Help the Small Businesses: Galanggal Cafe

Pictures by Gisele Soo

Galanggal Cafe

SeeFoon is Blown Away by Chef’s culinary flair

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

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. 

Interior of 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.

Galanggal Duck Confit

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.

Fettuccine Bolognese

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.

Arrabbiata Lamb Shanks

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.

Chicken Harissa with Burnt Hummus

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

019-241 5034

Business hours:
Mon- Sat.
3-10.00pm (Last order at 9.40pm)
Takeaway & pick up available

Help the small Businesses: dé Cafe and Rest House

Pictures by Gisele Soo

dé Cafe and Rest House

So many restaurants and cafes are now open but how to decide on where to go or what to ‘tapau’? 

If you happen to be hanging around old town, you could be eating at a myriad of small coffee shops and cafes and not run out of choices. 

One small cafe that has escaped my attention is dé Cafe and Rest House on Hugh Low street or Jalan Sultan Iskandar. Situated on the right side of the road, it is about 100 metres before the traffic lights turning to the padang.  Louisa Loh, my new Foodie Kaki and artist extraordinaire, insisted I must try their specialties and off I went the moment restaurants were allowed to have dine-in guests. 

Young proprietor Dawson Tham, who hails from Pulau Ketam (Crab Island) is a young man who is proud of his birth place, renowned for its seafood.  

Waxing lyrical about the abundance of crabs and other crustaceans from his hometown, he has taken traditional dishes to a new level. 

Like his Nasi Lemak.

Eschewing regular prawns (often used in the sambals), he has decided to offer mantis prawns instead and serves them battered and fried as an accompaniment to this traditional dish. Just as we may occasionally have a piece of fried chicken or fried fish with our Nasi Lemak, here at dé Cafe, we have Mantis prawns, which are sweeter and more tender than regular prawns, RM10.

Mantis prawn nasi lemak
Photo by Louisa Loh

Served with a well-balanced sambal, neither too sweet which is the usual case, nor too spicy and you can taste the belacan without it overpowering you; the sambal is a lovely compliment to the fried egg over green veg served on the platter.

Another option is the Nasi Lemak accompanied by a petai, prawn and sotong sambal (RM11), again with the same crispy fried anchovies and peanuts. I loved the plain sambal so much that I had to ask for an extra portion to go with my coconut rice. 

Seafood petai nasi lemak

Dawson also ventures into western dishes with his Pesto spaghetti ranking high on my list of favourites. Cooked al dente and tossed with his homemade pesto sauce, fresh mushrooms, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, specially imported Spanish olive oil and grated parmesan, this is a vegetarian dish par excellence and one that should delight the vegetarians amongst you, RM16.

Pesto spaghetti

Another fusion option which I found most innovative is their Fuyu Pasta, a pure vegetarian dish using Chinese fermented bean curd (the white variety) creamed with milk. The addition of sultans imbued it with a tang of sweetness while the fried tempeh pieces added more protein content to the dish. All in all a most healthy dish, RM12.90. I had it ‘tapau’ed’ home and even after putting it in the microwave (for less than a minute as advised), it still tasted al dente and moist. Worth considering when deciding what to serve the family for dinner. 

Fuyu pasta

Whether you’re dining in (they adhere very strictly to social distancing SOPs) or doing takeaways, the piece de resistance which you MUST order is their Yam cake. Layers of creamed fresh purple yam are sandwiched between fluffy sponge cake and topped with a layer of whipped cream.The addition of santan is the added magic.  Not too sweet and Paradise in a mouthful. You can try it out at RM14 for a wedge and RM75 for a whole cake. 

Yam cake
Photo by Louisa Loh

So whether you dine in or do a takeaway, do check out dé Cafe.  I promise you a taste treat and while you’re at it: HELP THE SMALL BUSINESSES.

 

Address:
dé Cafe & Rest House
35, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, 30000 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

05-246 1010

Business hours:
Tues- Sun. 10am – 5.00pm

 

Lodge 163 Cafe

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

Lodge 163 Cafe

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.

A 5-person room

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.

Whimsical wall adornment

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.

Malat Spicy Noodles @ Lodge 163 Cafe
Malat Spicy Noodles
Black Vinegar Pig’s Trotters

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

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 Mutton and fried 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.

Tom Yam Noodles

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.

Hi-Tea Set

LODGE 163 CAFE

No. 163, Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah, 30000 Ipoh.

Tel: 05 253 1888 (Lodging) (Food & Cafe Ordering) 016 5434 262/016 5477 510

Open daily except Wednesdays (8am to 4pm)