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: 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: 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 

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.

 

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

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)

 

 

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