Cutesy at Canning Meiko Home

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.

Exterior of the cafe
Interior of the cafe

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 Galore

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.

Signature Prawn Mee

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!

Special cooking method

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.

Hoi Dai Kai

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.

Peach Gum

Address:
MEIKO HOME
57 Jalan Canning Estate, Taman Canning, 31400 Ipoh.

Wennie Che: 011 3597 2686

Business hours:
11am-6pm  Wednesdays closed

 

Little Tiger Char Koey Teow

SeeFoon wallows in all her childhood hawker foods. Newly-opened restaurant Little Tiger is a call to the Foodies of Ipoh and beyond, that there is a restaurant that can hold its own in our highly diverse food paradise and where local palates are mercurial and extremely critical.

SeeFoon wallows in all her childhood hawker foods

Pictures by Yugin

The tiger is one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals. People born in the year of the tiger are thought to be competitive, self-confident and brave.

For Sally Wong to call her newly-opened restaurant Little Tiger is a call to the Foodies of Ipoh and beyond, that there is a restaurant that can hold its own in our highly diverse food paradise and where local palates are mercurial and extremely critical.

But Little Tiger can definitely hold its head up high and soon count itself among the luminaries in the Ipoh hawker food scene.

For me, the fact that it is air-conditioned is already a plus point. The decor is cheerful with tropical beach scenes along one wall complete with coconut palms and when you take a photo beside the wall, people will think you’re at some idyllic beach location. The tables are clothed in batik, topped with glass and the serving bowls are all porcelain. Not that that matters of course when it comes to eating out. It’s the quality of food that counts and here it doesn’t disappoint.

Also, their pricing is reasonable . . . and yes you can get the same dishes outside for less but consider the heat, the jostling for tables and the waiting, not to mention the hygiene; and Little Tiger wins hands down.

With a partner/Chef Raymond Khoo who hails from Penang, their Char Kway Teow (one of my fave hawker dishes) comes with cockles, Chinese sausage and fresh medium-sized prawns. Fried just the way I like it . . . dry, not sweet, with oodles of chilli sauce fried with the noodles and not on the side, lots of bean sprouts and the pièce de résistance, a generous topping of chu yau char or fried lardons, RM9.90. The last time I ordered this I emphasised to the chef to make it extra hot but still it wasn’t spicy enough. I guess people don’t realise what an insane chilli palate I have!

Social media and also some of my friends were not impressed by the food when they went in the early days of opening (only around two months) but they have certainly picked up speed and most of the items I tasted a week ago were “must come back to eat again” quality.

Like the Vinegar Trotters, not too sour, not too sweet, the trotter chunks braised to the right degree of tenderness, the skin clean and without hair, RM15.90.

Vinegar Trotters

Their Chicken Curry was excellent, with their own distinctive blend of curry paste and served with potatoes in the gravy, RM8.90. This curry can be eaten with plain rice or their toasted bread which was crunchily crispy and is also part of a set with half-boiled eggs or it can be eaten with their Nasi Lemak served with either blue (from blue pea flower) or turmeric rice.

Nasi Lemak with the chicken curry

The sambal in the Nasi Lemak set was delicious, in the old sambal belacan style, the rice had adequate santan but the only disappointment was their ikan bilis and peanuts, (why did they add sugar?) and the ikan bilis was not crispy, RM13.90.

Their homemade Lobak (meat paste wrapped in bean skin and deep-fried) was tasty, redolent with 5-spice powder and actually for my taste, quite lean. Fat averse eaters will be pleased to know this, RM9.90.

Lobak

Two of my favourite noodle dishes followed. The first, a Fried Prawn Mee was yummilicious. Soaking in prawn broth yet, fried to a point to allow the broth to be absorbed into the mix of meehoon and yellow mee, the prawns were medium-sized, with bits of pork, greens, egg, and served with a superlative dry sambal which imbued the noodles with an extra layer of yum. And need I mention chu yau char . . . a generous topping of them, RM9.90.

Fried Prawn Mee
Prawn Mee

 

Equally laudable was their soup Prawn Mee, the stock simmered with prawn shells and pork bones, again embellished by the addition of their delicious dried prawn sambal, served with bean sprouts and kangkong and good-sized prawns which were very fresh. With the NO MSG sign printed on their menu, I found I could dare slurp the soup with equanimity, RM9.90.

They also have Tai Luk Meen, a thick wheat noodle pan-fried with a dark soya sauce with the usual garnitures, RM9.90.

Tai Luk Meen

Then came the desserts, a tempting plate of Kuih Muih to choose from. The selection will vary from day to day and as these are all homemade, the taste and texture were all superlative. It was a hard decision but as we were a fair-sized group we managed to select a sampling and tucked in. I particularly enjoyed the Kueh Talam and the Ubi Kayu (tapioca) topped with coconut, RM1.50-RM2 each.

Kuih Muih

Address:
LITTLE TIGER CHAR KOEY TEOW
98 Jalan Raja Ekram, Kampung Jawa, 30450 Ipoh.
Tel: 012 516 9833

Business hours:
Daily (8am-4pm, 6pm-10pm)
2 days off every 2 weeks.

 

The Palace Steamboat in Soho

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.

Interior of restaurant

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).

Homemade Noodles

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 crystalline ice plant going at (RM8). We had tong hou or 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.

Tricholoma Matsutake

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.

Cordyceps Flower

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.

 

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)