Cutesy at Canning Meiko Home

SeeFoon discovers a Canning ‘Cutesy’.
Meiko Home which looks like a gift shop from the road. The facade is “cutesy Japanese”, the inside, whimsical kitsch.
But wait….surprise, surprise, there is a menu and they serve food.

SeeFoon discovers a Canning ‘Cutesy’

When my friend Liew Thin Sang called to invite me for some Laksa in Canning, I jumped at the invitation as I adore Laksa. So on the set date, my troops and I descended on Meiko Home which looks like a gift shop from the road. The facade is “cutesy Japanese”, the inside, whimsical kitsch complete with simulated bottle top Coca-Cola and Heineken tables and chairs. The walls are bedecked with gift shop whimsy: hanging doll hand towels, Panda bears, gnomes, wall hangings, model cars, children’s clothes hanging in racks, dot the space in veritable Disney fashion.

Exterior of the cafe
Interior of the cafe

This is a gift shop I thought. But wait….surprise, surprise, there is a menu and they serve food.

Wennie Che, the effusive proprietor greeted our group like old friends and proceeded to give us menus. Coming from a family background of running gift shops with four in Cameron Highlands, she has spread her wings and eyes Ipoh as a lucrative market, opening Meiko Home on Jalan Canning Estate two years ago and a new acquisition in Lorong Panglima.

Meiko Home is their first venture into serving food and as such, she is keeping her menu small.

Laksa Galore

Laksa is their Signature dish. Assam Laksa served here, with variations on size and garnitures depending on budget and appetite. There is a mini Laksa (RM4.90) which is a small tasting portion and will allow you to order other regular portions of their other signature dishes one of which is their Big Prawn Mee (Har Meen). This comes with a humongous Tiger Prawn, sliced fish paste, fried shallots and boiled egg. The soup was umami and the Tiger Prawn very fresh, RM16.90. And of course, if Laksa makes your mouth water, then go for the big portion with all the seafood including the Tiger Prawn, big mussels, sotong or squid, lots of pineapple slices which is a meal in itself, RM16.90.

Signature Prawn Mee

If spice is not on your culinary list, they also have non-spicy noodle dishes like their Mee Hoon Fish Soup, slices of garoupa fish served in an umami broth with tomatoes, cabbage and sliced ginger, RM12.90 (fish only) and RM16.90 with mixed seafood.

Naturally, to please those with a western palate (and that includes a lot of our locals) they also offer chops from chicken, pork, lamb, duck and even Iberico pork which can be served on top of spaghetti or with rice and vegetables; but Foodie that I am, I generally avoid these dishes. From RM16.90 onwards.

Having mentioned the main items which I enjoyed, we now come to the pièce de résistance of Meiko and even now a month later, I can still savour the taste in my gustatory memory bank!

Special cooking method

Hoi Dai Kai or Underwater Chicken

When Wennie brought a round bottom pot and portable burner to the table I was taken aback. What? Cooking at the table? And it doesn’t look like Hot Pot.

Hoi Dai Kai

Inside the pot were cut up Beard Chicken (Wu Sou Kai) pieces which she told me had been marinated overnight. There were stalks of bruised lemongrass, chopped ginger, galangal, coriander leaves and a chilli-based secret mixture. This was placed on the burner and set alight. Immediately, someone else put a stainless steel bowl over the mouth of the pot and proceeded to fill the bowl with ice. With the pot sealed, the ice on top (which was replenished as it melted) providing a cool lid with faster evaporation, leaving the chicken to cook in its own juices as the lid prevented any evaporation of moisture. Twenty minutes passed and voila, the “lid” removed, the aroma wafting from the chicken was ambrosial. The taste was even better! Tender, moist and succulent, the chicken pieces were well imbued with the marinade and cooking juices and each bite was a trip to the stars and back, RM88-RM98 (depending on the size of chicken). Must be ordered a minimum 24 hours in advance.

With that as our last delectable treat, we finished the meal with a simple dessert of “TongSui”, a white fungus with peach gum and ginkgo nuts. Not too sweet and a refreshing end to a good meal.

Peach Gum

Address:
MEIKO HOME
57 Jalan Canning Estate, Taman Canning, 31400 Ipoh.

Wennie Che: 011 3597 2686

Business hours:
11am-6pm  Wednesdays closed

 

Little Tiger Char Koey Teow

SeeFoon wallows in all her childhood hawker foods. 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.

