When you are a Food Scientist and a lecturer on Food Science at UTAR you have an ingrained fascination with food in all its aspects, health, taste, appearance, and in the case of Chung Kok Heung, actually being in the kitchen to do the cooking. Many lecturers preach but not practise, but Kok Heung loves doing both. Additionally he wears another hat as a consultant to entrepreneurs setting up or running restaurants.
Currently helming the kitchen at the Cafe at the Happy 8 Hotel, that beautifully quaint and whimsical boutique hotel on Market Street and brainchild of owner Tan Kai Lek, Kok Heung gives vent to his creative culinary skills and produces small gems of daily specials that not only look good and taste good but are healthy as well.
I went to the Happy 8 Cafe when they first opened where for the first time I tasted and fell in love with their ice-drip coffee, introduced by the lovely Jessica, Kai Lek’s wife who sources all the coffee beans from Taiwan (still does). Their coffee menu is extensive and all the concoctions are robust and fragrant.
We began with their Signature Steam Grilled Salmon, served with pasta and umeiji mushrooms, and interesting garnitures of mixed salad, homemade kimchi and pickled pumpkin, RM36.
The garnitures are the same for all the main courses and worthy of mention. The homemade kimchi was not as tart as the store-bought variety and the pickled pumpkin slices were a yummy novelty. I thought they were pickled papaya at first which is quite commonly available but pickled pumpkin was a new taste treat, crunchy, slightly sweet and sour and went well with the salmon sitting on a bed of grilled young sweet corn. As did the very refreshing salad with sesame dressing.
Another plate with Curry / Infused Kampung Chicken came with 3 types of rice, self hulled brown rice, purple mixed with black rice and regular white rice (all natural colouring), topped with cashew, sultana, black beans and pistachio and black sesame seeds. All in a colourful palette of colours and taste sensations. The Kampung Chicken was tender, mildly spiced and flavorful, RM22.
The Dancing Kampung Chicken was a soya braised, topped with bonito flakes and served with the same set of accompaniments, RM24.
The last dish was the Beautifying Mushrooms with Cherry Tomatoes: yellow and red cherry tomatoes, with umeji, shimeji and button mushroom. Deliciously umami and healthy to boot with all the healthy colours of the rainbow on one plate, RM18.
A complimentary soup of the day is served with every main course order.
Kok Heung was keen to share that he uses only Himalayan pink salt for his dishes as it contains minerals accumulated from millions of years in salt caves versus the usual store bought table salt. Also no MSG is ever used in his cooking and all dishes can be appreciated for their natural umami mouth feel.
Drinks are aplenty in the Happy 8 Cafe and the choices are all on display on the blackboard.
The Rich chocolate (RM16) and Avocado special (RM18) were particularly yummy; the Aloe Sparkling extra refreshing (RM18) and I had their Vietnamese Coffee which was divine (RM17).
For dessert we had their Earl Grey Burnt Cheesecake which was smooth, caramelly and satisfying, RM17/slice.
Finally some nutrition advice from our Food Scientist Kok Heung. “For a balanced diet, try to eat foods from all colours of the rainbow and reduce consumption of red meats and fats especially if you have diabetes or hypertension. Follow a plant based diet instead.”
So if you are in Old Town and want to eat healthy, visit the Happy 8 Cafe. You won’t be disappointed.
The Happy 8 Cafe is pork-free.
Address: 46, Jalan Market, 30000 Ipoh, Negeri Perak Entrance is located at Third Concubine Lane (Lorong Pasar)
Business hours: 11-10pm, Closed on Mondays Last orders for takeaways are 30 minutes before closing
When your family is in the marble business, it’s natural that all your decor highlights would be in marble. But when your floors, table tops, bathroom basins and a whole flight of stairs are in large slabs of marble, then you know that this restaurant is a “no-expense spared” venture, funded by people with deep pockets.
I pass by Tambun road often, on my way to the Echo office and have noticed this well decorated facade of a bungalow set back from the main road with the name Grove Diner emblazoned across the front. Intrigued, I have promised myself to check it out but was put off by friends’ negative feedback.
Until recently, after MCO when I was determined to help the restaurants that were languishing and decided to give Grove Diner a go. First of all, I was put off by the name Diner which is more suited to a downtown shopfront with banquet seating and quick fast food items.
Not in this luxurious space though, with marble everywhere.
But of course, a well decorated restaurant does not guarantee satisfied diners. It’s the quality of food that counts and where and how well the Chef was trained.
Well I was in luck.
