One good thing that has come out of the pandemic (it’s important to always look for the silver lining) is the mushrooming of home chefs and bakers. Where many have been hesitant about showing their prowess hitherto, the pandemic and MCO has some of the best of them posting and sharing about their products on Facebook, and through recommendations of friends the larger community gets to hear and learn about them.
Ann Tan is one of them. Using the German term Küche which stands for “kitchen”, where some of the best breads and sourdough starters are made around the world, Ann started baking many years ago.
Coming from a background of running a daycare business, Ann decided to bring her baked breads to the larger market in Ipoh ever since her children have flown from the nest. She also makes other baked goods (especially her yummilicious croissants made with French butter) but you, dear reader, will have to enquire individually with her about these.
Ann specializes in sourdough breads, all naturally leavened with no commercial yeast used. She has a creative range of breads to pick from, all sourdough and all leavened the true artisanal way, as indicated by the uneven holes in her products.
Some of her breads are perfect for making sandwiches as they are not too “holey”, while others with larger holes beg to be torn off with your hands, slathered with butter or whatever you like with your bread, and eaten piece by delectable piece.
Ann’s Basic country loaf is RM18, as are the Sourdough mixed seeds (white, black sesame, quinoa) and the Sourdough pan loaf (Hainanese or sandwich).
Sourdough turmeric, spinach, charcoal, purple sweet potatoes and carrot are RM20.
But these are not all as she sometimes curates some other amazing flavours. All orders require an advance notice of two days and all are self pick-up at Canning Garden where she bakes and lives.
She also teaches 1-on-1 Sourdough Baking classes online. You can discuss with her for details and arrangements.
I love dried prawns and I cannot live without chillies. Put these two ingredients together, add some magic and voila! You have Sambal Udang (shrimp sambal).
Now I used to make my own sambal udang from my mother’s recipe, spending hours standing over a hot wok stirring the mixture till dry and putting them into bottles or freezing for future use (as I certainly wasn’t going to do that too often!). I even used to take packets with me on my travels, especially for trips to the West when the craving for salivary excitement calls.
To save myself the tedious labour and hoping to find it commercially available, for years I have scoured the supermarket shelves in Southeast Asian countries for that inimitable taste but to no avail.
They were either too sweet, too salty, too oily, or simply “TOO” not appealing to my palate. And too many had oodles of preservatives as well as MSG, my nemesis.
When I discovered SAMBAL UDANG by Sambal Aunty Homemade, I was overjoyed.
Crispy, spicy, prawny, not too sweet, not too oily, NO preservatives, all natural deliciousness held in a bottle.
I now declare myself an addict. Addicted to this particular sambal udang. I sprinkle it on bread, on eggs, on noodles, on congee, on EVERYTHING!
And the wonderful news is that this is an Ipoh product, the brainchild of Tommy Woo, an Ipohite.
Not only does the packaging jump out at you, but the bright red label screams, “Try me. Try me” —or at least that’s the message I got when I saw this! So try I did and not only was I not disappointed as I have been with many other products, I also found myself proclaiming to all within earshot: “I want to eat this every day.”
There is also a paste that is great with vegetables, either spooned on top or fried with it. A little goes a long way with this paste as it is quite fiery.
This Sambal Udang may be purchased from any one of the locations and outlets listed on the Sambal Aunty Homemade Facebook page.
Prices are as below:
80g for RM10.90 (small jar)
100g for RM10.90 (packet)
120g for RM13.90 (dry shrimp)
240g for RM14.90 (oil shrimp)
120g for RM15.90 (premium)
They are also available on Shopee and Lazada. There are gazillions of sambal udang on the online shopping sites so do make sure you recognize the right label as per the pictures shown.
They can also deliver to your doorstep. Just WhatsApp 019-3288 600.
Try a bottle. Wet or Dry version, you won’t regret it.
I remember when I first arrived in Ipoh 25 years ago, we had to travel to get fresh seafood. Like Pantai Remis or Nibong Tebal or Bukit Tambun. Today, it’s all available at our doorstep.
Just take a stroll down Jalan Medan Ipoh behind Kinta City and Tesco Ipoh Garden East and the sign boards present a dizzying display of coffee shop names, food served and the stalls that cook and serve them, doing a roaring business.
The evening my troupe and I arrived, they had just started setting up the tables and chairs on the slip road in front of the stalls. This was at 6.30pm: a good time to go before the hordes arrived. As it was during RMCO, there was only a sprinkling of customers but the pace picked up shortly.
Hing Kee, the seafood stall at Fooh Singh Cafe that I wanted to check out was all ready, with mini aquariums dotted amongst the display, burbling away and holding a tempting array of live seafood.
