Help the Small Businesses: Hing Kee Grilled Fish @ Fooh Singh Cafe

Pictures by Gisele Soo

Hing Kee Grilled Fish

SeeFoon Feasts on fresh seafood

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.

Ikan pari

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.

Mantis prawns

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.

Fresh abalone

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.

King sea prawns

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.

Flower crab
Crab roe

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. 

Cockles

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.

For inquiries:
016-598 5373

================================

Check out The Foodie’s Guide to Ipoh’s Best Eats 2 for more Ipoh eats recommended by SeeFoon, available for purchase at a special discounted price now! Message us on Facebook for inquiries and orders!

SeeFoon Hots Up Her Life

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.

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

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.

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

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.

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

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.

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh
Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

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).

Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh
Lanna Thai Restaurant Ipoh

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.

SeeFoon gets Thai’dup in Ipoh Garden East

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”

SeeFoon finds a new Ray of Sunshine in Old Town

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 RM8Asam Laksa RM7Chicken 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

The Bread Winner

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.

SeeFoon Approves of Tarting Up the Sweet Scene

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.

SeeFoon hoots for Hoppers

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 restaurant in De Garden Ipoh

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.

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden Ipoh

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).

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden Ipoh
A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden Ipoh

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.

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden IpohNow 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.

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden IpohFor 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
www.aliyaa.com
Business Hours: 11am-3pm; 6pm to late night. Closed Mondays.

SeeFoon goes in search of the definitive salad

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 VinaigretteSpicy 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

SeeFoon takes a trip with Dato’ David Tan Down Memory Lane

“Rare is the occasion to see a cookbook written by a retired industrialist whose majors were in accountancy and economics” wrote Huang Jiao Ling, Director General, Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs, Xiamen City Government, China, in the Foreword of the book A Trip Down Memory Lane: Signature Dishes from the Tan Family.

50 Recipes of Family Favourites

The look and feel of the book is retro, harking back to a time when people spent time in the kitchen cooking every meal with meticulous care and attention. The Chinese characters describe the essence of the book even more succinctly: ‘Lao Wei Dao’ or Old Tastes.

And the recipes in David Tan’s book reflect this: 50 recipes of dishes of his family favourites, some accompanied by anecdotes of the dish’s origins or memories of the dish from David’s childhood, watching his grandmother and mother cooking. His culinary skills were only developed when he was studying in the UK and yearning for the dishes from his childhood, he began experimenting. Over the years, he became passionate about cooking and today David is a fine chef, excelling in producing dishes, some from his Hokkien origins, whose recipes are mostly forgotten.

Many Credits

The book which is bilingual (English and Chinese), is dedicated to David’s grandfather the late Tan Lark Sye, a well-known Hokkien industrialist and philanthropist who founded Nanyang University in Singapore in 1952. David, who was born in Singapore, grew up in Ipoh. He credits his maternal grandmother Mdm Cha Siew Khim for exposing him to the delights of gastronomy and his mother Datin Chon Moi who spurred his passion and honed his culinary skills. The recently published cookbook he credits to his ‘Sifu’ the late Mdm Chong Su Yin who ran the cooking school Chopsticks and who had 21 cookbooks published. He refers to her as his ‘guardian angel’ and her teaching methods in the art of cooking ‘beyond description’. She once told him, “Use your heart to cook, feel the ingredients and foresee your final results.”

Legendary Specialties

And David has taken her admonition to heart. David’s specialties are legendary and those who have had the privilege to taste some of them, including myself, have left his house yearning to be invited again and again. I have personally had the pleasure of sampling his Katong Laksa, a hawker specialty that every Singaporean raves over and every Laksa stall there claims to be the ‘original’ one. I can safely vouch for David’s Katong Laksa as being even better than the original as I too, grew up in Singapore and this used to be one of my favourite treats. Today I no longer have to scour the streets looking for the ‘best’ one. I have found it in Ipoh and better yet, with David’s cookbook, I can even attempt to make it myself.

Not that I am a wizard in the kitchen, but with David’s detailed recipes, instructions and footnotes, even those who cannot boil an egg will manage to achieve a facsimile of the real thing.

Case of the Bouncing Fish Ball

Take for example the case of the Bouncing Fish Ball. As every foodie worth his or her salt knows, a really succulent bouncy fish ball that has no additives, but simply fish meat, salt and water is firstly, a rare find, and secondly a nightmare to make at home. However, David has written his bouncing fish balls recipe as a formula straight out of a science lab. (See recipe featured on this page.) And as with all tried and tested science formulae, if you follow David’s recipe to the letter, he guarantees you’ll have super bouncy fish balls. And I can vouch for it. I’ve tested it in my kitchen and the result was superb.

The book is 160 pages long with recipes sectioned off into categories. The first one is Tan Family’s Signature Recipes which starts off with the Homemade Chilli Paste, a delectable and easy to make paste which I immediately produced and have now stored in small portions in my freezer to use for an assortment of stir fries or to eat as accompaniment with noodles. Friends to whom I have given the paste are now clamouring for more. Other recipes in this category include Ah Ma’s Assam Fish CurryFamily Traditional Acar (super easy and super tasty and keeps for weeks in the fridge); Ah Ma’s Famous Kueh Talam (I tasted some made by David at his home and they are scrumptious).

