SeeFoon Finds Three Jewels in Jalan Tokong

Every time a new shophouse development pops up in Ipoh, we can be rest assured that a few new eateries will show up as well. Sure enough, with the new development of Jalan Centre Point, in these few rows of shophouses, a familiar name glows in the dark, beckoning   to diners.

And diners at San Poh are aplenty. Arriving at the already late hour of 8.30pm one Wednesday evening, I was very pleased that I had made a booking in advance and had a table waiting for me inside the air-conditioned comfort of this small restaurant while a small queue was hovering near the few tables outside on the pavement.

The name Sam Poh is a familiar one, having reviewed them in IE149 in 2012 when they had their restaurant in Ipoh Garden East and I can still recall the lingering mouth feel of their specialties at the time, their faux shark fin which tasted like the real McCoy, their magnificent grilled squid with abalone sauce and a host of other delectables.

Now with this new outlet, although the anglicised version of the name is now San Poh with an ‘N”, the same proprietress Elliza is very much present, leaving the running of the other outlet which is still operating, to her partner. And while most of the items that I raved about in the Ipoh Garden outlet are available here in this new one, Elliza has decided to expand her repertoire, introducing new and innovative dishes which are well worth coming for.

The Steamed Tilapia with dominant aromas of calamansi (our local limes or Tsuen Kum) lifted the fish to new heights of degustation. More Thai in flavours than Chinese, the fish was fresh, the flesh firm and the sauce delectable – RM47 for a big fish for eight persons.

The Seafood Pot was incredibly smooth, with pigs’ tendons imparting their gelatinous properties to the sauce while lending a velvety texture to the other ingredients of sea cucumber, Chilean clams, prawns and a host of other seafood delicacies – RM48.

Chicken with Red Yeast Rice which is a perennial favourite among locals, was tender and fragrant, the rice wine thick and sweet (although not too sweet as can be found in other restaurants), accompanied by the usual accoutrements of ginger, wood-ear fungus which makes this a dish favoured as a postpartum dish – RM15.

The Thai Style Pig’s Trotter (I was told that the trotter was from Germany where of course, the Schweinshaxen – their grilled version – is almost like a national dish) is supposed to have a crispy skin but somehow missed the mark on that, arriving on the table with a garlicky, spicy Thai sauce which added a lift to the meat and especially the fatty bits. Aside from the lack of crispiness to the skin, I couldn’t fault the taste with the meat falling off the bone, the tendons, grizzle and fat done to the perfect degree of tenderness and the sauce mitigating the richness – RM36.

The fried homemade Tofu next was delicious, firm, yet tender, and had all the umami taste and textures which only the addition of fish could provide – RM10.

Another dish that I particularly loved was their Long Bean ‘salad’ with minced pork. This arrived on the table, totally smothered in Thai Basil, dressed in a mild yet distinctive sauce, that had the group of us clamouring for more – RM12.

The last dish for that evening came in the form of the ‘Lai Wong’ Crab, three mid sized crabs drenched in a buttery, creamy sauce, the crab very fresh and the sauce velvety smooth. I would have preferred bigger crabs but as these were the local mud crabs, I had to accept the size given and considering that three mud crabs cost RM78 (these are all daily prices depending on availability), all in all quite reasonable.

I went back on another occasion wishing to satisfy my yearnings for home cooked ‘Kah Heong Choy’ and ordered their Steamed Salted Fish with pork – S/M/L:13/18/28 and found this comfort dish did the trick. Their Sambal Kangkong at S/M/L RM 7/9/12 lacked some ‘Wok Hei’ but was tasty enough and their Oat Chicken S/M/L RM15/20/28 was most satisfying, the chicken pieces still succulent on the inside while the crispy oats which enveloped the chicken pieces provided the contrasting crunch to a delicious mouthful.

Restoran San Poh
13 Jalan Centre Point 1,
Jalan Bharu off Jalan Tokong
31550 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 241 0357   Elliza: 011 2323 8378
Business Hours: 11am-2.30pm; 5.30-10pm
Closed Tuesdays but open if it’s a public holiday.

SeeFoon finds a new Ray of Sunshine in Old Town

I am a self-confessed insatiable foodie who will beat a path to any door in search of the next nibble, the next new discovery where my taste buds will be titillated and appeased.

Alas, given our Malaysian heat and humidity, some of Ipoh’s best known hawker dishes are usually savoured in a pool of perspiration. For this Foodie that is.

