Help the Small Businesses: Dana’s Bamboo Biryani & Curry House

Dana’s Bamboo Biryani & Curry House

Pictures by Gisele Soo

SeeFoon is bowled over by Bamboo Biryani 

How deep is my love for biryani ? The mere mention of them makes my pulse race, starts me salivating and my mouth drools. And then some clever chef somewhere invented Bamboo Biryani and my love was sealed for eternity.

The intense combination of flavours, the spices adding their aromatic dimension and the steaming in the individual bamboo containers holding the rice and meat filling lending its own subtle nuances of flavours makes this a heady temptation only a corpse can resist.

A ‘new kid on the block’ in the biryani game, Dana’s Bamboo Biryani & Curry House only opened in August and on the day we went, already had a full house, all enjoying the variety of Bamboo Biryani.

The name Dana is taken from Co-owner Geevakumaran’s mother-in-law who loaned some of her recipes to the restaurant. 

The menu is simple: 6 types of Bamboo biryani ranging from Vegetarian (RM9.90), Chicken (RM14.90), Mutton (RM18.90), Prawn (RM17.90) and their specials, the Signature Norwegian Salmon Trout (RM21.90) and their Signature Blue Lobster with Prawn at RM27.90.

Mutton

Add-ons include their Chicken (RM8), Mutton (RM15), Salmon Trout (RM15 per piece), Fried Tenggiri or Mackerel (RM7 per piece), Crab Masala (RM11 per piece) and additional Vegetables (RM1.50).

Tomato chutney and raita (cucumber and onion salad) are provided on the side for all biryani dishes, along with mutton or chicken curry (fish curry can also be requested). Malawi Dhal curry is provided for vegetarians. 

The Vegetable Biryani uses 3 types of mushrooms for the Masala, their natural umami flavors infusing the whole dish. Their Chicken and Mutton Biryani were robust, the rice redolent with the respective flavours of the meat and tantalising to the last mouthful.

Chicken Biryani

The Signature Blue Lobster and Prawns Biryani was impressive. A small whole lobster together with several large prawns came tumbling out of the bamboo container and had our group riveted. The umami taste of shellfish was evident in the rice as those of us who liked our rice more “wet” added additional fish curry sauce to the mixture. A sure winner with local palates as an occasional affordable treat.  

Blue Lobster and Prawns Biryani

The portions were large so we decided to stick to ordering a la carte side dishes which was what we did with the Salmon Trout to have with the other biryani rice. The masala for this was robust and fiery adding an additional dimension of flavour to the salmon. The portion was large, easily satisfying all 4 of us with extra to spare. 

Salmon Trout

We also had a portion of their Pumpkin Masala, mildly spiced and a good contrast to some of the other fiery items.

What came next was a surprise. A large chicken chop, topped with melted cheese and listed as Cheesy Chicken Chop (RM15.90) was one of the best I’ve had in Ipoh. Crispy on the edges, tender inside, this thick chop had all the right makings of being a star item if you eschew the biryani. But I say to order it anyway in addition to the biryani. Served with a delicious pepper onion sauce, this will be served with plain or vegetarian biryani in the future. 

Cheesy Chicken Chop

We finished off our gargantuan meal with Mango Lassi (yogurt) Soft Serve Ice Cream churned from a special machine. Using imported canned Alphonso mangoes touted as the “King” of mangoes known for their distinctive fragrance, Geevakumaran proudly explained that these mangoes are not available anywhere else and have to be imported from India. A ‘must try’ at RM6.90.

Mango Lassi Soft Serve Ice Cream

Dana’s is pork free and will soon be applying for Halal certification. 

*Dana’s is also vegetarian friendly 

Address:
30, Jalan Bercham Bistari 1, Medan Bercham Bistari, 31400 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours:
11am-9pm, opens daily
Delivery/takeaway available through Foodpanda, Bungkusit, and soon Grabfood 

For inquiries:
018-669 0076

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

 

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

Biryani King: SeeFoon Eschews Curry and Discovers Masalas

A curry is a word to describe the sauce of a dish in India, usually an amalgamation of various spices with some liquid added. These mixtures of spices are called Masalas and the better Indian restaurants always grind and prepare their own. Curry powder is a western invention and it doesn’t exist in India. Recipe-specific spice mixes are more common.

The newly-opened Biryani King next to the Yik Foong building, opposite UTC, has a chef hailing from Hyderabad who grinds and makes his masalas fresh with spices imported from there. There is such a difference in taste when fresh roasted and fresh ground masalas are used in Indian cuisine and at Briyani King, that difference is palpable.

Biryani KingTheir Chicken Claypot Biryani, with fluffy long-grain Basmati rice fragranced with a masala exuding a heady mix of spices, too many to list, is cooked over charcoal and served in the claypot in which it was cooked. One order is enough for 2-3 people, RM28.

