SeeFoon gets Thai’dup in Ipoh Garden East

It doesn’t have a prominent sign board and it is very easy to miss this quaint and intimate Thai restaurant as one sails past Tesco on the way to destinations beyond. Situated in a corner bungalow house directly behind the Royal Thai Massage place whose sign is prominently visible from Tasek Road, Aroy Dee’s signage is by contrast downright modest, almost invisible from the main road and my dear readers will just have to rely on my directions given here. (See address below). Nevertheless the location is very prime if a tad unobtrusive.

Creatively and modestly furnished, the proprietor and her son have done a lovely job using varnished used pallets on the walls, veneer that is indistinguishable from wood but is actually vinyl on the floor and whimsical flower arrangements all around.

Yupa the proprietor is the ‘real McCoy’ Thai cook. Unbelievably youthful looking for her 60 years, she claims that her cooking (relatively low fat, with lots of greens, loads of fresh vegetables and easy on the sugar) is responsible for her looking the way she does. I pricked up my ears on the mention of sugar as I am pretty allergic to the stuff, given a predilection to fluctuating blood sugar levels and when she declared that she does not use MSG, I did a quick mental somersault, offered a prayer of gratitude and made a commitment to come back here often. Here I have finally found a restaurant that subscribes to my eating principles!

Sure enough, Yupa made good on her promise. On two occasions there, I ate soup, slurping it up like there was no tomorrow. Now under normal circumstances, in other establishments, about 30 minutes after consumption I would be feeling extremely tired, with an insatiable thirst and after about four hours I’d be totally bloated both on my ankles and my belly.

Not at Aroy Dee.

The Tom Yum Kung, one of Thailand’s most famous dish, came in a claypot brimming with enoki mushrooms, galangal, lemon grass, lemon leaf, parsley and prawns in their shell. Tangy, spicy with sweetness provided by the fresh tamarind seeds which she uses in the broth, the Tom Yum hit all the right notes with me – RM15.90. And do try also their White Tomyum Chicken which has the addition of coconut milk. Equally delectable at RM11.90.

Thai salads are among my favourite foods and here I would recommend the LarbGai, a salad made from minced chicken, tossed with a mixture of aromatic greens like scallions, shallots, chilli flakes, fish sauce, fresh lime, mint, Thai basil and cilantro and a special toasted sticky rice powder which lends the salad a slight grainy mouthfeel and gives this dish its particular character – RM15.

Another salad of note is the Yum WoonSen, made with glass noodles, and again all the aromatics plus prawns. I suggested to Yupa that next time I’ll ask for it with squid as it was too difficult to peel the prawns which came in their shells – RM17.90.

The two curries which are certainly in the ‘Die Die must try’ category are the Green Curry and the Dry Curry both made from chicken. The Green Curry with chicken chunks was creamy, velvety smooth with a delicate sauce that one could just drink while the Dry Curry was robust, spicy and made with kampung chicken, the meat more flavourful with more texture – RM11.90.

Very tasty morsels arrived in the form of chicken and pork Satays, well marinated chunks of meat skewered on thick bamboo sticks – RM18.50, while the Pandan Chicken, chunks of chicken very well marinated with lemongrass, turmeric and spices but arrived, alas, over cooked, which left the chicken inside a wee bit on the dry side – RM13.80 for 4 pieces. (Remind them to not overcook on ordering).

My habit with Thai Food in Bangkok is to seek out a different place for my beloved Pad Thai every time I go there but now my search for the perfect plate is over and as luck would have it, Yupa fries up one of the most delicious ones I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Most of the Pad Thai in Thailand is either overly sweetened (the Thais love their sugar and in fact sugar is served on the side of your plate of Pad Thai, even in Aroy Dee) and I find it very difficult to get a Pad Thai fried without sugar.  But Yupa does it and to perfection. Almost a national dish in Thailand on par with the ubiquitous Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai is probably the Thai equivalent of our Char KwayTeow here but the noodles are much thinner and has a chewiness to it that is delightful. Add to the noodles prawns, chillies flakes, lime, crushed peanuts, egg,  green chives and raw bean sprouts (sugar optional), squeeze a smidgen of lime and you have a plateful of heaven – RM17.90. For those who need their carbs and are not fond of noodles, there is the Pineapple Fried Rice, which is a mountain of rice fried with vegetables, chicken, egg and bits of pineapple and heaped onto a scooped out pineapple – RM15.50.