All my favourites and more were here. As in live mantis prawns, not the giant variety but medium sized around 6 inches (heads and tail included); live flower crabs with Roe; live cockles sorted by small medium large, large white prawns; clams; NZ mussels; spiny conch; live swimming conch (in the same aquarium as the mantis prawns); fresh abalone about two and half inches in size; and a plethora of very fresh fish, all cleaned and ready to be grilled or cooked whichever way you fancy.
I chose the Ikan Pari, the stingray, a fish I love if fresh, but alas in most places where I have ordered it, they were not. Here at Hing Kee, it was…ocean fresh and served with two sambals, a concoction with dried shrimps that lent a certain pungent, robust oomph to the fish, while the other side was liberally doused in a spicier and sourish chili sauce. If the sauces are not enough, you will still get saucer plates of condiments made up of finely-blended cili padi, and a squeeze of calamansi. Because the stingray all come in small/medium size, it is safe to order the whole fish. Served sizzling hot on a banana leaf. In fact all their dishes are served on banana leaves, a hygienic move which I applaud. RM18-20 depending on size.
The Mantis Prawns swimming in the tank caught my eye. Not the giant ones found in some restaurants which can cost up to RM60-70 each but medium sized ones for RM10 per piece. They were grilled and served with a sourish chilli sauce. I love Mantis prawns, preferring their meat to the regular sea prawns. These were as I anticipated: umami sweet and ocean fresh, having just been fished out from the tank. I savoured every bite of whatever little flesh there was given their smaller size. Definitely a must-have and good value for money.
Fresh Abalone grilled on the shell was next on our menu, tender and caramelized around the edges. They were served with calamansi and the same chilli sauce, although I had no need for it as the abalone was umami on its own and needed no extra dressing. RM75 a portion of 6 pieces or RM13 each.
We then feasted on grilled King sea prawns or Ming Har, again absolutely fresh, sweet and resilient to the bite. RM80-100 for a set of 12.
The grilled Flower Crab which was also swimming in the tanks was delicious and filled with roe. I congratulated myself for being there at the right season because these crabs only have roe seasonally. For me, flower crabs don’t need seasoning as the flesh is very sweet and umami, and the Roe which I fished out from the carapace went down like caviar! RM48-52 per portion.
As everything we had was grilled, I decided to have our cockle sauteed, this time with four angled beans in one of their sambal sauces. I love cockles and despite admonitions about hepatitis etc, I will eat them depending on whether they open up when displayed showing that they are still alive. They were, so cockles were ordered. Utterly delectable and I was in heaven.
Lobster is also available but not on the day we were there. Selling at RM180 per kg. I promised myself to return and try this special one evening.
Naturally as with all fresh seafood, all prices depend on availability and market price.
Address: 16 – 18 Jalan Medan Ipoh, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. *This area is behind Kinta City and Tesco Ipoh Garden East. There are a lot of eateries within the area.
Business hours: 6pm onwards until about 2-3am. Opens daily.
Living in Malaysia, we are all used to spicy foods, with each type of cuisine from Malay to Indian and occasionally Chinese (as in Szechuan) varying the degree of ‘hotness’ according to the regional preference. Malay and Indian dishes are often tempered with a mixture of herbs and spices which tone down the fiery factor considerably but Thai food when it’s hot, it’s really hot.
As a group of us discovered recently at Lanna Thai, the new restaurant in Ipoh Garden East (opened in June 2016). With tears streaming down her eyes, Mei Kuan bravely soldiered on, all the while gulping gallons of water.
I am a chilli eater and it wasn’t a problem for me. But even then the Thai bird’s eye chillies can occasionally make me hold my breath. Readers can relax though as you can request for the degree of intensity in the dishes when you order. I stipulated no sugar and no MSG which to my delight, the kitchen complied and I found myself in bliss land a’la Bangkok. The whole crew from the kitchen and serving staff are all Thai, a relative of the owner Pim who is married to an Ipohite. Hence the sweet touch in all their dishes which in Thailand is a common trend as the Thais love their sugar.
On to the dishes. The substantial menu is a thick rolodex with pictures. All my Thai favourites were there as I proceeded to order up a storm.
We began with the green papaya salad, Som Tum with salted egg. The normal papaya salad is usually just papaya with garlic, tomatoes, peanuts, and some long beans tossed in a wooden mortar and pestle with palm sugar, fish sauce, some dried prawns and lime juice. This is an ubiquitous specialty which you see on many a sidewalk in Bangkok and many a Thai ladies’ favourite diet food. The addition of salted egg lifted it to another level, lending another layer of taste and texture to the dish which was even more delectable – RM14.
