inside and coated with ground peanuts at RM6.80 were some of the desserts we tried. What I enjoyed most were their velvety smooth Tea House Four Seasons Dessert (set of 4 at RM15.80). With Green tea pudding (Summer), Oolong jelly (Autumn ), Jasmine jelly (Winter ) and Rose romance pudding (Spring), different teas matched with the seasons and with very low sugar content.
The lunch was an incredible feast and I vowed to return. Next time, for a detailed discussion on the merits of different teas with Choi Foong and enjoy a tea ceremony with her in the tea shop next to the restaurant. Meanwhile my readers may like to know that they have two Tatami private rooms where they can take their time in tasting the various varieties of tea and titillate their taste buds with items from the menu.
Purple Cane Tea House is Pork-free.
*Purple Cane Tea House is expecting to update their menu soon. Any relevant changes will be added to this post when we receive the information.
Address: No.2, Jalan Dato Tahwil Azar (Osborne Street), 30300 Ipoh, Perak.
Business hours: 11am-10pm, no breaks Takeaway available BYO available
For reservations and inquiries: 012-668 3090 or 05-2533090
I remember when I first arrived in Ipoh 25 years ago, we had to travel to get fresh seafood. Like Pantai Remis or Nibong Tebal or Bukit Tambun. Today, it’s all available at our doorstep.
Just take a stroll down Jalan Medan Ipoh behind Kinta City and Tesco Ipoh Garden East and the sign boards present a dizzying display of coffee shop names, food served and the stalls that cook and serve them, doing a roaring business.
The evening my troupe and I arrived, they had just started setting up the tables and chairs on the slip road in front of the stalls. This was at 6.30pm: a good time to go before the hordes arrived. As it was during RMCO, there was only a sprinkling of customers but the pace picked up shortly.
Hing Kee, the seafood stall at Fooh Singh Cafe that I wanted to check out was all ready, with mini aquariums dotted amongst the display, burbling away and holding a tempting array of live seafood.
All my favourites and more were here. As in live mantis prawns, not the giant variety but medium sized around 6 inches (heads and tail included); live flower crabs with Roe; live cockles sorted by small medium large, large white prawns; clams; NZ mussels; spiny conch; live swimming conch (in the same aquarium as the mantis prawns); fresh abalone about two and half inches in size; and a plethora of very fresh fish, all cleaned and ready to be grilled or cooked whichever way you fancy.
I chose the Ikan Pari, the stingray, a fish I love if fresh, but alas in most places where I have ordered it, they were not. Here at Hing Kee, it was…ocean fresh and served with two sambals, a concoction with dried shrimps that lent a certain pungent, robust oomph to the fish, while the other side was liberally doused in a spicier and sourish chili sauce. If the sauces are not enough, you will still get saucer plates of condiments made up of finely-blended cili padi, and a squeeze of calamansi. Because the stingray all come in small/medium size, it is safe to order the whole fish. Served sizzling hot on a banana leaf. In fact all their dishes are served on banana leaves, a hygienic move which I applaud. RM18-20 depending on size.
The Mantis Prawns swimming in the tank caught my eye. Not the giant ones found in some restaurants which can cost up to RM60-70 each but medium sized ones for RM10 per piece. They were grilled and served with a sourish chilli sauce. I love Mantis prawns, preferring their meat to the regular sea prawns. These were as I anticipated: umami sweet and ocean fresh, having just been fished out from the tank. I savoured every bite of whatever little flesh there was given their smaller size. Definitely a must-have and good value for money.
Fresh Abalone grilled on the shell was next on our menu, tender and caramelized around the edges. They were served with calamansi and the same chilli sauce, although I had no need for it as the abalone was umami on its own and needed no extra dressing. RM75 a portion of 6 pieces or RM13 each.
We then feasted on grilled King sea prawns or Ming Har, again absolutely fresh, sweet and resilient to the bite. RM80-100 for a set of 12.
The grilled Flower Crab which was also swimming in the tanks was delicious and filled with roe. I congratulated myself for being there at the right season because these crabs only have roe seasonally. For me, flower crabs don’t need seasoning as the flesh is very sweet and umami, and the Roe which I fished out from the carapace went down like caviar! RM48-52 per portion.
As everything we had was grilled, I decided to have our cockle sauteed, this time with four angled beans in one of their sambal sauces. I love cockles and despite admonitions about hepatitis etc, I will eat them depending on whether they open up when displayed showing that they are still alive. They were, so cockles were ordered. Utterly delectable and I was in heaven.
