Help the Small Businesses: The Happy 8 Cafe and Restaurant

Pictures by Gisele Soo

The Happy 8 Cafe and Restaurant

SeeFoon is feeling Happy and Healthy at Happy 8 

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.

Signature Steam Grilled Salmon

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.

Curry / Infused Kampung Chicken

The Dancing Kampung Chicken was a soya braised, topped with bonito flakes and served with the same set of accompaniments, RM24.

Dancing Kampung Chicken

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.

Beautifying Mushrooms with Cherry Tomatoes

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. 

Avocado Special

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).

Vietnamese coffee

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

For inquiries:
012-511 1488

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Check out The Foodie’s Guide to Ipoh’s Best Eats 2 for more Ipoh eats recommended by SeeFoon, available for purchase at a special discounted price now! Message us on Facebook for inquiries and orders!

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

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Check out The Foodie’s Guide to Ipoh’s Best Eats 2 for more Ipoh eats recommended by SeeFoon, available for purchase at a special discounted price now! Message us on Facebook for inquiries and orders!

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

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Check out The Foodie’s Guide to Ipoh’s Best Eats 2 for more Ipoh eats recommended by SeeFoon, available for purchase at a special discounted price now! Message us on Facebook for inquiries and orders!

Help the small Businesses: Hao Xian Wei

Pictures by Gisele Soo

Help the small Businesses

Now that MCO is over and RMCO is the new normal, most of us can dust off the cobwebs of the past 3 months, bid a fond farewell to our hobs and ovens and look forward to being served a proper meal in the myriad of restaurants that have reopened.

With the period of self isolation over, the tendency is to rush out and head for all your favourite restaurants. The exhilaration of having your food served to you, of no dish washing, and no racking of your brains to decide what to cook may be over but let’s not be hasty. The number of new cases may be occasionally in the single digit but COVID 19 is not going to go away that soon and it will be most prudent of us to stick to more “Tapau” or takeaway food for a while longer.  

While we’re doing that, may I suggest that we give a thought to the small businesses and restaurants struggling to get back on their feet after the 3 month hiatus. The MCO has actually given a positive push to the smaller restaurateurs, pushing their entrepreneurial skills to the max and having them come out with easy to take away one-dish meals. 

So for the next few months I am going to concentrate on the small cafes, restaurants that need a little help.Today, I will highlight some of these and suggest the best “Tapau” options for you.

 

Hao Xian Wei

William, the proprietor of Hao Xian Wei which prides fish as its signature dish, has had to adapt to the changing environment. “Fish needs to be eaten fresh, hot off the stove, but the MCO put paid to that for me. Plus all my other specials lose some flavour on the way home,” he lamented. “I therefore settled on the idea of very special Tsong or Zongzi ( Mandarin ).” 

Tsong is a wrapped Glutinous rice dumpling which for me is one of the most satisfying comfort foods to eat. It’s also a no-hassle meal. William recommends that you bring the dumpling home, boil some water, dunk it in and let it boil for half an hour. Take it out, cut the ties and voila, a steaming fragrant pyramid of deliciousness. He prefers this method to steaming the dumpling as he says that the boiling will bring all the oil to the surface, leaving it glistening and velvety. 

The fun part is digging in to discover what’s hidden inside. Most of William’s Tsong is of the Tsao Mai variety, which means that the glutinous rice has to be fried before wrapping. This gives it its characteristic brownish colour. Only the Nonya Tsong is white. 

Hokkien Tsong

The Hokkien Tsong is very special. It is bigger in size than the Hainan and Vegetarian ones because it is generously filled to the brim with goodies like fatty braised pork, salted egg yolk, roast pork, mushrooms, chestnut  and chicken. A hefty meal in one, each morsel well seasoned; the velvety rice textured with black eyed peas; the filling with its well juxtaposed textures: chestnut against black mushroom, salted egg yolk against soft chicken and the fat from the pork, braised to a quivering, jelly-like consistency, lending its unctuous texture to the whole mouthfeel. 

