Help the Small Businesses: Star Mansion

Pictures by Gisele Soo

Star Mansion

Looking for a corporate meeting space or a quiet lunch or dinner and where the kids can run around and where social distancing is possible and available? Look no further than Star Mansion, where the large garden is safe and private, the inside cool and air conditioned, and the kiddies can ooh and ahh at the humongous teddy bear and other toys at the entrance. 

The menu is large and eclectic, covering a range of cuisines from Japanese, to local to western to pizza to burgers appealing to all tastes and palates. 

The tendency of the kitchen is for most dishes, aside from desserts, to be on the sweet side, so tell them to ease off on the sugar if sweetness is not on your palate. Their flower tea is sugar optional though, and has a very clean taste to balance any heaviness in the food.

This restaurant is pork free so Muslims can dine here freelywhich is quite often, as proprietor Christine Tan Lai Yee shared. On her choice of the name for the restaurant; she said, “Stars symbolise hope, joy and fun. I wish to make Star Mansion a fun and joyous mansion for all my customers.” And stars there are galore.

Blooming flower tea

Christine takes pride in their teas, some simple like the Lanhua Xiang (RM8) which promises no additives, or the Oolong Tie Guan Yin (RM6) which has slimming properties, to the spectacular Fancy Corbeil Blooming Flower tea (see pic) which starts as a dried up leaf ball, suddenly blossoming into this magnificent art in a glass after a few minutes. The bonus to this flower is the fact that it still tastes good even to the 10th re-steeping!! Although who would drink that much tea in one sitting is beyond me! But if you’re looking for a place and a beverage to sit with your friend to natter, gossip or share experiences, then Star Mansion and the Blooming flower tea is your answer. RM12.80 per bloom/pot.

And the tea list goes on and on, not to mention the shakes, juices, mocktails, and cocktails.

Savouries are a huge list. I had the feeling we tried most of their items at one sitting! Their Ayam Berempah is marinated for two days using lemongrass and Bentong Halia or Bentong Ginger. Served with their homemade sauce,rice and pickles, RM19.90.

Nasi ayam berempah
Okonomiyaki chuka idako

We also tried their Okonomiyaki chuka idako, a very popular Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients in a wheat-flour-based batter. At Star Mansion it is topped with  cabbage, teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, wakame, baby octopus and onion, RM14.90.

The made to order Hawaiian Cheese pizza had a crispy base and was very generous with the cheese, RM12.90.

We then tried the Cheesy style abalone and shrimps fried rice where the rice was first fried and then baked with a cheese topping. Tasty at RM19.90. Eating this together with the Cordyceps flower coconut chicken Soup (which usually comes with its own serving of rice) was an interesting experience. Slightly sweet with black bean, red date, brown date, and the chewy cordycep flower with its bright orange hue boiled with coconut water. Very delicious, RM12.80.

Cheesy style abalone shrimps fried rice

Lemongrass chicken on skewers Chiangmai style, were redolent with guess what, lemongrass of course, which gave the minced chicken loads of flavour. Sprinkled with sesame seeds, the skewers of lemon grass stalks needed no additional sauce. Available at RM16.90 for 5 pcs, it’s great as a starter or a snack at any time of day.

Lemongrass chicken mince

You can have an all day American breakfast for RM23.90, as well as their High tea set of chocolate mousse, ganache tarts, macarons, cream puffs, cake, steamed buns, and croissants. The price for the high tea set varies depending on the accompanying beverage, starting at RM19.90 per person.  

For dessert we savoured their Ginger sticky rice served with a combination of kelapa palut (desiccated coconut) and fried gula melaka as well as some sambal sauce. An interesting blend of sweet and savoury, RM9.90. This was followed by the Thai sticky rice flavoured with pandan, served with mango, coconut milk, and desiccated coconut, the classic Thai dessert that everyone who visits Thailand will seek out, RM9.90.

Thai sticky rice with pandan

Address:
161, Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil, Greentown, 30450 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
Open everyday
11.30am-10pm, last order at 9pm
Takeaway and delivery available. 

For inquiries:
018-328 1168

Help the Small Businesses: Yin’s Sourdough Pizza and Cafe

Pictures by Gisele Soo

Yin’s Sourdough Pizza and Cafe

SeeFoon Loves Pizza

Yes I do but often it doesn’t love me back. Bloating, acid reflux and general malaise are the consequences of my gorging on pizza. Whether it’s a combination of the dough base or the cheese, I am often leery of this high fat and high carb meal. 

But now with Yin’s Sourdough Pizzas I can indulge in one of my favourite foods with impunity. Because a sourdough base, which is more digestible than standard white flour, renders the gluten in flour more digestible and less likely to cause food intolerance. It is also more nutritious.

Sourdough is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. The oldest recorded use of sourdough is from the Ancient Egyptian civilizations and as most things, it was probably discovered by accident. There appears to be a renaissance of sourdough bread popularity here in Ipoh and I am ever grateful for it. 

Commercial Bread

So what are the reasons for this resurgence in popularity? What’s wrong with commercial bread? Well for starters (pun intended), commercial bread has been reported to contain a few ‘nasties’, as in chemical additives and preservatives. Additives like potassium bromate an oxidising agent; Azodicarbonamide (ADA) a dough conditioner to improve the texture and strength of bread dough, which received tremendous media attention when the sandwich chain Subway announced it would remove ADA from its bread dough due to its potential harmful health effects. Partially hydrogenated oil which contains trans fats that everyone knows by now, are dangerous to the heart; sugar; Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) an antioxidant which prevents rancidity, used as a preservative; and the list goes on.