They have a choice of chicken, mutton, beef, seafood and vegetarian biryani as well as a Dhum Biryani (RM13.90) which is cooked in a sealed pot for an even richer taste.

Biryani KingKali Merch Mutton, a speciality from Hyderabad, has been marinated for two days and looks innocently mild and pale on the plate but it can sure pack a punch on the palate. The mutton is melt-in-the-mouth tender and the sauce peppery rather than chilli hot, RM16.

The Tandoori selection is wide, all cooked in their clay tandoor oven. Recommended is their Prawn Tikka which came on the shell and was very well marinated and spicy RM18;  Chicken which can be ordered in parts or whole RM10.50 quarter, half RM21, whole RM42; and the really divine dish is their Veg Hara Bhara Kebab, a vegetarian kebab topped with cashews RM13.

Biryani King

The Masala paste for their Crab Curry is second to none, thick, creamy and chock full of ginger, RM24, and do experience their Squid Masala, medium sized squid, very fresh, cut in chunks and cooked with a special masala mix, RM19.

Biryani KingAnd then to the Curry Fish Head, a dish that is getting harder to find these days, at least the ones with the right kind of fish. This the Garupa head, and not the other varieties more commonly available and not as tasty. Here the fish head comes in various sizes ranging in price from RM68-RM98. We had the small one which was adequate for our group of 4. The sauce was tangy without being overly spiced and had the usual garnishing of ladies fingers and brinjal.

We ate all of the above with their Rumala Roti (paper thin whole wheat flatbread) or their most unusual Mozzarella Cheese Naan, almost like a pizza and oozing with cheese (see pic). Be careful with the last item as it can be very filling. I had one slice and had to stop mid way to make room for other goodies.

Biryani King

They have a promotion where you get one Mozzarella Cheese Naan with one piece of Tandoori chicken accompanied by iced lemon tea. All for RM16.90 which is a bargain. Also their Biryani promotions are very good value, starting at RM28 for 2 pax and you even get to take the Claypot home with you!

All in all, Biryani King, the ‘new kid on the block’ has a very extensive menu and their opening till 10.30pm means one can go for a leisurely dinner and the added attraction is their space occupying two shop lots with one side air conditioned.

 

Biryani King
#57-59 Jalan Laxamana, 30300 Ipoh, (opposite UTC building)
Tel: 05 246 0525
WhatsApp and Hotline: 6011 3330 1008;
Ask for Operations Supervisor Malik
Business hours: Monday-Sunday 10.30am-10.30pm
Fridays: Closed for prayers between 1pm-2pm
Pork Free (Halal certification in process)

SeeFoon eats her way around India

What does the average non Indian person conjure up when thinking of Indian food? Curry and more curry eaten with Roti Canai or Chapati with some biryani rice thrown in for good measure.

The truth is there is as much diversity and variety in Indian cuisine as in any of the other great cuisines of the world like the French and Chinese. And like these two, often you need to be in that locality to taste the regional specialities. Similarly with Indian cuisine.

You’d have to traverse the whole of the sub continent from North to South, East to West to get a real feel for the subtleties of the different styles of cooking and the spices and ingredients used.

In Ipoh, we are fortunate to have one Indian restaurant where one sits in one spot and take a culinary tour of India and that is at the Maharaj Restaurant at the Shooting Club on Gopeng Road. All the while surrounded by Moghul splendor in the decor.

I had raved about the food at this restaurant in the August 1, 2014 issue of the Ipoh Echo when it was a new kid on the block. A meal here at Maharaj can be likened to a gourmet feast around India as they’re proud to be presenting dishes from the different states such as Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, the West Coast and Northern India. Now they have even added Sri Lanka to their geographical repertoire with a dish called Ceylon Mutton, marinated morsels of mutton deep fried with masala paste and topped with yoghurt; RM25.

Naturally for me, a visit to Maharaj is not complete unless I have their Tandoori Chicken, a whole chicken leg (as in almost a quarter chicken) marinated in yoghurt and delicate spices, dripped with lime or lemon and served with their coriander, mint chutney. Every mouthful is worth savouring, having in my mind, the most juicy, delectably tender texture and taste of any chicken tandoori I’ve had anywhere else including India itself; RM21 per leg.

The Fish Guntur Pomfret Masala from Andhra Pradesh had my friend Datin Grace Lee hankering for more and ordering a portion to take home. The pomfret was first deep fried and served smothered  in a thick chilli paste gravy; RM35/40 (depending on market price of the fish).

Chettinad Nandu Masala is their specialty crab curry, local mud crabs cooked in the Chettinad style from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India, perhaps the most renowned fare in the Tamil Nadu repertoire. It uses a variety of spices and the dishes are made with fresh ground masalas; seasonal price.