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.

Vinegar Trotters

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.

Nasi Lemak with the chicken curry

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.

Lobak

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.

Fried Prawn Mee
Prawn Mee

 

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.

Tai Luk Meen

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.

Kuih Muih

Address:
LITTLE TIGER CHAR KOEY TEOW
98 Jalan Raja Ekram, Kampung Jawa, 30450 Ipoh.
Tel: 012 516 9833

Business hours:
Daily (8am-4pm, 6pm-10pm)
2 days off every 2 weeks.

 

Hyderabad Cuisine

SeeFoon deepens her explorations into Indian Cuisine. Legend goes that the Nizam of Hyderabad had 49 types of Biryanis cooked in his kitchen which churned out delicacies that were an amalgamation of Turkish, Mughlai and Arabic influences blended with native Telugu and Maratha culinary traditions.

SeeFoon deepens her explorations into Indian Cuisine

Pics by Yugin

Legend goes that the Nizam of Hyderabad had 49 types of Biryanis cooked in his kitchen which churned out delicacies that were an amalgamation of Turkish, Mughlai and Arabic influences blended with native Telugu and Maratha culinary traditions.

Hyderabadi cuisine is also known as Deccani cuisine, and at the newly-opened eatery, Hyderabad Recipes, this addition to the Indian cuisine repertoire in Ipoh is a welcome one. For not only is the culinary experience a pleasant one but the decor is pleasing and elegant; a far cry from the sweaty, barely fan-cooled places that abound.

Here in Hyderabad Recipes, BBQ or Tandoori items coupled with their wide assortment of Biryanis are the stars on their menu with one page devoted to each. Mirchi-ka-salan, a thick brinjal (eggplant) paste cum sauce and vegetable raita (fresh yoghurt mixed with chopped raw vegetables) is served with most of the Biryanis in a choice of chicken, lamb, egg and vegetables and styles.

Traditionally, cooking of biryani employs two different methods. Hyderabadi biryani is the most popular. Believed to have originated from the times of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Hyderabadi biryani can employ both cooking methods. The Pakki Hyderabadi Biryani involves cooking basmati rice and meat separately and then layering them together. While the Katchi Hyderabadi Biryani uses raw marinated meat (chicken or lamb) placed between the layers of basmati rice infused with saffron, onions and dried fruits. Both types utilise a slow-cooking method using dough-sealed earthen pot called a Dum Biryani.

Mutton Biryani

There is one Dum Biryani at Hyderabad Recipes which is listed as Chicken Dum Biryani and consists of layers of chicken and basmati rice cooked in layers, and flavoured with saffron. The one we had was fragrant, the rice fluffy and complemented beautifully by the brinjal sauce that was slightly tart, smooth and well-spiced, RM18.40. The Mutton Biryani was equally delectable at RM21.90.

Tandoori Platter

The BBQ items of Kebabs and Tandoori, surprisingly listed primarily Chicken items although two fish and one prawn dish were included which we didn’t sample. We had a mixture of kebabs with subtle nuances in the flavouring of each, some more bland than others but the accompanying chutney provided some necessary fire. They offer a Tandoori Platter 5 types of 3 each at RM60.50 and 5 types of 4 each at RM82.60.

Naan Basket

We then tried a selection of their various breads and ate them with a delectable Butter Chicken, deboned morsels of tender chicken marinated in yoghurt and spices, cooked in tomato and cream was not overly spicy and gentle on the tongue, RM 18.40 (a must-have).

Butter Chicken
Palak Paneer

There was also the very creamy Palak Paneer (cottage cheese cooked in spinach puree) which we mopped up with the different breads, RM17.60.

I am not usually a fan of sweets, especially Indian ones as they are often sweet, cloyingly so. However, to my delight, I actually enjoyed some of the ones I tasted here as the sweetness was controlled and toned down.

Qubani Ka Meetha
Masala Tea

The Qubani Ka Meetha, stewed apricots garnished with ice cream was refreshing, RM12, while the Double Ka Meetha, Indian bread pudding in the form of deep-fried Gardenia bread cooked in milk n cashew nuts with hints of ghee and cardamom was delicious, RM6.60, and so was the Gajar Ka Halwa, minced carrot tossed in milk and sugar, RM6.

We finished our meal with Masala tea.

