Lou Shu Fun, commonly known as ‘silver needle noodle’, is also called rat (Shu) noodle by most Malaysians. The noodle is called Shu due to its shape like a needle or a rat’s tail and is one of the many traditional Chinese noodles available in many stalls.
Since it’s the year of the Rat, Ipoh Echo goes on a quest for the best Lou Shu Fun around Perak.
Ah Yuk Lou Shu Fun is one of the last few surviving shops that serves handmade Lou Shu Fun. Usually sold out by 10am, expect a long queue at 7am, its peak time. When asked about the ingredients of the noodles, Law Lai Yoon, 52, the second generation to run the Lou Shu Fun business said the noodles are mainly made of rice (glutinous and non-glutinous) and water with a combination of corn starch.
“The kneading and cooking process of the noodle takes approximately an hour,” said Yoon.
Everything is made from scratch including the noodles, minced meat and chilli sauce. The noodle can be served in numerous forms, such as in soup, stir-fried or dry (drenched in a mixture of sauces based on customers’ preference). The taste and texture are second to none.
“Handmade noodles are definitely healthier than manufactured ones,” Yoon proudly explained. There is no added MSG or additives in the making of the noodles.
If you happen to visit Tg Tualang, do drop by Ah Yuk Lou Shu Fun and grab yourself a bowl of Lou Shu Fun.
These are the five top selected Lo Shu Fun places to welcome the year of the Metal Rat.
1. Tanjung Tualang Ah Yuk Lou Shu Fun (Homemade)
Famous for homemade Low She Fun
Address: Gerai Majlis Daerah, Jalan Kampar, 31800 Tanjong Tualang, Perak.
Open daily, 5am-10.30am
2. Restaurant Makanan Laut Wong Kok
Famous for JJ Lou Shu Fun
Address: 11 Persiaran Tokong, Pasir Pinji, Ipoh.
Open daily, 11am-2.30pm, 5pm-11.30pm
3. Restaurant Chee Wah
Famous for Claypot Lou Shu Fun
Address: 12 Jalan Che Tak, Ipoh.
Wednesday & Thursday Off
4. Restaurant Lou She Fun
Famous for Gon Lou Lou Shu Fun
Address: 615 Jalan New Pasir Puteh, Pasir Puteh, Ipoh.
5. Dome Meru
Famous for Sambal Lou Shu Fun (not on the menu but on request)
Dome Restaurant, Meru Golf Resort,
Meru Valley, 30020 Jelapang, Perak.
Open Daily, 6am – 10pm
At the Palace Steamboat, which opened on December 31, 2019, this was the scene as a group of us sat down for a pre-pre Chinese New Year feast
SeeFoon Gets Steamed Up Again; This Time in Soho
I love SteamBoat or Hotpot. Sitting at the table and watching the slow bubbles making its way o the surface, your pot slowly coming to the boil and everyone is sitting patiently, poised to dunk in their choice of delectables. Then the fun begins.
As ladles, scoops and chopsticks enter the pot with loud hollers of, “who’s got my meatball”, or “my slice of lamb has disappeared”, the steam opening up all the pores on one’s face, (so don’t wear makeup ladies!) and serious eating ensues.
At the Palace Steamboat, which opened on December 31, 2019, this was the scene as a group of us sat down for a pre-pre Chinese New Year feast recently. Situated on top of Lanna Thai and accessible by lift, this bright and spacious restaurant has ample seating with table spaced comfortably apart. Each table comes equipped with its own built-in stove and 3 private rooms seating up to 10 each, provide privacy.
To whet our appetites we ordered two of their casserole rice dishes which arrived piping hot and wafting steam as we raised the lid. Of the two, my preference was for the Chicken Rice, cooked with marinated free-range chicken, dried red jujubes, goji berries and topped with scallions, hints of Chinese wine permeating the whole pot. I couldn’t get enough of this! And I am not much of a rice fan. The Lap Mei Fan is no competition to the intense Chicken Rice.
Meanwhile, all the raw ingredients for the steamboat were being laid out on the table, paper-thin slices of Sakura pork belly which absolutely melt in your mouth (RM10); very tender slices of Australian lamb (RM20) and beef (RM22); homemade fish ball (RM10); homemade tofu (RM5) and crispy tofu rolls (RM14).