Proprietors Andrew Koo and wife Sharon Chew had just hired a new Chef who had been there only for two months. Trained in western cuisine and having worked in Singapore for more than 8 years, the Chef is turning out superlative dishes, delicate and in fine dining fashion, each dish beautifully curated and plated.
We started with the Tagliatelle Alfredo, cooked the way I like it, al dente, and each strand coated with creamy Alfredo sauce owing more to egg than cream. Velvety smooth, the pieces of bacon adding texture and umami, a real delight. RM33.
Next came the Chilean Cod, crusted with chopped walnut, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper. This is their signature dish; a lightly roasted piece of cod, the skin crisped and crusted, and served with Peas Puree and sauteed vegetables. The cod which is hard to come by, was flaky, done to the right degree, and had a smooth mouthfeel, contrasting nicely with the crispy crust. RM98.
Another signature dish followed, this time the Lamb Rack, a tender and juicy rack of lamb from New Zealand, again crusted with a similar mix as the cod, cooked medium well and good to the last bite as I nibbled the bone. Done a’la sous vide (constant temperature immersion) the lamb was amazingly tender, served with Provencal vegetables and lamb jus. RM79.
The last main course for the four of us was the Chicken Roulade. This was chicken thigh with spinach stuffing, served with carrot puree and a black pepper sauce. Now I usually find chicken dishes on menus quite boring as it is so ubiquitous, but here in Grove Diner I found the Chicken Roulade utterly irresistible. It was tender and juicy, owing probably to its sous vide beginnings. RM35.
Naturally we had to have dessert. The piece de resistance was the Tiramisu, homemade by Andrew’s mother who is an avid baker, followed by the Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcake.
The Tiramisu was outstanding. With a base of biscuits and nuts, Madeleine biscuits and sponge cake soaked in coffee and coffee liquor, and mascarpone cheese in between the layers, topped with cocoa powder, the whole confection is worth the trip just to have this on its own for tea or coffee. RM28.
And if Tiramisu is not to your taste, check out the Hokkaido Chiffon Cupcake with orange peel, almonds, and cheese filling. Soft, smooth and delectable, RM5.
There are two private rooms in Grove Diner seating 12 and 14 people respectively. An event hall upstairs can fit up to 30 people for functions complete with a sound system and projector.
The whole restaurant is a showcase in marble with pottery and crockery made of marble for sale dotted around the restaurant. This is all local marble from the Perak Hills around Simpang Pulai where their marble factory is located.
Grove Diner, the new Fine Dining Venue.
*Grove Diner is not Pork Free.
Address: 144, Jalan Tambun, 31400 Ipoh, Perak.
Business hours: 12-3pm, 6.30-10.30pm Closed on Mondays
BYO corkage charges: RM20 for wine, RM40+ for hard liquor
Takeaway available Delivery only available for desserts
Trendy, comfortable and right in the heart of the tourist belt of Old Town. This is Vintage Cafe, offering fusion fare with a twist that surprises and pleases.
I did have to remind the service staff about wearing masks, though (as we will all have to do so as often restaurants get lax).
Davin Sidhu, Director and Suren A/L Kamalanathan who is both head Chef and Restaurant Manager were on hand to chat about their menu, with new ideas contributed by Suren who joined Vintage Cafe about a year ago.
Not only do they keep their prices low in general, but they really care about frontliners and the sacrifices they have made during the MCO. So in a tribute to them and to show they care, all frontliners who show their credentials are entitled to a 15% discount. This is applicable for GrabFood/Foodpanda drivers too, as well as doctors and nurses. A nice gesture, I thought.
For drinks we were recommended their Signature Coffee with mint syrup, sugar (optional) and milk. Voluptuous texture and the mint syrup lent a freshness, RM10.90.
We started our meal with a Caesar salad; lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and crispy croutons topped with grated parmesan in a mild garlicky dressing. Four 7-minute egg halves served as garniture. Crispy and fresh, RM9.80.
This was followed by a most unusual pizza, the BBQ Donald Duck Pizza; sliced smoked duck topping a pizza base not of wheat flour but a Mexican tortilla usually made with cornmeal. The sauce was also unusual in that it was barbecue sauce instead of the usual tomato-based one. The tortilla base was nice and thin and very crunchy. They were extremely generous with the Mozzarella and parmesan cheese topping, and the smoked duck imparted its smokiness. RM21.80.
Another Fusion dish of Curry Carbonara spaghetti with smoked duck (you can choose to have chicken instead too) won raves at our table. The curry was mild but made with the proper masala with cherry tomatoes added, and the curry leaves exuded their special fragrance. The Carbonara was thankfully not smothered in cream but instead, creaminess provided by egg yolk. RM15.80.