Double Ka Meetha
Gajar Ka Halwa

Hyderabad Recipes is a worthy addition to the Ipoh Indian culinary scene. They also have a delivery service via Food Panda.

Address:
Restoran Hyderabad Recipes (Halal)
34 Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil, Kampung Jawa, 30300 Ipoh.

Business hours:
10.30am-11.30pm; 24/7
Ask for Maninder Singh 05 246 0755

 

The Palace Steamboat in Soho

At the Palace Steamboat, which opened on December 31, 2019, this was the scene as a group of us sat down for a pre-pre Chinese New Year feast

SeeFoon Gets Steamed Up Again; This Time in Soho

I love SteamBoat or Hotpot. Sitting at the table and watching the slow bubbles making its way o the surface, your pot slowly coming to the boil and everyone is sitting patiently, poised to dunk in their choice of delectables. Then the fun begins.

As ladles, scoops and chopsticks enter the pot with loud hollers of, “who’s got my meatball”, or “my slice of lamb has disappeared”, the steam opening up all the pores on one’s face, (so don’t wear makeup ladies!) and serious eating ensues.

Interior of restaurant

At the Palace Steamboat, which opened on December 31, 2019, this was the scene as a group of us sat down for a pre-pre Chinese New Year feast recently. Situated on top of Lanna Thai and accessible by lift, this bright and spacious restaurant has ample seating with table spaced comfortably apart. Each table comes equipped with its own built-in stove and 3 private rooms seating up to 10 each, provide privacy.

To whet our appetites we ordered two of their casserole rice dishes which arrived piping hot and wafting steam as we raised the lid. Of the two, my preference was for the Chicken Rice, cooked with marinated free-range chicken, dried red jujubes, goji berries and topped with scallions, hints of Chinese wine permeating the whole pot. I couldn’t get enough of this! And I am not much of a rice fan. The Lap Mei Fan is no competition to the intense Chicken Rice.

Meanwhile, all the raw ingredients for the steamboat were being laid out on the table, paper-thin slices of Sakura pork belly which absolutely melt in your mouth (RM10); very tender slices of Australian lamb (RM20) and beef (RM22); homemade fish ball (RM10); homemade tofu (RM5) and crispy tofu rolls (RM14).

Homemade Noodles

I highly recommend their homemade meatballs which were umami and tantalisingly taste worthy, RM16. As is their handmade noodles, long rolls of wheat noodles made broader than most (almost 3cm) and when cooked still had that tooth resilience which is for me, the measure of a great noodle, RM8.

Vegetables range between RM5 and RM6 with a few like the Chinese yam and crystalline ice plant going at (RM8). We had tong hou or chrysanthemum greens, choi sum, lettuce, lotus pod; enoki mushrooms and two very health-giving dried fungi which I was delighted to find on the menu.

We’ll begin with Tricholoma Matsutake, Japan’s answer to truffles. Once available only to the well-heeled, the Pine Mushrooms are highly sought after and in Japan fresh ones can cost up to US1000 per kilo. I was thrilled to find this on the menu here, albeit the dried form and from where else? China of course.

Tricholoma Matsutake

Nevertheless, these mushrooms have a sensory adventure in them, spicy and fruity taste with a hint of sweet cinnamon. And lends the broth an earthy intense aroma, adding yet another layer to the already complex soup base. They are touted to be a natural anti-cancer remedy, that doesn’t have unwanted side effects as well as having antioxidant/free-radical scavenging activity/anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to being chock full of vitamins and minerals, RM28.

The other fungus we had was the Cordyceps flower, a type of parasitic fungus with its medicinal value similar to that of the much more expensive Cordyceps Sinensis It is thought to provide an array of therapeutic benefits such as protecting the lungs, nourish the kidney, increase blood production, anti-depressant, anti-ageing and has anti-bacterial properties. It is also known medicinally to be a strong anticancer and anti-asthmatic agent. Tastes a bit like enoki mushrooms but with more bite, RM28.

Cordyceps Flower

Now that I have introduced the two health-giving fungi, I must go back to the beginning: to the broth. This is the first thing to order as there is a choice to be made. We chose the pork tripe stewed free-range chicken broth (RM58 – S, RM88 – L) which was robust and umami to begin with. After the addition of all the other ingredients described above, the resulting broth was ambrosial, each sip a drop of nectar.

During this over-indulgent festive Chinese New Year season, this will be a healthier option for me. In fact, just order up a small broth, add some fungus, vegetables and some homemade noodles and share that with a couple of friends and voila, good food and good health. What more can one ask for?