The next dish is one of my favourites and something I always order when I’m in Bangkok and it is the Kor Mu Yang or grilled pork neck. I have seldom found a good one outside of Thailand but here at Lanna Thai, it’s done to perfection. The neck has a layer of fat around it which cocoons the meat in the middle and after grilling still stays succulent and tender. This is served with a tangy, spicy dip which can be tempered to your degree of spiciness. This is usually eaten with sticky rice but as we had a whole lot of further dishes to go, we skipped it – RM15.
More porkiness followed with another of my favourites, the Nam Tok which is grilled sliced pork tossed with fish sauce, chili flakes, lime juice, finely slivered kaffir lime leaves, sliced shallots and topped with ground roasted sticky rice, lending a grainy texture to the meat – RM15.
The prawn cakes arrived piping hot, served with a sweet dip which I avoided (only because I dislike sweets) and were bouncy and had a bite to it, a sure sign of a good chef. Not spicy – RM20.
The next few dishes were all salads as I love the Thai salads and can just make a meal on them. The seafood salad had chunks of squid and prawns, ocean fresh from the market and was seasoned perfectly with the usual fish sauce, lime juice, sliced shallots, chillies, garlic and a tad of sugar – RM18. This was followed by the Yum Woon Sen or Bean vermicelli salad with similar dressing but with the addition of garlic pips, julienned carrots, scallions, dried shrimp and a teeny bit of minced pork. They were very generous with the prawns and squid too – RM18. And it’s a meal in itself. Good thing I had the Echo team to share.
The final salad to arrive was the four-angled bean salad tossed in a different sauce this time. The beans were cut into small pieces and combined with minced pork with thick coconut cream drizzled on top and served with boiled egg – RM15.
And just as we were getting satiated, along came the pièce de résistance which was the Hor Mok. Similar to our otak-otak, the Thai version is inimitable and the Hor Mok at Lanna Thai is without peer. Here was a coconut-ty spicy egg custard chockful and brimming with seafood, this Hor Mok instead of either being steamed in banana leaf, or as in Thailand, in specially designed clay vessels, this was steamed in a whole young coconut which gave us the added bonus of scooping spoonfuls of young coconut flesh out with the custard. And did I mention that the taste was yummilicious? RM25 (RM20 in aluminium foil).
Finally, how can we leave a Thai restaurant without eating their most famous dessert of Mango and Sticky Rice (RM12.50)? This we finished with alacrity and wished we had the stomach for more.
Even as I sit here writing this, I find myself drooling over the remembered tastes and textures and I cannot wait to go back for yet another taste treat. I can certainly recommend Lanna Thai to my readers. If you’re not into sugar, then make sure you tell them when you’re ordering. Same goes for MSG and how spicy you want your food. Pim the owner and manager will be too willing to oblige as will all their staff.
Lanna Thai Restaurant 6 Jalan Medan Ipoh 9, Taman Medan Ipoh. Pim’s tel: 019 462 8489 Business hours: 11am-11pm Mondays closed.
It doesn’t have a prominent sign board and it is very easy to miss this quaint and intimate Thai restaurant as one sails past Tesco on the way to destinations beyond. Situated in a corner bungalow house directly behind the Royal Thai Massage place whose sign is prominently visible from Tasek Road, Aroy Dee’s signage is by contrast downright modest, almost invisible from the main road and my dear readers will just have to rely on my directions given here. (See address below). Nevertheless the location is very prime if a tad unobtrusive.
Creatively and modestly furnished, the proprietor and her son have done a lovely job using varnished used pallets on the walls, veneer that is indistinguishable from wood but is actually vinyl on the floor and whimsical flower arrangements all around.
Yupa the proprietor is the ‘real McCoy’ Thai cook. Unbelievably youthful looking for her 60 years, she claims that her cooking (relatively low fat, with lots of greens, loads of fresh vegetables and easy on the sugar) is responsible for her looking the way she does. I pricked up my ears on the mention of sugar as I am pretty allergic to the stuff, given a predilection to fluctuating blood sugar levels and when she declared that she does not use MSG, I did a quick mental somersault, offered a prayer of gratitude and made a commitment to come back here often. Here I have finally found a restaurant that subscribes to my eating principles!
Sure enough, Yupa made good on her promise. On two occasions there, I ate soup, slurping it up like there was no tomorrow. Now under normal circumstances, in other establishments, about 30 minutes after consumption I would be feeling extremely tired, with an insatiable thirst and after about four hours I’d be totally bloated both on my ankles and my belly.
Not at Aroy Dee.
The Tom Yum Kung, one of Thailand’s most famous dish, came in a claypot brimming with enoki mushrooms, galangal, lemon grass, lemon leaf, parsley and prawns in their shell. Tangy, spicy with sweetness provided by the fresh tamarind seeds which she uses in the broth, the Tom Yum hit all the right notes with me – RM15.90. And do try also their White Tomyum Chicken which has the addition of coconut milk. Equally delectable at RM11.90.