I highly recommend their homemade meatballs which were umami and tantalisingly taste worthy, RM16. As is their handmade noodles, long rolls of wheat noodles made broader than most (almost 3cm) and when cooked still had that tooth resilience which is for me, the measure of a great noodle, RM8.
Vegetables range between RM5 and RM6 with a few like the Chinese yam and crystallineice plant going at (RM8). We had tong houor chrysanthemum greens, choi sum, lettuce, lotus pod; enoki mushrooms and two very health-giving dried fungi which I was delighted to find on the menu.
We’ll begin with Tricholoma Matsutake, Japan’s answer to truffles. Once available only to the well-heeled, the Pine Mushrooms are highly sought after and in Japan fresh ones can cost up to US1000 per kilo. I was thrilled to find this on the menu here, albeit the dried form and from where else? China of course.
Nevertheless, these mushrooms have a sensory adventure in them, spicy and fruity taste with a hint of sweet cinnamon. And lends the broth an earthy intense aroma, adding yet another layer to the already complex soup base. They are touted to be a natural anti-cancer remedy, that doesn’t have unwanted side effects as well as having antioxidant/free-radical scavenging activity/anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to being chock full of vitamins and minerals, RM28.
The other fungus we had was the Cordyceps flower, a type of parasitic fungus with its medicinal value similar to that of the much more expensive Cordyceps Sinensis It is thought to provide an array of therapeutic benefits such as protecting the lungs, nourish the kidney, increase blood production, anti-depressant, anti-ageing and has anti-bacterial properties. It is also known medicinally to be a strong anticancer and anti-asthmatic agent. Tastes a bit like enoki mushrooms but with more bite, RM28.
Now that I have introduced the two health-giving fungi, I must go back to the beginning: to the broth. This is the first thing to order as there is a choice to be made. We chose the pork tripe stewed free-range chicken broth (RM58 – S, RM88 – L) which was robust and umami to begin with. After the addition of all the other ingredients described above, the resulting broth was ambrosial, each sip a drop of nectar.
During this over-indulgent festive Chinese New Year season, this will be a healthier option for me. In fact, just order up a small broth, add some fungus, vegetables and some homemade noodles and share that with a couple of friends and voila, good food and good health. What more can one ask for?
PALACE STEAMBOAT Block E, 2-6, Soho Ipoh 2 Jalan Sultan Idris Shah, 30000 Ipoh.
019 573 3198 or 05 210 9198
Business hours: Open 24/7 11.30am-3pm; 5.30pm-10pm.
SeeFoon drops in on Lodge 163. The facade jumps out at you as you drive down Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah or Hugh Low St. as locals still call it.
SeeFoon drops in on Lodge 163
The facade jumps out at you as you drive down Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah or Hugh Low St. as locals still call it. The signboard is hand-painted in a whimsical retro style, with a tinge of shabby chic and the big number 163 jumps out at you in a mauve red.
163 is as its signboard says, both a lodge and a cafe. The lodge upstairs has 10 rooms with one accommodating up to four and another five persons in one room. Very reasonably priced from RM80 for double, a group of friends or family can easily split the costs which works out to an average of RM40 per pax. All rooms have their own attached bathroom and are air-conditioned. This makes it perfect for backpackers and students and travellers looking for good clean, comfortable accommodation and it’s right in the heart of Ipoh town.
The cafe downstairs is pleasantly decorated again with whimsical touches and booths and open tables make up the seating area. The cafe opens at 8am where the lodgers can have breakfast and throughout the day the cafe serves very interesting dishes all home prepared by proprietor Mdm Shirley Chong.
This is not your usual “Tai Chau” restaurant but a very comfortable cafe serving individual portions of various noodles and dishes, mostly meant for one. But as is the usual habit with me, I was there with my troupe and we ordered up a storm and tried many items on their menu.
Lodge and Cafe163 is a whole family effort with father Stanley Tham (a Feng Shui Master) presiding, mother Shirley Chong in the kitchen curating the dishes aided by a chef de cuisine; brother Tham Kuen Wei who is also a Feng Shui Master and two sisters Elizabeth and Evaynne Tham. Together and with mum Shirley as the creative chef behind the dishes, the team serves up an impressive array of dishes, with one of the largest selection of vegetarian and vegan selections I have seen, mixed in with meat dishes. So it’s a haven for groups with different dietary habits to enjoy a meal together, without one group having to accommodate the other.