PALACE STEAMBOAT
Block E, 2-6, Soho Ipoh 2
Jalan Sultan Idris Shah, 30000 Ipoh.

019 573 3198 or 05 210 9198

Business hours:
Open 24/7
11.30am-3pm; 5.30pm-10pm.

 

Lodge 163 Cafe

SeeFoon drops in on Lodge 163. The facade jumps out at you as you drive down Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah or Hugh Low St. as locals still call it.

SeeFoon drops in on Lodge 163

Lodge 163 Cafe

The facade jumps out at you as you drive down Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah or Hugh Low St. as locals still call it. The signboard is hand-painted in a whimsical retro style, with a tinge of shabby chic and the big number 163 jumps out at you in a mauve red.

163 is as its signboard says, both a lodge and a cafe. The lodge upstairs has 10 rooms with one accommodating up to four and another five persons in one room. Very reasonably priced from RM80 for double, a group of friends or family can easily split the costs which works out to an average of RM40 per pax. All rooms have their own attached bathroom and are air-conditioned. This makes it perfect for backpackers and students and travellers looking for good clean, comfortable accommodation and it’s right in the heart of Ipoh town.

A 5-person room

The cafe downstairs is pleasantly decorated again with whimsical touches and booths and open tables make up the seating area. The cafe opens at 8am where the lodgers can have breakfast and throughout the day the cafe serves very interesting dishes all home prepared by proprietor Mdm Shirley Chong.

Whimsical wall adornment

This is not your usual “Tai Chau” restaurant but a very comfortable cafe serving individual portions of various noodles and dishes, mostly meant for one. But as is the usual habit with me, I was there with my troupe and we ordered up a storm and tried many items on their menu.

Lodge and Cafe163 is a whole family effort with father Stanley Tham (a Feng Shui Master) presiding, mother Shirley Chong in the kitchen curating the dishes aided by a chef de cuisine; brother Tham Kuen Wei who is also a Feng Shui Master and two sisters Elizabeth and Evaynne Tham. Together and with mum Shirley as the creative chef behind the dishes, the team serves up an impressive array of dishes, with one of the largest selection of vegetarian and vegan selections I have seen, mixed in with meat dishes. So it’s a haven for groups with different dietary habits to enjoy a meal together, without one group having to accommodate the other.

The best thing on the menu is the promise of NO MSG and add clean toilets and air-conditioned comfort to boot and Lodge 163 cafe has a fan in me.

I am not much of a veggie fan but I enjoyed their vegetarian Bibimbap, the famous Korean Rice speciality which you mix yourself at the table, RM8.50; and their Malat Spicy Noodles, a borrowing from Sichuan cuisine using the Sichuan pepper sauce which is mixed into the noodles to give a slightly tongue-numbing peppery impact, RM9.50. An interesting veggie snack dish is their crispy sweet potato rolls, RM8.

Malat Spicy Noodles @ Lodge 163 Cafe
Malat Spicy Noodles
Black Vinegar Pig’s Trotters

Naturally, the carnivore that I am immediately gravitated to the meat dishes, the excellent Black Vinegar Pig’s Trotters or Tsu Geok Tsou which was seasoned perfectly with the right blend of vinegar to soya to sugar ratio, the trotters braised to a tender but chewy texture and the sauce, a touch of ambrosia, RM12.

 

Crispy Pork Lard Rice

Crispy Pork Lard Rice with fried ikan bilis was heavenly given that I love crispy pork lard done any which way, RM8.50; as was the Rice with Curry Mutton and fried crispy bean curd, RM13.50.

 

We also tried the Giant Curry Noodles and Beehoon (you can have both or singly), a heaping bowl with roast pork, fried and boiled fish balls, pork balls, fried wonton, char siew, fried bean curd and pigskin complete with yummy curry sauce and vegetables. Unless you have a humongous appetite, this one dish which I will recommend that you share amongst four if you have a normal appetite, RM25.

Tom Yam Noodles

Finally (there are many many more items on the menu), which I cannot possibly write about given my space limitations, I can recommend the Tom Yam Noodles which come with fish paste, tao fu pok, fu pei, roast pork, egg and large prawns: tangy and mildly spicy but can be made more so with the addition of the thick chilli paste which they give you, RM13.50.