Thai salads are among my favourite foods and here I would recommend the LarbGai, a salad made from minced chicken, tossed with a mixture of aromatic greens like scallions, shallots, chilli flakes, fish sauce, fresh lime, mint, Thai basil and cilantro and a special toasted sticky rice powder which lends the salad a slight grainy mouthfeel and gives this dish its particular character – RM15.
Another salad of note is the Yum WoonSen, made with glass noodles, and again all the aromatics plus prawns. I suggested to Yupa that next time I’ll ask for it with squid as it was too difficult to peel the prawns which came in their shells – RM17.90.
The two curries which are certainly in the ‘Die Die must try’ category are the Green Curry and the Dry Curry both made from chicken. The Green Curry with chicken chunks was creamy, velvety smooth with a delicate sauce that one could just drink while the Dry Curry was robust, spicy and made with kampung chicken, the meat more flavourful with more texture – RM11.90.
Very tasty morsels arrived in the form of chicken and pork Satays, well marinated chunks of meat skewered on thick bamboo sticks – RM18.50, while the Pandan Chicken, chunks of chicken very well marinated with lemongrass, turmeric and spices but arrived, alas, over cooked, which left the chicken inside a wee bit on the dry side – RM13.80 for 4 pieces. (Remind them to not overcook on ordering).
My habit with Thai Food in Bangkok is to seek out a different place for my beloved Pad Thai every time I go there but now my search for the perfect plate is over and as luck would have it, Yupa fries up one of the most delicious ones I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Most of the Pad Thai in Thailand is either overly sweetened (the Thais love their sugar and in fact sugar is served on the side of your plate of Pad Thai, even in Aroy Dee) and I find it very difficult to get a Pad Thai fried without sugar. But Yupa does it and to perfection. Almost a national dish in Thailand on par with the ubiquitous Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai is probably the Thai equivalent of our Char KwayTeow here but the noodles are much thinner and has a chewiness to it that is delightful. Add to the noodles prawns, chillies flakes, lime, crushed peanuts, egg, green chives and raw bean sprouts (sugar optional), squeeze a smidgen of lime and you have a plateful of heaven – RM17.90. For those who need their carbs and are not fond of noodles, there is the Pineapple Fried Rice, which is a mountain of rice fried with vegetables, chicken, egg and bits of pineapple and heaped onto a scooped out pineapple – RM15.50.
And this article wouldn’t be complete without mention of their steamed fish, in this case a Siakap steamed in the traditional Thai style with lime, garlic, galangal, ginger, fresh tamarind and chillies. Very fresh and delectable.Small RM38.50; Large RM43.90.
Aroy Dee is the perfect place to eat lightly and down the food with a healthy tea at the same time. Have their Thai Tea made from fresh Lemongrass RM5.50 or one of their Phyto Vitamin Drinks at RM6 or one of their Detox Waters like Lemon, Lime and Cucumber or Green Apple and Lemon at RM5.50. And for Beer Lovers, there is even Chang Beer which is quite uncommon in Ipoh.
Aroy Dee Cafe 11 Jalan Jambu, (corner of JalanManggis) Taman TehTengSeng, 31400 Ipoh. Yupa: 012 513 9966 Business Hours: 12pm-4pm; 6pm-11pm Closed Mondays GPS E 101° 7’ 4.4” N 4° 36’ 57.0”
I am a self-confessed insatiable foodie who will beat a path to any door in search of the next nibble, the next new discovery where my taste buds will be titillated and appeased.
Alas, given our Malaysian heat and humidity, some of Ipoh’s best known hawker dishes are usually savoured in a pool of perspiration. For this Foodie that is.
For someone like me who is habituated to air conditioning, eating at hawker stalls can occasionally be a torture, with sweat and make-up pouring down my face, my small face towel (which I always carry in my handbag) drenched to dripping and wishing for a cool respite from the unceasing heat.
Now thanks to Ray of Hope, who has opened a new eating outlet in Old Town, I can enjoy all my hawker delights in cool comfort.
The Ray of Hope is a non-profit, non religious, multi-racial centre set up by St Peter’s and St Augustine’s churches, Ipoh. Its sole objective is to give hope to people with learning difficulties. Headed by Datin Mary and her husband Dato’ Yeoh Beng San who is Advisor and Fundraising Chairman, it also provides vocational training and sheltered employment for young adults with learning difficulties. It is a sheer delight to see the enthusiasm and willingness of the young people with varying degrees of learning disabilities greet and serve you with smiles at their cafe in Bercham and here in Old Town, the same applies.