Heaven in a mouthful. 

And that was just a description on the Hokkien Tsong, RM12.80.

Where other Tsongs I have tasted can be dry and stodgy, William’s are very moist and velvety. The Hainanese Tsong is equally tasty but smaller and with less fillings, RM8, while the vegetarian Tsong is interesting with unusual fillings like Lion’s Mane mushroom, RM8.50. There is also a Nyonya Tsong which has a slightly sweet texture which was my least favourite, RM8.

Hainanese Tsong
Vegetarian Tsong
Nyonya Tsong

If you have big eaters at home, William has another “Tapau” goodie in the form of stuffed Tau Fu Pok, packed and frozen in packs of 6. At RM18 for 6 these are very good steamed at home and eaten with the Tsong. William orders the Tau Fu Pok in an extra large size and round shape, stuffed to the brim with a pork farcie. 

Stuffed Tau Fu Pok

Address:
Restoran Hao Xian Wei
11 Jalan Medan Ipoh 6, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh 31400 Ipoh.

Patrick Cheong | For reservations: 012 431 1070
William Yap Chef | Owner for ordering (in Cantonese only): 017 421 6523

Business hours: 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Takeaway last order: 7:30 PM 

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Check out The Foodie’s Guide to Ipoh’s Best Eats 2 for more Ipoh eats recommended by SeeFoon, available for purchase at a special discounted price now! Message us on Facebook for inquiries and orders!

The Museum: SeeFoon Goes to a Museum

First it was a pub, now it is a Chinese restaurant and still a pub. With a name like The Museum and the decor inside is plush red velvet upholstery and a gallery of framed pastoral scenes on the walls, you would expect to have the usual gastro pub food but since The Museum had a complete change of heart and menu, it is now a Chinese restaurant with some much-sought-after delectables on the menu.

The Museum proprietor Lee Kah Tee, fondly known as Chee, when asked why he made the transformation which has since garnered a large following, judging by the full tables and the queues outside especially on public holidays and weekends, he said, “The pub business is a tough one and with new ones opening all the time, the business is highly competitive. I made the switch in 2017 gradually adding a few dishes at a time to the menu. Finally, when I felt that we had gained full acceptance, I converted the old seating arrangement into a dining facility removing the high stools usually found in a pub for the round tables more suited to Chinese dining.”

And what a shrewd move that was, judging by the cramped tables and the queues waiting outside where the high stools and tables now sit.

The Museum IpohTheir signature dishes have to be tasted to be appreciated, the most sought after being their Char Siew or Roasted Pork. Taking the fattest part of the pig, usually the belly, this is freshly roasted daily in a huge antique earthenware jar not unlike a tandoori oven. Simple marinades of dark soya sauce, sugar and molasses coat the pork, producing an almost black crust leaving the meat inside juicy and nicely interspersed with fat. Absolutely divine; RM18.80/RM37.69 S/L.

The Museum IpohTheir molluscs are the next in popularity, with daily deliveries from Pantai Remis and Indonesia. Their kerang, or cockles, are large, very fresh and superbly juicy, eaten either on the shell or de-shelled as a topping on curry noodles. I arrived too late for lunch one day and was only given enough to go on top of the curry mee, so a booking is essential. Portion of Curry Mee with cockles is RM50 and more cockles can be added at RM40 per kg (with shell weight).

The Lala or clams is another irresistible dish. There is a choice of cooking styles but the one we chose stir fried with Thai basil was superb, the clams, large and VERY fresh with no sand in between. These are usually from Indonesia and delivered fresh every day. Seasonal price.

The Museum Ipoh

We had a tureen of Glass Vermicelli with medium-size prawns, cooked in the claypot with the juices of the prawns soaking through to the vermicelli. Delicious. Seasonal price. I would have preferred this done with crab but that was the next course.

