Makan Nyonya: SeeFoon finds Nyonya Heaven and wants to stay there

I know that Ipoh is a food and foodie paradise but oftentimes, I have to trek to different places to satisfy either my, or my visitors’ insatiable appetites for all the iconic foods that Ipoh is renowned.

A recent discovery has settled all that for me and I can take my visitors to one restaurant and they can order and try different foods to their heart’s content. And I am not speaking of a coffee shop where diverse stalls ply their specialties. Often, I find myself going to one coffee shop for a particularly famous specialty in one stall but am left high and dry for sampling other dishes because the other stalls are frightfully mediocre in their offerings.

Much to my delight, this is not so at Makan Nyonya, a newly-opened restaurant where the menu is extensive and the quality of each item well above average with some even superlative. Now I am talking about Ipoh’s iconic foods like Curry Mee, Asam Laksa, Lum Meen and Kuih Muih and the list goes on and on. So now I won’t have to run around to different places for different items. It is all under one well decked out roof.

And it all comes out of one kitchen under the watchful eye of Nyonya Chef par excellence, Jason Chai, proprietor and head chef who picked up all his cooking skills at a young age  from his mother. Jason who was working in Singapore, had to come back to Ipoh to take care of his mother when she fell ill and as they say, Singapore’s loss is Ipoh’s gain and with this Ipoh boy come home to roost, we have gained another great eating spot.

We went with our usual troupe from the Echo office and tried as many of the dishes on offer for that day, beginning with Nyonya Vinegar Pig’s Trotters (Tsu Geok Tso) which was beautiful – neither too sweet nor too sour, the trotters braised to a tender and succulent texture and served with fragrant Thai rice and vegetable of the day – RM7.50.

Makan Nyonya IpohNext was their signature Nasi Rendang, fragrant rice coloured with the Bunga Telang or butterfly pea flower extract (which they sell in bottles for tea at home) and served with Chicken Rendang and not one but two sambals, one ikan  bilis and the other nyonya. This was different from the usual Nasi Lemak, both in presentation and taste. Excellent at RM5.

The menu items are almost too many to write in detail here and I will list here some of my favourites. Their Penang Nyonya Hokkien Mee, spicy prawn broth served over a selection of local noodles with prawns, kangkong (water spinach) and bean sprouts and their Nyonya ‘Lam Mee’ aka Penang Birthday Noodle, prawn broth base with Chinese wine served over a selection of local noodles with prawns, ‘Ku Cai’ (Chinese chives) and fat Ipoh bean sprouts. Both RM5.

We had their Laksa, both Asam (good with kembong fish tamarind broth) and Lemak described as Nyonya Laksa Lemak, a coconut milk curry “Hae Bee Hiam” (dried prawn base) broth served over famous Gopeng Rice noodle aka thick version of “Bee Hoon” aka ‘Lai Fun’ RM5.

Makan Nyonya IpohTheir Char Kueh Teow wok fried with prawn oil, Chye Poh (preserved Chinese radish) to perfection and served with prawns, fish cake and large eggs and their signature Power Cili Garam. This had good ‘wok hei’ and well worth the RM5.50.

I spied some ‘Tsong’ (glutinous rice dumplings) at the counter and immediately asked for one. Apparently the type of dumpling changes day by day. On this day, it was the one with ‘mei dao’ or black eyed peas mixed with glutinous rice and stuffed with a generous amount of pork, pork fat and salted egg. Well-seasoned and extremely tasty – RM7.

Makan Nyonya IpohThe pièce de résistance came in the form of a Kuih Muih platter where we could taste one portion of their variety of the day. Ours arrived with Lo Bak Ko (white radish cake), excellent; Rempah Udang (glutinous rice with spicy dried prawn filling wrapped in banana leaf), also superlative; Kuih Talam (coconut cream on top and green glutinous rice below); red bean cake; and a host of other goodies which changes from day to day. These items are ordered separately. And their Bubur chacha is wonderful too!

Makan Nyonya’s menu is inexhaustible. The special items change from day to day and it’s worth going on different days of the week to check out these specials. This will definitely become my ‘flavour of the month’ for the next months to come. And the best part of all, no MSG, the bane of my culinary journey!