And then there is the big question of gluten intolerance and sometimes celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.

What makes sourdough bread so special?

Sourdough often has a lower glycaemic index than that of other breads – meaning, it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically. Hence, it is a better choice for diabetics or people who are borderline diabetic. Sourdough bread contains the friendly bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More Lactobacillus means higher production of lactic acid, which means less of the potentially dangerous phytic acid. And what does that mean? More mineral availability and easier digestion! Easier digestion is made even more possible by the bacteria-yeast combo working to predigest the starches in the grains. Predigestion by sourdough equals less digestion for you.

Acetic acid–which inhibits the growth of mold, is produced in the making of sourdough. So, sourdough naturally preserves itself. Rather wonderful considering the toxic preservatives thrown into the food supply today. Additionally, these bacteria control yeast population in the gut, so yeast overgrowth and infection is less likely to occur.

Health Factors

Sourdough is so complex that it contains a host of goodness in terms of nutrients. In sourdough, you can find vitamins B1-B6, B12, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium (some of these in fairly tiny amounts) – in addition to uniquely balanced proteins and fatty acids. This is in contrast to most commercially produced breads, which maintain only a fraction of their original nutrient content after all the processing they undergo.

Sourdough fermentation may also help make wheat bread easier for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to digest. One study found that sourdough bread made with a long fermentation time produced fewer symptoms (such as bloating and gas) than conventionally made bread.

In a study comparing the effects of sourdough bread with commercial bread, researchers reported that sourdough bread significantly lowered serum glucose and insulin responses and gave greater satisfaction than other breads.Researchers in Sweden at Lund University have noted that the fermentation process that’s involved in the creation of sourdough utilises carbohydrates, lowering the carbohydrate level in the dough as it’s transformed to lactic acid. The result of this process means that sourdough bread can aid in ensuring that your blood glucose level remains in line, helping to guard against various diseases especially diabetes.

So enough with the health information and back to Yin’s Sourdough. The restaurant is conveniently housed in a bungalow on Jalan Lasam, very accessible and has ample parking spaces. Adhering to strict SOPs means that the tables are spaced far apart and the whole ambiance is light and airy.

Four young partners make up the proprietors with YH Liew as the primary manager and Edwin Lau also in the operations manager capacity. Liew who took care of us the moment we arrived and after the de rigeur temperature taking and sign in, proceeded to recommend some of their signature pizzas and dishes.  

Liew recommended that we try their homemade kefir which is something I love as the probiotic bacteria in kefir is so healthy for one’s gut. All drinks are prepared without sugar utilising the natural sugars in fruits as in the Avocado Banana Kefir, a drink which I found totally delicious but which the sweet lover amongst our dear readers may find a bit bland.. (I am sure they’ll bring you sugar if you so wish) RM15.

Matcha latte

Others at my table ordered an Apple orange paleo smoothie (RM11) and a Matcha latte (RM12) which they all found to be yummy.

Then came the pizzas….what I had been looking forward to. Liew’s favourite which he insisted we had to try was the Satay Chicken Pizza, RM30, with chicken satay drenched in  peanut sauce on sourdough base. An interesting combination.

The next pizza was even more unusual: a banana/kaya pizza which they call Golden Indulgence. Again it was interesting and combined with the sourdough base, slightly burnt in parts, lending a crisp touch to the taste, RM23.

Golden Indulgence (Banana kaya pizza)

I wanted to try a simple Margarita Pizza which arrived topped with cheese and with the sourdough combination was utterly delightful, RM23.

Margarita pizza

More sourdough in the form of a bagel made into a sandwich. With homemade luncheon meat, the bagel topped with poppy seeds and the sandwich stuffed with a slice of cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Crispy, crunchy and well worth the RM10.

Bagel luncheon

We next had the Alaskan pollock sourdough burger with blossom fries, crispy fillets of fish served in a sourdough bun and an interesting papaya and tomato jam, RM20. 

Alaskan Pollock sourdough burger with blossom fries

Moving away from the sourdough for a bit, we had the Chicken Cordon Bleu, chicken breast stuffed with cheese, rolled in sourdough breadcrumbs and deep fried. Served with blossom fries which are sweet potato strips fried…crisp and yummilicious, RM23.

Chicken cordon bleu with blossom fries

This was followed by the Angel Hair pasta with grilled veggies, with fresh homemade pesto and the pasta al dente, RM16.

Grilled veggie pesto

We were then served a platter of different slices of their daily mix of sourdough bread with a mix of different spreads of the day, RM6. On that day we savoured their peanut butter spread, cheesy kaya and their papaya nutmeg with marmalade. The peanut butter spread is available for sale at RM13 a jar. Almond spread, as well as pineapple and lemongrass jam are also available at times. 

Mixed toast platter

Their sourdough bread is available for takeaway everyday till sold out and they have quite a variety to choose from. While their loaves are available daily, their specialty breads are mostly made to order. Their breads change from day to day so make your selection when you pick up.

For me, on the subject of sourdough, I would like to leave my dear readers with the following quote “The Whiter The Bread, The Sooner You’re Dead.” So for me it’s only going to be SOURDOUGH!

 

Address:
43, Jalan Lasam, Pusat Perdagangan Greentown, 30450 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
Tues-Sun. (Closed on Mondays)
12-7pm, takeaway available until 7pm

For inquiries and reservations:
011-1300 4868

 

*Yin’s Sourdough Pizza and Cafe is pork free.

