SeeFoon wallows in all her childhood hawker foods
Pictures by Yugin
The tiger is one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals. People born in the year of the tiger are thought to be competitive, self-confident and brave.
For Sally Wong to call her newly-opened restaurant Little Tiger is a call to the Foodies of Ipoh and beyond, that there is a restaurant that can hold its own in our highly diverse food paradise and where local palates are mercurial and extremely critical.
But Little Tiger can definitely hold its head up high and soon count itself among the luminaries in the Ipoh hawker food scene.
For me, the fact that it is air-conditioned is already a plus point. The decor is cheerful with tropical beach scenes along one wall complete with coconut palms and when you take a photo beside the wall, people will think you’re at some idyllic beach location. The tables are clothed in batik, topped with glass and the serving bowls are all porcelain. Not that that matters of course when it comes to eating out. It’s the quality of food that counts and here it doesn’t disappoint.
Also, their pricing is reasonable . . . and yes you can get the same dishes outside for less but consider the heat, the jostling for tables and the waiting, not to mention the hygiene; and Little Tiger wins hands down.
With a partner/Chef Raymond Khoo who hails from Penang, their Char Kway Teow (one of my fave hawker dishes) comes with cockles, Chinese sausage and fresh medium-sized prawns. Fried just the way I like it . . . dry, not sweet, with oodles of chilli sauce fried with the noodles and not on the side, lots of bean sprouts and the pièce de résistance, a generous topping of chu yau char or fried lardons, RM9.90. The last time I ordered this I emphasised to the chef to make it extra hot but still it wasn’t spicy enough. I guess people don’t realise what an insane chilli palate I have!
Social media and also some of my friends were not impressed by the food when they went in the early days of opening (only around two months) but they have certainly picked up speed and most of the items I tasted a week ago were “must come back to eat again” quality.
Like the Vinegar Trotters, not too sour, not too sweet, the trotter chunks braised to the right degree of tenderness, the skin clean and without hair, RM15.90.
Their Chicken Curry was excellent, with their own distinctive blend of curry paste and served with potatoes in the gravy, RM8.90. This curry can be eaten with plain rice or their toasted bread which was crunchily crispy and is also part of a set with half-boiled eggs or it can be eaten with their Nasi Lemak served with either blue (from blue pea flower) or turmeric rice.
The sambal in the Nasi Lemak set was delicious, in the old sambal belacan style, the rice had adequate santan but the only disappointment was their ikan bilis and peanuts, (why did they add sugar?) and the ikan bilis was not crispy, RM13.90.
Their homemade Lobak (meat paste wrapped in bean skin and deep-fried) was tasty, redolent with 5-spice powder and actually for my taste, quite lean. Fat averse eaters will be pleased to know this, RM9.90.
Two of my favourite noodle dishes followed. The first, a Fried Prawn Mee was yummilicious. Soaking in prawn broth yet, fried to a point to allow the broth to be absorbed into the mix of meehoon and yellow mee, the prawns were medium-sized, with bits of pork, greens, egg, and served with a superlative dry sambal which imbued the noodles with an extra layer of yum. And need I mention chu yau char . . . a generous topping of them, RM9.90.
Equally laudable was their soup Prawn Mee, the stock simmered with prawn shells and pork bones, again embellished by the addition of their delicious dried prawn sambal, served with bean sprouts and kangkong and good-sized prawns which were very fresh. With the NO MSG sign printed on their menu, I found I could dare slurp the soup with equanimity, RM9.90.
They also have Tai Luk Meen, a thick wheat noodle pan-fried with a dark soya sauce with the usual garnitures, RM9.90.
Then came the desserts, a tempting plate of Kuih Muih to choose from. The selection will vary from day to day and as these are all homemade, the taste and texture were all superlative. It was a hard decision but as we were a fair-sized group we managed to select a sampling and tucked in. I particularly enjoyed the Kueh Talam and the Ubi Kayu (tapioca) topped with coconut, RM1.50-RM2 each.
LITTLE TIGER CHAR KOEY TEOW
98 Jalan Raja Ekram, Kampung Jawa, 30450 Ipoh.
Tel: 012 516 9833
Daily (8am-4pm, 6pm-10pm)
2 days off every 2 weeks.