Makan Nyonya
#57 Laluan Tasek Timur 3 (behind Tesco Extra in Bercham)
Pusat Perdagangan Tasek Indra, 31400 Ipoh.
Business hours: 7am-3pm Closed Mondays
Tel: Jason 016 597 4848

Belfield Road: SeeFoon Ventures into Old Town

Ipoh is now HOT. I am not referring to the weather. Thanks to Lonely Planet’s accolade placing it as 6th best place in the world to visit in 2016 and the efforts made by Perak Tourism in this year’s Visit Perak Year 2017, Ipoh is being “re-discovered” as “THE” place to visit, explore and eat.

Today, Ipoh’s old town has been transformed. The plethora of cafes, boutique hotels and restaurants abound, side by side with the ‘Lo Chiew Pai’ coffee shops and up market restaurants. Which makes me avoid Old Town on weekends….packed with hordes of tourists, all agog with what to buy, where to go, what to see and where to eat.

Wonderful for the proprietors I say but I prefer the relative quiet of a weekday to explore and enjoy Old Town and to discover some of the new places that have sprung up. One of these is Belfield Road.

Opened since 2016, Belfield Road is the third of Kenneth Lee’s Food and Beverage ventures in Ipoh. Having successfully operated Patisserie Boutique across the road and Milk Cow next door, Kenneth admits to Belfield Road being an opportunity to cater to pork lovers.

Here the menu is hearty, from all-day brunch to appetizing appetizers; hunks of meat, be it lamb, pork, chicken or fish and voluptuous desserts served in irresistible ways that tempt even a non-dessert eater like me.

Belfield Rd, Belfield Road

1980s Benedict, with back bacon, homemade hollandaise on English muffin was a treat reminiscent of the good ole’ days when one threw caution to the wind, and weight was never an issue – RM19. The same goes for their signature Belfield Big B’fast, an over-the-top offering consisting of scrambled egg, streaky bacon, back bacon, Belfield sausage (imported pork banger) baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, coconut croissant, chips and lavender honey creme brulee. Now if that isn’t a mouthful of a description, try eating it! I would safely say that this is a portion meant for two, if you have an average appetite like me. Very tasty though, the combination of sweet melding well with the savoury – RM30. For those looking for a lighter bite, I’d recommend the signature Smashing Avocado, honey glazed bacon on a bed of mashed avocado and feta cheese served on a sourdough toast and topped with a poached egg – RM19.

Belfield Rd, Belfield Road

One appetizer that caught my eye was the Burgundy Escargot, another of their signature dishes which I have not seen on any other menu in Ipoh. Escargot, or snails, are a real delicacy and the ones served at Belfield Road are as delicious as any I’ve eaten especially in France where they are popular. These are also prepared in the French fashion, with herb garlic butter, a touch of cream and blue cheese and served with herby, crusty breadsticks – RM18.

Belfield Rd, Belfield Road

The ‘Sheep In The House’, a 270g NZ lamb steak, marinated overnight in the Belfield signature rub, charred on the grill and served with mint sauce, Thai salad and fries was fragrant and juicily tender, grilled medium rare (you can choose) – RM65.

Belfield Rd, Belfield Road

The 200g Iberico Pork Steak pan-seared and fork-tender, was served with a curried pumpkin mash (yummilicious), a soya reduction and Thai mango salad. The curation, with the soya reduction which accentuated the already umami flavour of this Spanish pork combined with the curried pumpkin mash offset by the tartness of the Thai mango salad was perfect – RM58.

Belfield Rd, Belfield Road

The Paulaner Pork Rib, a sharing for three to four people was way over the top for our small group but we soldiered on. A whole rib of pork, marinated overnight in Paulaner wheat beer and spices, grilled and basted with Belfield’s special smoke-infused sparkling wine sauce arrived fall-off-the-bone-tender and it was such a pity we couldn’t do justice to this delectable hunk of grilled goodness – RM77.

Belfield Rd, Belfield Road

And then it was dessert time! Thank goodness Kenneth only ordered one for us and this was not only a sweet mouthful but a spectacle in itself. A chocolate brownie topped with one scoop of gelato, it arrived on a sizzling pan and a shot of peanut butter cream was poured in. The resultant sizzle and smoke created when cream hit pan resulted in an indescribable gooey crust at the bottom of the pan which we all tucked into with gusto. Unforgettable.

Belfield Road
No. 3 Jalan Panglima, 30000 Ipoh.
Tel: 017 558 8897
Business hours: Mon-Fri 11am-10pm;
Sat-Sun 10am-10pm
Closed Tuesdays Rd.