Help the Small Businesses: Makan Nyonya

Pictures by Gisele Soo

Makan Nyonya

SeeFoon goes back to old favourites

Makan Nyonya has always been one of my favourite ‘go-to’ places whenever I felt the hankering for a mix of local dishes. At Makan Nyonya, I get dishes that Grandma used to make as well as yummilicious local specials all in one place without traipsing all over town. I can graze all in one place!

Nasi rendang chicken

Like moving from Nasi Rendang Chicken (RM7), mixing it with the Pork Nasi Rendang (RM10), then dipping into the Lemak Nyonya Laksa (RM6). In between, nibble on Cucur Udang with its mega-sized prawn and the great dipping sauce, RM3 each. Follow this with Lam Meen (RM6), Pan Meen (RM6) as well as a tasting of their butter cakes: carrot, marble, fruit and banana, and you’ll be staggering from the table. RM3.50 per slice; RM18 per loaf.

Lemak nyonya laksa
Pan meen
Lam meen
Cucur udang

With oodles of goodies to share and take small taster bites from, Makan Nyonya is certainly a place to go to, whether to dine in now with RMCO or to ‘tapau’ or takeaway. Also the prices are so reasonable that you can either go with a group or order up a storm to take away. 

Since the MCO started, Jason Chai the proprietor very quickly adapted to the situation and set up a buffet spread of dishes to choose from ala economy rice style where you can, from his daily Facebook posts, order the takeaways you want and pick up from the shop. 

His culinary touch is reminiscent of home and dishes which your Mum or Grandma used to make. They now even sell homemade ‘Ham Choy’ at RM15 per packet (very good and no additives) which I snapped up immediately and have subsequently cooked it. Excellent taste…not sweet, not salty but just perfect. I was also given a ‘Ham Dan’ or salted egg to taste but sadly that was not for sale. What a pity because I worry about salted eggs from local markets, not knowing what additives or preservatives have been added.

 

Address:
57, Laluan Tasek Timur 3, Pusat Perdagangan Tasek Indra, 31400 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Business hours:
Tues-Sun. (Closed on Mondays)
7am-3.00pm, 2pm last order

To book or order:
017 469 1228 (Kane) via Whatsapp 

 

Help the Small Businesses: Galanggal Cafe

Pictures by Gisele Soo

Galanggal Cafe

SeeFoon is Blown Away by Chef’s culinary flair

He’s young and good looking and wears a straw fedora at a jaunty angle. If he wasn’t wearing an apron you would think he was a customer. Just calm, cool and collected without the harassed demeanor of the usual chef.

Fikri Jalil

Fikri Jalil is 32 and is Chef and proprietor of Galanggal Cafe, a brightly decorated cafe in a new row of shophouses in Meru Raya behind Mydin. A mini nursery fronts the steps leading to the entrance emblazoned with a big letter G. A shallow tray with sanitizer leads to the door and I am encouraged to step in to sanitize my sandals. That’s innovative, I thought as I walked into a cheerful ambiance with one wall brightly painted in multi-hued tropical foliage. Artistically done, I thought, whoever painted it has style. I subsequently discovered it was done by Fikri’s sister who is an artist, and framed pieces of her art are on sale in the cafe. 

Interior of the cafe

Fikri’s culinary skills were picked up from Syeun Catering College and subsequently through working in various locations in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur; the most significant and made the most lasting impression on him was his stint working in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel under Lebanese Chef Raymond Rjaily.

You can taste that middle eastern influence in his food, the subtle aromatic touches of spices like sumac and  za’atar;  the flamboyant flair he has with ordinary spices like coriander, star anise as well as local Ulam herbs in his salads. 

Going where few western cuisiniers dare to tread. 

But forging bravely ahead, Fikri creates memorable taste temptations in his curating of eastern and middle eastern ingredients with traditional western cooking methods.

Like his Duck Confit, a delicacy usually found in France which is duck leg, marinated and smothered in duck fat, slow cooked, then pan fried to crisp the skin and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. In Fikri’s hands, the Duck leg is still cooked the French way (a minimum of 4-5 hours) but instead of serving with mashed potatoes, it is encircled with a dry lentil curry, and unusual salad leaves which Fikri’s Mum grows at home including Daun Selom or water celery, one of the popular leaves used in traditional ulam. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and eaten with the fresh leaves and the mildly spiced lentils, a wonderful adventure off the culinary path, RM26.

Galanggal Duck Confit

Fettuccine Bolognese is a common enough dish on many cafe menus but in Chef Firki’s hands and without cheese or red wine, he turns it into a delectable main course, the Fettuccine al dente, the minced beef Bolognese sauce generous without being overwhelming,  cherry tomatoes adding a nuance of  tartness to the whole dish.  Excellent flavour, RM23.

Fettuccine Bolognese

Next came the braised Lamb shank arrabiata topped with sumac. This ancient herb is made from ruby-colored berries that are ground into a beautiful, coarse powder that bursts with color and flavor and is very widely used in middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It added tangy, lemony fresh flavors to the lamb which was tender and juicy and was served on a bed of Baba Ganoush (roasted eggplant mash) and burnt kale with pomegranate seeds scattered all over, RM36.

Arrabbiata Lamb Shanks

The Chicken Harrissa with Burnt Hummus was tantalising. The roast chicken was tender and juicy immersed in a Harissa sauce (the middle eastern  equivalent of chilli sauce which was homemade by Fikri) served with  burnt hummus in olive oil, cherry tomato, and burnt French beans with crunch supplied by whole coriander. The flavour of za’atar, a very popular and timeless Middle-Eastern spice blend of sumac, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds permeated the whole dish. Divine and innovative. RM20.

Chicken Harissa with Burnt Hummus

For drinks, check out the Royal Caribbean, pineapple and mint, topped with star anise crush or the Tebu sparkling Mojito lime and mint, topped with sugar cane ice cubes. Both at RM6.50 each.