The Museum Ipoh

The Salt Baked Crab also from Pantai Remis was also ocean fresh, still alive and in a styrofoam box as we walked through to our table. The meat was firm (an indicator of its freshness) and the light saltiness was an added bonus. Served with a chilli sauce which I didn’t use as I felt it deterred from the umami sweetness of the crab meat. Seasonal Price. They also have a very good sambal belacan which you  have to ask for to go with any of the dishes.

The chicken feet with pork belly soup was umami and the chicken feet which had been deboned was a good dose of collagen for those of us who care for our skin; RM28 RM55.

The Museum IpohWe had the black pomfret cooked in an asam sauce which I found a tad too sweet but would likely please the Ipoh taste buds. The fish was firm and fresh and came with ladies fingers and ‘tau pok’ or fried bean curd.

On another occasion, we began with their Cucur Udang or prawn fritters, small prawns in a very crispy batter which was superb to go with drinks while waiting for the rest of the food, RM15.90. Followed by the de rigueur Char Siew.

Then to try something new, I ordered their fish head cooked in black beans and bitter gourd. Again the fish head, cut into chunks was very fresh and the sauce was umami and coated the fish and bitter gourd well. Seasonal price.

The Museum Ipoh

For veggies, I loved their stir-fried Tong Hou or chrysanthemum leaves RM20, their Paku Salad with small crispy prawns and sweetish dressing with sesame seeds; RM16/RM30 S/L and a salted egg coated mixture of lotus root and bitter gourd. Very umami and delectable; RM25.

The Museum Ipoh

And we now come to the pièce de résistance at The Museum. It’s a wonder that they can put together a delectable Lap Mei Fan all year round considering that this is a Chinese New Year celebratory dish. And put together they do. Lovely umami rice with a small crust at the bottom (Fan Chiew) topped with very good liver sausage, pork sausage and waxed duck. A meal on its own; RM42/RM65 S/L.

The menu at The Museum is extensive with most of their fish and shellfish at seasonal prices. So do ask before ordering. But considering that everything is very fresh and mostly come from Pantai Remis, it’s worth the prices charged.

 
THE MUSEUM
No. 1 Persiaran Greentown 7
Greentown Business Centre, Ipoh.
Tel:  05 246 0688
Business hours: 12.30pm-3pm; 5pm-10.30pm 24/7

Chang Jiang White Coffee: SeeFoon Walks Down Memory Lane

In a leafy tucked-away bungalow, on Jalan Windsor, off Gopeng Road, right next to the Keris Property building, sits Chang Jiang White Coffee, a shady haven with an open patio (air-conditioned rooms inside) dotted with old coffee roasting utensils in memory of a time when the coffee industry was all handcrafted.

Husband and wife team Kong Kin Loong MD and Foong Choa Mun cheerfully regaled me with Chang Jiang’s history, a long established one of more than 40 years. Kong’s father who started the coffee shop (in a different location as the current one is only four years old) experimented with different roasting recipes, finally settling on the one which Foong claims is now supplying more than 80% of the coffee shops in town, not to mention all over Malaysia and they are eyeing the export market as well.

Claiming to be THE original white coffee, Chang Jiang, named for one of the great rivers of China, not only serves coffee but now, known for their innovation, they are one of the first to produce a ‘Tsam’, a blending of coffee and tea that coffee aficionados rave over. Called Khaw Khaw, this is a registered trade mark from Chang Jiang, and this delectable mixture is a “must try” here.

But Chang Jiang the restaurant is not only a place for coffee which is made in the old style traditional way…with a coffee sock to allow all the fragrant oils to ooze out from the beans and infuse the resultant coffee. Here in this spacious bungalow with small private rooms off the main dining room off Jalan Gopeng, you can eat classic dishes with its tsing (in Cantonese meaning clear or pure) style of simple cooking with minimal embellishments, allowing the food to speak for itself.