Next was a Fried Chicken Waffle sandwich served with sweet potato fries which were slightly caramelized with a teeny-weeny amount of icing sugar making them nice and crispy. The chicken was still crispy at the sides and teamed with the slightly sweet waffle, lettuce and mayo dressing, made for an interesting and large helping of food. A reasonably priced and fulfilling meal in itself, RM15.80.
But of course, mentioning waffles, how can we ever not have the Signature dessert waffle smothered with blueberries, strawberries, banana slices, vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. A sweet lover’s heaven in a mouthful, RM11.80.
All dishes served to us have been kindly up-sized for sharing. For an idea of how much they offer for a single portion, visit their Facebook page.
Vintage Cafe is also a guest house upstairs but it is not open for guests yet while training and sanitizing is going on. Opening is scheduled for August.
Address: 21, Jalan Market, 30000 Ipoh, Perak
Business hours: Tues-Sun. (Closed on Mondays) 11am-9.30pm (Last call at 9.30pm)
Delivery available at a RM5 flat delivery fee Pork/Lard free, Muslim friendly
Looking for a corporate meeting space or a quiet lunch or dinner and where the kids can run around and where social distancing is possible and available? Look no further than Star Mansion, where the large garden is safe and private, the inside cool and air conditioned, and the kiddies can ooh and ahh at the humongous teddy bear and other toys at the entrance.
The menu is large and eclectic, covering a range of cuisines from Japanese, to local to western to pizza to burgers appealing to all tastes and palates.
The tendency of the kitchen is for most dishes, aside from desserts, to be on the sweet side, so tell them to ease off on the sugar if sweetness is not on your palate. Their flower tea is sugar optional though, and has a very clean taste to balance any heaviness in the food.
This restaurant is pork free so Muslims can dine here freely—which is quite often, as proprietor Christine Tan Lai Yee shared.On her choice of the name for the restaurant; she said, “Stars symbolise hope, joy and fun. I wish to make Star Mansion a fun and joyous mansion for all my customers.” And stars there are galore.
Christine takes pride in their teas, some simple like the Lanhua Xiang (RM8) which promises no additives, or the Oolong Tie Guan Yin (RM6) which has slimming properties, to the spectacular Fancy Corbeil Blooming Flower tea (see pic) which starts as a dried up leaf ball, suddenly blossoming into this magnificent art in a glass after a few minutes. The bonus to this flower is the fact that it still tastes good even to the 10th re-steeping!! Although who would drink that much tea in one sitting is beyond me! But if you’re looking for a place and a beverage to sit with your friend to natter, gossip or share experiences, then Star Mansion and the Blooming flower tea is your answer. RM12.80 per bloom/pot.
And the tea list goes on and on, not to mention the shakes, juices, mocktails, and cocktails.
Savouries are a huge list. I had the feeling we tried most of their items at one sitting! Their Ayam Berempah is marinated for two days using lemongrass and Bentong Halia or Bentong Ginger. Served with their homemade sauce,rice and pickles, RM19.90.
We also tried their Okonomiyaki chuka idako, a very popular Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients in a wheat-flour-based batter. At Star Mansion it is topped with cabbage, teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, wakame, baby octopus and onion, RM14.90.
The made to order Hawaiian Cheese pizza had a crispy base and was very generous with the cheese, RM12.90.
We then tried the Cheesy style abalone and shrimps fried rice where the rice was first fried and then baked with a cheese topping. Tasty at RM19.90. Eating this together with the Cordyceps flower coconut chicken Soup (which usually comes with its own serving of rice) was an interesting experience. Slightly sweet with black bean, red date, brown date, and the chewy cordycep flower with its bright orange hue boiled with coconut water. Very delicious, RM12.80.
Lemongrass chicken on skewers Chiangmai style, were redolent with guess what, lemongrass of course, which gave the minced chicken loads of flavour. Sprinkled with sesame seeds, the skewers of lemon grass stalks needed no additional sauce. Available at RM16.90 for 5 pcs, it’sgreat as a starter or a snack at any time of day.
You can have an all day American breakfast for RM23.90, as well as their High tea set of chocolate mousse, ganache tarts, macarons, cream puffs, cake, steamed buns, and croissants. The price for the high tea set varies depending on the accompanying beverage, starting at RM19.90 per person.