Here is a sparkling new chef and he needs to be supported. What the engineering world lost (yes he was studying to be an electrical engineer!) the culinary world in Ipoh gained and I hope will continue to benefit from his culinary skills. 

Let’s help the small businesses.

 

Address:
49G, Jalan Meru Bestari B8, 31200 Ipoh, Perak

019-241 5034

Business hours:
Mon- Sat.
3-10.00pm (Last order at 9.40pm)
Takeaway & pick up available

Help the small Businesses: dé Cafe and Rest House

Pictures by Gisele Soo

dé Cafe and Rest House

So many restaurants and cafes are now open but how to decide on where to go or what to ‘tapau’? 

If you happen to be hanging around old town, you could be eating at a myriad of small coffee shops and cafes and not run out of choices. 

One small cafe that has escaped my attention is dé Cafe and Rest House on Hugh Low street or Jalan Sultan Iskandar. Situated on the right side of the road, it is about 100 metres before the traffic lights turning to the padang.  Louisa Loh, my new Foodie Kaki and artist extraordinaire, insisted I must try their specialties and off I went the moment restaurants were allowed to have dine-in guests. 

Young proprietor Dawson Tham, who hails from Pulau Ketam (Crab Island) is a young man who is proud of his birth place, renowned for its seafood.  

Waxing lyrical about the abundance of crabs and other crustaceans from his hometown, he has taken traditional dishes to a new level. 

Like his Nasi Lemak.

Eschewing regular prawns (often used in the sambals), he has decided to offer mantis prawns instead and serves them battered and fried as an accompaniment to this traditional dish. Just as we may occasionally have a piece of fried chicken or fried fish with our Nasi Lemak, here at dé Cafe, we have Mantis prawns, which are sweeter and more tender than regular prawns, RM10.

Mantis prawn nasi lemak
Photo by Louisa Loh

Served with a well-balanced sambal, neither too sweet which is the usual case, nor too spicy and you can taste the belacan without it overpowering you; the sambal is a lovely compliment to the fried egg over green veg served on the platter.

Another option is the Nasi Lemak accompanied by a petai, prawn and sotong sambal (RM11), again with the same crispy fried anchovies and peanuts. I loved the plain sambal so much that I had to ask for an extra portion to go with my coconut rice. 

Seafood petai nasi lemak

Dawson also ventures into western dishes with his Pesto spaghetti ranking high on my list of favourites. Cooked al dente and tossed with his homemade pesto sauce, fresh mushrooms, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, specially imported Spanish olive oil and grated parmesan, this is a vegetarian dish par excellence and one that should delight the vegetarians amongst you, RM16.

Pesto spaghetti

Another fusion option which I found most innovative is their Fuyu Pasta, a pure vegetarian dish using Chinese fermented bean curd (the white variety) creamed with milk. The addition of sultans imbued it with a tang of sweetness while the fried tempeh pieces added more protein content to the dish. All in all a most healthy dish, RM12.90. I had it ‘tapau’ed’ home and even after putting it in the microwave (for less than a minute as advised), it still tasted al dente and moist. Worth considering when deciding what to serve the family for dinner. 

Fuyu pasta

Whether you’re dining in (they adhere very strictly to social distancing SOPs) or doing takeaways, the piece de resistance which you MUST order is their Yam cake. Layers of creamed fresh purple yam are sandwiched between fluffy sponge cake and topped with a layer of whipped cream.The addition of santan is the added magic.  Not too sweet and Paradise in a mouthful. You can try it out at RM14 for a wedge and RM75 for a whole cake. 

Yam cake
Photo by Louisa Loh

So whether you dine in or do a takeaway, do check out dé Cafe.  I promise you a taste treat and while you’re at it: HELP THE SMALL BUSINESSES.

 

Address:
dé Cafe & Rest House
35, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, 30000 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

05-246 1010

Business hours:
Tues- Sun. 10am – 5.00pm

 

Help the small Businesses: Hao Xian Wei

Pictures by Gisele Soo

Help the small Businesses

Now that MCO is over and RMCO is the new normal, most of us can dust off the cobwebs of the past 3 months, bid a fond farewell to our hobs and ovens and look forward to being served a proper meal in the myriad of restaurants that have reopened.

With the period of self isolation over, the tendency is to rush out and head for all your favourite restaurants. The exhilaration of having your food served to you, of no dish washing, and no racking of your brains to decide what to cook may be over but let’s not be hasty. The number of new cases may be occasionally in the single digit but COVID 19 is not going to go away that soon and it will be most prudent of us to stick to more “Tapau” or takeaway food for a while longer.  

While we’re doing that, may I suggest that we give a thought to the small businesses and restaurants struggling to get back on their feet after the 3 month hiatus. The MCO has actually given a positive push to the smaller restaurateurs, pushing their entrepreneurial skills to the max and having them come out with easy to take away one-dish meals. 

So for the next few months I am going to concentrate on the small cafes, restaurants that need a little help.Today, I will highlight some of these and suggest the best “Tapau” options for you.

 

Hao Xian Wei

William, the proprietor of Hao Xian Wei which prides fish as its signature dish, has had to adapt to the changing environment. “Fish needs to be eaten fresh, hot off the stove, but the MCO put paid to that for me. Plus all my other specials lose some flavour on the way home,” he lamented. “I therefore settled on the idea of very special Tsong or Zongzi ( Mandarin ).” 