Lodge 163 Cafe is a great place to pop in for a snack, meal or even just a drink, with my favourite being the blue-pea-flower tea which you can have with lime and sugar. And did I mention that they have a high tea which is served all day? The traditional fancy three-tier high tea tray chock full of a mixture of sweet and savouries and served with your choice of English tea on fine China.

Hi-Tea Set

LODGE 163 CAFE

No. 163, Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah, 30000 Ipoh.

Tel: 05 253 1888 (Lodging) (Food & Cafe Ordering) 016 5434 262/016 5477 510

Open daily except Wednesdays (8am to 4pm)

Best Kai Si Hor Fun in Ipoh @ Yinzo Kopi

Yinzo Kopi also have some new dishes on the menu like the traditional Hakka “Lei Cha” and traditional Hakka Tofu made by their own chef and one of the best Kai Si Hor Fun (Chicken Soup Noodle) in town!

Arguably the Best KSHF in Ipoh

In the 16 Jul 2019 issue, IE308, I wrote about Yinzo Kopi that newly-refurbished cafe right in the heart of old town. At the time, I thought some of their offerings were brilliant and some hit and miss. However, William Oh, manager and partner, takes feedback very well and I am happy to report that all my comments on previous occasions on some of the items have all been taken to heart and the dishes modified.

They also have some new dishes on the menu like the traditional Hakka “Lei Cha” and traditional Hakka Tofu made by their own chef!

Available every Tuesdays, Fridays and on every 1st and 15th day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, each serving is priced at “Lei Cha” RM13.80; Hakka Tofu RM3.80 (2 pcs); set of both RM16.80. Great for sharing or if a big eater, hog it all for yourself. The portions are BIG, the herbal tea soup umami and fragrant and the mix of ingredients freshly prepared.

And they have expanded their dim sum menu with new additions like Dried Prawn Pastry (3 pcs RM4.80) and a yummilicious Polo Pau, fragrant, pillow-soft and enveloping a big slab of butter. This had me asking for more and my dear readers know that I don’t have a sweet tooth! RM3.80.

Also Osmanthus Jelly, RM4.80, is available on Saturdays and Longan Soya Bean Curd, RM4.80, available on Sundays.

Best Kai Si Hor Fun in Ipoh

But I’m saving the biggest surprise for last. From now on, I will only go there for their Kai Si Hor Fun (KSHF), Ipoh’s iconic dish of rice noodles in soup. Depending on individual taste buds of course, for my palate, their KSHF is now edging out the front runners Moon de Moon and Pulau Sembilan. Here you sit in air-conditioned comfort and leisurely sip their home blend of local white coffee, pick at a dim sum or two and wait for the KSHF to arrive (which is pretty quickly), as you eat the noodles and slurp the broth. This latter is the magic to their KSHF. Simmered for a minimum of six hours, the broth is out of this world umami with no MSG, RM8.80.

And no waiting for tables or queuing up (although parking is rather difficult around there, take a Grab).

If still hankering for more, check out the Mizo Pork Rice. Well marinated pork slices, tender and well-coated with Mizo, served with white rice and mustard, RM13.80.

So William Oh, keep up the quality and don’t let Ipohites down! People will start complaining to me if you do.

YINZO KOPI
No. 1 & 3 Persiaran Bijih Timah, 30000 Ipoh.

Tel: 019 556 1393 or 05 241 0571 (ask for William Oh)

Business hours:
8.30am-5.30pm
Dim Sum from 8.30am-11am and 3.30pm-5pm

Zaitun Multi Cuisine Family Restaurant in Ipoh Old Town

SeeFoon gets her spice fix in Old Town. The interesting phenomenon in Ipoh old town nowadays is observing the plethora of new restaurants that open. One of these is Zaitun, a newly-opened family restaurant on Market Street

SeeFoon gets her spice fix in Old Town

The interesting phenomenon in Ipoh old town nowadays is observing the plethora of new restaurants that open and close like Venus flytraps, that rare carnivorous plant species that traps insects who have the misfortune to wander close, lured by the bright colours and the fragrant scent it secretes. Hence the name Venus, the Roman Goddess of love.

Restaurants appear to do the same, open and close rather quickly and often, sad to say, we don’t even miss them. However, for a few new ones that have recently opened, I would like for them to stay around and become part of the Ipoh food scene.