For dessert we savoured their Ginger sticky rice served with a combination of kelapa palut (desiccated coconut) and fried gula melaka as well as some sambal sauce. An interesting blend of sweet and savoury, RM9.90. This was followed by the Thai sticky rice flavoured with pandan, served with mango, coconut milk, and desiccated coconut, the classic Thai dessert that everyone who visits Thailand will seek out, RM9.90.
Address: 161, Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil, Greentown, 30450 Ipoh, Perak
Business hours: Open everyday 11.30am-10pm, last order at 9pm Takeaway and delivery available.
Yes I do but often it doesn’t love me back. Bloating, acid reflux and general malaise are the consequences of my gorging on pizza. Whether it’s a combination of the dough base or the cheese, I am often leery of this high fat and high carb meal.
But now with Yin’s Sourdough Pizzas I can indulge in one of my favourite foods with impunity. Because a sourdough base, which is more digestible than standard white flour, renders the gluten in flour more digestible and less likely to cause food intolerance. It is also more nutritious.
Sourdough is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. The oldest recorded use of sourdough is from the Ancient Egyptian civilizations and as most things, it was probably discovered by accident. There appears to be a renaissance of sourdough bread popularity here in Ipoh and I am ever grateful for it.
So what are the reasons for this resurgence in popularity? What’s wrong with commercial bread? Well for starters (pun intended), commercial bread has been reported to contain a few ‘nasties’, as in chemical additives and preservatives. Additives like potassium bromate an oxidising agent; Azodicarbonamide (ADA) a dough conditioner to improve the texture and strength of bread dough, which received tremendous media attention when the sandwich chain Subway announced it would remove ADA from its bread dough due to its potential harmful health effects. Partially hydrogenated oil which contains trans fats that everyone knows by now, are dangerous to the heart; sugar; Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) an antioxidant which prevents rancidity, used as a preservative; and the list goes on.
And then there is the big question of gluten intolerance and sometimes celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.
What makes sourdough bread so special?
Sourdough often has a lower glycaemic index than that of other breads – meaning, it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically. Hence, it is a better choice for diabetics or people who are borderline diabetic. Sourdough bread contains the friendly bacteria Lactobacillus in a higher proportion to yeast than do other breads. More Lactobacillus means higher production of lactic acid, which means less of the potentially dangerous phytic acid. And what does that mean? More mineral availability and easier digestion! Easier digestion is made even more possible by the bacteria-yeast combo working to predigest the starches in the grains. Predigestion by sourdough equals less digestion for you.
Acetic acid–which inhibits the growth of mold, is produced in the making of sourdough. So, sourdough naturally preserves itself. Rather wonderful considering the toxic preservatives thrown into the food supply today. Additionally, these bacteria control yeast population in the gut, so yeast overgrowth and infection is less likely to occur.
Sourdough is so complex that it contains a host of goodness in terms of nutrients. In sourdough, you can find vitamins B1-B6, B12, folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, selenium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium (some of these in fairly tiny amounts) – in addition to uniquely balanced proteins and fatty acids. This is in contrast to most commercially produced breads, which maintain only a fraction of their original nutrient content after all the processing they undergo.
Sourdough fermentation may also help make wheat bread easier for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to digest. One study found that sourdough bread made with a long fermentation time produced fewer symptoms (such as bloating and gas) than conventionally made bread.
In a study comparing the effects of sourdough bread with commercial bread, researchers reported that sourdough bread significantly lowered serum glucose and insulin responses and gave greater satisfaction than other breads.Researchers in Sweden at Lund University have noted that the fermentation process that’s involved in the creation of sourdough utilises carbohydrates, lowering the carbohydrate level in the dough as it’s transformed to lactic acid. The result of this process means that sourdough bread can aid in ensuring that your blood glucose level remains in line, helping to guard against various diseases especially diabetes.
So enough with the health information and back to Yin’s Sourdough. The restaurant is conveniently housed in a bungalow on Jalan Lasam, very accessible and has ample parking spaces. Adhering to strict SOPs means that the tables are spaced far apart and the whole ambiance is light and airy.
Four young partners make up the proprietors with YH Liew as the primary manager and Edwin Lau also in the operations manager capacity. Liew who took care of us the moment we arrived and after the de rigeur temperature taking and sign in, proceeded to recommend some of their signature pizzas and dishes.
Liew recommended that we try their homemade kefir which is something I love as the probiotic bacteria in kefir is so healthy for one’s gut. All drinks are prepared without sugar utilising the natural sugars in fruits as in the Avocado Banana Kefir, a drink which I found totally delicious but which the sweet lover amongst our dear readers may find a bit bland.. (I am sure they’ll bring you sugar if you so wish) RM15.
