SeeFoon revisits old ground and finds new goodies

I have been meaning to revisit the almost ‘antique’ Teo Chiew Restaurant that I wrote about in the 16 November 2013 issue of Ipoh Echo but alas, contrary to what people believe and the question I am asked most “how do you find so many restaurants to write about?”, restaurants are aplenty in Ipoh and when one closes, a new one opens and I seldom find the time to revisit the restaurants I have reviewed.

That was what happened with Teo Chiew restaurant and when my foodie kaki Ginla Chiew told me excitedly about her latest find, the Hong Feng Restaurant which has replaced Teo Chiew, I couldn’t wait to visit. The old restaurant was quite dingy and was a fan-cooled-only coffee shop. Now the new Hong Feng (opened since January this year) has a sparkling air-conditioned section and an outdoor seating area… more comfortable by far but the question in my mind was, ‘Is the food quality as good?’; often a fate suffered by new ‘wannabes’ trying to break into the Ipoh food scene.

Well I was not disappointed. In fact the quality of food coming out of the kitchen was excellent on the two occasions I went to sample the food.

Manager Wong Yeng Hing was most attentive (not only to our table but to all the other tables there) and very willing to accept feedback. When we complained that one of the dishes served was too salty, he offered to replace it.

And the dishes were really very well plated…..none of the slap dash, dump it in the bowl or plate and put it on the table but each dish had very carefully arranged greens, flowers and one dish even had a heart made from sliced tomatoes. Kudos to the chef.

Now for the food itself.

Pork Belly with Fu Tsuk or dried bean sheets was melt-in-mouth tender, with the bean sheets providing just the right complementary blandness for absorbing the juices from the belly. Served in a heart made up of sliced tomatoes, it was a feast for the eyes as well as palate and great anticipation for Valentine’s Day which was just around the corner – RM18/27/36 for S/M/L.

Chicken chunks served in a fried Yam or Taro Bowl (Chinese Futt Put) was delectable with special credit going to the Taro which was well seasoned, crispy on the edges and satisfyingly soft and oozy on the inside. The chicken could have been deboned to provide for lazy diners like me – RM16/24/32 for S/M/L. There are over 13 styles of preparation for chicken alone and this particular one is not even on the printed menu. We also had their Smoked Chicken which was beautifully tender, served with a fermented bean curd sauce (Fu Yu). Very tasty. RM35 (half) and RM70 (whole).

The popular chicken curry wrapped in a whole bread (Mongolian bun) was beautifully presented with Wong meticulously opening up the bread and tucking in the sides presenting the whole dish like a flower. The bread was light and fluffy and the curry was spicy and creamy, redolent of coconut milk which they used liberally. Here finally is a chef who has come to his senses about using santan (coconut milk), as I was becoming quite exasperated with the evaporated milk which is often substituted in a lot of restaurants. Don’t people know that coconut milk is healthy and evaporated milk is not! RM 16/24/32 S/M/L extra RM15 for the Mongolian Bun topping.

The steamed fish which Wong called Cheong Sao Yu  (Orange Roughy) the longevity fish, steamed Cantonese style with soya sauce and topped with scallions, was firm fleshed but smooth and velvety in mouth feel – RM138.

They have a variety of different fish and it all depends on the ‘catch of the day”. Also they have Boston and Australian Lobsters, Spider and Australian King Crab, fresh oysters, geoduck and Scotland Bamboo clams all of which require advanced order and subject to availability and seasonal pricing.

I managed to taste some more seafood the following day when I went back for lunch. Their mud crabs were live and I chose to have it Yeem Cook or baked with salt without the interference of other condiments and spices. Yummilicious. RM75 per kg.

Next came the prawns (Meng Har or sea prawns) cooked Pei Fong Tong (typhoon shelter a’la Hong Kong) style, a recipe which brought back nostalgic memories of the evenings when friends and I would sit in a sampan and be rowed out to the cooking boats at the Hong Kong typhoon shelter (this was in the 70/80s) and sit under the stars eating delectable seafood. Today all that is left are memories and close facsimiles of the recipes. And the one at Hong Feng comes pretty close. Well not exactly a replica but a good blended taste nevertheless with lemon grass, dried and fresh chillies, garlic, shallots, dao tsi (dried black fermented beans) assam, and curry leaves providing a tasty coating to large ocean fresh prawns. 300g RM42.

For me the measure of a good kitchen is how well they do steamed eggs. Hong Feng’s Sam Wong Dan or Three King Steamed Egg with century, salted and fresh eggs was steamed to perfection, velvety smooth, silky consistency with just enough century and salted egg to not overpower the fresh, and just enough salt to add flavour. Someone at the table remarked that it tasted bland but then I reminded him that this was because there was no MSG in the dish and his palate had grown so accustomed to MSG – RM12.

