By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
It’s been open only six months and already garnering a coterie of fans, especially those who like the clean wholesome taste of Cantonese cuisine and its very light saucing.
I don’t know how Chef/Owner William Yap does it but his soups and his sauces are inimitable. And the name of the restaurant says it all. Called Hao Xian Wei which when translated to ‘excellent fresh taste’, is exactly what you get here.
When the chef personally chooses the fish, sources his sauces and titivates the sauces and marinades himself to add extra layers of flavour, you know you’re onto a good thing. Chef William, an Ipoh boy who has spent over 10 years in Thailand and has received recognition from the Thai King himself, is bringing his special brand of culinary skill back to his hometown and is already creating a stir amongst the foodies here.
With the escalating prices around the type of fish one orders when entertaining friends and the game of one-upmanship is played, to order Siakap is about as downmarket as it comes, tantamount to committing social suicide. Siakap (Barramundi) is a common fish placed probably just above the ubiquitous Tilapia on the snobbery scale. Yet the Siakap belly, cut in pieces and steamed to perfection with a divine soya sauce was as good as any expensive fish you get elsewhere. From RM13 small and RM20 large.
It’s all in the saucing. William personally goes to market every day and buys all his fish and meat. He buys the big Siakap choosing those at a minimum of 4kg. This he then cuts into the various sections and dishes out whatever customers want. You can choose tail, belly, head, fins, you name it, and decide if you want it in soup (superlative, with no MSG, simmered with fish bones, ikan bilis, dried fish), plain steamed or even Thai-style (not my favourite). He even gets fresh “Fah Gao” or fish bladder from the fish he buys and serves that if you wish. Knowing how expensive Fah Gao is dried, I found the fresh version totally satisfying. Price is seasonal so ask first.
Another surprise is his steamed black pomfret. This lowly fish is usually relegated to the curry pot and yet under the masterful eye of William and his special secret sauce, it comes out superlative. 1kg RM60 We also had blanched Squid (Wong Ka Lon) which arrived springy and resilient but not tough. RM20
All this talk of fish and I forgot to mention the starter which was an ice plant salad (now the latest rage vegetable), dressed in thousand island and topped with fried black and white sesame seeds. RM25. Wonderful.
Having raved on about the fish, I must mention the meats. Although limited, each meat dish is special, like the Woo So Kai, or bearded chicken as it says on the menu was steamed: tender, juicy and utterly delectable. Eat it with their two sauces, garlic, chilli, onions, coriander and their ginger sauce (all fresh made) and you’ll swoon. RM30/60 S/L.
Now we come to the pork. Two styles of doing pork belly and both yummilicious. On one occasion I had their pork belly done Korean-style, marinated in a Korean sauce and coated with Hong Kong Ham Har Cheong (salted prawn paste), then deep fried to perfection, the fatty bits melt in your mouth; RM20.
Another style of serving pork belly is braised, the sauce thick and sweetish, each morsel a mouthful of heaven. I won’t even venture to guess what went into the sauce. Suffice to say it was delectable. They make only six portions of this a day so it is wise to order in advance; RM30.
I haven’t tasted Ham Har Cheong in years and the prawns coated with it came last and it brought back memories of my time in HongKong. The prawns were very fresh and firm to the bite and the prawn paste added another layer of taste to the dish.
A final word about the rice. I am not much of a rice eater but this fragrant Thai rice topped with a generous portion of Japanese garnish of seaweed, sesame and bonito really make it so tempting that I finished a whole portion by myself!
Welcome home, William. I love your passion for curating the best dishes in your restaurant.
Restoran Hao Xian Wei11 Jalan Medan Ipoh 6, (a few doors down from 1919 in the corner)Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh 31400 Ipoh.Patrick Cheong: For reservations: 012 431 1070William Yap Chef/Owner for ordering (in Cantonese only): 017 4216523Open: 12pm-9pmClosed: 2 days a month; Tuesday and Wednesday (not fixed).