Others at my table ordered an Apple orange paleo smoothie (RM11) and a Matcha latte (RM12) which they all found to be yummy.
Then came the pizzas….what I had been looking forward to. Liew’s favourite which he insisted we had to try was the Satay Chicken Pizza,RM30, with chickensatay drenched in peanut sauce on sourdough base. An interesting combination.
The next pizza was even more unusual: a banana/kaya pizza which they call Golden Indulgence. Again it was interesting and combined with the sourdough base, slightly burnt in parts, lending a crisp touch to the taste, RM23.
I wanted to try a simple Margarita Pizza which arrived topped with cheese and with the sourdough combination was utterly delightful, RM23.
More sourdough in the form of a bagel made into a sandwich. With homemade luncheon meat, the bagel topped with poppy seeds and the sandwich stuffed with a slice of cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Crispy, crunchy and well worth the RM10.
We next had the Alaskan pollock sourdough burger with blossom fries, crispy fillets of fish served in a sourdough bun and an interesting papaya and tomato jam, RM20.
Moving away from the sourdough for a bit, we had the Chicken Cordon Bleu, chicken breast stuffed with cheese, rolled in sourdough breadcrumbs and deep fried. Served with blossom fries which are sweet potato strips fried…crisp and yummilicious, RM23.
This was followed by the Angel Hair pasta with grilled veggies, with fresh homemade pesto and the pasta al dente, RM16.
We were then served a platter of different slices of their daily mix of sourdough bread with a mix of different spreads of the day, RM6. On that day we savoured their peanut butter spread, cheesy kaya and their papaya nutmeg with marmalade. The peanut butter spread is available for sale at RM13 a jar. Almond spread, as well as pineapple and lemongrass jam are also available at times.
Their sourdough bread is available for takeaway everyday till sold out and they have quite a variety to choose from. While their loaves are available daily, their specialty breads are mostly made to order. Their breads change from day to day so make your selection when you pick up.
For me, on the subject of sourdough, I would like to leave my dear readers with the following quote “The Whiter The Bread, The Sooner You’re Dead.” So for me it’s only going to be SOURDOUGH!
Address: 43, Jalan Lasam, Pusat Perdagangan Greentown, 30450 Ipoh, Perak
Business hours: Tues-Sun. (Closed on Mondays) 12-7pm, takeaway available until 7pm
Twenty-eight-year-old Carolyn Tan decided to take up her mother’s interest in baking tiramisu to continue her delicious legacy. Tan, who is now running the business with her husband, Peter Lee, are working hand-in-hand to create the melt-in-your-mouth treat.
“The recipe is passed down to us by Carolyn’s mother, Jang who has been making tiramisu for the past eight years. That’s how the name ‘Made by Jang’ came about,” said Peter.
While hoping to establish a brand presence in the local market, the couple’s focus is on sharing the goodness of authentic Italian tiramisu in Ipoh.
“Authentic!” Carolyn exclaimed when asked on how she would describe her tiramisu in one word.
“Due to higher cost, many bakers tend to substitute with cost-effective ingredients to minimise expenditure,” she remarked. “Thus, it often results in mediocre quality,” she added.
What makes her tiramisu unique is the distinctive ingredients, which consist of cocoa powder, Mascarpone cheese and Ladyfingers biscuits dipped in rum and coffee and topped with rich cocoa powder.
Initially sold at The Happy Eight Cafe, the couple had to come up with other alternatives to keep thriving and stay competitive in the pandemic.
According to the mother of one, one has to keep the ball rolling and persevere through challenges. “Hence, we’ve set up an online platform to keep the passion alive,” she described.
Despite being a widely recognised dessert, most people mistake tiramisu as a taste or flavour.
“Tiramisu is not just a taste, but it’s about how you make it, say, the type of ingredients you use and the process of producing it that will determine the quality of the tiramisu,” she highlighted.
“Having a hint of the flavour doesn’t necessarily justify it’s authenticity. However, for most cases, it would still be labelled as ‘tiramisu’.” she elaborated.
Hungry for dessert? Need a fix for your sweet tooth? Treat yourself to a slice of Carolyn’s authentic tiramisu!
The tiramisu can be made without alcohol for Muslims. It is priced at RM19 per box with a RM5 delivery fee within Ipoh area. Free delivery for orders above RM38.