Lobster is also available but not on the day we were there. Selling at RM180 per kg. I promised myself to return and try this special one evening.
Naturally as with all fresh seafood, all prices depend on availability and market price.
Address: 16 – 18 Jalan Medan Ipoh, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. *This area is behind Kinta City and Tesco Ipoh Garden East. There are a lot of eateries within the area.
Business hours: 6pm onwards until about 2-3am. Opens daily.
Ipoh appears to be going through a renaissance in Dim Sum appreciation. Most established Dim Sum restaurants like Ming Court, Yoke Fook Moon, Foh San, Dynasty Palace and others have devotees who will defend their favourite as the best. In my case, I have always touted Zui Le Xuan as the creme de la creme.
But recently, I have to let in a newcomer and say “Move over Zui Le Xuan, there is a new kid on the block”. While I will always be faithful to Zui Le Xuan for their special old time favourites which are not available anywhere else like their “Foong Wong Kao” and their Ginger Chicken Pao and many others, the recently opened Dim Sum Paradise in Ipoh Garden, (former Kao Li premises just behind Wooley Centre) is now wowing diners with their finesse and delicacy in offering up these dainty morsels.
I had a nostalgic moment remembering the Dim Sum I was spoilt with living in Hong Kong for more than 20 years. But guess what dear readers? The Dim Sum served up at Dim Sum Paradise can give some of the Hong Kong Dim Sum I have had a run for their money!
But Dim Sum is Dim Sum, I hear some of you saying. And I totally disagree. There is Dim Sum and there is DIM SUM. I usually judge the quality of Dim Sum by 3 dishes: their Har Gao, Siew Maiand the Cheong Fun(in particular their Tsa Leong or the rice roll wrapped around the Chinese fried “cruller”).
And Dim Sum Paradise did not disappoint. The skin of the Har Gao and the Cheong Fun has to be translucent, very thin and still pliable. The prawns in the Har Gao must be springy and big enough to enjoy the mouthfeel and texture. For the Cheong Fun, the rice wrapper must also be translucent and even more smooth and velvety than the Har Gao skin. In the case of the Tsa Leong, the filling of Youtiao must be crispy.
They were all these and more, the flavour needing no enhancing with Chilli sauce or soya. Plus they were all in bite sized portions, delicate and refined and very yummy. All without the use of MSG, with everything steamed or fried upon order.
To my delight, I discovered they had one Congee which I was searching high and low for in Malaysia. This is the Teng Tsai Jook or ‘Sampan Congee’, a thin rice porridge with seafood bits in it like cuttlefish and other goodies, a comfort food I developed a taste for in Hong Kong.
The Restaurant is family-run, led by Leong Chee Ming and his wife Ann. Their daughter Leong Kah Yui helms the front of the house taking orders and seating diners while Mum and Dad act as affable hosts, watching solicitously over the diners.
All dishes are handmade and homemade by Ann’s brother who picked up his Dim Sum skills under the tutelage of a HK masterchef while working in a 5-star hotel in the UK. With 51 items to choose from, I was dazzled by the assortment and ordered my favourites as well as checked out their specials. Everything is freshly made on premises and dishes are only prepared upon order. The added attraction for me was the promise of no MSG which guarantees my repeat business.
Must try Dim Sum here include their Char Siew Sou(honey char siew puff), RM5.10; Hoi Sin Mai (seafood dumplings), RM6.20; King Prawn Cheong Fun, RM6.60, the prawns ocean fresh and springy to the bite; Deep Fried Youtiao Cheong Fun… what The Hong Kongers call Tsa Leong, RM5.60, the fried dough super crispy served with a special dip, highly recommended and yummilicious; Har Guin (fried prawn bean curd rolls), RM6.10; Fish Dumplings or Yu Mai that had a nice springy bite to them, as did their Fried fish balls, RM4.80. There were also the Pan-fried Prawn and Pork with Chives Dumplings, RM5.10, which were a special treat for me as I haven’t had these since my Hong Kong days; Scallop and Prawn Dumplings, RM6.20;Deep Fried Char Siew bun with their homemade char siew, RM5.40 and their Har Mai(prawn dumplings) at RM5.80.
Need I mention that their Siew Mai, consisting of pork with a bit of prawn (RM6.20) and Har Gao(Crystal Prawn Dumplings), RM6.20, were really at the top of their class.
