SeeFoon Drools at the Mention of ‘Mah Lat’

Mention ‘Mah Lat’ to me and I go instantly into my Pavlovian reflex and start drooling. Well not quite literally drooling but all my gustatory senses are heightened and my taste buds can barely wait for that first searing hit on the tongue, travelling down the gullet and creating a warm sensation in the stomach.

I am addicted to spice, especially chilli, and when you add Szechuan pepper to the equation, I’m in eating heaven, accompanied by the inevitable runny nose, wads of crumpled tissues, in a trail of devastation left by the fiery fare followed by the gulps of tea or water to ameliorate the heat. Some friends have remarked that I must be masochistic to enjoy that kind of torture (which it is to some palates) but on mine the heat only heightens my dining pleasure. To each his own I always say. So when I discovered yet another ‘Mah Lat’ sensation in Ipoh, I made a beeline for it.

Why in a hot climate like Malaysia we need to sit around a steaming pot and get all steamed up is a question that is best left unanswered. And Ipohites certainly like their steamboat or hot pot as can be witnessed by the increasing numbers of steamboat restaurants sprouting up like mushrooms after the rain.

Delicious Fish Steamboat has barely been open for three months and already they have a fan in me. Specialising in Szechuan hot pot, they also have other wok-fare on the menu if your preference leans away from this popular style of dining. Located opposite Festival Walk on Jalan Medan Ipoh 1, their sign board is emblazoned across the front and you just cannot miss it.

Their signature steamboat comes with a choice of broth, either the Szechuan spicy soup or the Healthy herbal soup. Or you can order the Yin Yang combination in one pot containing both types of broth. So the non-spicy eaters can stay with their herbal soup and occasionally take a daring dip in the spicy section while the adventurous palates can go full blast into their fiery encounter. The herbal soup has six types of herbs and is delectably umami on its own without waiting for all the other ingredients which are to be cooked to add flavour; as is usually the case with other broths in other establishments. The spicy broth comes in three degrees of chilli heat. I opted for the medium heat and even for my palate, that was almost too hot to bear but somehow I managed! All broths, whether in combination or stand alone, are RM30 and refillable.

There is a very wide range of raw ingredients to choose from including Wagyu beef slices at RM38NZ lamb at RM36, and Sakura Pork at RM22; pricey items like Abalone slices at RM48Sea Cucumber at RM28 and large prawns at market price. Vegetables and other accompaniments like bean curd, bean skin, noodles, start at RM6 per portion with seaweed wakame at RM12. A choice of fresh mushrooms are available from RM6.

Sauces are plentiful and they have a whole table laden with different sauces for you to mix your own. I found this most helpful as often the sauces served in other steamboat restaurants are pre-mixed and usually not to my taste.

A specialty here is their fish, all live and swimming in large tanks towards the back of the restaurant. A choice of grass carp – RM38/48 S/Mcatfish – RM66/78 S/M or Garupa which is sold at RM6.90 per 60g portion. There is a choice of cooking styles beginning with their signature which goes by the surprisingly innocuous name of Boiled Fish Szechuan. Well this unlike any boiled fish I’ve ever eaten, velvety smooth fish slices (careful with the bones) hidden in the fiery depths of the Szechuan broth which is chock full of chillies, Szechuan  peppers (which is characteristic in Szechuan cuisine primarily to numb the taste buds) and a host of other ingredients which was difficult to make out. I loved it but my guests found it almost too hot to handle! Next time I’ll order the low-heat version.

Other styles for the fish include a soup made with salted cabbage, one with fresh green pepper and another with tomato. I did not have an opportunity to sample the other wok-fried dishes on the menu but if the Fish soup and the Steam Boat are anything to go by, they’re going to be equally exemplary.

A word of advice to novices of Szechuan cuisine. Do start with ordering the low heat and work up to the high heat. My evening with the medium heat was sufficient to almost test my spice limit.

Delicious Fish Steamboat
19 & 21 Jalan Medan Ipoh 1
Bandar Baru Medan, Ipoh.
Business Hours:  12pm-3pm & 6pm-10pm
Tel: 016 550 099005 545 1648016 550 0936

SeeFoon goes in search of the definitive salad

Every now and again, sitting at the Ipoh Echo office, I find myself at a loss for what to eat at lunchtime and feel the nudging of my taste buds for something wholesome, fresh and light. Asking around the office for what‘s good, what’s new, I stumbled upon Basileuo Salad, a relative newcomer to the restaurant scene quite close to the Echo office in Greentown and in  fact almost within walking distance.