The next category is Traditional Hokkien Flavours which include Hokkien Heh Zor or Deep-fried Prawn RollsTraditional Dried Oyster Porridge and Traditional Hokkien Yam and Radish Cakes. This is followed by a category David calls Unique Tastes of Nanyang which includes recipes for Singapore Original Curry Fish Head (yes the real McCoy!); Singapore Punggol Mee Siam (unbeatable) and Famous Petaling Street Hokkien Mee.

Finally, there is a category for Traditional Hokkien Flavours of Xiamen where the Tan family originate. Here you’ll find recipes for Hokkien Jimei Ngoh Hiang (Loh Bak)Oh Chian (Oyster Omelette) and the Original Hokkien Jimei Loh Mee.

All in all, these 160 pages of A Trip Down Memory Lane is chock full of the most detailed recipes for dishes that are rapidly being degraded in most eateries. David does not cut corners. Every recipe is made with the original ingredients and he does not stint on his instructions or as some chefs have been known to do…leave out the one or two ‘secret’ ingredient or trick that turns a dish from a mediocre into a superlative one. David wants you to succeed with his recipes and I am certainly one who can attest to that. Even my Filipino maid, who has no clue as to the taste of these dishes, has succeeded.

To your success Chef David and please may we have more cookbooks.

SeeFoon gets Thai’d up

When the taste of soya sauce becomes mundane, I find my taste buds hankering for Thai food where the medley of fish sauce, fresh lime, lemongrass and fresh cut chillies inevitably injects my jaded palate with renewed vigor and I am ready for a fresh bout of “foodie-ism”.

With my ever ready Foodie guide Ginla Chew by my side and a new recruit in the person of Malathi Rama who happens to live in Seri Botani and who knows the best eats in that area, we descended on Sawasdee Thai restaurant, armed with our insatiable appetites and a yearning for the tang of Thai.

I went on two occasions in order to sample a fuller range of dishes. Opened and helmed by Thai Chef Ah Eng (a Chinese nickname probably given to her by her husband) the restaurant is a fan-cooled corner shop on Jalan Lapangan Siber 10, just off the main road of Seri Botani. Both times I went into the kitchen to plead with Ah Eng to lay off on the MSG which is so ubiquitous in food these days. As I am prone to bloating and severe oedema of my legs and ankles after ingestion of MSG, I stressed to her how toxic this was to my system (and to most people’s system as it is a neurotoxin and cumulative-a fact that most people choose to ignore!)

As it was, the dishes that were served had no need for MSG (which makes me wonder why so many restaurants use it almost unconsciously and to think that even Indian restaurants with all their delectable mix of spices will use it!) The fresh squeezed lime, fresh cut chillies, shallots, lemongrass, cilantro and garlic provide just the right mouth-drooling appeal to the salads or “Yum” dishes which it is called in Thai. Noteworthy and ‘must haves’ include the Yum Woon Sen or glass noodle salad topped with generous helpings of blanched fresh squid and coriander sprigs – RM10; the Yum Green Mango topped with crispy fried ikan bilis or dried anchovies – RM7; and the yummy (pun intended) Nam Tok which is a sliced pork salad tossed in an inimitable fish sauce laced with dry fried rice granules, red chilli flakes, shallots, lime juice and a dash of sugar – one of my all time favourite dishes whenever I go to Thailand – RM12.


Then we come to the hot dishes. Naturally no Thai meal is complete without the irresistible Tom Yam Koong or spicy soup with prawns. This requires a bit more skill to produce without the benefit of MSG but this she did admirably, the soup tart, searing and tempered with some sugar (which is always inevitable whenever you request for no-MSG). The prawns were medium sized and fresh, the oyster mushrooms lending texture and tomatoes imparting its characteristic flavours to the soup. Of course no Tom Yum soup is complete without the added flavours of kaffir lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass. Served in steamboat tureens with real charcoal keeping the soup warm completes the Thai authenticity – RM22.

Fresh fish of the day can be cooked any style. I chose steamed red snapper with garlic and lime and the usual garniture on the first visit – RM24 and a Siakap which was fried and served with a Gaeng Som sauce which is the Thai equivalent of our Asam except that the vegetables used are cauliflower and long beans, on the second – RM40. Both fish were fresh and delectable.

Again, no Thai meal is complete without the pandan leaf wrapped chicken and the green curry. Here at Sawasdee, they do both to perfection. The Pandan Chicken was well marinated and succulent to the last bite – RM10, while the Green Curry was smooth, with a thick gravy, redolent with the fragrance of fresh coconut milk with a hint of chillies – RM12.


Finally, we finished off with Pineapple Fried Rice which came fluffy, each grain of rice separate and not a bit oily, the pineapple chunks lending a touch of crunch and sweetness to the whole dish – RM4.50.

All in all, this is a Thai restaurant that does not disappoint. Every dish is cooked fresh and every dish is tasty with its own unique flavours. This is one place I would return to again and again.

 
Restoran Sawasdee
37 Jalan Lapangan Siber 10, 31350 Bandar Siber, Perak
Off Persiaran Lapangan Siber (main road)
N 04º 32.578’  E 101º 06.687’
Business hours: 12.30pm-10pm.  Closed two days a month.
Tel: 016 562 6448