The creme de la creme was yet to come: their egg tarts. Now Ipoh is famous for their egg tarts which we can buy from a few well known locations, but these egg tarts were bite-sized, the pastry melt-in-mouth flaky and to die for. 3 for RM4.80.
I must also praise the chef for their homemade chilli oil/sauce. A nostalgic reminder of what used to be served in HK as XO sauce (but in most places you had to pay for it), here at Dim Sum Paradise, you can request for their precious sauce, where I could taste dried prawns, garlic and other secret ingredients, for free.
Our dear readers will be pleased to know that if they show this article on check out at Dim Sum Paradise, a bill of more than RM60 will get you a 5% discount and RM120, 10%. So what are you waiting for? Go for breakfast, morning tea or lunch…their last order is at 2.30pm.
Address: 48, 50, Lengkok Canning, Taman Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh, Perak
Business hours: 6.45am-3pm, 2.30pm last call Open daily Takeaways available for uncooked Dim Sum (their staff will instruct on how to cook them at home)
When you are a Food Scientist and a lecturer on Food Science at UTAR you have an ingrained fascination with food in all its aspects, health, taste, appearance, and in the case of Chung Kok Heung, actually being in the kitchen to do the cooking. Many lecturers preach but not practise, but Kok Heung loves doing both. Additionally he wears another hat as a consultant to entrepreneurs setting up or running restaurants.
Currently helming the kitchen at the Cafe at the Happy 8 Hotel, that beautifully quaint and whimsical boutique hotel on Market Street and brainchild of owner Tan Kai Lek, Kok Heung gives vent to his creative culinary skills and produces small gems of daily specials that not only look good and taste good but are healthy as well.
I went to the Happy 8 Cafe when they first opened where for the first time I tasted and fell in love with their ice-drip coffee, introduced by the lovely Jessica, Kai Lek’s wife who sources all the coffee beans from Taiwan (still does). Their coffee menu is extensive and all the concoctions are robust and fragrant.
We began with their Signature Steam Grilled Salmon, served with pasta and umeiji mushrooms, and interesting garnitures of mixed salad, homemade kimchi and pickled pumpkin, RM36.
The garnitures are the same for all the main courses and worthy of mention. The homemade kimchi was not as tart as the store-bought variety and the pickled pumpkin slices were a yummy novelty. I thought they were pickled papaya at first which is quite commonly available but pickled pumpkin was a new taste treat, crunchy, slightly sweet and sour and went well with the salmon sitting on a bed of grilled young sweet corn. As did the very refreshing salad with sesame dressing.
Another plate with Curry / Infused Kampung Chicken came with 3 types of rice, self hulled brown rice, purple mixed with black rice and regular white rice (all natural colouring), topped with cashew, sultana, black beans and pistachio and black sesame seeds. All in a colourful palette of colours and taste sensations. The Kampung Chicken was tender, mildly spiced and flavorful, RM22.
The Dancing Kampung Chicken was a soya braised, topped with bonito flakes and served with the same set of accompaniments, RM24.
The last dish was the Beautifying Mushrooms with Cherry Tomatoes: yellow and red cherry tomatoes, with umeji, shimeji and button mushroom. Deliciously umami and healthy to boot with all the healthy colours of the rainbow on one plate, RM18.
A complimentary soup of the day is served with every main course order.
Kok Heung was keen to share that he uses only Himalayan pink salt for his dishes as it contains minerals accumulated from millions of years in salt caves versus the usual store bought table salt. Also no MSG is ever used in his cooking and all dishes can be appreciated for their natural umami mouth feel.
Drinks are aplenty in the Happy 8 Cafe and the choices are all on display on the blackboard.
The Rich chocolate (RM16) and Avocado special (RM18) were particularly yummy; the Aloe Sparkling extra refreshing (RM18) and I had their Vietnamese Coffee which was divine (RM17).
For dessert we had their Earl Grey Burnt Cheesecake which was smooth, caramelly and satisfying, RM17/slice.
Finally some nutrition advice from our Food Scientist Kok Heung. “For a balanced diet, try to eat foods from all colours of the rainbow and reduce consumption of red meats and fats especially if you have diabetes or hypertension. Follow a plant based diet instead.”
So if you are in Old Town and want to eat healthy, visit the Happy 8 Cafe. You won’t be disappointed.
The Happy 8 Cafe is pork-free.
Address: 46, Jalan Market, 30000 Ipoh, Negeri Perak Entrance is located at Third Concubine Lane (Lorong Pasar)
Business hours: 11-10pm, Closed on Mondays Last orders for takeaways are 30 minutes before closing