Tsong is a wrapped Glutinous rice dumpling which for me is one of the most satisfying comfort foods to eat. It’s also a no-hassle meal. William recommends that you bring the dumpling home, boil some water, dunk it in and let it boil for half an hour. Take it out, cut the ties and voila, a steaming fragrant pyramid of deliciousness. He prefers this method to steaming the dumpling as he says that the boiling will bring all the oil to the surface, leaving it glistening and velvety. 

The fun part is digging in to discover what’s hidden inside. Most of William’s Tsong is of the Tsao Mai variety, which means that the glutinous rice has to be fried before wrapping. This gives it its characteristic brownish colour. Only the Nonya Tsong is white. 

Hokkien Tsong

The Hokkien Tsong is very special. It is bigger in size than the Hainan and Vegetarian ones because it is generously filled to the brim with goodies like fatty braised pork, salted egg yolk, roast pork, mushrooms, chestnut  and chicken. A hefty meal in one, each morsel well seasoned; the velvety rice textured with black eyed peas; the filling with its well juxtaposed textures: chestnut against black mushroom, salted egg yolk against soft chicken and the fat from the pork, braised to a quivering, jelly-like consistency, lending its unctuous texture to the whole mouthfeel. 

Heaven in a mouthful. 

And that was just a description on the Hokkien Tsong, RM12.80.

Where other Tsongs I have tasted can be dry and stodgy, William’s are very moist and velvety. The Hainanese Tsong is equally tasty but smaller and with less fillings, RM8, while the vegetarian Tsong is interesting with unusual fillings like Lion’s Mane mushroom, RM8.50. There is also a Nyonya Tsong which has a slightly sweet texture which was my least favourite, RM8.

Hainanese Tsong
Vegetarian Tsong
Nyonya Tsong

If you have big eaters at home, William has another “Tapau” goodie in the form of stuffed Tau Fu Pok, packed and frozen in packs of 6. At RM18 for 6 these are very good steamed at home and eaten with the Tsong. William orders the Tau Fu Pok in an extra large size and round shape, stuffed to the brim with a pork farcie. 

Stuffed Tau Fu Pok

Address:
Restoran Hao Xian Wei
11 Jalan Medan Ipoh 6, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh 31400 Ipoh.

Patrick Cheong | For reservations: 012 431 1070
William Yap Chef | Owner for ordering (in Cantonese only): 017 421 6523

Business hours: 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Takeaway last order: 7:30 PM 

Morel Italian Fusion Restaurant

SeeFoon Forages in Morel Soho

It’s hard to forage in Malaysia unless you follow a knowledgeable Orang Asli who still lives off the land. But in other parts of the world where foraging is practised, not just by those who live off the grid but by ordinary folk like you and me, mushroom foraging is not only productive for the kitchen but also great fun. But not without its risks though; for picking the wrong mushrooms can kill you!

I know only of one kind of mushrooms that one can forage in Malaysia and that is after a thunderstorm and these white “thunder mushrooms” spring up in one’s garden. They have a wonderful fragrance and when lightly pan-fried in butter, are yummilicious. Alas, these are rare occurrences nowadays unless you live close to the jungle.

Being a lover of all mushrooms in whatever shape and form, perfumed or otherwise, I now head for Morel whenever a mushroom craving hits me. I remember the first time I went to Morel when they first opened almost two years ago and demanded to know why they named their restaurant after a famous mushroom when they didn’t have any on their menu. This has since been rectified in a big way and mushroom maniacs like myself can indulge to my heart’s content.

Chef Aw Kah Meng, a homegrown Ipoh chef who left for the big bright lights of Singapore in 2004 to hone his skills, has worked his way up the kitchen ladder in many big-name establishments like St Regis, Swissotel The Stamford, Raffles Plaza. More impressively and probably accounts for his culinary flair, he has worked with Bruno Menard, the 3-star Michelin Chef who is permanently based in Singapore.

Initially, after he opened Morel with his wife Siau Hooi when patrons like me were clamouring for mushrooms, Kah Meng ‘foraged’ in Malaysia, looking for suppliers who were able to deliver some of these rarities. He began with dried ones, offering Morel (finally!) and Porcini (Cep); then frozen (porcini) and now he has a source of fresh porcini and fresh black truffles.

Buonissimo I say and let the mushroom banquet begin!

I covered all the delectable dishes on the Morel menu in my review dated July 16, 2018 (issue 285), and today I am adding new menu items which I found delectable.

First off, it’s worthwhile to note that all of Morel’s pasta is homemade and cooked to al dente perfection. So is their bread. The dilemma for you, dear diner, is to decide whether you want tagliatelle, spaghetti or fusilli or whatever is on offer for the day and in what combination.

Here are their new offerings:

Porchini Bruschetta
Porchini Bruschetta @ RM29.90

Bruschetta, homemade apple-wood-smoked ricotta cheese on home-baked sourdough bread topped with fresh French porcini mushrooms. There are four slices in one order so do share; RM29.90.

Pork Belly Salad in Morel Italian Fusion Ipoh
Pork Belly Salad

Next, we had Mesclun Salad with balsamic dressing, runny yolk egg, quinoa, bread croutons, parmesan cheese with slices of tender pork belly contrasting well with the crispy greens; RM28.90.

Mussel and clam soup
Mussel and clam soup @ RM24.90

Mussel and Clam Soup was umami, tinged with white wine and a spicy tomato sauce, the bivalves tender and fresh, served with bread; RM24.90.

Lamb Spaghetti
Lamb Spaghetti @ RM56.90

The homemade spaghetti cooked in tomato sauce, topped with shredded lamb shank, arugula and morel mushrooms, dotted with pine nuts and finished with grated parmesan cheese was a sumptuous meal (we shared) at RM56.90.