We then had a braised tofu in claypot. The tofu was homemade, smooth, and cooked with fish slices, prawns and carrots. Delectable. RM12. We finished with the Wat Dan Hor and again they were very generous with the garnishing of the noodles with thick fish slices, prawns and a thick yummilicious egg sauce that was umami without help from MSG – RM12.

Personally I loved it. I did not have my usual MSG reaction the following day (my legs and ankles would swell to elephantine proportions) and taste of the dishes was robust without being overwhelming. I would come back here over and over again. I hope the quality of food will keep up as their popularity increases.

Restoran Hong Feng
10-Q Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (Maxwell Rd)
Tel: 05 506 3299
Manager Wong Yeng Hing:  011 1116 1148
Business hours: 11am-2.30pm and 5.30pm-11pm
Closed on ad hoc basis.
GPS:  N 04° 36.622’  E 101° 04.537’

SeeFoon seeks out auspicious food for Chinese New Year

This is the season for that delightful Chinese tradition of welcoming the new year with “Loh Hei” or the Prosperity Toss, the tossing of various ingredients symbolic of auspicious qualities that we pray will come our way. Not only is the ritual a wonderful form of fellowship as friends and families stand around the table lifting the ingredients with their chopsticks (Chinese salad tossing!) but as they voice the various chants of ‘good business’ ‘good health’ ‘smooth sailing’ ‘good results’, the camaraderie and ambiance generated are wonderfully uplifting.

And this is a dish that allows for a huge amount of creativity as to the ingredients. As long as there is the raw fish, Yu Sang (representing growth, abundance), other ingredients can be as interesting as the chef wishes it to be. The ritual is to toss the mixed ingredients high in the air with a shout of “Loh Hei” which literally means to “move upwards”. It is symbolic of the wish for our fortunes to rise and expand during the forthcoming year.

I recently had the pleasure to enjoy my first prosperity toss in anticipation of Chinese New Year at one of my favourite restaurants, Crab House in Ipoh Garden East. Fanny who is my ‘go-to’ person whenever I make a booking at Crab House, and her partner Ah Sing who helms the kitchen, are very creative and diligent about coming out with new dishes to tempt the jaded palates of their regulars.

For this coming celebratory season their Yu Sang has an added ingredient: fried fish skin. Together with the raw salmon and added pomelo, plus all the other must-haves like julienned carrots, white and green radish, sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, fried crisps and plum sauce, the resultant ‘salad’ has a taste and texture that is utterly yummilicious with the fish skin adding the extra crunch. RM48 small; RM68 large with salmon and fish skin; RM38 with salmon only.

Aside from all the usual goodies on offer at Crab House, (written about in issues 152 and 222) while you’re there, make a note to order another new dish which is their salted-egg-yolk-encrusted fish skin served with a mayo mixed salad of carrots and jicama. Crunchy, crispy and crackling.

Crab House will be open throughout the CNY celebrations.
32 Laluan Perajurit 1, Taman Ipoh Timur
Tel: Fanny Chan, 012-565 7723; W.S. Wang, 014-940 8500
GPS: N 4° 616 733, E 101° 125117
Open 7 days a week, 11am-2.30pm & 5.30pm-11pm

Continuing my search for auspicious foods for Chinese New Year, I went in search of fresh steamed fish which as we all know, can be exorbitant in most restaurants especially at this time of the year. In Chinese, fish “Yú” sounds like ‘surplus’ and to have a surplus augurs well for the rest of the year. Hence the wish for “nyen-nyen yo yoo” meaning “May you always have more than you need” is a familiar greeting during this period. And most people dining out during this season will always insist on fish. At a price.

So for a change of price and pace, yet still attracting all auspiciousness for the coming year, do go to Restaurant 226 in Chemor and have their Steamed Chili Fish. It is a ramshackle coffee shop about 300m from the traffic light intersection at Jalan Jelapang and Jalan Chemor. Their Steamed Chili Fish is worth the drive as is their price.

Known as the Fei Tsao Yu (African fish) this stall stocks live black Tilapia most of which are at least 2kg in size. At RM20 per kg, plus a cooking fee added, we had a 2kg-plus fish recently that was steamed to perfection. This was butterflied, and done yin yang style with one side topped with ginger and the other side with the addition of black beans (Dao Tse). Amy, the young lady who served us, explained that their ginger topping is not blended but rather chopped fine which makes a big difference in taste. Plus their use of Bentong ginger lends another dimension of flavour. Despite its size, the fish was tender and steamed to just the right degree of doneness. RM50 for a fish that was too much for five of us.

The whole purpose for coming here is for the fish but one can have accompanying vegetables with it as well as browse some of the other stalls for other nibbles. Try the braised chicken feet from a neighbouring stall selling yeong liew.

For me just the fish is enough “raison d’etre” for the drive.

Restoran 226
Jalan Jelapang, 300m to Chemor junction.
Choy Kee: 012 573 9825  to reserve your fish.
Business hours: 11.30-4pm. Closed Thursdays.
GPS:  E 101° 7’ 11.4”  N 4° 43’ 5.5”