Prawn Kadai Jinghha, cooked in a pounded dry masala, with typical Punjabi flavours, is certainly not for the weak-hearted. It provides a perfect blend of spices and prawns in a tangy yet spicy gravy with added capsicum, in an onion, garlic, cashew nut base; RM26.

Paneer Tikka Tandoori served in a masala sauce made with a cashew nut and onion base, had a pleasant smoky taste from the Paneer (homemade Indian cottage cheese) having been cooked in the Tandoor oven and overlaid with the sauce. Very rich and satisfying and definitely for sharing with a larger group; RM38.

With all the yummilicious dishes as described above, naturally we couldn’t have downed all these sauces and gravies without some carbs to mop them up. And carbs we got by the bushel.

Keema Naan, flatbread cooked in the tandoor and stuffed with a very tasty spiced minced mutton was delicious on its own and certainly accentuated with any of the foregoing gravies; RM9.90, as did the Mushroom Parata, a fluffier version of the Naan filled with mushrooms; RM9.

And then there was the rice, from a plain Vegetable biryani to the Garlic Rice at RM8 each. A total surfeit of carbs!

In conclusion, if a culinary trip around India is your fancy, call Murugan, the manager  at Maharaj: MMM! And order yourself up a storm. He’ll be happy to adjust the heat for you according to your taste buds.

Also please remember that they serve high tea from 3pm offering some delectable street food of India not usually found in restaurants and rarely in Ipoh, which changes regularly. Go to our website: ipohecho.com.my and look up “High Tea at Maharaj” in the August 1, 2017 issue.

 
Maharaj Restaurant (Pork Free)Perak Shooting Association
36, Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah (Gopeng Road), Ipoh.
GPS:  N 4° 35.285’  E 101° 5.84’Tel: 05 243 2515
Business hours: 11am-3pm (breakfast); 3pm-6pm (Indian high tea); 6pm-10.30pm (dinner).
Open 24/7

Ipoh Padang Curry House: SeeFoon finally gets her Thosai wish fulfilled

I have become one of those people who don’t eat breakfast. Despite all the conventional wisdom that advocates otherwise. So what can I do about placating my yearning for Thosai as all banana leaf places only serve it for breakfast or tea time, neither of which are good times for me.

However, there is one banana leaf restaurant that serves Thosai and Roti Canai all day long and this is where I head to when the craving hits me. Despite ownership having changed hands about two years ago and the shop space having expanded into two shoplots with comfortable air conditioning, the food concept has not changed. Ipoh Padang Curry House still hits the right notes with their all-day Thosai, Roti Canai and Chapati, not to mention their huge selection of 36 different dishes which now beckon.

Restoran Ipoh Padang Curry House & Catering

From a simple Vegetarian Banana Leaf meal with unlimited rice and vegetables at RM8, to fish, meat as in chicken and mutton; and a dazzling variety of vegetables, pickles and snacks like vadai, Ipoh Padang has it all.

I judge a Thosai by the quality of their coconut chutney and the one at Ipoh Padang is an excellent one. Spicy enough but not overly so, with a thickness and consistency that is perfect, (unlike some other places that are pale, bland and liquid) accompanied by two other dips that can be a choice of a very thin dhal curry or a very tasty vegetable korma or a sambal. Order with it a mutton curry RM13, Chicken Varuval RM5, a portion of beets and you’re in banana leaf heaven. The Paper Thosai itself is crispy and crumbly and absolutely melt-in-mouth. Of course for those who prefer the soft pancake variety, these too are available, all day long.

Restoran Ipoh Padang Curry House & CateringRestoran Ipoh Padang Curry House & Catering

We’re spoilt for choice at Ipoh Padang. The vegetable dishes alone, cooked in a myriad ways and in different styles, are small and affordable, averaging RM3 per portion. Of particular note are their Sayur Paku (jungle fern) and their Sayur Manis (sweet potato leaves), oyster mushrooms, their vegetable korma and a host of others, depending on seasonality. Ask for their pickled fried chilli (packs a punch) which comes free as does their Pappadum, the Indian “cracker” made from chickpea flour.

Restoran Ipoh Padang Curry House & Catering

Black Pepper Chicken is worthy of mention, chunks of tender chicken coated with a thick black pepper sauce, the pepper lending the predominant spice kick to the dish – RM6.

A variety of fish prepared in different styles from deep fried to sambal and curry RM5+, provides ample choice for the fishtarian as does their prawn and sotong sambals – RM4.50.

You could go to Ipoh Padang for a whole week and not exhaust the menu nor empty your pocket. All the chefs are from India so you’ll be getting the authentic Indian taste here.

With a whole 12 hours in a day to drop in for a meal, and sitting in air-conditioned comfort, Ipoh Padang, being situated in the heart of town, is certainly THE place to drop in for breakfast, lunch tea or early dinner.