One of these is Zaitun, a newly-opened family restaurant on Market Street, which is owned and operated by charming Naveen, an Indian national married to a local. This is the second restaurant to be opened by this enterprising young man whose first one, Hadramot Tent Restaurant, an Arabic restaurant, has been up and running for a while on Jalan Sri Ampang.

Far from a Venus flytrap, the signage for the restaurant is so unassuming that it’s easy to miss it. In fact, I have been so often to the PWW shop and not noticed it directly across the street. Plus I have an inherent prejudice against any restaurant that over-reaches and wanting to be all things to all people, for, as per Zaitun’s signboard, a “Multi Cuisine Family Restaurant”. But I was about to be proven wrong.

Selected Breads with Butter Chicken

Naveen has seven chefs manning different stations in the kitchen, all highly skilled in their respective specialities. So he’ll have someone just preparing all the grilled items, another all the breads, another on the Arabic sauces and mezes, one handling the continental dishes another blending the masalas and another one cooking the various regional Indian specialities, and so it goes. So there is not one or two ‘jack of all trades’ dishing out mediocre food.

That is what makes Zaitun special.

At first, I thought we were walking into a Malay restaurant as the name is fairly common here but Naveen explained that ‘zaitun’ means ‘olive’ in Arabic. So now that was all explained, we began to taste the dishes which on this particular occasion was a mix of Indian and Arabic dishes.

Chicken Mandi

The first dish was the Chicken Mandi a quarter of a chicken served with long-grain flavoured basmati rice, soup and Arabic sambal. The chicken looked remarkably bland on the plate but on tasting, was tender, well-marinated through and umami. The soup reminded me of a mild sup kambing and the Arabic sambal, pungent, fiery and had its own unique flavours, quite unlike the local Indian sambals I’ve tasted; RM13 – quarter, RM22 – half.

Next to come was a Chicken Cheese Tandoori, a large portion but with a difference. All the tandoori flavours were there but the addition of mozzarella cheese which was stuffed into the meat lent a new dimension to the tandoori package. The coriander-mint sauce was thankfully(!) not sweetened, mildly tart and tangy and the serving of mayonnaise (I reckon) was for those who need the fatty mouthfeel for the non-oily chicken; RM22.

The Butter Chicken was hands down one of the best I have tasted. Creamy, voluptuous, spicy and populated with chunks of chicken; RM17. We ate it with a mixture of Naans. Parathas, a Rumali Roti varying in price from RM3-5 except for the stuffed one.

Other dishes with gravy included a Chettinad Chicken made with 35 types of spices fresh from India, RM15, and a Chettinad Lamb at RM22.

Chettinad Chicken
Mixed Kebab

Then, we had the mixed kebab platter, lovely skewers of grilled minced lamb and chicken served with french fries and chilli sauce and mayo. The kebabs were certainly flavoured exotically (more Arabic) and were very tasty but I thought the attempt at fusion with the fries and mayo rather tainted the dish. I would have much rather preferred the coriander-mint chutney and a squeeze of lime. But then that is my palate and next time I would request for that. I am sure that many a young person would much prefer the fries and the mayo! Mixed RM23. Lamb only RM24.

Non Vegetarian Thali

We were five of us and by this time groaning with surfeit and then came the non-vegetarian Thali! Which is a full meal in itself – 11 small dishes of delectables, like Chicken Khorma (very umami), two types of dhal, mutton curry, fried bitter gourd, mixed vegetable and a very delicious fish curry which I have promised myself to order next time, served with a heaping portion of Ponni rice which you eat with ghee and powdered dahl – an unusual serving style which is new to me; RM24. There is also a vegetarian option for RM12 which is currently on promotion for RM10.

Chicken Biryani

Overall I found the prices at Zaitun very reasonable. Their menu is extensive and I hadn’t even ventured near their continental dishes! If they keep up with the quality, Ipoh can look forward to having them on the permanent food scene.

Zaitun Multi Cuisine Family Restaurant
(pork-free and waiting for Halal certification)
20, Jalan Market, 30000 Ipoh.

Contact: 017 737 2711

Business hours:
Monday-Sunday, 11am-10.30pm

Mandarin Kitchen in Falim

SeeFoon Revisits  Mandarin Kitchen in Falim

It’s been four years since I last visited Mandarin Kitchen in Falim. Not only have they since moved premises (still in Falim) but now its a bigger and roomier two shoplot space and as an added incentive, there is ample parking.