Childhood memories set in for me as the food was placed on the table. This is the food I grew up with!

White bread, toasted or steamed, slathered with generous chunks of butter (not margarine!) and homemade kaya (an egg and coconut cream custard, that is spreadable and eaten like jam), twinned with a soft-boiled egg, even served in the old-fashioned metal cup. I had the toasted version, the crunch of biting into the crispy thin slices, the dryness of the bread ameliorated by the now melting butter and sweetened by the fragrant kaya, sitting there with my piping hot cup of White Coffee, I was lost in memory lane! And youthful nostalgia; RM5.10.

Their menu is a simple one with rice, soup and noodles predominating. Snack dishes can be added to or eaten on its own with the rice or noodles.

Their Signature Noodle is a veritable cornucopia of deliciousness. On the menu it proudly states, “Taste of 100 years, traditional homemade style” this dry noodle dish has a piece of all their signature snack dishes in it. One whole chicken feet, braised to chewy tenderness, half a soya egg, a piece of tofu, greens and minced chicken, the noodles are ‘al dente’ and delicious; RM9.20. Individual snack dishes of soya eggs, tofu and chicken feet are RM5.20.

Their Signature Rice dish is equally delectable. Stating that the recipe comes from Kong’s family and created by the 4th generation, this rice is mixed and not fried, with minced chicken, mildly flavoured and topped with scallions. A very clean, pure taste and texture; RM7.50.

And guess what? They have macaroni soup, that childhood dish beloved of many children, this scribe included. Especially when I was down with a fever, my grandma would make this for me. You can have this wet or dry with minced chicken and their special ‘Hometown Ball’ a blend of chicken and fish paste; RM7.20. Hometown Ball fried or in soup as a snack; RM5.20.

And of course, what Cantonese restaurant can operate without their wonton? Here they have the soup wonton and the fried wonton. And you can have it served with or without noodles; RM8.20. Wonton alone as a snack, fried or in soup; RM5.20.

Generally, the food here at Chang Jiang is very tsing, simple home cooked recipes with a mix and match element that one can tailor to one’s taste buds and appetites for the day. Just sitting and enjoying a cup of white coffee or their ‘Tsam’ and nibbling on a snack or two or having a full blown meal. The choice is yours. And in very pleasant surroundings too. And while waiting for your meal or after, browse in their shop and take home some of their well packaged goodies whether it be coffee, tea, ‘Tsam’ or whatever takes your fancy.

 
Chang Jiang White Coffee
7 Jalan Windsor, 30250 Ipoh.
Tel: 05-2538896
GPS: 4°35’22.1”N 101°05’45.6”E
Business hours: 8am-6pm

The Bread Winner

I just love Carbs. Especially bread. Who hasn’t been seduced by the smell of freshly toasted bread, slathered with a generous dollop of butter and topped with your choice of jam or whatever. However, for many years in Ipoh, I have had to tolerate flabby soft rolls or indifferent slabs of factory made loaves under the excuse of “well in Ipoh people like their bread like this!!”

Now I have found the winning bread: Chef Sam Lau’s Artisan Handmade Bread (AHB) which are crusty, robust and hearty breads that have ‘ooomph’ in them. And usually with a sourdough base which according to my research is more digestible than standard loaves and more nutritious too. They also render the gluten in flour more digestible and less likely to cause food intolerance.This is why Chef Sam says his breads are a healthier option and why his Artisan handmade bread (AHB) are a hit with Ipohites.

A classically trained chef who has decided to “come out of the closet” and declare his passion for baking, Chef Sam is all set to offer delicious artisan handmade bread and at the same time educate Ipohites on the niceties and nuances of AHB – the kind that lingers on your tastebuds long after eating; and brings out the best in all the foods you serve it with; the kind that makes your friends ask “…where did you get this?”