The best thing on the menu is the promise of NO MSG and add clean toilets and air-conditioned comfort to boot and Lodge 163 cafe has a fan in me.
I am not much of a veggie fan but I enjoyed their vegetarian Bibimbap, the famous Korean Rice speciality which you mix yourself at the table, RM8.50; and their Malat Spicy Noodles, a borrowing from Sichuan cuisine using the Sichuan pepper sauce which is mixed into the noodles to give a slightly tongue-numbing peppery impact, RM9.50. An interesting veggie snack dish is their crispy sweet potato rolls, RM8.
Naturally, the carnivore that I am immediately gravitated to the meat dishes, the excellent Black Vinegar Pig’s Trotters or Tsu Geok Tsou which was seasoned perfectly with the right blend of vinegar to soya to sugar ratio, the trotters braised to a tender but chewy texture and the sauce, a touch of ambrosia, RM12.
Crispy Pork Lard Rice with fried ikan bilis was heavenly given that I love crispy pork lard done any which way, RM8.50; as was the Rice with Curry Muttonandfried crispy bean curd, RM13.50.
We also tried the Giant Curry Noodles and Beehoon (you can have both or singly), a heaping bowl with roast pork, fried and boiled fish balls, pork balls, fried wonton, char siew, fried bean curd and pigskin complete with yummy curry sauce and vegetables. Unless you have a humongous appetite, this one dish which I will recommend that you share amongst four if you have a normal appetite, RM25.
Finally (there are many many more items on the menu), which I cannot possibly write about given my space limitations, I can recommend the Tom Yam Noodles which come with fish paste, tao fu pok, fu pei, roast pork, egg and large prawns: tangy and mildly spicy but can be made more so with the addition of the thick chilli paste which they give you, RM13.50.
Lodge 163 Cafe is a great place to pop in for a snack, meal or even just a drink, with my favourite being the blue-pea-flower tea which you can have with lime and sugar. And did I mention that they have a high tea which is served all day? The traditional fancy three-tier high tea tray chock full of a mixture of sweet and savouries and served with your choice of English tea on fine China.
Yinzo Kopi also have some new dishes on the menu like the traditional Hakka “Lei Cha” and traditional Hakka Tofu made by their own chef and one of the best Kai Si Hor Fun (Chicken Soup Noodle) in town!
Arguably the Best KSHF in Ipoh
In the 16 Jul 2019 issue, IE308, I wrote about Yinzo Kopi that newly-refurbished cafe right in the heart of old town. At the time, I thought some of their offerings were brilliant and some hit and miss. However, William Oh, manager and partner, takes feedback very well and I am happy to report that all my comments on previous occasions on some of the items have all been taken to heart and the dishes modified.
They also have some new dishes on the menu like the traditional Hakka “Lei Cha” and traditional Hakka Tofu made by their own chef!
Available every Tuesdays, Fridays and on every 1st and 15th day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, each serving is priced at “Lei Cha” RM13.80; Hakka Tofu RM3.80 (2 pcs); set of both RM16.80. Great for sharing or if a big eater, hog it all for yourself. The portions are BIG, the herbal tea soup umami and fragrant and the mix of ingredients freshly prepared.
And they have expanded their dim sum menu with new additions like Dried Prawn Pastry (3 pcs RM4.80) and a yummilicious Polo Pau, fragrant, pillow-soft and enveloping a big slab of butter. This had me asking for more and my dear readers know that I don’t have a sweet tooth! RM3.80.
Also Osmanthus Jelly, RM4.80, is available on Saturdays and Longan Soya Bean Curd, RM4.80, available on Sundays.
But I’m saving the biggest surprise for last. From now on, I will only go there for their Kai Si Hor Fun (KSHF), Ipoh’s iconic dish of rice noodles in soup. Depending on individual taste buds of course, for my palate, their KSHF is now edging out the front runners Moon de Moon and Pulau Sembilan. Here you sit in air-conditioned comfort and leisurely sip their home blend of local white coffee, pick at a dim sum or two and wait for the KSHF to arrive (which is pretty quickly), as you eat the noodles and slurp the broth. This latter is the magic to their KSHF. Simmered for a minimum of six hours, the broth is out of this world umami with no MSG, RM8.80.
And no waiting for tables or queuing up (although parking is rather difficult around there, take a Grab).