Fork-tender Angus Beef Cheek
Fork-tender Angus Beef Cheek @ RM65.90

This was followed by my favourite meat dish here at Morel’s, the Black Angus Beef Cheek with asparagus and mashed potatoes. I have had beef cheek before but Morel’s version comes on the top of my list; coated in a velvety smooth sauce – a reduction from bones (not your out-of-a-bottle spoonful of store-bought gravy stock), the cheeks so soft and tender that you can cut with a fork and when eaten with the ultra-creamy mashed potatoes you have a mouthful of heaven; RM65.90.

Porcini Mushroom Risotto
Porcini Mushroom Risotto

Follow this with the Porcini Mushroom Risotto and I found myself almost rolling off the table from surfeit! Arborio rice cooked à la minute with porcini mushrooms and if that wasn’t fragrant enough, I also detected more than a hint of truffle oil. Add a square of gold leaf, shaved parmesan and you have a risotto fit for a king; RM37.90.

Truffle Coconut Parina Cotta
Truffle Coconut Parina Cotta @ RM16.90

As for desserts, my dear readers know that I am not known to have a sweet tooth but when you put a Truffle Coconut Pannacotta in front of me, a wobbly eggless coconut pudding topped with mangoes, fresh berries and truffle honey, my sweet tooth emerges and I tuck in with gusto; RM16.90. On top of this, you add the Morel’s own Tiramisu (one of the best in Ipoh) and you have the perfect end to a gourmet meal.

If Alex Castaldi, GM of Banjaran Hotsprings and Resort and as Italian as they come, finds in Morel some of the best Italian food he’s eaten in Malaysia, then we can surely take his word for it. In Alex’s words, “I like Morel and am happy to see such a young talented chef cooking and serving with such passion and authenticity. Whenever I visit, I get a taste of home. Go try Morel – definitely worth a visit!”

If you haven’t been, it’s high time you did! And you don’t have to blow the budget to get a taste. They have a daily changing 3-course Lunch Menu for RM19.90.

MOREL RESTAURANT

A-G-12A Soho Ipoh,
Jalan Sultan Iskandar,
30000 Ipoh.

Tel: 010 9287291 or 011 242 02450

Business hours:
Tuesdays-Sunday & Public Holidays : 11am-3pm; 6pm-10pm
Closed:  Mondays

SeeFoon Debates the Merits of Chicken Rice in Ipoh

This week I am deconstructing Chicken Rice (CR) and debating the merits of what constitutes a good one. I know that ultimately it’s the combination of all the constituents that make this iconic dish so-so, mediocre, good or brilliant.

This week I am deconstructing Chicken Rice (CR) and debating the merits of what constitutes a good one. I know that ultimately it’s the combination of all the constituents that make this iconic dish so-so, mediocre, good or brilliant.

When I first moved to Ipoh 24 years ago (yes it’s been that long but feels like the blink of an eye!) I never found a chicken rice I liked. Mind you, I was so busy tasting all the other Ipoh iconic foods that I forgot my homegrown Singaporean rave food . . . chicken rice.

I still remember Swee Kee in Singapore; for me as a child, the big treat and big outing, when I used to stuff myself with all the chicken my little tummy could eat as well as all the divine gizzard, liver and, guess what, they had then – chicken intestines! We were one country then; no question of whether it originated in Singapore or Malaysia. It was our iconic dish. Albeit popularized by the Hainan Chinese and titivated locally.

Today, with some of the ongoing one-upmanship going on between the two neighbours clamouring for recognition on which dishes belong to whom, we have lost some emphasis on taste.

This is where our individual palates come into play. My daughter, for example, judges chicken rice on the smoothness of the chicken, its juiciness, its plumpness; next in importance for her, is the rice, each grain separate, firm and broth infused. Dipping sauce for her is unimportant as she loves the black sauce over her rice.

As for me, my first criteria whether I’ll return for a second meal lies in the dipping sauce. I went once on a chicken rice frenzy while in Singapore and visited five shops/stalls in five days. Only one remains my go-to CR in Singapore today. And it’s all because of the dipping sauce. All the CR stalls I visited bar this one, had added sugar to the traditional chilli sauce and some not even offering the de rigueur ginger sauce with it saying, “It’s already mixed in lah”.

Here in Ipoh I decided to go on another Chicken Rice frenzy and went over a period of two weeks to innumerable places. So these are the 5 Top and remembering that these are based on my subjective palate and some of you dear readers may disagree with me and I would welcome your comments on these.

5 Top Chicken Rice eating places I would go for my CR dose:

Restoran Sam Ma Chicken Rice

Restoran Sam Ma Chicken Rice
Restoran Sam Ma Chicken Rice

I have a hard time deciding on whether Sam Ma (non-air-con) or Pak Kong is the top choice for me for a quick bite. Both have juicy chicken, with Pak Kong being slightly more tender and both their chilli sauce is not sweetened with their minced ginger sauce abundantly available. This I will ladle onto my rice and happily eat that alone if not for the temptation of the chicken. Both places have a choice of Kampung chicken and regular chicken, and the chicken broth in both is tasty and umami. The oil rice in both is umami, each grain intact but well cooked through. The one distinction I would make between the two CR outlets is that Pak Kong is so popular at lunchtime that it involves getting there before 12pm and possibly still queuing for a short while. Sam Ma and Pak Kong: Single portion RM5.50. Each of these outlets has their speciality add-ons so do look at their menus.

Sam Ma Chicken Rice,
3 Jalan S.A. Lingam,
Taman Ipoh Selatan,
31400 Ipoh.