What sets AHB apart from other breads is the meticulous and painstaking process to make it. “Unlike the usual bread you can find in any bakery, AHB uses only three main ingredients; flour, yeast and water. I cultivate the sourdough from scratch which takes two weeks for each batch and make each bread with my own two hands,” said the passionate chef cum baker.

AHB’s main product is its sourdough bread that is good to have alone or with a spread of butter or jam. Currently AHB offers a selection of sourdough bread such as Rex Bavarian Dark (Dark Roggena roasted wheat malt flour and barley malt) RM13, Cheddar Cheese (RM13), Sundried Tomato/Black Olive/Garlic/Italian Herbs (RM15), Swiss Muesli (RM13), Rye/Multi Seed RM13, Tripple Chocolate Chips (RM15) and December’s bread of the month, Parisian Fougasse at RM10. All their breads are made without artificial preservatives.

Customers who are keen on getting a taste of AHB can contact Sam at 016 597 8922. The minimum order is three to four loaves and please give two days advance notice to avoid disappointment. Delivery and pick up point for collection on Tuesday and Friday from 12pm to 3pm only. For more information check out the Artisan Handmade Bread page on Facebook.

SeeFoon puts in the elbow grease at Healy Mac’s new Sports Bar

One normally doesn’t expect good food in a pub, let alone a Sports Bar. It’s usually desultory finger food or stodgy fare. But things are different at Healy Mac’s where they have been serving yummilicious roasted pork knuckles, great tasting pizzas and other hearty fare ever since they opened three years ago.

Healy Mac’s has now added leisure activities to their palette of offerings and in addition to exercising your elbows in raising your glass, you now have a choice of playing pool or a game of electronic darts where a little more elbow grease is called for. In fact you can even compete with your Darts pals on the other side of the globe.

All this elbowing is now available in the newly-opened Healy Mac’s Sports Bar which is right next door to its eponymous big brother. And while you’re quaffing your beer, sipping your wine, or nursing your spirit(s), crack your head at deciding between the new items on the menu which Head Chef Litha Letchimanan has put together.

I had written glowingly on their existing menu when they first opened (IE150) but the new additions are equally tempting. Before we even looked at the new dishes, titbits which are every bar fly’s favourites, appeared at the table. Designed to whip up a thirst for even more drinking, the traditional French fries had been one-upped by sweet potato fries – thin slivers of sweet potato fried the traditional way and tasting even better than the usual ones – RM12 – followed by a plate of delectably crispy ikan bilis with chilli and onions – RM16 (listed as Spicy Anchovies). Order a mixed collection of sweet potato and regular fries or mix them up with onion rings. Other bar snacks include Fried Calamari and even Chicken Varuval and Lamb Vindaloo for those hankering for some spice.

Chef Litha came to explain all the new dishes starting with the Vegetable Moussaka, a dish of Greek origin, made with eggplant, capsicum, redolent with thyme and tarragon and topped with a béchamel sauce. Delightful at RM20.

Braised Pork Belly in Bordelaise sauce was tender, melt-in-mouth chunks of pork belly served with mashed potatoes and broccoli – RM45, while the Lamb Tagine, a traditional Moroccan dish of braised lamb served on a bed of fragrant saffron/turmeric rice was embellished with slivered almonds. The lamb was aromatically flavoured with Chef Litha’s homemade blend of the classic Middle Eastern spice mix, the Ras-el-hanout a mixture of nutmeg, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, paprika and others not unlike our Garam Masala but with distinctively middle eastern nuances – RM40.

Classic BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) was given a makeover as a wrap instead of the usual sandwich and was voted by our group as one of the best small meals of the day – RM21. Another item which won favour in our midst was the Bangers and Mash, the classic English/Scottish/Irish comfort food except that in this instance, the banger was an imported Hungarian Pork sausage which accounted for the price of RM36. It was indeed a hearty meal as the banger was very tasty, unlike the bland stuff that pass for sausages in other establishments. Topped with onions and a Dijon and whole grain mustard sauce, and served with peas, this dish would certainly fill out your ribs.