Thanks to the generosity of one Ipohite, who has loaned one of the old shophouses to the Ray of Hope Foundation, this additional Cafe right next to Hoong Tho on Jalan Bandar Timah, will serve as a beckoning ‘Ray’ of gourmandising for those heading towards this part of town that has become a magnet for Foodies from all over.
The dynamo behind this second Ray of Hope Cafe is Datin Grace Lee, a self deprecating bundle of energy who instead of shopping the world’s capital cities or playing mahjong, has thrown herself into this project with a dedication and commitment that is breathtaking.
Waking at 5.30am she is in the shop by 6.30am and in the kitchen preparing the day’s mis en place (the basic necessities for all dishes served). Then she attends to the purchasing and liaising with suppliers, followed by checking on the cleaning, and the myriad other details that running a restaurant entails. Following this dizzying schedule six days a week, she even serves customers, wearing her apron and sports cap, looking like any other paid service person in any restaurant. Not only is she not paid, but she has personally donated a large number of the fixtures and equipment in the restaurant; not to mention her time and energy.
Jessie Yong, who serves as overall manager as well as “chef and bottle washer” (or in Chinese the ‘one leg kick’) had this to say about Grace, “She is indefatigable. From establishing all the recipes for all the dishes, to trying out new dishes for our menu, she is truly committed. I really admire her dedication. And the learning disabled kids love her,” she added.
Shareen Ng, whom everyone calls Aunty Shareen, has been volunteering in Bercham and now in Old Town for 15 years. “My son Jason who has Down syndrome has been helped greatly by Ray of Hope. He can now take orders and serve customers. This is a meaningful job for me as I am not only here to help my son become more skilled but I am helping the others as well,” she volunteered. “He can now interact with customers and is developing his social skills. Working here is a wonderful opportunity for him as he would not find employment anywhere else,” she added.
Let’s get to the food (this began as a column about food!). The menu is simple, focusing on noodles and special steamed soups. The steamed soups are substantial and best shared with either a few friends or to be ordered and brought home. I had a most unusual steamed soup of kampung chicken redolent with the flavour of lemongrass which was used generously together with ginger. The kampong chicken was tender and the fact that there was not the slightest smidgen of MSG in the soup made it totally slurpable, something which I proceeded to do that evening, having brought the soup home to enjoy – S/M/L RM25/35/45. Special soups include steamed soups with Ginseng, dried scallops and other special herbs and are available as Soup of the Day or may be ordered in advance for takeaway – S/M/L RM35/55/75.
The rest of the menu is typical hawker fare with Curry Mee RM8, Asam Laksa RM7, Chicken Hor Fun RM7 and Chee Cheong Fun plain at RM5 and with mushroom and chicken RM7.
Their Taiwanese Beef Noodles are extra special, a big steaming bowl of a robust beef broth with well braised tender chunks of beef, the tendon simmered to a jelly-like consistency, complemented by salted cabbage and a thick dark chilli sauce – RM9.50
Yes the Ray Of Hope prices are higher than the surrounding eating places where it’s located but what endears me to Ray of Hope is their motto of “Every Life Counts, Every Person Matters” and that every ringgit I spend there goes to the learning disabled.
Their catering services (as in providing food only) are excellent as I have personally used them. Speak to either Grace or Jesse and they’ll bend over backwards to accommodate you. Grace has a repertoire of other dishes that are not on the menu which she’ll be happy to whip up for your event. Not only will you enjoy the taste treat but you’ll be helping a good and worthy cause.
Ray of Hope 18 Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Perak Tel: 05 241 2959 Business Hours: 8am-2.30pm. Closed: Sundays
I just love Carbs. Especially bread. Who hasn’t been seduced by the smell of freshly toasted bread, slathered with a generous dollop of butter and topped with your choice of jam or whatever. However, for many years in Ipoh, I have had to tolerate flabby soft rolls or indifferent slabs of factory made loaves under the excuse of “well in Ipoh people like their bread like this!!”
Now I have found the winning bread: Chef Sam Lau’s Artisan Handmade Bread (AHB) which are crusty, robust and hearty breads that have ‘ooomph’ in them. And usually with a sourdough base which according to my research is more digestible than standard loaves and more nutritious too. They also render the gluten in flour more digestible and less likely to cause food intolerance.This is why Chef Sam says his breads are a healthier option and why his Artisan handmade bread (AHB) are a hit with Ipohites.
A classically trained chef who has decided to “come out of the closet” and declare his passion for baking, Chef Sam is all set to offer delicious artisan handmade bread and at the same time educate Ipohites on the niceties and nuances of AHB – the kind that lingers on your tastebuds long after eating; and brings out the best in all the foods you serve it with; the kind that makes your friends ask “…where did you get this?”
