Pictures by Gisele Soo
Zui Le Xuan
SeeFoon finds herself in “Love at First Bite”
We have all heard about love at first sight but has anyone ever fallen in love at first bite? I am not referring to your dining companion nor Dracula but falling in love with the food.
I first tasted Zui Le Xuan’s Dim Sum two years ago, fell in love with the quality and freshness and I have remained enamoured ever since.
Proprietress Lam May Foong (Ah Foong) has become a friend and we chat nineteen to a dozen whenever I go there, she being solicitous and introducing new items or urging me to try this or that. For Ah Foong, it’s never a case of totting up a big bill but rather her sheer joy at watching people enjoy her tasty morsels.
And tasty they certainly are.
It is rare to find a Dim Sum restaurant where they make their own Dim Sum rather than steam or fry up prepared ones from a factory. Zui Le Xuan is one of these. And Dim Sum is hard to make, what with the variety of items, the need for freshness and the delicacy of the various fillings, pastries and wraps. But this is all a snap for the owner Chan Kam (Ah Foong’s hubby) as he comes from years of experience in Dim Sum making, having worked as #1 chef at Foh San for many years.
The variety here is endless with items changing every day. All the classics of Har Gao, Siew Mai, Char Siew Pau and Wu Kok are here and are top notch but it’s the specials which I found exciting. My favourites like the large Phoenix Balls, redolent with 5-spice powder, and generously lardy for a smooth mouthfeel, RM5. This is hardly found anywhere else as the “fashion” in Dim Sum has changed over the years, and nobody remembers them nor do they ask for them. Other favourites like ginger chicken pao (see video) are excellent at RM2.50 each , minced ginger oozing from the centre as you bite into it; Tsang Fah Gao (orange flower ball) or meatball rolled in rice krispies and deep fried, RM4; Gai Woh (Chicken Nest) Pao with glutinous rice, black mushrooms, carrots and chicken, RM5; excellent fish balls at RM4.50 for two; Steamed Minced Pork topped with century egg, RM5. And the list goes on and on. Each one is as good as the one preceding. Changing daily.
This time after MCO and not having been there in more than 5 months, I was immediately presented with their new items, like the Heong Sai Gao dumplings with prawn, mushroom, and meat, RM6; Chive Dumpling (I loved this one so much I ordered some to take home, froze them and steamed up again and they were just as good as eating in the shop), with chopped chives, with meat and prawns. The pastry was thicker than a Har Gau pastry and the filling was umami and beautifully seasoned, RM6.
Another dumpling that blew me away was the Black Garlic Siew Mai at RM6. The black garlic, which is renowned for its health giving properties, was strong but umami and combined with the fillings of meat and very fresh and succulent prawns was positively ambrosial.
The Pei Dan Guen, black century egg combined with fish pastry and deep fried, was interesting; crispy on the outside, springy from the fish paste. The century egg added a new dimension, its earthy, ammonia-ey smell masked by the slices of pickled ginger added inside the roll. I love century eggs so it was perfect for me but some of my dining companions were not so keen, RM5.
The meat pie (Gai Sou), another new item, was lovely; slightly sweet minced meat, encased in very crumbly and fluffy pastry, RM2.50. Worth ordering home.
Then came a pao like no other. The first and only one in Ipoh, this was a pao filled with cream cheese that oozes out as you break it apart (see video). Not too sweet, it was an appropriate ending to our groaning table, RM2.50.
For a refreshing mouthfeel, we ended with the Osmanthus Jelly (Gwai Fah Go), chock full of goji berries, longan and other goodies. Not too sweet and certainly a great way to end the meal, RM4.50.
Zui Le Xuan does a lot of catering and if you go for their Dim Sum, do “TaPau” your favourite items. If Ah Foong has them available she will even let you take home the uncooked item and give you cooking instructions.
28 Jalan Ng Seong Teik, Taman Pertama, 30100 Ipoh, Perak.
(First Garden next to GP Food Court)
N 4° 36.262, E 101° 3.368
7am-2pm, closed on Tuesdays
Check out The Foodie’s Guide to Ipoh’s Best Eats 2 for more Ipoh eats recommended by SeeFoon, available for purchase at a special discounted price now! Message us on Facebook for inquiries and orders!