Proprietor Chan Kin Mei, explained the concept behind Basileuo and also the significance of the rather complex name which in my mild myopia I had read to be Basilico, meaning basil in Italian. Apparently she is a huge salad lover, a passion shared by her husband and together they decided to dedicate a whole cafe to serving salads and also baked potatoes, a specialty of the house using a special oven just for roasting potatoes. This oven can be seen perched on the counter when you enter the cafe where a few potatoes are baking in the lower part with a few warming on the upper deck. This is what makes the oven special – the ability to bake and keep warm at the same time in one cute little oven.

The name is a biblical one meaning ‘to exercise the highest influence’ or ‘to reign’ as in kingly power, an aspiration which the couple hopes to achieve in converting more Ipohites to the love for salad and to set up a chain of baked potato stalls throughout Malaysia.

The Basileuo Palette, Salad Toppings, Dressings and Hearty Add-ons, as it says on their menu, is the most extensive list I’ve ever seen and a glance at their salad counter with its colourful array of options is dazzling indeed. This is not your usual salad bar with the often desultory bits of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes but a humongous array of 46 ingredients to choose from.

These include: orange, honeydew, green apple, guava, mango, grapes, edatsuki or green soya, green peas, tofu, coral grass, black jelly, wood fungus, olive, chickpeas, sweetcorn, kidney beans, cherry tomato, French bean, lotus root, purple cabbage, celery, turnip, beetroot, pea sprout, carrot, sweet pea, cucumber, white and red onion, capsicum, boiled egg, crab stick, young corn, water chestnut and enoki/shimeji mushroom. Two sizes are available Junior size with simple greens and 5 ingredients (RM7) and Mixed Greens with 5 ingredients (RM9). For the regular size, one can have a choice of 10 ingredients with simple and mixed greens at RM12?15. The addition of what they call Hearty Add-on is another option for another RM3-4.50. These include: Turkey Ham, Smoked Duck, Homemade Chicken Patty, Homemade Beef Patty and Smoked Salmon.

Premium ingredients, for which an extra charge of RM2 applies for each, include: Cashew Nut, Almond Flakes, Chia Seed, Sunflower Seed, Pumpkin Seed, Sesame Seed, Dried Cranberry, Dried Black Currant, Raisins and Feta Cheese complete the mind boggling selection.

After choosing the ingredients for the salad, one has now to turn one’s mind to the choice of dressing which presents another quandary as there are so many to choose from, each one more delectable than the next and all concocted by Kin Mei herself. Tossing up whether to have the Basileuo Vinaigrette, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Classic Caesar, Hot Wasabi, Japanese Sesame, Miso, Pesto, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Tangy Peach, Tzatziki Yogurt, Fresh Cranberry Yogurt or Spicy Thai can create quite a headache. My personal recommendations? Raspberry VinaigretteSpicy Thai and Japanese Sesame.

Naturally their baked potatoes are a must-have. Soft and fluffy on the inside with the skin gently crisped on the outside, these russet potatoes are topped with a sauce which changes every day and is listed on the board near the cashier. The day I was there the potato came with a mushroom sauce topped with mock bacon which is turkey ham done to a crisp, lending a delectable crunch to the soft potato. This is a meal in itself as the potatoes are large – RM8.

Despite Kin Mei’s wish to convert Ipohites to salads, she has had to succumb to popular tastes and now has a good range of pastas, sandwiches, wraps and a few stews to satisfy most taste buds. And the one most delectable item I will recommend here is her Hot Chocolate, served in a choice of Dark, Milk or Hazelnut chocolate, a generous chunk of Belgian chocolate on a stick which you slowly stir into the hot milk in the mug. Heavenly at RM13.50.

Basileuo Salad (Pork Free)
3 Persiaran Greentown, Greentown Business Centre, Ipoh.
Business Hours: 11am-9pm closed Mondays
Tel: 05 241 4239      Kin Mei: 012 519 0300