What sets AHB apart from other breads is the meticulous and painstaking process to make it. “Unlike the usual bread you can find in any bakery, AHB uses only three main ingredients; flour, yeast and water. I cultivate the sourdough from scratch which takes two weeks for each batch and make each bread with my own two hands,” said the passionate chef cum baker.
AHB’s main product is its sourdough bread that is good to have alone or with a spread of butter or jam. Currently AHB offers a selection of sourdough bread such as Rex Bavarian Dark (Dark Roggena roasted wheat malt flour and barley malt) RM13, Cheddar Cheese (RM13), Sundried Tomato/Black Olive/Garlic/Italian Herbs (RM15), Swiss Muesli (RM13), Rye/Multi Seed RM13, Tripple Chocolate Chips (RM15) and December’s bread of the month, Parisian Fougasse at RM10. All their breads are made without artificial preservatives.
Customers who are keen on getting a taste of AHB can contact Sam at 016 597 8922. The minimum order is three to four loaves and please give two days advance notice to avoid disappointment. Delivery and pick up point for collection on Tuesday and Friday from 12pm to 3pm only. For more information check out the Artisan Handmade Bread page on Facebook.
A new patisserie has opened up without fanfare in Canning Garden, and has garnered a devoted following for those in the know – the ones like myself, who have had the privilege of tasting the delectable desserts which Jackie Yau would bring to private lunches and dinners.
Located in a bungalow at 6, Persiaran Woods, Canning Garden, Jackie and her two partners, Wai May & Elaine Lim are baking up a storm with yummilicious cakes, pastries, cookies, tarts and all manner of things sweet. And the occasional savoury.
Called 5 Loaves, with the sign being terribly inconspicuous, the bakery is spotlessly spic and span with a warm and welcoming interior where you can sit and wait to pick up your order. Regrettably you can’t sit and eat there as space is limited and they are not geared for service other than to fulfil your orders.
As the readers of my column may be aware, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but on the day I went to talk to the 3 partners, I found myself irresistibly drawn to their temptations which they had laid out on the table for me to photograph. And did I ever succumb, with or without sweet tooth.
For starters, what I really appreciate is that all their pastries are made with butter….not with trans fat laden margarine or shortening which most commercial baked goods are notorious for. And they are generous with it, giving all their pastries that dairy, moist mouthfeel that only real butter produces.
I can rave on about every single item in their repertoire but here I will single out some items which I had the pleasure to taste. Their Cempedak ‘loaf’ which is a pound cake chockful with that most fragrant cousin of jackfruit, is moist and melts in the mouth – RM18. Other ‘loaves’ include carrot and plain butter at RM16 per loaf. Add RM2 for cheese cream frosting.
The one cupcake which I tasted and thought I had died and gone to heaven was their Durian Hokkaido Cupcakes which are sold in portions of 16 pcs at RM3.50 each. These are an extra light and extra fluffy cupcake base using less flour and filled with a generous dose of durian cream. I ordered some once for a friend’s birthday and they were wolfed down in a jiffy with people clamouring for more. Orders in excess of a portion can be in multiples of half a portion, e.g., 1.5 portion of 24 pcs. Only during durian season. Otherwise their original Hokkaido Cupcakes cost RM2.50 each and selling at the same portions as the Durian cupcakes.
Of course, one of the drawing card of cupcakes is their versatility in having the most creative of decorative toppings. Again made from pure butter, cream or cream cheese, these toppings can be fashioned to appeal to all ages and esthetics. The cartoon cupcakes featured here were made for a children’s party while the more whimsical topping with the carrot told of its more prosaic base of carrot cake, elevated to gourmet standards with its moist nuttiness. Another one, the chocolate banana cupcake was oozing banana with the chocolate providing a delightful bitterness. All cupcakes come in small, medium and large sizes at RM2.40/RM3.75/RM5 each. A minimum order of 30 pieces for the small and 20 pieces for the medium and large is required. These can be topped with your choice of decoration.
On the savouries, they are beginning to test the market with chicken curry tarts which I can vouch for, having tasted a few and finding them to be even more interesting than regular curry puffs, which tend to be filled with potato and little chicken. These curry tarts are small but the filling is full of chicken chunks and the tart shell is wonderfully crispy crumbly, remaining so even after 2 days in the fridge. Which was how long I kept them after bringing them home. They also have beef tarts and lemon meringue tarts and other sweet tarts. Minimum 20 pieces at RM1.80 each.
The range of baked goods from 5 Loaves is extensive, from cookies to cakes to tarts and if this creative trio will continue to experiment and bring out new items, we can look forward to a cornucopia of delectable pastries from 5 Loaves.
5 Loaves No. 6, Persiaran Woods, Canning Garden. For orders: 012 512 3977; 012 500 7792; 012 648 4802. Some items can be picked up the same day but a 2-day notice is preferred.