 
Restoran Ipoh Padang Curry House & Catering (Halal)
93 Jalan Raja Ekram, 30450 Ipoh.
Tel:  016 881 9097 or 05 243 9097
Ask for Mr Selva (Manager)
Business hours:  7am-7pm
GPS:  4° 35’ 55.788’’N 101° 5’ 11.3928’’E

Enduring Restaurants in Ipoh

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Pics by Vivien Lian & Luqman Hakim

Ipoh is beginning to edge out Penang as the food capital of Malaysia. However, with Cafes and restaurants popping up all over Ipoh, it is difficult to keep track of the comings and goings of what has opened and where. And most importantly, what type and how good is the quality of food.

I arrived in Ipoh 22 years ago, having spent most of my working life in the hotel and F&B industry and dining around the world in some of the best and (worst) places. Food has always been dear to my heart and the first irresistible item I fell in love with, here in Ipoh, were the Udang Galah or Tualang prawns – in those days at least six inches long with a huge head to boot. And the best place to have them was in Mun Choong restaurant in Pasir Puteh.

Which led to me to thinking about Ipoh’s ‘Enduring Restaurants’, those restaurants that have stood the test of time, survived the fickle palates of their clients and continue to produce quality food. In this issue, I shall highlight some of these enduring restaurants, their special signature dishes and explore the reasons for their enduring success.

 

Quality of food above all ranks highest in ongoing success of any restaurant

The Big 3: Food Quality, Service and Perceived Value

While ambiance is a nice-to-have, many a restaurant have opened and closed despite heaps of money spent on decor and conversions.

The fine balance between the Big 3 of food quality, service and perceived value is a subtle one. While some may save up for years for that once in a lifetime taste of a Michelin-star meal, others may splurge occasionally for special occasions and celebrations. And then there is that vast majority who seek out quality meals at reasonable prices, especially in these days of rising food costs.

And here is where that magic Big 3 balance plays a big role.

Poor Service

The food may be superb but if the service is surly and sloppy, it’s guaranteed to turn customers away, even if the ambiance is magnificent.

And the reception is important. I go often to Crab House for meals when entertaining my out-of-town guests because Fanny the front-of-house proprietor is always accommodating and willing to adapt dishes to my and my guests’ palate. For example, one Singaporean friend wanted to eat ‘kah heong choi’ or country-style home cooking. With two hours notice, she managed to produce a steamed minced pork with salted fish (it’s not on their menu) and a few other dishes. That is service and the reason I will always stay loyal to Crab House.

Perceived Value

However, if ambiance and service is superlative but the food itself is middle of the road and the price is high, then the ‘perceived value’ (it is all in the customer’s perception after all) is not going to be favourable.

A customer who is accustomed to paying RM500-600 for a wild-caught steamed fish will not recoil at RM1000 meals, but for someone who eats at the stalls, RM8 for a plate of fried noodles is high. However, if the quality is superlative, then chances are, even the budget diner will acquiesce.

Food Quality

The most enduring restaurants in my estimation maintain consistently good food quality. The operative word is consistency…..not mood- dependent on market (as in food markets) conditions nor the whims and fancies of the chef!

Customers always look for the same taste they had ‘the last time’ and if this is not forthcoming, as in a change of chef, then they are bound to be disappointed. Unless the new chef has some new recipes up his sleeve and service staff introduce these as ‘something new’.

The biggest obstacle for consistency lies in hiring outside chefs who subsist on a salary and have no vested interest in the success of the restaurant. So they come and go like the weather, occasionally stormy, other times, sunny and breezy and worst of all, like when a hurricane blows and the Chef and all his kitchen helpers quit!! That is when the customer suffers!

Survival Strategies

So what do restaurants do to survive and sustain their popularity? In this article I will be detailing some of the best strategies that restaurants in Ipoh have used to keep customers returning to them, whether to impress clients and visitors or simply for a celebratory meal.

MUN CHOONG

Some restaurants rely on their trusted old favourites as in Mun Choong’s Tualang Prawns (can be done two ways: tails pan-fried and heads steamed) and their smoked chicken with garlic rice, beef soup and Patin fish in claypot. And here is where you can have the famous Soon Hock (marble goby) fish steamed, as well as their soya sauce baked crabs. Mun Choong has gone from being a one-level restaurant to a three-storied edifice where banquets and big celebrations can be handled with a capacity of 900.

I suspect that the reason for Mun Choong’s success is that the owner, Choong Fong Keam is a chef himself and even today, when old buddies host dinner, he will personally cook. Sourcing for supplies is also their strong point as they always have good fish, crabs and prawns. Also the service is impeccable and unless you order all expensive dishes, the price is reasonable. Dodo (her nickname) gives excellent service and do offer her a glass of your favourite tipple if you happen to BYO. She loves it.