Restoran Mandarin Kitchen in Falim

What made me decide to revisit was that I heard they are now offering an ongoing promotion of fish curry for the price of RM20 on weekdays. Always thinking of my dear readers and how they would really enjoy this, I thought it was time to pay them another visit because I remember that there are some very interesting dishes on the menu. In fact, I wrote about them in issue 211 in 2015.

Sweet Sour Pork on Ice Bed @ Mandarin Kitchen in Falim
Sweet Sour Pork on Ice Bed

Revisiting this time, I got the opportunity to combine old taste memories and collect new ones and was I glad I did. I remember Chef Ng Wen Lih as one of the most creative chefs giving new twists to traditional dishes and some in the most unusual ways. So for example, my friends are always astounded when the Ku Lui Yoke or sweet-sour pork arrives on the table. The fried battered chunks of pork were served on a bed of ice which results in the batter becoming more crunchy and producing a new mouth feel. For those who like all their dishes served piping hot, this is not for their palate but for me, who is forever moaning about the heat, a cold crispy morsel of meat is just perfect, RM16/20/24.

Chef Ng’s wife Chong Lee Yong takes care of service and on the night we went, she introduced some of the new dishes (new to me as I haven’t been for so long).

We began with the Asam Prawns, medium-sized prawns marinated with a thick slightly sweetened asam paste and pan-fried. The prawns were very fresh and the sauce, although a tad sweet for my taste, was tangy and sweet without being cloying, RM22.

Asam Prawns @ Mandarin Kitchen in Falim
Asam Prawns
Pork belly with Fermented Red Yeast Rice

Next came one of their signature dishes, the Wuxi Fah Lam. Looking like Dong Po Yoke but a dark maroon-red in colour, the pork belly cut into smaller chunks but equally tender and the fat and skin, jelly smooth on the bite. Wuxi is the place in China where this style of cooking originates and the paste is very similar to the paste we get from the Fook Chow people in Sitiawan. This fermented paste made from red yeast rice lends a distinctive earthy taste to the pork. Served with homemade mantou (steamed Chinese buns), RM22.

The Fish Head Curry arrived. This is the pièce de résistance which lures people in, both for its very alluring price and the taste. At RM20 per boiling bubbling tureen, this Garoupa fish head is chopped into chunks and cooked in a creamy, very mild curry sauce that still has enough of the fire to remind you that you’re eating a curry. Monday-Friday promo only RM20; weekends RM30.

Fish Head Curry
Pork spare ribs with ice cream

Then came the most innovative dish of the evening, the Pai Kwat or pork ribs with ice cream. Yes, you got that right – ice cream! These are very meaty pork ribs on the bone, marinated and deep-fried and topped with a scoop of ice cream, this evening being the corn flavoured one. I have to admit that the taste was quite pleasing and unusual. After all why not ice cream? It’s almost a ready-made sauce when melted and though again a tad too sweet for my taste, my table mates devoured and loved it; RM15/25/36 for S/M/L.

Homemade Soft Tofu with Pumpkin Sauce @ Mandarin Kitchen in Falim
Homemade Soft Tofu with Pumpkin Sauce @ Mandarin Kitchen in Falim

Another signature dish next, the Homemade Soft Tofu, steamed and topped with a smooth pumpkin/seafood sauce laced with small prawns and salted egg yolk. The combination was velvety, umami and slurp-worthy, RM10/15/20.

We followed this with the sweet potato leaves fried with ham har cheong or preserved prawn paste – the Chinese variety and not our sambal belacan; RM8/12/16.

Sweet potato leaves fried with ham har cheong
Ice plant salad

The last greens we had was an ice plant salad, this succulent is currently the rage in Ipoh and most restaurants now have it on their menus. I love the crunchiness of the stems and leaves and prefer it raw in salads and in this case had a mayonnaise type dressing topped with oodles of crisped sliced dry cuttlefish. Yummilicious. RM12

I am glad I revisited Mandarin Kitchen.

MANDARIN KITCHEN
No. 11 & 13, Laluan Perusahaan Menglembu 2,
Kawasan Perusahaan Menglembu, 31450 Menglembu, Perak.

Tel: 012-475 7513

Business hours:
11.30am to 2.30pm; 6pm to 10.30pm (daily)
Off 1 weekday every 2 weeks (not fixed)

 

 

Mad Ramen in Old Town

SeeFoon Gets Mad about Ramen in Old Town

I love noodles. It’s my Achilles heel. No amount of willpower or determination can keep me from guzzling noodles if it’s staring me in the face and taunting me. Even if it means blowing my low-carb regime.