Hoppers which are also known as Appam, are an iconic food of Sri Lanka. Most people here in Malaysia are familiar with this snack, a wafer-thin bowl-shaped pancake made from a fermented batter of rice flour and coconut milk, although one really has to track it down in stalls tucked away in local markets or certain coffee shops. The unique part is that hoppers are cooked in small wok-like rounded pans so the dough cooks thick and soft on the bottom, and thin and crunchy around the edges.
While most of the Appam sold here are sweetened, and eaten as a snack, they wilt the moment they’re put into your hands and one has to eat them fast and furiously to get full satisfaction; the Sri Lankans serve it both ways, with savoury accompaniments or sprinkled with jaggery, their special brown palm sugar as a dessert.
At the newly opened A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden, the Appam have gone up market, and here in this tranquil ambiance, subdued lighting with a tastefully designed black and white theme; ambient music playing in the background, one can enjoy Appam Galore, a quartet of a choice of plain, broken egg, or sweet coconut milk appam remaining crispy at the table, served with their Katta Sambal, a fiery, Maldivian fish paste and Seeni Sambal, caramelized onions with hints of subtle spices – RM20. Of course you can order the Appam singly and team it with the Sri Lankan Sambal set which consists of the above two mentioned sambals plus two more, the ‘karupillay sambal’ which is blended curry leaves and the pol sambal (coconut chutney to us locals who are used to eating it with our thosai). This Sri Lankan version is thick pure grated coconut, subtly spiced with lime, onions and chilli. This had me asking for more which they were happy to provide.
A LI YAA means elephant, an animal with great cultural and religious significance in Sri Lanka. They are symbols of wisdom, power and wealth. And the menu which is a mere eight pages in length reflects this, offering the essence of Sri Lankan cuisine in an environment exuding elegance. Here the paintings and creative photographic works of Malaysia’s homegrown artists depicting the Sutra Dance Theatre’s artistic director Dato’ Ramli Ibrahim are displayed for sale with proceeds going to the ‘Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage’ in Sri Lanka.
Most people mix up Sri Lankan food with Indian food, a cuisine with which Malaysians are abundantly familiar. First off, it’s good to know the difference between these two cuisines. What separates Sri Lankan from Indian cuisine is that Indian is dairy-based while Sri Lankan dishes do not use any dairy products. Food from the southern Indian state of Kerala has plenty in common with Sri Lankan cuisine: use of coconut milk in curries plus a love of seafood from bountiful coastlines. Sri Lankans generally cook with roasted curry powder, Indians with raw powder. South India and Sri Lanka crank up the heat by favouring hotter chillies (the heat often tempered for western palates).
Rice is the staple of Sri Lankan cuisine and is usually served at every meal – including at breakfast, when hoppers make an appearance although at A LI YAA they’re available all day. Sri Lankan curries are much more subtle. They use a lot of roasted cumin powder, while the Indians use a lot of coriander.
A LI YAA Kuala Lumpur, the parent restaurant from which the Ipoh one is modelled, won a stream of awards last year at the 14th edition of the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival (MIGF) held every year in October. It was A LI YAA’s first time at taking part in the food fiesta taking home seven accolades including Judges’ Choice for Best Festival Offer, Most Innovative Cuisine, as well as the Most Popular Restaurant based on the portions sold to diners and the Festival Diners’ Choice Awards for Most Outstanding Mains.
Now Chef Yogeshwaran Selladoreh who has worked his magic in their KL restaurant, helms the kitchen team in Ipoh, while manager Miguel de Jan leads attentive and dedicated waiters in ensuring diners are well looked after. And our group of seven were certainly well served.
We began with a plate of crunchy papadums served with the quartet of sambals already mentioned, were so addictive that we had to ask for seconds. Brinjal Moju (RM12), deep-fried sliced brinjal with spices and a dash of vinegar was one of the better brinjal dishes I had in a while.
The Fish Cutlets made of fresh tuna fish, potato, diced onion, green chili, lime, chopped mint leaf, mixed together and bread crumbed and deep fried were wolfed down happily – RM16.
This was followed by the String Hopper, a Sri Lankan specialty prepared from spaghetti-like strings of unprocessed rice flour dough squeezed through a sieve which are steamed to perfection and fried with fresh seafood. Utterly delectable at RM28.
For Mains, the Mutton Paal Poriyal, slow cooked lamb cubes in devil aromatic spices was yummiliciously tender and well spiced – RM26. The Fish Curry was mild, the fish fresh and cooked with a blend of traditional Sri Lankan spices – RM26 while the Negambo King Tiger Prawn cooked with fresh pineapple was robust and a good stand in for their Famous Sri Lankan Crab (RM14.90 per 100g) which, alas, to our chagrin was out of stock! RM165 for three huge prawns.
