SeeFoon Checks Out Late Night Dining In New Town

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

One doesn’t have to go very far to find a good Dai Chau restaurant in Ipoh but by and large, it’s difficult to have a good meal late at night as most of the best places start packing up or run out of specials by around 9pm. Unless one resorts to roadside stalls, perched on stools and hoping that the car coming towards you won’t be stroking your sleeve as it whizzes by.
One late night restaurant that is securely off the road albeit coffee-shop style and willing to serve till the wee hours is Restaurant Chan Jie, a relative newcomer to the Ipoh Dai Chau scene having been in its present location for about two years.

Taking its name from the proprietress who also helms the kitchen, Chan Jie which means sister Chan, is the quintessential Dai Chau eatery, always ready to serve a large variety of dishes to suit all pockets and palates.

Certain dishes are best ordered in advance like their Sek Pan Yu Tao Lo or the Garupa fish-head hot pot. This was already waiting for us when our group arrived one evening as we tucked in, relishing the freshness of the fish head pieces, the soft tofu, the cabbage and the wu tao or taro chunks which lent to the broth a velvety creaminess and robust flavour. The broth was supremely umami (I was hoping that there wasn’t too much MSG in the stock which Chan Jie strongly denied) and having been reassured, we proceeded with gusto. Order in advance – RM35.

We were a large group and the next 10 dishes that followed were all wolfed down with ease. Next on the menu was Kung Po Eel, chunks of eel, coated with the dark sweet soya sauce with fiery dried chilli peppers lending piquancy and onions and scallions providing texture, all served in a claypot – RM18. This was followed by Pork Spare Ribs cooked in Guinness Stout, a dish that I expected to be sweet and yet was surprisingly balanced, with the bitterness of the stout cancelling out any aggressive sweetness, resulting in a tangy bite of tender ribs – RM15.

A change in taste and texture came next with the baby long beans sauteed with mui choi or Chinese preserved vegetables and strips of pork. The mui choi addition was an unusual touch to the usual stir-fry and lent extra flavour to the whole dish – RM12. Another vegetable dish of Choi Sum or Kale fried with egg was delectable at RM8.

And there were more dishes to follow in quick succession. Homemade tofu was fried golden, topped with minced pork and choi po or Chinese preserved radish – RM8. Next the bread ring with curried prawns was a sight to behold: a golden crown of fried bread filled with scrumptious prawns that were fresh and firm, the curry sauce perfect for dunking in the bread which we tore apart with our hands. (No need for table manners here!) RM35 for eight large prawns.

Thank goodness we were quite a large group as more was to follow. The Tse Geong Ngap or Duck cooked in a ginger sauce, is rich, dark, aromatic and utterly scrumptious. A combination of preserved soybeans, both the brown meen si and the black tao si are mixed with the red fermented bean curd, nam yu, spiced up with generous helpings of pepper and tse geong or young ginger root. Good to the last bite – RM12.

What should have arrived earlier in the meal came towards the end, the steamed fish, this time, a Pak So Kung or Catfish, smothered in chilli, meen si or fermented bean paste, ginger and steamed to perfection. The flesh was velvety smooth with nary a hint of the muddy taste that often accompany freshwater fish and the balance of topping ingredients added the right touch of piquancy to the dish – RM35.

By now laden to the gills, we still had the ‘de rigueur’ noodles, a Mee Goreng that can hold its own at any roadside stall followed by a Kway Teow in dark sauce. Both tasty and value for money at RM6 each.

Just as we were preparing to leave, I spied a steaming bowl of congee waft its way past my eager eyes, my appetite by this time totally satiated to the maximum so ordering a portion was absolutely out of the question; I made a mental to come back to taste the choice of congee available here. This I did a week later and not only did I try the Frog’s Legs Congee which was a velvety smooth Hong Kong style soft congee with big chunks of frog’s legs and oodles of slivered ginger but also their signature fried vermicelli, the latter with prawns, cabbage and egg. Congee and vermicelli RM12 each. For this lunch we topped it off with some deep fried spicy squid which were crispy and garlicky – RM15. Other congees available include pork with preserved eggs or Pei Dan Sao Yoke Juk, fish congee and Tang Tsai Juk or ‘Sampan’ congee consisting of primarily seafoods.

