SeeFoon Hots Up Her Life

Living in Malaysia, we are all used to spicy foods, with each type of cuisine from Malay to Indian and occasionally Chinese (as in Szechuan) varying the degree of ‘hotness’ according to the regional preference. Malay and Indian dishes are often tempered with a mixture of herbs and spices which tone down the fiery factor considerably but Thai food when it’s hot, it’s really hot.

As a group of us discovered recently at Lanna Thai, the new restaurant in Ipoh Garden East (opened in June 2016). With tears streaming down her eyes, Mei Kuan bravely soldiered on, all the while gulping gallons of water.

I am a chilli eater and it wasn’t a problem for me. But even then the Thai bird’s eye chillies can occasionally make me hold my breath. Readers can relax though as you can request for the degree of intensity in the dishes when you order. I stipulated no sugar and no MSG which to my delight, the kitchen complied and I found myself in bliss land a’la Bangkok. The whole crew from the kitchen and serving staff are all Thai, a relative of the owner Pim who is married to an Ipohite. Hence the sweet touch in all their dishes which in Thailand is a common trend as the Thais love their sugar.

On to the dishes. The substantial menu is a thick rolodex with pictures. All my Thai favourites were there as I proceeded to order up a storm.

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

We began with the green papaya salad, Som Tum with salted egg. The normal papaya salad is usually just papaya with garlic, tomatoes, peanuts, and some long beans tossed in a wooden mortar and pestle with palm sugar, fish sauce, some dried prawns and lime juice. This is an ubiquitous specialty which you see on many a sidewalk in Bangkok and many a Thai ladies’ favourite diet food. The addition of salted egg lifted it to another level, lending another layer of taste and texture to the dish which was even more delectable – RM14.

The next dish is one of my favourites and something I always order when I’m in Bangkok and it is the Kor Mu Yang or grilled pork neck. I have seldom found a good one outside of Thailand but here at Lanna Thai, it’s done to perfection. The neck has a layer of fat around it which cocoons the meat in the middle and after grilling still stays succulent and tender. This is served with a tangy, spicy dip which can be tempered to your degree of spiciness. This is usually eaten with sticky rice but as we had a whole lot of further dishes to go, we skipped it – RM15.

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

More porkiness followed with another of my favourites, the Nam Tok which is grilled sliced pork tossed with fish sauce, chili flakes, lime juice, finely slivered kaffir lime leaves, sliced shallots and topped with ground roasted sticky rice, lending a grainy texture to the meat – RM15.

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

The prawn cakes arrived piping hot, served with a sweet dip which I avoided (only because I dislike sweets) and were bouncy and had a bite to it, a sure sign of a good chef. Not spicy – RM20.

The next few dishes were all salads as I love the Thai salads and can just make a meal on them. The seafood salad had chunks of squid and prawns, ocean fresh from the market and was seasoned perfectly with the usual fish sauce, lime juice, sliced shallots, chillies, garlic and a tad of sugar – RM18. This was followed by the Yum Woon Sen or Bean vermicelli salad with similar dressing but with the addition of garlic pips, julienned carrots, scallions, dried shrimp and a teeny bit of minced pork. They were very generous with the prawns and squid too – RM18. And it’s a meal in itself. Good thing I had the Echo team to share.

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh
Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

The final salad to arrive was the four-angled bean salad tossed in a different sauce this time. The beans were cut into small pieces and combined with minced pork with thick coconut cream drizzled on top and served with boiled egg – RM15.

And just as we were getting satiated, along came the pièce de résistance which was the Hor Mok. Similar to our otak-otak, the Thai version is inimitable and the Hor Mok at Lanna Thai is without peer. Here was a coconut-ty spicy egg custard chockful and brimming with seafood, this Hor Mok instead of either being steamed in banana leaf, or as in Thailand, in specially designed clay vessels, this was steamed in a whole young coconut which gave us the added bonus of scooping spoonfuls of young coconut flesh out with the custard. And did I mention that the taste was yummilicious? RM25 (RM20 in aluminium foil).

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh
Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

Finally, how can we leave a Thai restaurant without eating their most famous dessert of Mango and Sticky Rice (RM12.50)? This we finished with alacrity and wished we had the stomach for more.

Even as I sit here writing this, I find myself drooling over the remembered tastes and textures and I cannot wait to go back for yet another taste treat. I can certainly recommend Lanna Thai to my readers. If you’re not into sugar, then make sure you tell them when you’re ordering. Same goes for MSG and how spicy you want your food. Pim the owner and manager will be too willing to oblige as will all their staff.

Lanna Thai Restaurant
6 Jalan Medan Ipoh 9, Taman Medan Ipoh.
Pim’s tel:  019 462 8489
Business hours:  11am-11pm
Mondays closed.

SeeFoon Goes to H(e)aven

Well it feels a bit like going to heaven (not that I have ever been and chances are, I may not make it!) what with the guard at the gate acting like St Peter (who, in the Christian tradition, guards the pearly gates to Heaven) but the fact is that you cannot get into The Haven unless you’re a resident, a guest in their Suites or a friend who is resident or one of the staff has invited you. So tight is their security that eating at their Cuisines Poolside Restaurant can be a tad challenging.