A word from our Echo Food Diva SeeFoon: “It's yummilicious. The rum was immediately evident on first bite and the use of mascarpone lent it a smooth mouth feel. Most places replace this with whipped cream which is a no-no. It's worth paying a bit more for this lavish use of authentic ingredients. A RM19 per portion, is probably enough to satisfy 4 persons. Go for it, sweet eaters.”
He’s young and good looking and wears a straw fedora at a jaunty angle. If he wasn’t wearing an apron you would think he was a customer. Just calm, cool and collected without the harassed demeanor of the usual chef.
Fikri Jalil is 32 and is Chef and proprietor of Galanggal Cafe, a brightly decorated cafe in a new row of shophouses in Meru Raya behind Mydin. A mini nursery fronts the steps leading to the entrance emblazoned with a big letter G. A shallow tray with sanitizer leads to the door and I am encouraged to step in to sanitize my sandals. That’s innovative, I thought as I walked into a cheerful ambiance with one wall brightly painted in multi-hued tropical foliage. Artistically done, I thought, whoever painted it has style. I subsequently discovered it was done by Fikri’s sister who is an artist, and framed pieces of her art are on sale in the cafe.
Fikri’s culinary skills were picked up from Syeun Catering College and subsequently through working in various locations in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur; the most significant and made the most lasting impression on him was his stint working in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel under Lebanese Chef Raymond Rjaily.
You can taste that middle eastern influence in his food, the subtle aromatic touches of spices like sumac and za’atar; the flamboyant flair he has with ordinary spices like coriander, star anise as well as local Ulam herbs in his salads.
Going where few western cuisiniers dare to tread.
But forging bravely ahead, Fikri creates memorable taste temptations in his curating of eastern and middle eastern ingredients with traditional western cooking methods.
Like his Duck Confit, a delicacy usually found in France which is duck leg, marinated and smothered in duck fat, slow cooked, then pan fried to crisp the skin and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. In Fikri’s hands, the Duck leg is still cooked the French way (a minimum of 4-5 hours) but instead of serving with mashed potatoes, it is encircled with a dry lentil curry, and unusual salad leaves which Fikri’s Mum grows at home including Daun Selom or water celery, one of the popular leaves used in traditional ulam. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and eaten with the fresh leaves and the mildly spiced lentils, a wonderful adventure off the culinary path, RM26.
Fettuccine Bolognese is a common enough dish on many cafe menus but in Chef Firki’s hands and without cheese or red wine, he turns it into a delectable main course, the Fettuccine al dente, the minced beef Bolognese sauce generous without being overwhelming, cherry tomatoes adding a nuance of tartness to the whole dish. Excellent flavour, RM23.
Next came the braised Lamb shank arrabiata topped with sumac. This ancient herb is made from ruby-colored berries that are ground into a beautiful, coarse powder that bursts with color and flavor and is very widely used in middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It added tangy, lemony fresh flavors to the lamb which was tender and juicy and was served on a bed of Baba Ganoush (roasted eggplant mash) and burnt kale with pomegranate seeds scattered all over, RM36.
The Chicken Harrissa with Burnt Hummus was tantalising. The roast chicken was tender and juicy immersed in a Harissa sauce (the middle eastern equivalent of chilli sauce which was homemade by Fikri) served with burnt hummus in olive oil, cherry tomato, and burnt French beans with crunch supplied by whole coriander. The flavour of za’atar, a very popular and timeless Middle-Eastern spice blend of sumac, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds permeated the whole dish. Divine and innovative. RM20.
For drinks, check out the Royal Caribbean, pineapple and mint, topped with star anise crush or the Tebu sparkling Mojito lime and mint, topped with sugar cane ice cubes. Both at RM6.50 each.
Here is a sparkling new chef and he needs to be supported. What the engineering world lost (yes he was studying to be an electrical engineer!) the culinary world in Ipoh gained and I hope will continue to benefit from his culinary skills.
Let’s help the small businesses.
Address: 49G, Jalan Meru Bestari B8, 31200 Ipoh, Perak
Business hours: Mon- Sat. 3-10.00pm (Last order at 9.40pm) Takeaway & pick up available
SeeFoon discovers a Canning ‘Cutesy’. Meiko Home which looks like a gift shop from the road. The facade is “cutesy Japanese”, the inside, whimsical kitsch. But wait….surprise, surprise, there is a menu and they serve food.
SeeFoon discovers a Canning ‘Cutesy’
When my friend Liew Thin Sang called to invite me for some Laksa in Canning, I jumped at the invitation as I adore Laksa. So on the set date, my troops and I descended on Meiko Home which looks like a gift shop from the road. The facade is “cutesy Japanese”, the inside, whimsical kitsch complete with simulated bottle top Coca-Cola and Heineken tables and chairs. The walls are bedecked with gift shop whimsy: hanging doll hand towels, Panda bears, gnomes, wall hangings, model cars, children’s clothes hanging in racks, dot the space in veritable Disney fashion.