And this article wouldn’t be complete without mention of their steamed fish, in this case a Siakap steamed in the traditional Thai style with lime, garlic, galangal, ginger, fresh tamarind and chillies. Very fresh and delectable.Small RM38.50; Large RM43.90.

Aroy Dee is the perfect place to eat lightly and down the food with a healthy tea at the same time. Have their Thai Tea made from fresh Lemongrass RM5.50 or one of their Phyto Vitamin Drinks at RM6 or one of their Detox Waters like Lemon, Lime and Cucumber or Green Apple and Lemon at RM5.50. And for Beer Lovers, there is even Chang Beer which is quite uncommon in Ipoh.

Aroy Dee Cafe
11 Jalan Jambu, (corner of JalanManggis) Taman TehTengSeng, 31400 Ipoh.
Yupa: 012 513 9966
Business Hours: 12pm-4pm; 6pm-11pm
Closed Mondays
GPS E 101° 7’ 4.4”  N 4° 36’ 57.0”

SeeFoon takes a drive for Jelawat

For some of my readers who may not know what Jelawat is, let me assure you that it’s worth the 35-minute drive to Gopeng for this special fish. Avid foodie that I may be, I am loathe to drive for miles just to eat; nor do I queue in line for food, unlike the mile-long crowd currently doing that in Singapore at the two Michelin rated hawker stalls that have shot to instant international fame.

But drive I did at the insistence of my great foodie pal Ginla, this time joined by her husband Edward Foo, both of whom said that this Kristal Jade Restaurant in Gopeng is one of those ‘Die Die, Must Try’  variety. “Plus”, said Edward, who is quite the foodie himself, “I could never get Jelawat for this price in Ipoh. And it is fresh caught to boot.”

And the Jelawat we had was certainly fresh. And firm. The fish weighing 1.6kg, was steamed two ways; the first, with preserved black beans (Tao Si) and garlic was pungent, the black beans with its tinge of salty bitterness complementing the briny umami of the fish and the garlic obliterating any trace of fishiness. The second half was steamed plain Cantonese-style with soya sauce and topped with scallions. Whole fish RM76. Must order in advance. And they have other fish too.

We were a big group that evening and in total we had 13 dishes and just about every dish we had was rave worthy. So to accommodate the space available here I will only mention the few spectacular dishes that caught my fancy.

The Paku or Fern Kerabu (Salad) was refreshing topped with sliced raw shallots and crispy fried dried baby prawns – RM10. Their Yee Meen (a type of yellow noodle) which I am told is only available in Gopeng and does not contain boric acid (which apparently a lot of those being sold outside, do) was sauteed with fish paste slices and greens; velvety smooth, and deliciously umami – RM9.

Next was their cold sliced pork knuckle, tender slices still with the fat on, served with a garlic, chilli and vinegar dip. Yummilicious at RM29. Another two noodle dishes followed, the first their Fish Sauce Meehoon with bean sprouts and dried prawns was excellent, the taste and texture I still drool about in my mind as I write this – RM11. The second Meehoon was fried with preserved black beans, again tasty but the first meehoon gets my vote hands down – RM10.

Szechuan Chicken with chilli and garlic was fried just right with a mild crust and tender inside, not too sweet nor too hot – RM25. But the pièce de résistance  was their Mexico Sotong, crispy fried baby squid, coated with a piquant spicy sauce that was neither too sweet nor too spicy – RM25. Another dish I would drive to Gopeng to eat again.

Just as we were satiated and felt we couldn’t put one more bite into our mouths, one of the proprietors C.C. Low came over and suggested we try their Wu Tao Kao Yoke….Pork Belly braised with Taro in a preserved red bean sauce. Now that happens to be something I grew up with and it’s so difficult to find a good one so I immediately said yes. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The pork belly was tender, without being stringy, the taro soft and fluffy and the red bean sauce delectable – RM18.

This is one restaurant I will go the extra mile for.

Restoran Kristal Jade
302 Jalan Merdeka, Taman Gopeng Jaya, Gopeng.
Tel: 012 518 6171; 016 851 3037
GPS: E 101° 10’ 4.9  N 4° 27’ 52.9
Business hours: 5pm-1am daily
Closed: 2 days mid month, Wed/Thurs.