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SeeFoon goes in search of Teochew Food

Musings on Food

by SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Call it Chaozhou, Teochew, or Teochiew as in the case of the Teochiew Restaurant on Maxwell Road but I drive past it almost daily and the name has caught my eye but like most other restaurants that my eagle foodie eye notices, I don’t dare make a move to try it until my intrepid Foodie frontrunner Ginla Chew has checked it out and decided it is worth reviewing that I venture forth, to eat, to taste and to write.

Such is the case with Restoran Teochiew. In the day, it looks nondescript enough but at night, its a bustling hive of activity as local foodies congregate to eat, drink and make merry in this restaurant with its open space next door.

As is typical, this is a fan-cooled-only space but they do lay on the red table cloths if you call to reserve a table. On the day we went, we were a group of six and my foodie friend Ginla was already there when I arrived with my two guests, one an American from Hong Kong and the other from USA.

We had come here specially for the Steamboat or Hot Pot which ‘legend’ (or what passes as legend in Ipoh, which is word of mouth) has it, is very special and very reasonably priced. This we immediately ordered and it arrived with a steaming tureen of bubbling stock and many  plates of goodies to dip into the soup.

Unlike the usual steamboat stock one finds in other steamboat restaurants, this soup is your typical Teochiew one, with preserved mustard greens (Ham Choy), tomatoes and other unknown ingredients. I suspect this stock remains on the stove and is continuously replenished with fresh ingredients, not unlike some Hong Kong chefs who allegedly use the same superior broth that is preserved for decades (according to popular media). I wondered if this restaurant did the same thing but all attempts to get an answer was to no avail.

The ingredients that go into the tangy broth are not your usual off-the-factory-shelf ones. The standard set costing RM40 had nice fresh medium-sized prawns in the shell, chicken slices, jelly fish, homemade minced pork scoops, tofu, regular fish balls and unusual meat-stuffed fishballs. These latter ones are very typically Teochiew and not easily available. The ones here were springy with the minced meat inside providing a burst of umami texture when biting into them.

Vegetables were minimal and we decided to order separately, calling for a big helping of watercress which were young and crispy. We could have re-ordered extra portions and make the hotpot our main meal but we chose to try other dishes instead and waited patiently for them to  arrive.

Other dishes came rapidly, the Keong Nga Kai or Ginger Chicken was well coated with a generous amount of ginger and had good ‘wok hei’ (pan fire), the chicken tender and juicy. Black vinegar trotters followed, not too sweet or sour and the trotter pieces cooked to the right degree of tenderness.

Mustard greens or Ham Choy came next, well married with roasted pork leg and stewed till tender. We then had the Fried Tofu, crispy morsels of soft tofu served with an interesting garlic, chilli and coriander or Chinese parsley sauce.

The two dishes of distinction had to be the following: the Thai Style ‘Otak Otak’ which was tangy, spicy and full of flavour. Made from mixed seafood, the paste that binds it all together was irresistibly fragrant, hints of Thai basil appearing above the melange of other spices and the coconut milk lending its creaminess to the mixture.

This was followed by pork ribs braised in a whole pumpkin, with peanuts providing texture and dried prawns lending their inimitable aroma, elevating the whole dish to new heights. The pumpkin was sweet, tender and juicy and eaten with the stuffing, I found myself in culinary heaven. Something so basic, simple home cooking raised to divine levels.

We finished the meal with the ‘de rigueur’ noodle dish with on this evening and a specialty of the house, was the Kon Lo Meen or the dried fried noodles. This was done just right, with the usual prawns, egg, and green accompaniments; the noodles dry but well coated.

This is one restaurant I would go back to again, a friendly place where the beer is cold, the food hot and some dishes, divine!

Suggested dishes:

Steamboat Set – RM40
Thai Style Otak Otak – RM25
Honey Ginger Chicken – RM12
Black Vinegar Pork Trotters – RM12
Fried Teochiew Tofu – RM8
Pumpkin Pork Ribs – RM26
Braised Mustard Greens with roasted pork – RM16

Teochiew Restaurant
10-Q Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (Maxwell Rd)
Tel: 05 506 3299
Business Hours: 10am-2.30pm and 5pm-midnight
Closed Tuesdays

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