This is a gift shop I thought. But wait….surprise, surprise, there is a menu and they serve food.
Wennie Che, the effusive proprietor greeted our group like old friends and proceeded to give us menus. Coming from a family background of running gift shops with four in Cameron Highlands, she has spread her wings and eyes Ipoh as a lucrative market, opening Meiko Home on Jalan Canning Estate two years ago and a new acquisition in Lorong Panglima.
Meiko Home is their first venture into serving food and as such, she is keeping her menu small.
Laksa is their Signature dish. Assam Laksa served here, with variations on size and garnitures depending on budget and appetite. There is a mini Laksa (RM4.90) which is a small tasting portion and will allow you to order other regular portions of their other signature dishes one of which is their Big Prawn Mee (Har Meen). This comes with a humongous Tiger Prawn, sliced fish paste, fried shallots and boiled egg. The soup was umami and the Tiger Prawn very fresh, RM16.90. And of course, if Laksa makes your mouth water, then go for the big portion with all the seafood including the Tiger Prawn, big mussels, sotong or squid, lots of pineapple slices which is a meal in itself, RM16.90.
If spice is not on your culinary list, they also have non-spicy noodle dishes like their Mee Hoon Fish Soup, slices of garoupa fish served in an umami broth with tomatoes, cabbage and sliced ginger, RM12.90 (fish only) and RM16.90 with mixed seafood.
Naturally, to please those with a western palate (and that includes a lot of our locals) they also offer chops from chicken, pork, lamb, duck and even Iberico pork which can be served on top of spaghetti or with rice and vegetables; but Foodie that I am, I generally avoid these dishes. From RM16.90 onwards.
Having mentioned the main items which I enjoyed, we now come to the pièce de résistance of Meiko and even now a month later, I can still savour the taste in my gustatory memory bank!
Hoi Dai Kai or Underwater Chicken
When Wennie brought a round bottom pot and portable burner to the table I was taken aback. What? Cooking at the table? And it doesn’t look like Hot Pot.
Inside the pot were cut up Beard Chicken (Wu Sou Kai) pieces which she told me had been marinated overnight. There were stalks of bruised lemongrass, chopped ginger, galangal, coriander leaves and a chilli-based secret mixture. This was placed on the burner and set alight. Immediately, someone else put a stainless steel bowl over the mouth of the pot and proceeded to fill the bowl with ice. With the pot sealed, the ice on top (which was replenished as it melted) providing a cool lid with faster evaporation, leaving the chicken to cook in its own juices as the lid prevented any evaporation of moisture. Twenty minutes passed and voila, the “lid” removed, the aroma wafting from the chicken was ambrosial. The taste was even better! Tender, moist and succulent, the chicken pieces were well imbued with the marinade and cooking juices and each bite was a trip to the stars and back, RM88-RM98 (depending on the size of chicken). Must be ordered a minimum 24 hours in advance.
With that as our last delectable treat, we finished the meal with a simple dessert of “TongSui”, a white fungus with peach gum and ginkgo nuts. Not too sweet and a refreshing end to a good meal.
Address: MEIKO HOME 57 Jalan Canning Estate, Taman Canning, 31400 Ipoh.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Picture a beautifully renovated bungalow, resplendent in its own ample garden, generous parking, stepping up into a posh reception foyer and well laid out tables in comfortable spacing and you feel like you have stepped back in time.
Into the halcyon days of leisurely tea parties, dainty sandwiches, scones with strawberry jam and cream and the low murmur of muted conversation. And it’s all here at STG, a restored bungalow built in 1937, in the days when opulence was the norm. And opulent it is today.
Aside from the dainty high tea served all day, STG boasts a surprisingly extensive menu with offerings to tempt every palate. Ranging from Western to Asian with an irresistible choice of sweet temptations that even someone like me, who is not too fond of all things sweet, was seduced into having not only one or two spoonfuls but actually almost finishing whole portions!
Let me begin with their Chicken Rice. Having just completed my review on various outlets in Ipoh on this very same item, I was delighted to discover that their Chef de Cuisine used to work in Singapore at the Mandarin Hotel in Orchard Rd where I was addicted to their chicken rice. Now here he is in Ipoh! And his chicken rice is superlative, with all the sauces which I consider ‘de rigueur’; the chilli sauce, tangy with a hint of garlic; the ginger sauce, thick and fragrant and the dark black soya sauce which is a must. And let’s not forget the bowl of soup which was umami and chock full of cabbage; RM24.