Contact: 017 756 8562
Thursday-Tuesday 11am-3pm, 6pm-9pm
Closed on Wednesday

Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong

Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong
Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong

Pak Kong Chicken Rice
27 Jalan Theatre,
Taman Jubilee,
31400 Ipoh.

Contact: 012 588 6618
Daily 11.15am-4pm

Restoran Hainam

Restoran Hainam Chicken Rice Ipoh
Restoran Hainam Chicken Rice Ipoh

Restoran Hainam has been around for a long time and I have to admit that their quality is not on the same level as the two previous outlets above. However, their saving grace is that if you feel like chicken rice at 4pm or 9pm they are there and ready to serve and it is air-conditioned as a respite from the heat and if you’re hankering for CR. Single portion RM7.80.

Restaurant Hainam
75-77 Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri,
Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh.

Contact: 05 242 8762
Daily 11am-10pm

Haven’s Cuisine Restaurant

The Haven's Chicken Rice Ipoh
The Haven’s Chicken Rice in Ipoh

Next, we come to the “Atas” places for chicken rice, well-appointed, elegant and even worth the drive and trouble of getting in as in the Haven’s Cuisine restaurant. Here the chicken rice is long-grain-fragrant rice; the broth is umami and safe for me to eat as they promise no MSG; the chicken ‘Wu So Gai’ or bearded chicken is off the bone and you can choose white meat or thigh dark meat and the dipping sauces similar to my childhood nostalgic tastes. Alas, the price is high at RM32 per portion. But the ambience more than makes up for the cost. Pork-free.

The Haven's Cuisine Restaurant
The Haven’s Cuisine Restaurant

Haven’s Cuisine Restaurant
Jalan Haven, Persiaran Lembah Perpaduan,
31150 Ipoh.

Contact: 05 540 0000
Daily 7am-10.30pm

*Haven’s chicken rice only available on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays *Call ahead and give your car number and time of arrival. This is a must.

STG Tea House Cafe

STG Hainanese Rice Ipoh
STG Hainanese Rice Ipoh

Finally, we have STG, the beautiful bungalow to dine in style. Here their chicken rice is yellow and umami, their broth chock full with vegetables, their chilli sauce and thick ginger sauce pungent with a kick and service is attentive and with style. Per portion RM24. Pork-free.

So now dear readers, you have a choice of CR outlets to suit your pocket and palate. Or if you have the time and inclination. . . try them all.

STG Bungalow Ipoh
STG Bungalow Ipoh

STG Bungalow
2 Jalan Taman Kinta,
Taman Chateau,
30250 Ipoh.

Contact: 05 255 0188
Daily 11am-11pm

 

 

Vietnamese Taste – Vietnamese Street’s Best

Vietnamese food for me is within the top 5 of my favourite cuisines. I have visited Vietnam on 6 occasions and I have never found a restaurant here in Ipoh that quite fits the bill in terms of the authenticity of taste and quality. I am happy to report that I have found such a Vietnamese restaurant in Ipoh – guess the name . . . Vietnamese Taste – Vietnamese Street’s Best.

SeeFoon ‘Revisits’ Vietnam

My friends all laugh when I say I love a particular cuisine as they all know that as a Foodie or the Food Diva as some of them call me, I love ALL cuisines. Except for certain bizarre food items as presented by TV hosts like Andrew Zimmern and Sonny Side in their highly entertaining TV shows.

Vietnamese food for me is within the top 5 of my favourite cuisines. I have visited Vietnam on 6 occasions and I have never found a restaurant here in Ipoh that quite fits the bill in terms of the authenticity of taste and quality.

Vietnamese Taste Vietnamese Street's in Ipoh
Vietnamese Taste Vietnamese Street’s in Ipoh

I am happy to report that I have found such a Vietnamese restaurant in Ipoh – guess the name . . . Vietnamese Taste – Vietnamese Street’s Best.

The restaurant is brand new, with a charming attempt at creating a Vietnamese ambience with hats (called nón lá or leaf hat) on one wall masquerading as lamps and big murals of Vietnamese dishes on the other wall. A make-belief pushcart serves as a cashier’s desk and the menu is well illustrated with photos of the dishes on offer.

Mojito and Suo Toui Coffee at Vietnamese Street’s Best Ipoh
Mojito and Suo Toui Coffee at Vietnamese Street’s Best Ipoh

The Vietnamese as most people know are famous for their coffees and in this restaurant, these live up to their reputation. Their drip coffee takes a bit of time RM5.90 (to drip through) so order that first and their Mojito and Suo Toui Coffee at RM6.90, creamy and delicious even for a non-sweet palate like mine.

Vietnamese Street's Best Banh Xeo in Ipoh
Vietnamese Street’s Best Banh Xeo in Ipoh

Then on to the dishes. Being the “wide-eyed, stomach narrow” (my grandma’s favourite admonition) child that I was and still am, I ordered up a storm. Starting with the Banh Xeo, the typical Vietnamese pancake that is filled with prawns and spring onions, this one was crispy on arrival which is a sign of a good Banh Xeo and served with lettuce and a dipping sauce. You wrap a piece of the pancake in the lettuce leaf, dip in sauce and voila, a mouthful of crispy freshness, RM19.90.

  • Vietnamese Street's Best Goui Cuon
  • Vietnamese Street's Best Goui Cuon or Vietnamese Spring Roll

Their Goui Cuon or Summer Spring Roll, wrapped in paper-thin rice wrappers had a big prawn, bean noodles, wrapped in lettuce, then the rice paper. I would have preferred a fish sauce dip but the peanut sauce that accompanied this was liked by my fellow diners, RM6.90. The fried version had minced chicken in it with the requisite fish sauce dip which I liked, RM5.90.