If still hankering for more, check out the Mizo Pork Rice. Well marinated pork slices, tender and well-coated with Mizo, served with white rice and mustard, RM13.80.
So William Oh, keep up the quality and don’t let Ipohites down! People will start complaining to me if you do.
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.
It’s been four years since I last visited Mandarin Kitchen in Falim. Not only have they since moved premises (still in Falim) but now its a bigger and roomier two shoplot space and as an added incentive, there is ample parking.
What made me decide to revisit was that I heard they are now offering an ongoing promotion of fish curry for the price of RM20 on weekdays. Always thinking of my dear readers and how they would really enjoy this, I thought it was time to pay them another visit because I remember that there are some very interesting dishes on the menu. In fact, I wrote about them in issue 211 in 2015.
Revisiting this time, I got the opportunity to combine old taste memories and collect new ones and was I glad I did. I remember Chef Ng Wen Lih as one of the most creative chefs giving new twists to traditional dishes and some in the most unusual ways. So for example, my friends are always astounded when the Ku Lui Yoke or sweet-sour pork arrives on the table. The fried battered chunks of pork were served on a bed of ice which results in the batter becoming more crunchy and producing a new mouth feel. For those who like all their dishes served piping hot, this is not for their palate but for me, who is forever moaning about the heat, a cold crispy morsel of meat is just perfect, RM16/20/24.
Chef Ng’s wife Chong Lee Yong takes care of service and on the night we went, she introduced some of the new dishes (new to me as I haven’t been for so long).
We began with the Asam Prawns, medium-sized prawns marinated with a thick slightly sweetened asam paste and pan-fried. The prawns were very fresh and the sauce, although a tad sweet for my taste, was tangy and sweet without being cloying, RM22.
Next came one of their signature dishes, the Wuxi Fah Lam. Looking like Dong Po Yoke but a dark maroon-red in colour, the pork belly cut into smaller chunks but equally tender and the fat and skin, jelly smooth on the bite. Wuxi is the place in China where this style of cooking originates and the paste is very similar to the paste we get from the Fook Chow people in Sitiawan. This fermented paste made from red yeast rice lends a distinctive earthy taste to the pork. Served with homemade mantou (steamed Chinese buns), RM22.
The Fish Head Curry arrived. This is the pièce de résistance which lures people in, both for its very alluring price and the taste. At RM20 per boiling bubbling tureen, this Garoupa fish head is chopped into chunks and cooked in a creamy, very mild curry sauce that still has enough of the fire to remind you that you’re eating a curry. Monday-Friday promo only RM20; weekends RM30.
Then came the most innovative dish of the evening, the Pai Kwat or pork ribs with ice cream. Yes, you got that right – ice cream! These are very meaty pork ribs on the bone, marinated and deep-fried and topped with a scoop of ice cream, this evening being the corn flavoured one. I have to admit that the taste was quite pleasing and unusual. After all why not ice cream? It’s almost a ready-made sauce when melted and though again a tad too sweet for my taste, my table mates devoured and loved it; RM15/25/36 for S/M/L.
Another signature dish next, the Homemade Soft Tofu, steamed and topped with a smooth pumpkin/seafood sauce laced with small prawns and salted egg yolk. The combination was velvety, umami and slurp-worthy, RM10/15/20.
We followed this with the sweet potato leaves fried with ham har cheong or preserved prawn paste – the Chinese variety and not our sambal belacan; RM8/12/16.
The last greens we had was an ice plant salad, this succulent is currently the rage in Ipoh and most restaurants now have it on their menus. I love the crunchiness of the stems and leaves and prefer it raw in salads and in this case had a mayonnaise type dressing topped with oodles of crisped sliced dry cuttlefish. Yummilicious. RM12
I am glad I revisited Mandarin Kitchen.
No. 11 & 13, Laluan Perusahaan Menglembu 2,
Kawasan Perusahaan Menglembu, 31450 Menglembu, Perak.
Tel: 012-475 7513
11.30am to 2.30pm; 6pm to 10.30pm (daily)
Off 1 weekday every 2 weeks (not fixed)
I love noodles. It’s my Achilles heel. No amount of willpower or determination can keep me from guzzling noodles if it’s staring me in the face and taunting me. Even if it means blowing my low-carb regime.
Which brings me to being mad about Mad Ramen Bar.