For someone like me who is habituated to air conditioning, eating at hawker stalls can occasionally be a torture, with sweat and make-up pouring down my face, my small face towel (which I always carry in my handbag) drenched to dripping and wishing for a cool respite from the unceasing heat.

Now thanks to Ray of Hope, who has opened a new eating outlet in Old Town, I can enjoy all my hawker delights in cool comfort.

The Ray of Hope is a non-profit, non religious, multi-racial centre set up by St Peter’s and St Augustine’s churches, Ipoh. Its sole objective is to give hope to people with learning difficulties. Headed by Datin Mary and her husband Dato’ Yeoh Beng San who is Advisor and Fundraising Chairman, it also provides vocational training and sheltered employment for young adults with learning difficulties. It is a sheer delight to see the enthusiasm and willingness of the young people with varying degrees of learning disabilities greet and serve you with smiles at their cafe in Bercham and here in Old Town, the same applies.

Thanks to the generosity of one Ipohite, who has loaned one of the old shophouses to the Ray of Hope Foundation, this additional Cafe right next to Hoong Tho on Jalan Bandar Timah, will serve as a beckoning ‘Ray’ of gourmandising for those heading towards this part of town that has become a magnet for Foodies from all over.

The dynamo behind this second Ray of Hope Cafe is Datin Grace Lee, a self deprecating bundle of energy who instead of shopping the world’s capital cities or playing mahjong, has thrown herself into this project with a dedication and commitment that is breathtaking.

Waking at 5.30am she is in the shop by 6.30am and in the kitchen preparing the day’s mis en place (the basic necessities for all dishes served). Then she attends to the purchasing and liaising with suppliers, followed by checking on the cleaning, and the myriad other details that running a restaurant entails. Following this dizzying schedule six days a week, she even serves customers, wearing her apron and sports cap, looking like any other paid service person in any restaurant. Not only is she not paid, but she has personally donated a large number of the fixtures and equipment in the restaurant; not to mention her time and energy.

Jessie Yong, who serves as overall manager as well as “chef and bottle washer” (or in Chinese the ‘one leg kick’) had this to say about Grace, “She is indefatigable. From establishing all the recipes for all the dishes, to trying out new dishes for our menu, she is truly committed. I really admire her dedication. And the learning disabled kids love her,” she added.

Shareen Ng, whom everyone calls Aunty Shareen, has been volunteering in Bercham and now in Old Town for 15 years. “My son Jason who has Down syndrome has been helped greatly by Ray of Hope. He can now take orders and serve customers. This is a meaningful job for me as I am not only here to help my son become more skilled but I am helping the others as well,” she volunteered. “He can now interact with customers and is developing his social skills. Working here is a wonderful opportunity for him as he would not find employment anywhere else,” she added.

Let’s get to the food (this began as a column about food!). The menu is simple, focusing on noodles and special steamed soups. The steamed soups are substantial and best shared with either a few friends or to be ordered and brought home. I had a most unusual steamed soup of kampung chicken redolent with the flavour of lemongrass which was used generously together with ginger. The kampong chicken was tender and the fact that there was not the slightest smidgen of MSG in the soup made it totally slurpable, something which I proceeded to do that evening, having brought the soup home to enjoy – S/M/L RM25/35/45. Special soups include steamed soups with Ginseng, dried scallops and other special herbs and are available as Soup of the Day or may be ordered in advance for takeaway – S/M/L RM35/55/75.

The rest of the menu is typical hawker fare with Curry Mee RM8Asam Laksa RM7Chicken Hor Fun RM7 and Chee Cheong Fun plain at RM5 and with mushroom and chicken RM7.

Their Taiwanese Beef Noodles are extra special, a big steaming bowl of a robust beef broth with well braised tender chunks of beef, the tendon simmered to a jelly-like consistency, complemented by salted cabbage and a thick dark chilli sauce – RM9.50

Yes the Ray Of Hope prices are higher than the surrounding eating places where it’s located but what endears me to Ray of Hope is their motto of “Every Life Counts, Every Person Matters” and that every ringgit I spend there goes to the learning disabled.

Their catering services (as in providing food only) are excellent as I have personally used them. Speak to either Grace or Jesse and they’ll bend over backwards to accommodate you. Grace has a repertoire of other dishes that are not on the menu which she’ll be happy to whip up for your event. Not only will you enjoy the taste treat but you’ll be helping a good and worthy cause.

Ray of Hope
18 Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Perak
Tel: 05 241 2959
Business Hours: 8am-2.30pm. Closed: Sundays