Chan Jie will be closed for their Chinese New Year holidays from February 17 to 22.

Restaurant Chan Jie
48 Jalan Dato Tahwil Azhah, 30300 Ipoh.
Tel: 012 493 4126 or 012 523 2109
GPS: N 04° 35.25’8; E 101° 05’1.0
Business Hours: 1pm-3.30pm 5.30-1am
Closed 2 days a month.

SeeFoon wanders down Kuala Kangsar Road

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

The long stretch of Kuala Kangsar Road is unfamiliar territory for me with its block after block of shophouses and a myriad sundry businesses. It takes a person of my foodie friend Ginla Chew’s energetic exploration to ferret out the latest in good eats along this stretch. And ferret out she did. This time in a newly opened restaurant called (wait for it) Ipoman.

Only opened in August last year, the restaurant is an offshoot of one of Ipoh’s familiar favourites, the Mah Poh restaurant in Ipoh Garden. Apparently a relative of the proprietors of the original Mah Poh, proud proprietor of the new Ipoman, Mdm. C.W. Lian (otherwise fondly called Wan Tseh) was quick to point out that the signature dishes for which the original Mah Poh is famous, such as their crispy fried Pig’s Trotter are also available here in Ipoman but pre-ordering is essential. However, she was keen to showcase her specialties at Ipoman which are a departure from its ancestor shop in Ipoh Garden.

We were a group of seven that night and the first dish to arrive was a steaming tureen of Curry Fish Head, cut up pieces of very fresh and meaty fish head simmering in a curry broth teeming with brinjals, ladies fingers, and towpok or fried bean curd – RM28 and up depending on numbers.

Next was another soupy item, this time a curry Tongfun (bean thread vermicelli) with prawns. The prawns were quite large and generously portioned with the curry sauce creamy and mild. It would have been more fragrant if not for the penchant here in restaurants to use evaporated milk for creaminess instead of the traditional santan (coconut milk) in the mistaken belief that santan because of its saturated fat content, was bad for you. I personally don’t subscribe to this as coconut oil is now gaining a resurgence in popularity with new studies showing that it has some very health giving properties. And think about the added flavour that coconut milk brings to a dish. I immediately made a mental note to order this dish in advance and ask for coconut milk to be used instead of this bland compromise. However, having said my piece, I have to admit that the dish was extremely tasty despite the use of evaporated milk. RM35 and up.

Then came one of my favourites, fallopian tubes sauteed with sambal, dried prawns and chillies – heavenly – RM22. Steamed fish slivers were next on the menu, ocean fresh Sek Pan or Garupa steamed and topped with soya and scallions. Very fresh and firm – RM28.

Dry-fried brinjals with red chillies, spring onions and dried shrimps followed, soft but not soggy, and not too oily, a measure of skill with the delicate eggplant – RM12. Deep-fried Lemon Grass Chicken with honey was a tad too sweet for my taste but others at our table were very pleased with it – RM20. Gailan or long stemmed Chinese broccoli with sweet rice wine, wolfberries or Goji berries, cloud ear fungus or Wanyu and ginger slivers was utterly fragrant and delectable – RM14; as was their homemade Tofu with mushrooms, carrots and peapods – RM12.

We finally finished the meal with a Woh Pang, lotus paste wrapped in a pancake and deep fried. Now I’m not usually a big fan of desserts especially Chinese ones but this I have to admit was special and I ended up eating three slices which is indicative of how good it was – RM10.

One  specialty of the house which I didn’t get to try and which sounded mouth-wateringly yummy is the Ham Yu Tao Fa Lam Tau Fu Tong. Quite a mouthful to pronounce which means salted fish head in a broth cooked with pork belly and tofu. This has to be ordered a day in advance. For me that’s on the menu for my next visit.

60-62 Laluan Tawas Damai, Anjung Tawas Impiana 30010 Ipoh
Wan Tseh: 012 506 1714
GPS: E 101 6’ 46.8 N 4 39’ 46.4
Business Hours: Daily 11.30am-3pm & 5.30pm-10pm
Closed Mondays every fortnight.