Which brings me to being mad about Mad Ramen Bar.

This newly-opened restaurant in the thick of old town right opposite Plan B has all the makings of a carb lover’s paradise. Ramen in all its guises served in various broths and topped with a large selection of condiments and garnishes are the stars of the show here.

Don’t look for sushi or sashimi here. Look instead for freshly pan-fried Yaki Gyoza, homemade pork and cabbage dumplings with grapefruit ponzu dipping sauce RM11.80 for 5 pcs. They also have a deep-fried version called Age Gyoza served with a Sriracha mayo for RM9.80

Don’t look for French fries here. Look instead for Porky Fries, thin strips of pork luncheon meat appearing on my table looking for all the world like sweet potato fries (which I thought they were) until I took the first bite. All my childhood memories of Ma Ling or Spam luncheon meat came flooding back and I was transported. Umami strips of meat, slightly crisped on the outside and tender on the inside. Great as a snack to go with their speciality Craft beers while waiting for your meal; RM10.80.

Porky Fries
Takoyaki Balls

Other nibblers or appetizers included the Takoyaki Balls, a very special rice-batter ball filled with bits of octopus, laced with Japanese sweet sauce and topped with Bonito flakes. You must be very careful biting into this ball as it arrives piping hot and can certainly burn your tongue; RM7.80 for 5 pieces.

While still on appetizers, we had a platter of their Yakitori skewers, ranging from Australian beef slice, pork belly, chicken, button and king oyster mushroom, bacon enoki and mixed vegetable. There is a two skewer per order minimum with prices ranging from RM3.80 to RM5.80 each and a Mad Ramen platter of one of everything for RM28.80. Dipping sauce is not necessary as each skewer is well seasoned.

Mad Ramen platter
Black Tonkotsu

Then we moved onto the Ramen. The menu lists items under the heading of Tonkotsu Ramen and Hokkaido Ramen. Tonkotsu Ramen is distinguished by its robust pork broth, simmered over 8 hours for a thick creamy result, definitely a labour of love! This ramen is a speciality dish from Fukuoka, Kyushu Island. From the Tonkotsu menu, we had the Black Tonkotsu, black garlic (extremely beneficial for health) and black sesame broth served with pork Chashu (a special roast pork) black fungus, braised egg and spring onions; RM19.80.

This was followed by the Pork Rib Black Shoyu, another robust broth with Black Shoyu, a huge braised pork rib, black fungus, braised egg and spring onions. The rib (ask for gloves to eat) was fall-off-the-bone tender and the broth divine. Definitely THE signature and must-have dish here; RM21.80.

Pork Rib Black Shoyu

Then one of my group suggested we sample the Hokkaido style Ramen, which he said was lighter and not as satiating. The Shio Ramen, one from the Hokkaido ramen series, a salt-based soup in chicken and vegetable broth with light and refreshing notes. With Ramen, pork Chashu, wakame, nori, braised egg, corn bamboo shoots and spring onions. Definitely lighter but equally umami; RM16.80.

On a previous occasion, I sampled their Chili Miso Ramen, served with the same condiments as the Shio ramen except that the Chili Miso lent a piquancy to the broth which I found delightful. And if the Scoville unit is not enough for you, you can always add the readily available sprinkle which they’ll be happy to supply; RM16.80.

Mad Ramen is a full bar, and their drinks menu is worth investigating. Their Craft Beers are certainly special as is their house Draft from Suntory, with a price of RM18.80 per glass and RM78.80 for a set of 5.

Sake Bomb

Worth having fun with is their Sake Bomb (they have an extensive range of Sakes) where you get a shot of sake and a beer. The shot of sake is placed on 2 chopsticks across the top of the beer mug and with whoops and much banging on the table, the shot of sake is encouraged to drop into the mug of beer. For those who fail, they’ll just have to buy another round!

MAD RAMEN BAR
3 Jalan Panglima, 30000 Ipoh.

Tel:  05 210 8866

Opening Hours
Weekdays:  12pm-3pm; 5.30pm-10.30pm (5.30pm-12am Thu & Fri)
Weekend:    Saturday (12pm-12am), Sunday (12pm-10.30pm)
Day off:        Tuesday