But it’ll be all worth the effort especially in the evening when you can sit under the stars by the poolside; gaze at the majestic 280 million-year-old rock, from the Palaeozoic period, before the time of the dinosaurs, soaring 14 storeys high and rising mysteriously from the depths of the natural lake surrounded by pristine virgin jungle; sip your glass of red or white (outside on the terrace only as inside is strictly Halal) and enjoy your meal one dish at a time.

Such is the ambiance of the Haven that it might even be worth spending a night or two to enjoy all the facilities that this resort has to offer. Make it an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life (which is actually not so far away as Ipoh town is but a 10- minute drive).

The Haven has managed to create a cocoon of serenity far from the madding crowd and Chairman Peter Chan has worked incessantly hard at bringing the menu at Cuisines Restaurant to a level of quality worthy of praise.

There is only one word to describe the menu at Cuisines: and that is eclectic, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as: selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods or styles.

The Cuisines menu is eclectic in that it has selected items to suit every taste, palate and fancy, from Western to Chinese to Indian and local. And the Chefs (each ethnic cuisine having its own chef) have worked very hard to achieve standards comparable to some of the better versions outside, in some cases even topping those considered top of the heap.

A case in point is their Hainanese Chicken Rice which on their menu is called the Haven Chicken Rice. The chicken used here is no ordinary chicken but a ‘woo so’ chicken which is known for having firm tastier meat served with plump crunchy bean sprouts and a delectable double boiled chicken soup which was umami and fragrant. I normally never touch the soup when I eat chicken rice for fear of the usual MSG reaction to which I’m highly prone, but in this case because Cuisines Restaurant has a strict no MSG policy I could finish all of the soup with carefree impunity. And because chicken rice for me is mainly about the chilli sauce and the ginger sauce, the serving with both sauces done the way I’m partial to was h(e)avenly – RM24.

The Chicken Soup which has added chicken chunks and vegetables can also be had as a starter or a light meal with white rice – RM20. The Crab Meat Soup seasoned with dried scallops  was umami, has the right consistency with just the right amount of thickening and egg white and very generous amounts of fresh crab meat – RM28.

I also tried the Rasam, an Indian herbal soup, on a separate occasion (I have eaten there on quite a few occasions) and found it tasty, umami and had just the right degree of spiciness and tartness – RM16.

Other items on the menu that I would recommend include the Pesto Penne which was al dente and the pesto sauce was robust. The addition of olives and tomato lifted the sauce and gave it the zest that was needed – RM28. Another pasta dish that was excellent was the Seafood Pasta with pesto. The prawns were firm and fresh but remember to ask for the spaghetti al dente – RM34.

I did mention that the menu was eclectic so it was a pleasant surprise to find some middle eastern dishes on the menu like their trio of Mezze dishes consisting of Hummus (chickpea puree with olive oil, garlic, tahini and lemon juice); Moutabal (roasted eggplant puree with same recipe) and Lebanese Tabbouleh, a chopped parsley salad with tomato, couscous, olive oil, spices and lemon juice. All three served with pita bread. I particularly liked the Tabbouleh which was most refreshing and one of the best I’ve had – RM14 each.

Other middle eastern dishes also included Chicken (RM26) and Beef Shawarma (RM44) with NZ beef; and the Chicken Shish Tawook (on skewers), all marinated and all three served with a tasty garlic mayonnaise, french fries and grilled cherry tomatoes.

For snacks or as appetizer I can highly recommend their Beef Fingers, strips of NZ Beef battered and deep fried, served with a Thai Chilli sauce – RM18 and their Fungi Fritters, crispy morsels of oyster mushroom served with a mint mayonnaise dip – RM15. Lastly their Buffalo Wings, well marinated Texas-style  deep-fried chicken wings served with their homemade chilli sauce and mint mayo – RM18. They also have a very tasty chicken or beef pepperoni pizza oozing with cheese but I found the base too soft for my liking – RM12.

One item that I consider ‘must have’ on their menu is their Wat Dan Hor a soupy (wet gravy not soup) Cantonese style wok fried flat rice noodles with fresh prawns chicken, squid, fish cake and greens served in a slurp worthy thick and and creamy egg gravy. It promises on the menu to be naturally flavoured with no additives or artificial flavourings. And they keep their promises as I could eat every mouthful of it without allergic consequences – RM28.

I could go on and on but due to space constraints (and I haven’t even touched on their main western dishes of grilled lamb chops, steaks, grilled catch of the day, hamburgers etc. etc. – it’s all here on the menu), I will only mention the last dish that I feel is worth driving there for and that is their Singapore Laksa. This is thick smooth rice noodles (Lai Fun) in a coconut fish-based soup that is mildly spicy garnished with fresh prawns, tofu puffs, shredded chicken and hard-boiled egg. There is even a challenge on the menu daring Singapore to compete with them on this dish – RM24.

And don’t forget dessert (the Lava Cake is yummilicious) – RM12.

So dear followers of this column, if a wide selection of tasty dishes is up your alley, consider taking advantage of their promotional rates and spend a night (or two) at the Haven and enjoy all the facilities and eat to your heart’s content without having to drive anywhere. Be Indian at lunch, Chinese at breakfast and Western for dinner. Or throw caution to the wind and eat eclectically!

Current suite promotion (January-March 2017) rates start from RM380+ for a one bedroom suite (900 sq.ft.), and from RM600+ for a 2 and 3 bedroom suite (From 1000 sq.ft. – 2000 sq.ft.).