The pièce de résistance was yet to come in the form of dessert. As readers of my column would have gathered by now, I am inclined towards all things savoury and desserts just don’t turn me on. But I have to say I was most impressed with their Brownie Bites, the most sinfully delectable bite I have ever put into my mouth. Rich regular brownies are cut into bite-sized pieces, battered, then fried and served with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. It’s what I would call a ‘heart attack’ in a bite!! Absolutely worth the risk at RM16.

Do check out Healy Mac’s Sports Bar. The menu is the same in Healy Mac’s Bar and Restaurant next door. They even share toilet facilities.

 
Healy Mac’s Irish Bar & Restaurant and Healy Mac’s Sports Bar
#2 Ground Floor, Persiaran Greentown 4,
Greentown Avenue, 30450 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 249 3627
GPS: N 4° 35.932’  E 101° 5.531’

SeeFoon hoots for Hoppers

Hoppers which are also known as Appam, are an iconic food of Sri Lanka. Most people here in Malaysia are familiar with this snack, a wafer-thin bowl-shaped pancake made from a fermented batter of rice flour and coconut milk, although one really has to track it down in stalls tucked away in local markets or certain coffee shops. The unique part is that hoppers are cooked in small wok-like rounded pans so the dough cooks thick and soft on the bottom, and thin and crunchy around the edges.

While most of the Appam sold here are sweetened, and eaten as a snack, they wilt the moment they’re put into your hands and one has to eat them fast and furiously to get full satisfaction; the Sri Lankans serve it both ways, with savoury accompaniments or sprinkled with jaggery, their special brown palm sugar as a dessert.

At the newly opened A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden, the Appam have gone up market, and here in this tranquil ambiance, subdued lighting with a tastefully designed black and white theme; ambient music playing in the background, one can enjoy Appam Galore, a quartet of a choice of plain, broken egg, or sweet coconut milk appam remaining crispy at the table, served with their Katta Sambal, a fiery, Maldivian fish paste and Seeni Sambal, caramelized onions with hints of subtle spices – RM20. Of course you can order the Appam singly and team it with the Sri Lankan Sambal set which consists of the above two mentioned sambals plus two more, the ‘karupillay sambal’ which is blended curry leaves and the pol sambal (coconut chutney to us locals who are used to eating it with our thosai). This Sri Lankan version is thick pure grated coconut, subtly spiced with lime, onions and chilli. This had me asking for more which they were happy to provide.

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden Ipoh

A LI YAA means elephant, an animal with great cultural and religious significance in Sri Lanka. They are symbols of wisdom, power and wealth. And the menu which is a mere eight pages in length reflects this, offering the essence of Sri Lankan cuisine in an environment exuding elegance. Here the paintings and creative photographic works of Malaysia’s homegrown artists depicting the Sutra Dance Theatre’s artistic director Dato’ Ramli Ibrahim are displayed for sale with proceeds going to the ‘Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage’ in Sri Lanka.

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden Ipoh

Most people mix up Sri Lankan food with Indian food, a cuisine with which Malaysians are abundantly familiar. First off, it’s good to know the difference between these two cuisines. What separates Sri Lankan from Indian cuisine is that Indian is dairy-based while Sri Lankan dishes do not use any dairy products. Food from the southern Indian state of Kerala has plenty in common with Sri Lankan cuisine: use of coconut milk in curries plus a love of seafood from bountiful coastlines. Sri Lankans generally cook with roasted curry powder, Indians with raw powder. South India and Sri Lanka crank up the heat by favouring hotter chillies (the heat often tempered for western palates).

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden Ipoh
A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden Ipoh

Rice is the staple of Sri Lankan cuisine and is usually served at every meal – including at breakfast, when hoppers make an appearance although at A LI YAA they’re available all day. Sri Lankan curries  are much more subtle. They use a lot of roasted cumin powder, while the Indians use a lot of coriander.