We ended the meal, groaning from surfeit with their Vatillappam – a rich pudding made of coconut, brown palm sugar, sugar, eggs and various spices including cinnamon. Heavenly at RM8.
A LI YAA (Pork Free) d-g-r 2&3 De Garden
No. 3 Persiaran Medan Ipoh
Tel: 05 547 3700
Business Hours: 11am-3pm; 6pm to late night. Closed Mondays.
Every now and again, sitting at the Ipoh Echo office, I find myself at a loss for what to eat at lunchtime and feel the nudging of my taste buds for something wholesome, fresh and light. Asking around the office for what‘s good, what’s new, I stumbled upon Basileuo Salad, a relative newcomer to the restaurant scene quite close to the Echo office in Greentown and in fact almost within walking distance.
Proprietor Chan Kin Mei, explained the concept behind Basileuo and also the significance of the rather complex name which in my mild myopia I had read to be Basilico, meaning basil in Italian. Apparently she is a huge salad lover, a passion shared by her husband and together they decided to dedicate a whole cafe to serving salads and also baked potatoes, a specialty of the house using a special oven just for roasting potatoes. This oven can be seen perched on the counter when you enter the cafe where a few potatoes are baking in the lower part with a few warming on the upper deck. This is what makes the oven special – the ability to bake and keep warm at the same time in one cute little oven.
The name is a biblical one meaning ‘to exercise the highest influence’ or ‘to reign’ as in kingly power, an aspiration which the couple hopes to achieve in converting more Ipohites to the love for salad and to set up a chain of baked potato stalls throughout Malaysia.
The Basileuo Palette, Salad Toppings, Dressings and Hearty Add-ons, as it says on their menu, is the most extensive list I’ve ever seen and a glance at their salad counter with its colourful array of options is dazzling indeed. This is not your usual salad bar with the often desultory bits of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes but a humongous array of 46 ingredients to choose from.
These include: orange, honeydew, green apple, guava, mango, grapes, edatsuki or green soya, green peas, tofu, coral grass, black jelly, wood fungus, olive, chickpeas, sweetcorn, kidney beans, cherry tomato, French bean, lotus root, purple cabbage, celery, turnip, beetroot, pea sprout, carrot, sweet pea, cucumber, white and red onion, capsicum, boiled egg, crab stick, young corn, water chestnut and enoki/shimeji mushroom. Two sizes are available Junior size with simple greens and 5 ingredients (RM7) and Mixed Greens with 5 ingredients (RM9). For the regular size, one can have a choice of 10 ingredients with simple and mixed greens at RM12?15. The addition of what they call Hearty Add-on is another option for another RM3-4.50. These include: Turkey Ham, Smoked Duck, Homemade Chicken Patty, Homemade Beef Patty and Smoked Salmon.
Premium ingredients, for which an extra charge of RM2 applies for each, include: Cashew Nut, Almond Flakes, Chia Seed, Sunflower Seed, Pumpkin Seed, Sesame Seed, Dried Cranberry, Dried Black Currant, Raisins and Feta Cheese complete the mind boggling selection.
After choosing the ingredients for the salad, one has now to turn one’s mind to the choice of dressing which presents another quandary as there are so many to choose from, each one more delectable than the next and all concocted by Kin Mei herself. Tossing up whether to have the Basileuo Vinaigrette, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Classic Caesar, Hot Wasabi, Japanese Sesame, Miso, Pesto, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Tangy Peach, Tzatziki Yogurt, Fresh Cranberry Yogurt or Spicy Thai can create quite a headache. My personal recommendations? Raspberry Vinaigrette, Spicy Thai and Japanese Sesame.
Naturally their baked potatoes are a must-have. Soft and fluffy on the inside with the skin gently crisped on the outside, these russet potatoes are topped with a sauce which changes every day and is listed on the board near the cashier. The day I was there the potato came with a mushroom sauce topped with mock bacon which is turkey ham done to a crisp, lending a delectable crunch to the soft potato. This is a meal in itself as the potatoes are large – RM8.
Despite Kin Mei’s wish to convert Ipohites to salads, she has had to succumb to popular tastes and now has a good range of pastas, sandwiches, wraps and a few stews to satisfy most taste buds. And the one most delectable item I will recommend here is her Hot Chocolate, served in a choice of Dark, Milk or Hazelnut chocolate, a generous chunk of Belgian chocolate on a stick which you slowly stir into the hot milk in the mug. Heavenly at RM13.50.
Basileuo Salad (Pork Free) 3 Persiaran Greentown, Greentown Business Centre, Ipoh. Business Hours: 11am-9pm closed Mondays Tel: 05 241 4239 Kin Mei: 012 519 0300