This newly-opened restaurant in the thick of old town right opposite Plan B has all the makings of a carb lover’s paradise. Ramen in all its guises served in various broths and topped with a large selection of condiments and garnishes are the stars of the show here.
Don’t look for sushi or sashimi here. Look instead for freshly pan-fried Yaki Gyoza, homemade pork and cabbage dumplings with grapefruit ponzu dipping sauce RM11.80 for 5 pcs. They also have a deep-fried version called Age Gyoza served with a Sriracha mayo for RM9.80
Don’t look for French fries here. Look instead for Porky Fries, thin strips of pork luncheon meat appearing on my table looking for all the world like sweet potato fries (which I thought they were) until I took the first bite. All my childhood memories of Ma Ling or Spam luncheon meat came flooding back and I was transported. Umami strips of meat, slightly crisped on the outside and tender on the inside. Great as a snack to go with their speciality Craft beers while waiting for your meal; RM10.80.
Other nibblers or appetizers included the Takoyaki Balls, a very special rice-batter ball filled with bits of octopus, laced with Japanese sweet sauce and topped with Bonito flakes. You must be very careful biting into this ball as it arrives piping hot and can certainly burn your tongue; RM7.80 for 5 pieces.
While still on appetizers, we had a platter of their Yakitori skewers, ranging from Australian beef slice, pork belly, chicken, button and king oyster mushroom, bacon enoki and mixed vegetable. There is a two skewer per order minimum with prices ranging from RM3.80 to RM5.80 each and a Mad Ramen platter of one of everything for RM28.80. Dipping sauce is not necessary as each skewer is well seasoned.
Then we moved onto the Ramen. The menu lists items under the heading of Tonkotsu Ramen and Hokkaido Ramen. Tonkotsu Ramen is distinguished by its robust pork broth, simmered over 8 hours for a thick creamy result, definitely a labour of love! This ramen is a speciality dish from Fukuoka, Kyushu Island. From the Tonkotsu menu, we had the Black Tonkotsu, black garlic (extremely beneficial for health) and black sesame broth served with pork Chashu (a special roast pork) black fungus, braised egg and spring onions; RM19.80.
This was followed by the Pork Rib Black Shoyu, another robust broth with Black Shoyu, a huge braised pork rib, black fungus, braised egg and spring onions. The rib (ask for gloves to eat) was fall-off-the-bone tender and the broth divine. Definitely THE signature and must-have dish here; RM21.80.
Then one of my group suggested we sample the Hokkaido style Ramen, which he said was lighter and not as satiating. The Shio Ramen, one from the Hokkaido ramen series, a salt-based soup in chicken and vegetable broth with light and refreshing notes. With Ramen, pork Chashu, wakame, nori, braised egg, corn bamboo shoots and spring onions. Definitely lighter but equally umami; RM16.80.
On a previous occasion, I sampled their Chili Miso Ramen, served with the same condiments as the Shio ramen except that the Chili Miso lent a piquancy to the broth which I found delightful. And if the Scoville unit is not enough for you, you can always add the readily available sprinkle which they’ll be happy to supply; RM16.80.
Mad Ramen is a full bar, and their drinks menu is worth investigating. Their Craft Beers are certainly special as is their house Draft from Suntory, with a price of RM18.80 per glass and RM78.80 for a set of 5.
Worth having fun with is their Sake Bomb (they have an extensive range of Sakes) where you get a shot of sake and a beer. The shot of sake is placed on 2 chopsticks across the top of the beer mug and with whoops and much banging on the table, the shot of sake is encouraged to drop into the mug of beer. For those who fail, they’ll just have to buy another round!
It’s hard to forage in Malaysia unless you follow a knowledgeable Orang Asli who still lives off the land. But in other parts of the world where foraging is practised, not just by those who live off the grid but by ordinary folk like you and me, mushroom foraging is not only productive for the kitchen but also great fun. But not without its risks though; for picking the wrong mushrooms can kill you!
I know only of one kind of mushrooms that one can forage in Malaysia and that is after a thunderstorm and these white “thunder mushrooms” spring up in one’s garden. They have a wonderful fragrance and when lightly pan-fried in butter, are yummilicious. Alas, these are rare occurrences nowadays unless you live close to the jungle.