A LI YAA Kuala Lumpur, the parent restaurant from which the Ipoh one is modelled, won a stream of awards last year at the 14th edition of the Malaysia Inter­national Gourmet Festival (MIGF) held every year in October. It was A LI YAA’s first time at taking part in the food fiesta taking home seven accolades including Judges’ Choice for Best Festival Offer, Most Innovative Cuisine, as well as the Most Popular Restaurant based on the portions sold to diners and the Festival Diners’ Choice Awards for Most Outstanding Mains.

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden IpohNow Chef Yogeshwaran Selladoreh who has worked his magic in their KL restaurant, helms the kitchen team in Ipoh, while manager Miguel de Jan leads attentive and dedicated waiters in ensuring diners are well looked after. And our group of seven were certainly well served.

We began with a plate of crunchy papadums served with the quartet of sambals already mentioned, were so addictive that we had to ask for seconds. Brinjal Moju (RM12), deep-fried sliced brinjal with spices and a dash of vinegar was one of the better brinjal dishes I had in a while.

The Fish Cutlets made of fresh tuna fish, potato, diced onion, green chili, lime, chopped mint leaf, mixed together and bread crumbed and deep fried were wolfed down happily – RM16.

This was followed by the String Hopper, a Sri Lankan specialty prepared from spaghetti-like strings of unprocessed rice flour dough squeezed through a sieve which are steamed to perfection and fried with fresh seafood. Utterly delectable at RM28.

A LI YAA restaurant in De Garden IpohFor Mains, the Mutton Paal Poriyal, slow cooked lamb cubes in devil aromatic spices was yummiliciously tender and well spiced – RM26. The Fish Curry was mild, the  fish fresh and cooked with a blend of traditional Sri Lankan spices – RM26 while the Negambo King Tiger Prawn cooked with fresh pineapple was robust and a good stand in for their Famous Sri Lankan Crab (RM14.90 per 100g) which, alas, to our chagrin was out of stock! RM165 for three huge prawns.

We ended the meal, groaning from surfeit with their Vatillappam – a rich pudding made of coconut, brown palm sugar, sugar, eggs and various spices including cinnamon. Heavenly at RM8.

 
A LI YAA (Pork Free)
d-g-r 2&3 De Garden
No. 3 Persiaran Medan Ipoh
Tel: 05 547 3700
www.aliyaa.com
Business Hours: 11am-3pm; 6pm to late night. Closed Mondays.

SeeFoon Tattles over Tea and Titbits

When you’re faced with 140 different kinds of tea, it is easy to become dazed by the plethora of choices and options and if it wasn’t for the enthusiastic intervention of Aven Ng, I would have had no clue as to what to order. As we were a group of five, it was easy to settle for a tasting of five different teas on the recommendation of Aven who is one of the partners in this newly-opened Tea & Tattle Cafe in De Garden.

Aven who is a self-professed tea “fetishist”, is a walking encyclopaedia on tea, and as I thumbed through the voluminous tea tome masquerading as a tea menu under the title of Premium Tea List, I was impressed by the useful information given in each section, that provides a tea novice like myself some guidelines as to the differences between Black, Green, White, Oolong and Rooibos. There is also a tempting list of Wellness and Herbal infusions for those who are into healthy brews. Readers of this column will have to go to Tea & Tattle and read up and sample for themselves as space limitations dictate here and I have to move on to describing the various tastes!