MUN CHOONG
511-517 Jalan Pasir Puteh, Taman Camay, 31650 Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 34′ 37.902”N 101° 4′ 51.906”E
Tel:  012 529 5155 or 05 321 2815
Business hours:  11.30am-10pm daily

 


SUN LEE HOW FOOK

Sun Lee How Fook is another enduring restaurant (since 1967) that has been winning loyal clients for the past 51 years purely on the quality of their food.

Their suckling pig has been wowing customers for years and those in the know will always opt for this restaurant when Suckling Pig is on the cards. Also their Fatt Tiew Cheong (Monk Jumped Over the Fence – superior broth with abalone, shark’s fin, black mushroom, fish bladder and sea cucumber) or as is the case nowadays when a lot of folks are opting for not eating shark’s fin, their Fatt Sui Yuen, same soup and broth but minus the shark’s fin, is unbeatable.

Again here the balance of the Big 3 makes this one of the enduring restaurants in Ipoh.

SUN LEE HOW FOOK
96 Jalan Kampar, 30250 Ipoh.
GPS:  4°35’04.9″N 101°05’27.6″E
Tel:  05 253 3268, 241 3268 & 254 3551
Business hours:  11.45am-2.30pm & 5.45pm-10.30pm

 


CRAB HOUSE

Although a new kid on the block (since 2012), Crab House, which has been operating now for six years has joined the ranks of enduring restaurants in Ipoh. Fannie and her partner Chef Ah Seng, has worked in some of the top Chinese restaurants in Ipoh and together have produced an equally enduring restaurant that can hold its own against the ‘big boys’.

Small by comparison, Fannie makes up for size in service and Chef Ah Seng in innovation, producing new dishes regularly to satisfy customers’ fickle palates. Their exclusive rights to the total production of some private farm’s white spinach is a case in point, as well as Fannie’s zealous efforts, travelling regularly to Teluk Intan (where she sources the prawns) and Pantai Remis to source for their fresh seafood. Their crabs, most of which are from Indonesia, are some of the best around and cooked in any style to suit your palate.

CRAB HOUSE
32 Laluan Perajurit 1, Taman Ipoh Timur, Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 37′ 1.7472”N 101° 7′ 30.4428”E
Tel: 05 548 3668 or 012 565 7723 (Fanny Chan)
Business hours:  Open 7 days a week, 11am-2.30pm & 5.30pm-11pm

 

CITRUS WINE & DINE

Chef Simon Lee needs no introduction having steadfastly built Citrus into the reputable western fine dining restaurant that it is today.

Opened 13 years ago, it began as a modest one-level restaurant in Ipoh Garden East when the area was still an ‘outback’ and customers were asking, “Why so far Simon?” Today, customers are beating a path to his door and with wife Erica manning the front of the house, Simon (who is a trained chef having worked for international hotel chains) has cooked and won a place in the hearts of many an Ipohite who loves good western food without having to mortgage their homes to pay for meals!!

Along the way Simon has taught himself Molecular cooking and has awed many including myself with his mastery of the techniques.

Here at Citrus, every dish is a treat and depending on what your budget is, there is a dish to suit all palates and pockets. All delicious.

If splurging is in the cards, order their Wagyu Tomahawk steaklobster pasta and finish off with their mixed dessert.

CITRUS WINE AND DINE
38-42 Laluan Ipoh Perdana, Taman Ipoh Perdana, Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 37′ 14.088”N 101° 8′ 6.5292”E
Tel:  05 545 1010 or 012 527 1210 (Erica)
Business hours:  11.30am-3pm & 6.30pm-11pm; closed Mondays

 


PAKEEZA RESTAURANT

When a restaurant has been around for more than 30 years and still garners a faithful following of diners, then you know that it is a restaurant of note. This is Pakeeza, the one North Indian restaurant that has consistently stayed on top of the list in Ipoh for people hankering for North Indian food.

Their secret to success is vigilance over the recipes which are closely guarded secrets of proprietor Rizal’s mother, bearing her imprint. Beautifully plated and presented, the dishes arrive in quick succession served by very courteous and knowledgeable waiters who can happily describe the food as they portion it out.

The pièce de résistance in Pakeeza has to be the Tandoori Chicken, succulent pieces of chicken marinated in their own secret mix of spices and yoghurt, and cooked in the clay oven which has pride of place in their kitchen.

The menu is extensive, with a large selection of breads coming piping hot from the Tandoor. There is also a choice of different styles of rice to go with the various dishes. From plain steamed rice to their Briyani which come plain or with vegetables, chicken, mutton or beef. Must-tries are the boneless Buttered ChickenMutton Kerahi and Prawn Masala.

PAKEEZA RESTAURANT (Halal)
15-17 Jalan Dato Seri Ahmad Said, Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 35.996’N, 101° 5.228’E
Tel:  05 241 4243 & 05 253 0407
Business hours:  11am-3pm & 6pm-10.30pm

 


 

INDULGENCE

Indulgence first opened in a two shop-lot unit opposite the Canning market 22 years ago and moved into its grand heritage premises some years later. As the doyenne of cuisine and fine dining, Julie Song has been instrumental in putting Ipoh on the culinary map with customers beating a path to her door, all the way from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and further afield.