Com Ga Quay or Lemongrass Chicken Chop Rice, chicken chop perfumed with lemongrass, juicy and tender inside, served with a fried egg and the de rigueur fish sauce. A meal in itself, RM17.90.

Vietnamese Street's Best Pho noodle Ipoh
Vietnamese Street’s Best Pho noodle Ipoh

The last two ubiquitous dishes that Vietnamese street cuisine is known for is done very well here. Pho that umami beef soup served with slurpy rice noodles is one of the most well known. You can choose whether you want raw sliced beef brisket, beef balls or all three; beef stew and there is even chicken Pho. Ranging in price from RM11.90 to RM17.90, this is one bowl of deliciousness that is irresistible. Served with extra herbs and garnitures.

Vietnamese Taste Vietnamese Street's Best Banh Mi
Vietnamese Taste Vietnamese Street’s Best Banh Mi

And then there is Banh Mi, which is a ‘move over Subway’ dish taking the western world by storm. My personal test of a good Banh Mi is the baguette itself. Is the crust crunchy? And is the inside soft? Here at Vietnamese Street’s Best, it is a resounding Yes! On both counts and the filling is good too. Julienned carrots, cucumber, meat floss, egg, Vietnamese chicken sausage, and topped with cut chillies and coriander, you’ll need a big mouth to bite into it. We ordered the special at RM11.90 but they also have a fish fillet, RM9.90, a double egg, RM8.80, and grilled chicken at RM12.90.

There are also set lunches with rice dishes, more noodles and a rice-wrap platter with smoked duck. An extensive menu indeed. I have made myself a promise to explore further.

VIETNAMESE TASTE – VIETNAMESE STREET’S BEST

Address:
No. 8 Block C, Persiaran Greentown 4,
Greentown Avenue(2.82km), 30450 Ipoh.

Business hours: 11am-9pm 24/7
Manager N.K. Liow: 017 475 0513
Reservations: 05 210 8013

Vietnamese Taste Ipoh Garden
No. 67 Medan Ipoh 1A,
Medan Ipoh Bestari, 31400 Ipoh.

Dim Sum Yuen

SeeFoon Enjoys Dim Sum in Peace and Quiet

Dim Sum Yuen, latest morning breakfast spot

How often do we get to have any Chinese meal in peace and quiet? Not often enough I say. Somehow the Chinese in groups, especially those speaking in Cantonese, when confined within tiled walls exacerbated by tiled floors, manage to reach decibel levels that border on deafening. And I am one of the guilty ones contributing to the noise level as my main spoken dialect is Cantonese.

With 9 tones compared to the 4 in Mandarin and more cacophonous by nature, and since most Chinese spoken in Ipoh is Cantonese, Chinese and especially dim sum restaurants are noisy. Not one of the places you would go for a cosy tête-à-tête.

But I found a quiet haven in Dim Sum Yuen.

Ipoh Breakfast at Dim Sum Yuen
And they steam their dim sum in square wooden boxes instead of the common bamboo baskets or in some eateries, plastic ones.

A recent change in ownership and management with a complete facelift of the premises of the old Kao Lee and just a stone’s throw from the Echo office, I have been meaning to check it out when to my delight, I received an invitation to lunch from my lawyer friend William Balasingham who has made this his new fave place. William’s reason? The tables are well spaced out and you’re not elbow-to-bum with the next person and you can actually talk and be heard!

We were quite a crowd that day and could therefore order a lot of different goodies. But being the diehard foodie that I am, I had to make sure I didn’t miss out on any item and hence went back a second time with my tribe.

One stand out feature of Dim Sum Yuen is their creative presentation of some of their offerings, as in the case of their water chestnut jelly, which for the cafe crowd, is certainly Instagram worthy (see pic). Most of their dim sum offerings are priced between RM4.50-RM5.50 with a few dishes using prawns like the Hong Kong Prawn roll going up to RM6.50. But in general, the average savoury plate starts at RM4.50 with desserts being slightly lower.

Dim sum is dim sum wherever you eat it. What sets one eatery from another is the quality, the range of items, and the specials. And each one has their specials. In Dim Sum Yuen’s case, the notable ones aside from their chef’s skill with pastry (see the pumpkin – with date paste; and piglets – one with red beans and other with an interesting corn custard) is their “Lo” or soya sauce series.

Everything of the pig’s innards from the ear (divinely tender, with a thin layer of fat lining both sides of the cartilage), stomach, large and small intestines are available here, paired with similarly braised tofu or boiled egg. A veritable offal haven. They also have the braised chicken in the same sauce as well which you can order whole or in a chicken rice set. And let’s not forget the braised chicken feet.

Boon Tong Gao at Dim Sum Yuen

Another unusual dim sum offering which is one of their signatures is the Har Gao served in individual small bowls in a clear soup. A cross between a “Boon Tong Gao” and the traditional Har Gao, the soup is umami and the Har Gao filling of prawns was fresh. I must also mention their Hor Yip Fan or glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf, umami and cooked to perfection.

Desserts are another item to rave over. Aside from the painstaking decorative art involved in their presentation, as in the aforementioned water chestnut jelly of two birds sitting in their birdcage, the pumpkin lookalike is filled with bean paste, not overly sweet and a delightful mouthful. Their fried sesame balls are crisp; their oozy salted egg custard pao to dream about and their jellies like wolfberry and osmanthus refreshing and soothing.

Piglet Pao

Do go and browse their very extensive menu. You won’t regret it. And enjoy your meal in relative peacefulness.