Being a lover of all mushrooms in whatever shape and form, perfumed or otherwise, I now head for Morel whenever a mushroom craving hits me. I remember the first time I went to Morel when they first opened almost two years ago and demanded to know why they named their restaurant after a famous mushroom when they didn’t have any on their menu. This has since been rectified in a big way and mushroom maniacs like myself can indulge to my heart’s content.
Chef Aw Kah Meng, a homegrown Ipoh chef who left for the big bright lights of Singapore in 2004 to hone his skills, has worked his way up the kitchen ladder in many big-name establishments like St Regis, Swissotel The Stamford, Raffles Plaza. More impressively and probably accounts for his culinary flair, he has worked with Bruno Menard, the 3-star Michelin Chef who is permanently based in Singapore.
Initially, after he opened Morel with his wife Siau Hooi when patrons like me were clamouring for mushrooms, Kah Meng ‘foraged’ in Malaysia, looking for suppliers who were able to deliver some of these rarities. He began with dried ones, offering Morel (finally!) and Porcini (Cep); then frozen (porcini) and now he has a source of fresh porcini and fresh black truffles.
Buonissimo I say and let the mushroom banquet begin!
I covered all the delectable dishes on the Morel menu in my review dated July 16, 2018 (issue 285), and today I am adding new menu items which I found delectable.
First off, it’s worthwhile to note that all of Morel’s pasta is homemade and cooked to al dente perfection. So is their bread. The dilemma for you, dear diner, is to decide whether you want tagliatelle, spaghetti or fusilli or whatever is on offer for the day and in what combination.
Here are their new offerings:
Bruschetta, homemade apple-wood-smoked ricotta cheese on home-baked sourdough bread topped with fresh French porcini mushrooms. There are four slices in one order so do share; RM29.90.
Next, we had Mesclun Salad with balsamic dressing, runny yolk egg, quinoa, bread croutons, parmesan cheese with slices of tender pork belly contrasting well with the crispy greens; RM28.90.
Mussel and Clam Soup was umami, tinged with white wine and a spicy tomato sauce, the bivalves tender and fresh, served with bread; RM24.90.
The homemade spaghetti cooked in tomato sauce, topped with shredded lamb shank, arugula and morel mushrooms, dotted with pine nuts and finished with grated parmesan cheese was a sumptuous meal (we shared) at RM56.90.
This was followed by my favourite meat dish here at Morel’s, the Black Angus Beef Cheek with asparagus and mashed potatoes. I have had beef cheek before but Morel’s version comes on the top of my list; coated in a velvety smooth sauce – a reduction from bones (not your out-of-a-bottle spoonful of store-bought gravy stock), the cheeks so soft and tender that you can cut with a fork and when eaten with the ultra-creamy mashed potatoes you have a mouthful of heaven; RM65.90.
Follow this with the Porcini Mushroom Risotto and I found myself almost rolling off the table from surfeit! Arborio rice cooked à la minute with porcini mushrooms and if that wasn’t fragrant enough, I also detected more than a hint of truffle oil. Add a square of gold leaf, shaved parmesan and you have a risotto fit for a king; RM37.90.
As for desserts, my dear readers know that I am not known to have a sweet tooth but when you put a Truffle Coconut Pannacotta in front of me, a wobbly eggless coconut pudding topped with mangoes, fresh berries and truffle honey, my sweet tooth emerges and I tuck in with gusto; RM16.90. On top of this, you add the Morel’s own Tiramisu (one of the best in Ipoh) and you have the perfect end to a gourmet meal.
If Alex Castaldi, GM of Banjaran Hotsprings and Resort and as Italian as they come, finds in Morel some of the best Italian food he’s eaten in Malaysia, then we can surely take his word for it. In Alex’s words, “I like Morel and am happy to see such a young talented chef cooking and serving with such passion and authenticity. Whenever I visit, I get a taste of home. Go try Morel – definitely worth a visit!”
If you haven’t been, it’s high time you did! And you don’t have to blow the budget to get a taste. They have a daily changing 3-course Lunch Menu for RM19.90.
A-G-12A Soho Ipoh,
Jalan Sultan Iskandar,
Tel: 010 9287291 or 011 242 02450
Tuesdays-Sunday & Public Holidays : 11am-3pm; 6pm-10pm
This week I am deconstructing Chicken Rice (CR) and debating the merits of what constitutes a good one. I know that ultimately it’s the combination of all the constituents that make this iconic dish so-so, mediocre, good or brilliant.