Julie creates fantasy on a plate, sometimes Japanese, occasionally Korean, add Chinese finesse, local ingredients and always, always with a Cordon Bleu touch.

Now a new Bakery Table for lunch has been launched for takeaway as well as for dine in. Tuck into mouth-watering Charcoal Brioche with black sesame, or Beetroot Milk Buns with red bean mochi, and Salted Egg Yolk Cheese Tarts and a host of other mouth-watering temptations.

Together with lunchtime surprise platters, Indulgence is attempting to remove the perception of it being overpriced and hence not giving value. Which will see Indulgence offering all the Big 3 of food quality, service and perceived value.

INDULGENCE RESTAURANT AND LIVING
14 Jalan Raja DiHilir, 30350 Ipoh.
GPS:  4° 35′ 36.636”N 101° 5′ 38.6556”E
Tel:  05 255 7051
Business hours:  10am-10.30pm; Monday & Tuesday closed

SeeFoon Goes Bananas over Banana Leaf Curry

The problem with most Banana Leaf places is that no matter how superlative the food, most of the time, you are eating hot stuff in a hot place! With tears streaming, sweat pouring, and nose sniffling, the entire Banana Leaf eating experience is often diminished.

Now a new Banana Leaf experience is conveniently located in Meru Raya, near where I live, where I can savour all my favourite fiery South Indian delectables in cool comfort.

Called Daun Pisang, the restaurant’s specialty is Claypot Fish Curry with a wide choice of other dishes cooked in the inimitable South Indian tradition. This is a restaurant that specialises in fish and chicken prepared in a wide variety of styles.

Aside from their Claypot Fish Curry with a choice of Red Snapper (Ikan Merah)Tenggiri (local mackerel) Pomfret (Bawal Hitam) in sizes small, medium and large, (S: RM12; M: RM22; L: RM38) they also offer the same with chicken cooked and served in claypot at (S: RM8.50; M: RM16; L: RM30).

Their Claypot Fish Curry is tangy, with just the right sour notes, spicy enough though not searing and cooked with ladies fingers, brinjals and tomatoes. Fish head too can be ordered and, as they use Red Snapper head, is priced according to market price, ranging from RM48-RM60 depending on the size. Do ask before ordering or better still, order a day ahead to ensure they keep one for you. Red Snapper fish head is becoming scarce and hard to find these days so having it available at Daun Pisang is a boon.

Because they specialise in serving primarily chicken and fish means that the chef has more time to focus on the quality, getting the freshest fish available. Both the fish in the fish curry as well as the different fried fish which I tried were all ocean fresh and well selected.

In the Fried category, their special marination of the fish for 24 hours and served with crispy fried onion rings and curry leaves, lifts the dish from the ordinary to the very special. The choice of fish for frying which is done a’la minute as you select, ranges from Tenggiri RM8Kembong (a smaller type of local mackerel) RM7Senangin (also know as local salmon), Bawal Hitam (black pomfret) both at RM8 per 100g; and Ikan Bulus or Chinese Sar Chui Yu at RM2 per piece. And when freshly available, they also have fried sotong (squid).

Another fried dish is their Chicken Berempah which is well marinated for at least 24 hours, fried a’la minute as you select your piece, arriving at the table piping hot, crispy at the edges, juicy and tender inside and encrusted with bits of the spices used in the marinade. Totally yummilicious at RM5-S and RM8-M.

Wet dishes include their Chicken Varuval and Paratal or Spicy chicken priced at RM8.50 per portion while their Chicken Rendang is priced at RM9.50. All well spiced, not too chili hot and well coated with sauce. Occasionally mutton is available and usually served in the Varuval style.

There is a large selection of vegetables and accompaniments of Indian mouthwatering pickles and interesting tidbits. Their spiced green banana coin shaped chips are made fresh, rubbed with dried spices and fried crisp. Wonderful to nibble on while waiting for the rest of the food or to take home and served with cocktails. Their crispy fried chillies which I love, were eye-wateringly spicy but little bites in between provided for me the tantalising scorch on the tongue that I crave for. Their vegetarian banana leaf spread consisting of 3 vegetables, papadam, pickle, rasam (a sourish soup that is reputed to settle digestion and also to clear the palate), sambar (thin lentil gruel with mixed vegetables) and dried chilli fritters. RM8.80.