Try also their Char Kway Teow with duck eggs, which was generous in their big prawns and arrived full of ‘wok hei’; RM24. Another dish worthy of mention is their soft shell crab with pasta; the soft shell crab crisp and crunchy, topping al dente spaghetti tossed with salted egg yolk. Yummilicious . . . RM38. Also do try their Sicilian Scallop Pasta, with slow-fried garlic and Serrano peppers; the large US scallops pan-fried to perfection, the Serrano peppers which are very mild and fried garlic lending not only their flavour but also providing a crunch with the pasta; RM36.
The list of goodies is endless and host Alvin Wan, co-founder and director was the perfect host, insisting I sample as many items as possible. As space is limited, I will list here the dishes I found delectable and worth returning again and again for.
I had to return for a second tasting as I saw French Escargot on the menu. For those who don’t know the French term, these are snails and are a very rare offering in Ipoh. So I immediately pounced on these as I haven’t had these in a long time. Baked with butter and garlic and parsley in their shells, the escargots here were delicious . . . not dry or chewy but just right. Dip bread into the garlic butter to mop up the sauce makes for a superb appetiser, RM24.
Their Wagyu Beef Burger is a Big Mac, but what a difference! Two juicy patties of chopped wagyu beef, cooked medium-rare, spilling over with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and held by a sesame bun. No additional saucing was needed as I bit into the well-seasoned pattie feeling I was in burger heaven; RM38.
I can recommend their Rosemary Lamb Rack, Australian thick-cut chops served with roasted potatoes which were very tasty. Do specify your degree of done-ness though, as they may tend to cook them too well done for local tastes; RM78.
They have fish, steaks, chicken and lamb galore in many guises and styles but time and space limit me. Try their Pan Fried Seabass fillet with a Herb Cream Sauce, RM28, or their Tea Smoked Chicken with a tea infusion with honey, a dish that is perfect for children, RM25.
And I haven’t even talked about their teas and their desserts with especially one pièce de résistance, their incredible ‘Durian’ special, a look-alike confection of cream, cheese and the Malaysian obsession, durian. The taste is one of what I call the “died and gone to heaven” variety, creamy, fragrant and out of this world. The small one can feed probably four small eaters, RM25. And one can order the big 8-inch one for RM280 which will likely feed 8 to 10 or more people.
Patissier Zimone Foong is a wizard at her job. She, as Pastry Leader of her team, whips up the most delectable temptations like the Salted Egg Cream Cheesecake, RM16 per slice, or the San Sebastian Cheesecake and a host of other delicacies which you can order to take home. Or host a tea party on their premises for any occasion. Just call her (number below).
And now we come to the teas. STG is the acronym for Sabah Tea Garden, a homegrown tea plantation, producing and packaging a large variety of teas for both the home and export markets. Their tea menu is extensive ranging from the organic Borneo Rainforest, RM16 per pot; their regular Sabah Tea, RM12; their naturally fragranced teas like the Lavender Sabah Tea, RM15; French Rose Oolong (beautifully uplifting); their Golden Osmanthus (soothing), RM15, are all worth trying. Also, try their Passion Fruit Iced Tea. Fragrant tart and sweet, RM10.
STG will from now onwards be my go-to place for a leisurely meal, a sip or two of wine and perhaps if I am tempted, a dessert or two to share. They now sell wine in mini bottles like wine from Chile the Luis Felip Edward sauvignon blanc, and the red wine Carmenere. RM24 per bottle which is probably around one and a half glasses each.
STG has other locations in Ipoh. They have one in Old Town and they also run the Little Elephant opposite Pantai Hospital. As they work from a central kitchen, the desserts will be the same for sure but the a la minute dishes may vary depending on the chef who’s cooking so I cannot vouch for the others. They also have one outlet in Taiping and one in Kuala Lumpur.
STG has come a long way from their early days. I was taken there once and the food was so appalling that I made my mind up to never go there again until very recently when I was totally surprised at the total turn around in their culinary presentations. Bravo STG! May you go from strength to strength.
STG Tea House Cafe
2 Jalan Taman Kinta, Chateau Garden, 30250 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 255 0116 or 05 255 0188 Zimone Foong Pastry Chef to order pastries: 012 519 8116
F & B Manager: Kenny Lam 012 3920116 Business hours: 11am-11pm 24/7