Although tea is the main offering at Tea & Tattle, coffee lovers need not panic as Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees are available. But back to the tea, the name and concept cleverly developed by two brothers James and Aven Ng and a third partner Arik Chew and one or two others who have chosen to remain in the background and who each contribute their specialty knowledge into making the whole place gel together. Like the Chef, Jeff Thong who has patiently endured hours of experimenting in the kitchen, adopting some startling fusion combinations and change his plating skills to get a dish just right. Or the patissier, Ipoh boy Ah Leong who had to throw out all his previous recipes and embrace new ones, resulting in ethereal creations for which even a die-hard non dessert eater like myself had to succumb. Like the ‘Snowflakes’, a featherlight coconut cream cake, topped with dessicated coconut and served with coconut ice cream; or the Oreo Cheesecake with double chocolate ice; or have you ever heard of Strawberry Nachos? Where you’re expecting a cheese dip, instead you get chopped strawberries marinated in 7-year-old Balsamic vinegar (which for some unknown alchemical reason, releases the flavour and sweetness in the strawberries and instead of more tartness, the strawberries are more flavourful and sweet) served with crispy thin cookies passing as nachos.

But I digress. Back to the teas. And Tattle.

What better background for a good tattle than good ole’ mouldy oldies from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and a host of others, six-hours-long of recorded music from the jazz era, music that warms the heart and loosens the tongue. All of Tea & Tattle’s teas come from the USA, Europe or S. America. Their best blends are all winners at the North American Tea Championships and detailed descriptions of each in their tea menu speaks volumes about Aven’s love of tea.


Still on the subject of tea, the brewing pots are very special and have to be sampled, as words defy description. The whole tea service is a ritual, coming with its own miniature hour-glass timer; a 3-minute timer for Green tea, a 5-minute for Black and a 7-minute one for herbal infusions. The pot may be replenished with hot water an unlimited number of times with some of the teas actually tasting better and mellower with each successive steeping, some up to three or four times. Unlike a lot of other cafes where the crockery is just thrown together haphazardly, the tea cups too are special here, all hand blown double glass to keep the heat, running a risk of easy breakage and yet a delicate touch that shows the dedication of the proprietors to true quality service.

And while here enjoying your teas, have your breakfast, lunch or dinner at a leisurely pace. You can have an all-day breakfast no matter the time of day. Choose an Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon, served with asparagus spears – RM16.80; or the Italian Baked Eggs, two eggs baked in a marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella, parmesan and basil and served with crusty bread – yummilicious at RM14.80; and wash it down with Sweet Memories, a green jasmine and white peony tea blended with rosebuds containing lychee essence and osmanthus, the most popular tea served here and which took second place in the North American Tea Championship in 2012 – RM10.80.


A ‘must-have’ here is their Air Fried Chips. Order it as a standalone snack – RM8.80 or have it come with your burgers, or your pressed sandwiches. These chips (more like wedges) which are crispy and salted just right and with nary a hint of oil (great for you dieters out there who love chips) have to be eaten piping hot, dipped into either a Sriracha Dip (I had to ask for extra Sriracha as mine was not spicy enough) or cheese sauce. It is useful to point out here that the Sriracha sauce here is the American variety, produced in USA and not the gooey sweet variety found locally or in Thailand.

For mains, Aven is especially proud of their Strawberry Glazed Salmon, a salmon steak marinated in strawberry compote, baked to perfection and served on a bed of strawberry salsa. Strange bedfellows, some may say, yet it appears to be one that is made in heaven judging by the oohs and ahhs at the table when we tucked in. And a final taste note, the two salmon dishes I tried, another with a garlic dill sauce, was cooked just right, not dry and overdone as I’ve experienced elsewhere – RM37.80 & RM35.80.


I could wax lyrical about their stuffed paninis, their Etouffee (a dish found in both Cajun and Creole cuisine typically served with shellfish over rice. The name which means smothering in French describes the thick sauce which is served with it) and their Gelatomio Italian ice creams which are 99% fat free, but I won’t. What I will suggest is for you dear reader, to go and sip tea, swoon over the music and satiate on small or large bites.

 

Tea & Tattle, for talk, tea and taste.
Tea & Tattle (Pork Free)
G-R 17 & 18A, De Garden
No. 3 Persiaran Medan Ipoh, Medan Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 548 7899
Business Hours: Mon-Thur – 8am-11pm; Fri-Sun – 8am-midnight.