As they also open for breakfast, their breakfast fare include Thosai, Appam, Murtabak, Roti Canai and a whole host of other Indian specialties ranging in price from RM1.50 for plain Roti Canai to RM5 for a chicken Murtabak. Of special note are their chutneys that come with their range of Thosai. Every Thosai is served with three chutneys, and these are all made fresh every day, as are their Thosai. The Thosai I loved the best was their Rawa Thosai, a thin crispy pancake with holes and laced with hints of fennel, and other Indian spices – RM2.80. These breakfast items are served from early morning until 11am when the lunch service begins and resume again at 3pm. Don’t forget to also try their Masala Tea.

 
Daun Pisang Restaurant Claypot Fish Curry
(Pork Free; Halal certification coming soon)
#93, A-G, Jalan Meru Bestari B2
Medan Meru Bestari, Bandar Meru Raya
Tel: +6014 921 6889 Prem Kumar Manager  05 525 3995
Business hours: 8am-10pm. Closed Sundays.

SeeFoon Goes for Spice and All Things Nice

Once in a while the hankering for a sweat inducing, fiery meal grips me and my gustatory juices start flowing, prompting me to seek out the next ‘hot’ spot to sate my culinary yearnings. That was when Vivien Lian my girl Friday who is my assistant on the 2nd edition of my Foodie’s Guide (yes there is going to be a next edition soon….watch this space) suggested Sri Khalisa.

Established in 2014, Sri Khalisa Restaurant & Catering is an unassuming corner shop offering home-cooked style, mouth-watering, South Indian cuisine with oodles of little touches that set this place apart.

Sri Khalisa Restaurant & CateringOne of the highlights of the family-oriented dining spot is it’s not-so-common crab masala (RM7 per piece) featuring almost bite-sized flower crabs that you can enjoy, either the dainty or down-home, use-your-hands way. Bursting with flavours notably of anise and fenugreek, the juicy white meat is drenched in delicate ribbons of egg to thicken the sauce which is umami and yummilicious. Your rice or the free-flow of pappadum will sop up the addictive spicy sauce! This special dish is served about three times a week, depending on the availability of fresh crab at the market. A must-have.

Other all-time favourite dishes for lunch include the chicken varuval (RM5 per plate)mutton pretal (RM7 per plate)petai sambal (RM5 per plate)butter prawn (RM7 per plate) and briyani (RM7.50 per plate). All the ingredients are sourced locally.

Sri Khalisa Restaurant & CateringChicken varuval and petai sambal pack a strong kick that isn’t toned down, for which those seeking the real deal will adore. Meanwhile, the mutton pretal and butter prawns are more restrained in their burn factor. Of special note is the mutton pretal for its tender, well-cooked mutton chunks immersed in the curry gravy that is a meat-lover’s dream.

To cool these fiery sensations, A. Jevan, the owner, suggests trying their plain lassi (RM1.50 per cup).

The amiable Jevan explained, “I did engineering, having studied in London and Melbourne. My father-in-law had a restaurant earlier by the same name at Kuala Kangsar Road which was closed down. So I decided to shift the business and begin one here.”

“Our main regulars are factory workers from the surrounding area. We receive the biggest crowd during breakfast. We also have customers coming from as far as Johor and Singapore,” he said.

Sri Khalisa Restaurant & CateringSri Khalisa Restaurant & Catering

Brimming with variety, the breakfast menu features Malay, Chinese and Indian delicacies such as nasi lemak,  yau char kwai (Chinese fried churros), kuih (cakes), appam (Indian pancake), idli (Indian savoury cake), thosai (Indian pancake), fried noodle, fried rice and more.

With a seating capacity of 70, the restaurant provides a free-flow of pickle and rasam (pepper soup). As for the catering side, Sri Khalisa has catered for plenty of governmental functions.

Sri Khalisa Restaurant & CateringSri Khalisa Restaurant & Catering

“Our catering capacity is up to 5000 people. In a day, we can cater up to five weddings of 1000 pax each in Ipoh!” Jevan added.

Sri Khalisa opens daily from 6am till 7pm, thus one can enjoy its homely fare all day every day!

 
Sri Khalisa Restaurant & Catering Sdn Bhd (Halal)
No. 71, Jalan Raja Perempuan Muzwin, Taman Rishah,
30100 Ipoh, Perak.
016 532 1514 (A. Jevan) / 016 566 4302 (K. Priya)
Business hours: 6am-7pm daily 24/7

SeeFoon Goes ‘Off The Eaten Track’ and Discovers PlateCulture

Air Asia has popularised the idea that now ‘Everyone Can Fly’. Then came Airbnb with its ‘Belong Anywhere’ branding where the whole world is one huge accommodation marketplace.

Now with ‘PlateCulture’, everyone can entertain at home.

At Home’ in this instance is not at your home where you have to prepare, cook, serve and that most dreary of chores – washing up – but at the home of the Chef. The PlateCulture Chef is someone deeply in love with cooking and ready to show his/her cooking skills to people appreciating good food. These hosts range from professionally-trained chefs to the most passionate and practiced home cooks. PlateCulture Chefs cook and host pre-arranged dining events at their homes.