This week I am deconstructing Chicken Rice (CR) and debating the merits of what constitutes a good one. I know that ultimately it’s the combination of all the constituents that make this iconic dish so-so, mediocre, good or brilliant.
When I first moved to Ipoh 24 years ago (yes it’s been that long but feels like the blink of an eye!) I never found a chicken rice I liked. Mind you, I was so busy tasting all the other Ipoh iconic foods that I forgot my homegrown Singaporean rave food . . . chicken rice.
I still remember Swee Kee in Singapore; for me as a child, the big treat and big outing, when I used to stuff myself with all the chicken my little tummy could eat as well as all the divine gizzard, liver and, guess what, they had then – chicken intestines! We were one country then; no question of whether it originated in Singapore or Malaysia. It was our iconic dish. Albeit popularized by the Hainan Chinese and titivated locally.
Today, with some of the ongoing one-upmanship going on between the two neighbours clamouring for recognition on which dishes belong to whom, we have lost some emphasis on taste.
This is where our individual palates come into play. My daughter, for example, judges chicken rice on the smoothness of the chicken, its juiciness, its plumpness; next in importance for her, is the rice, each grain separate, firm and broth infused. Dipping sauce for her is unimportant as she loves the black sauce over her rice.
As for me, my first criteria whether I’ll return for a second meal lies in the dipping sauce. I went once on a chicken rice frenzy while in Singapore and visited five shops/stalls in five days. Only one remains my go-to CR in Singapore today. And it’s all because of the dipping sauce. All the CR stalls I visited bar this one, had added sugar to the traditional chilli sauce and some not even offering the de rigueur ginger sauce with it saying, “It’s already mixed in lah”.
Here in Ipoh I decided to go on another Chicken Rice frenzy and went over a period of two weeks to innumerable places. So these are the 5 Top and remembering that these are based on my subjective palate and some of you dear readers may disagree with me and I would welcome your comments on these.
5 Top Chicken Rice eating places I would go for my CR dose:
Restoran Sam Ma Chicken Rice
I have a hard time deciding on whether Sam Ma (non-air-con) or Pak Kong is the top choice for me for a quick bite. Both have juicy chicken, with Pak Kong being slightly more tender and both their chilli sauce is not sweetened with their minced ginger sauce abundantly available. This I will ladle onto my rice and happily eat that alone if not for the temptation of the chicken. Both places have a choice of Kampung chicken and regular chicken, and the chicken broth in both is tasty and umami. The oil rice in both is umami, each grain intact but well cooked through. The one distinction I would make between the two CR outlets is that Pak Kong is so popular at lunchtime that it involves getting there before 12pm and possibly still queuing for a short while. Sam Ma and Pak Kong: Single portion RM5.50. Each of these outlets has their speciality add-ons so do look at their menus.
Sam Ma Chicken Rice, 3 Jalan S.A. Lingam,
Taman Ipoh Selatan,
Contact: 017 756 8562
Thursday-Tuesday 11am-3pm, 6pm-9pm
Closed on Wednesday
Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong
Pak Kong Chicken Rice 27 Jalan Theatre,
Contact: 012 588 6618
Restoran Hainam has been around for a long time and I have to admit that their quality is not on the same level as the two previous outlets above. However, their saving grace is that if you feel like chicken rice at 4pm or 9pm they are there and ready to serve and it is air-conditioned as a respite from the heat and if you’re hankering for CR. Single portion RM7.80.
Restaurant Hainam 75-77 Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri,
Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh.
Contact: 05 242 8762
Haven’s Cuisine Restaurant
Next, we come to the “Atas” places for chicken rice, well-appointed, elegant and even worth the drive and trouble of getting in as in the Haven’s Cuisine restaurant. Here the chicken rice is long-grain-fragrant rice; the broth is umami and safe for me to eat as they promise no MSG; the chicken ‘Wu So Gai’ or bearded chicken is off the bone and you can choose white meat or thigh dark meat and the dipping sauces similar to my childhood nostalgic tastes. Alas, the price is high at RM32 per portion. But the ambience more than makes up for the cost. Pork-free.
Haven’s Cuisine Restaurant Jalan Haven, Persiaran Lembah Perpaduan,
Contact: 05 540 0000
*Haven’s chicken rice only available on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays *Call ahead and give your car number and time of arrival. This is a must.