Events take place in Chef’s homes. So if a Chef is different – the place will also be different. After you book, Chef confirms the booking and you make the payment.

The first Plate Culture experience to arrive in Ipoh is at the home of Mallika and Subash. Located at Ipoh Garden East, their home is cosy with the only other caveat for you the diner, is to be a dog lover. Three lovable and extremely friendly Shih Tsu’s who will only want your love and attention, will greet you enthusiastically on arrival. But Mallika will lock them away if you’re dog shy.

Mallika and Subash specialize in Biriyanis which they offer on Plate Culture (https://plateculture.com/) as the Ashley’s Biriyani Experience. Mallika who loves to write and has a blog ‘My World in Words’ has this to say on their entry into the world of Plate Culture:

“My husband and I love cooking! He picked up his culinary skills whilst studying in the UK and I was an ardent student under the tutelage of my mum and my mum-in-law.

We are also avid travellers and what we discovered during our travels was the difficulty in finding a really good, taste-bud satisfying plate of Biriyani! This prompted us to experiment and slowly but surely we derived a mouth-watering concoction of our very own version of Biriyani! You will love it!

Besides the main course of Biriyani, of which we have either chicken or mutton, we serve a fresh yoghurty vegetable and fruit Raita, a tangy Mint Chutney, mildly explosive Raisin Chutney and Papadam. To wash down your meal, we serve freshly squeezed limey-lemonade.

For our beloved vegetarian friends, we have a mildly spicy vegetable Biriyani, served with all the side dishes mentioned including a delectable, tingling Ginger pickle known traditionally as Injee Puli.

To us, cooking is almost a religion – at least we think so – one’s heart has to be clean and the energy one transfers from one’s hands to the food must flow with positive vibes -a sacred act prepared with love and care will only manifest good health.

We take the preparing of meals for our family seriously – it is a labour of Love – and most importantly, when our family sits together to enjoy a meal, we bless our food and take our time savouring each morsel. Food is sacred business, you know!

On that note, we would love to invite you all to our home to get to know you and share in our Biriyani Experience! See you soon!”

I can certainly vouch for the Biriyani Experience as a most delightful and enjoyable one. The enthusiastic greeting from Mallika’s three Shih Tsu’s just tops Mallika’s own welcome, a gracious presence complemented by Subash’s more reserved one. Their sitting room is comfortable and apple juice was forthcoming almost immediately the moment we sat down.

The meal is served in their dining area adjacent to the kitchen which was spic and span. The spread was already on the table when we sat down, Fried Chicken Biriyani, Mutton Dum Biriyani, fruit and vegetable Raita and three different chutneys, the mint, ginger and raisin, hard boiled eggs and papadum.

Fresh made lemonade was served throughout the meal and Mallika and Subash couldn’t have been more thoughtful, hovering or sitting and chatting with the three of us who were there.


Of the three different Biriyanis which I tasted, my favourite was the Mutton Dum biriyani. This style of cooking involves marinating and cooking the meat with its own delectable spice blend, then added to the rice, the pot sealed with a flour paste and   left to cook in its own juices. The pot is only unsealed just before serving, stirred to distribute the flavours, topped with added fried onions and garnishes and the end result is delectable rice heaven. The other biriyanis are equally tasty albeit more toned down and probably appealing to the less fiery palates. The Mutton Dum biriyani can also be changed to Chicken Dum Biriyani for those who don’t like mutton and the style of cooking remains the same.

We ended our meal with an Indian classical dessert, the Falooda, made with basil seeds, rose syrup, vermicelli, sweet milk and topped with crushed almonds and cashews. Indians believe that Basil seeds are ‘cooling’ and it was indeed a most refreshing dessert.

A typical menu on their Plate Culture website looks like this:

  • A refreshing Welcome drink – Orangena or Applecious
  • Chicken /Mutton Biriyani
  • Vegetable/Fruit Raita
  • Raisin Chutney/Mint Chutney/Papadam
  • Vermicelli Pudding (Falooda)
  • Free flow of freshly squeezed limey-lemonade with a hint of ginger and mint!

This is priced at RM41 per guest, with a minimum of two guests and a maximum of six.

However, Mallika and Subash are happy to cater and deliver to your home at the following prices per head with a minimum order of 10 and a maximum of 20: Chicken – RM18; Mutton Dum – RM20; Vegetarian – RM16; Fried chicken – RM18. These come with mint chutney, raitha, ginger chutney, papadum, hard-boiled eggs which is included in the per head price. Eat-in comes with lemonade, papadum and falooda.

 
Ashley’s Biriyani Experience
9 Lebuh Perajurit 3, Ipoh Garden East.
Mallika Madhavan-Subash and Subash Damodaran.
018 245 7886 and 018 298 5466.
https://plateculture.com/where-to-eat/ashleys-biriyani-experience?city=ipoh