STG Tea House Cafe
Finally, we have STG, the beautiful bungalow to dine in style. Here their chicken rice is yellow and umami, their broth chock full with vegetables, their chilli sauce and thick ginger sauce pungent with a kick and service is attentive and with style. Per portion RM24. Pork-free.
So now dear readers, you have a choice of CR outlets to suit your pocket and palate. Or if you have the time and inclination. . . try them all.
STG Bungalow 2 Jalan Taman Kinta,
Vietnamese food for me is within the top 5 of my favourite cuisines. I have visited Vietnam on 6 occasions and I have never found a restaurant here in Ipoh that quite fits the bill in terms of the authenticity of taste and quality. I am happy to report that I have found such a Vietnamese restaurant in Ipoh – guess the name . . . Vietnamese Taste – Vietnamese Street’s Best.
SeeFoon ‘Revisits’ Vietnam
My friends all laugh when I say I love a particular cuisine as they all know that as a Foodie or the Food Diva as some of them call me, I love ALL cuisines. Except for certain bizarre food items as presented by TV hosts like Andrew Zimmern and Sonny Side in their highly entertaining TV shows.
Vietnamese food for me is within the top 5 of my favourite cuisines. I have visited Vietnam on 6 occasions and I have never found a restaurant here in Ipoh that quite fits the bill in terms of the authenticity of taste and quality.
I am happy to report that I have found such a Vietnamese restaurant in Ipoh – guess the name . . . Vietnamese Taste – Vietnamese Street’s Best.
The restaurant is brand new, with a charming attempt at creating a Vietnamese ambience with hats (called nón lá or leaf hat) on one wall masquerading as lamps and big murals of Vietnamese dishes on the other wall. A make-belief pushcart serves as a cashier’s desk and the menu is well illustrated with photos of the dishes on offer.
The Vietnamese as most people know are famous for their coffees and in this restaurant, these live up to their reputation. Their drip coffee takes a bit of time RM5.90 (to drip through) so order that first and their Mojito and Suo Toui Coffee at RM6.90, creamy and delicious even for a non-sweet palate like mine.
Then on to the dishes. Being the “wide-eyed, stomach narrow” (my grandma’s favourite admonition) child that I was and still am, I ordered up a storm. Starting with the Banh Xeo, the typical Vietnamese pancake that is filled with prawns and spring onions, this one was crispy on arrival which is a sign of a good Banh Xeo and served with lettuce and a dipping sauce. You wrap a piece of the pancake in the lettuce leaf, dip in sauce and voila, a mouthful of crispy freshness, RM19.90.
Their Goui Cuon or Summer Spring Roll, wrapped in paper-thin rice wrappers had a big prawn, bean noodles, wrapped in lettuce, then the rice paper. I would have preferred a fish sauce dip but the peanut sauce that accompanied this was liked by my fellow diners, RM6.90. The fried version had minced chicken in it with the requisite fish sauce dip which I liked, RM5.90.
Com Ga Quay or Lemongrass Chicken Chop Rice, chicken chop perfumed with lemongrass, juicy and tender inside, served with a fried egg and the de rigueur fish sauce. A meal in itself, RM17.90.
The last two ubiquitous dishes that Vietnamese street cuisine is known for is done very well here. Pho that umami beef soup served with slurpy rice noodles is one of the most well known. You can choose whether you want raw sliced beef brisket, beef balls or all three; beef stew and there is even chicken Pho. Ranging in price from RM11.90 to RM17.90, this is one bowl of deliciousness that is irresistible. Served with extra herbs and garnitures.
And then there is Banh Mi, which is a ‘move over Subway’ dish taking the western world by storm. My personal test of a good Banh Mi is the baguette itself. Is the crust crunchy? And is the inside soft? Here at Vietnamese Street’s Best, it is a resounding Yes! On both counts and the filling is good too. Julienned carrots, cucumber, meat floss, egg, Vietnamese chicken sausage, and topped with cut chillies and coriander, you’ll need a big mouth to bite into it. We ordered the special at RM11.90 but they also have a fish fillet, RM9.90, a double egg, RM8.80, and grilled chicken at RM12.90.
There are also set lunches with rice dishes, more noodles and a rice-wrap platter with smoked duck. An extensive menu indeed. I have made myself a promise to explore further.