Monthly Archives: March 2009

SeeFoon broadens her culinary horizons


Issue 74- Musings On food

Ipoh is about to expand its culinary horizons when decorated Master Chef, Ricky Parlanti starts giving Master classes on fine dining and the art of preparing gourmet taste treats, Italian style.

It was a serendipitous meeting. I was lunching with Bernard Tan, CEO of Kinta Properties, and his family at the Dome Restaurant in Meru Golf Resort Ipoh and there was his guest, Ricky Parlanti bubbling away with his infectious enthusiasm, talking nineteen to a dozen, sharing his vision of setting up a gourmet restaurant and giving Master classes to those interested in preparing fine western food.

True Blue Italian

No Pizza Hut and what passes for pasta here, but true blue Italian: pasta ‘al dente’ served with homemade sauces, melt-in-your-mouth, aged-minimum-36-months prosciutto from his family farm in Italy, lightly grilled peppers, zucchini, eggplant drizzled in the finest virgin cold pressed olive oil, cannellini bean and fresh tuna salad with just a hint of vinegar, onion and parsley frittata, hand-pureed vegetable soups in delectable broths, delicately pan-fried fillets of local fish, and out of this world Tiramisu whipped up in a matter of minutes. This was the taste treat a few of us had the pleasure to sample in a friend’s home recently.

Ricky, with his wacky sense of humour, had almost caused a fainting fit for my friend who had invited 18 people home for dinner one evening when he said to her that morning, “Oh, I’ve got nearly everything we need for tomorrow, just a few more items to pick up!” Then he laughed his wickedly infectious laugh and apologised, saying he’ll be over in the afternoon to begin preparations. And this he did with gusto in his pristine white chef’s tunic, concocting sauces, grilling vegetables, preparing soup, fish, and serving a magnificent meal with seven antipasto selections, in a seven course dinner, all whipped up in a matter of four hours.

Ninth Generation Chef

Ricky was born into the business, being the ninth generation of chefs in the Parlanti family tree. At the tender age of nine, his passion for food was ignited in his father’s kitchen which led to his revolutionising his father’s restaurants in Italy, London and Florida, where he worked both front and back of house. Soon after, his zeal spiralled into a professional career that has taken him to Germany, England, North America, The Middle East, India and China, where he held senior positions in a variety of five-star restaurants and many Leading Hotels of the World before arriving in Malaysia more than fifteen years ago.

In Kuala Lumpur, he was responsible for establishing the first fine dining Italian restaurant in 1992.  He then moved to Carcosa Seri Negara as Executive Chef cum Resident Manager, where his cuisine won numerous accolades and awards, not to mention delighting the palates of many Heads of State and dignitaries including former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad, Nelson Mandela, the King of Spain and the Emperor of Japan, to name a few.

Mangotree Restaurant – First ‘Open Kitchen’

He designed and opened his own restaurant, The Mangotree Restaurant in 1996 show-casing Kuala Lumpur’s first “open kitchen” concept. The Mangotree has been in Malaysia Tatler’s Best Restaurant Guide regularly since her inception. He has also been awarded the Hospitality Asia Platinum Award 2005/2006 for Excellence In Hospitality Chef of The Year and The Best Chef in Malaysia (Expatriate) Award in the Millennium Gold Awards 2001/2002. He was one of the top four finalists for Hospitality Asia Platinum Award 2005/2006 Entrepreneur of the Year.  He has on numerous occasions also enjoyed working in front of the TV camera, having teamed up with local celebrity chefs, introducing TV viewers to his recipes. 

Ricky is Vice Counseiller in the Confrerie De La Chaine Des Rostisseurs Baillage De Kuala Lumpur, and also a member of the Ipoh Wine & Food Society. He also dedicates time to young professionals by way of training and apprenticeship programmes with Taylor’s University/College School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Kolej Damansara Utama Kuala Lumpur School of Hotel Management and Lycee Hotelier D’Occitarie De Toulouse,

SeeFoon gets adventurous in explorations of Old Town….


Issue 73- Musing On Food

SeeFoon gets adventurous in explorations of Old Town….

 The street turning off to the left as one crosses Kinta River travelling down Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah (Hugh Low Street) is a fascinating part of Ipoh’s old town. Known as “Ham Yu Kai”or Salt Fish Street (Jalan Bijih Timah), this short stretch of about 300 metres has a row of sundry shops lined up consecutively, selling Chinese provisions and all the dried seafood like ikan bilis, dried shrimp, and salted fish. There used to be a market at the end of this street but this has dwindled down to a few stalls selling fresh produce in the early morning.

Towards the end of this street on the left is a small passage between two shop houses with a big sign that says Jalan Pasar Patrick. This leads into a small alley way lined on both sides by a row of zinc-roofed shacks leading to the banks of the Kinta River. Here at the end of the alley is a very popular local eatery with only a Chinese sign board Jiong Loi Fan Deem proudly displayed in red lettering proclaiming itself to be “the future rice shop”.

Not for the Squeamish

This is not a restaurant for the squeamish and if you’re expecting minimum restaurant standards, this is not the place for you.  Here you rub shoulders with the “hoi polloi” who generally know better than their well-off brethren, where a good meal is to be had at a good price, and if you make the mistake of arriving after 12 noon, you’ll have to wait in the sweltering heat at least half an hour for your food.

The day my Foodie friends and I were there, just coincidentally turned out to be one of the hottest days in the year. As I sat under the zinc roof inadequately serviced by both a ceiling and a revolving table fan, I was musing to myself that the food had better be worth the suffering in the heat.

Popular Cold Dish

An appetiser plate was served first, almost as a conciliatory gesture for the long wait ahead as we had arrived just as the full lunch crowd descended. This was their popular stewed pigs’ head cold dish, served with hardboiled eggs. The tasty morsels consisting primarily of the cheeks and ears braised in soya sauce, were tender and had just the right degree of saltiness, taking away the need for the chilli sauce which came with it. RM5 with two eggs.

The rest of the dishes finally arrived in rapid succession. First on the table was the bitter gourd with chicken, one of their signature dishes. Fu Gua Kai – RM10. This came in a black bean sauce, the bite-sized bitter gourd texture complementing the tender chicken pieces, and the sauce just pungent enough to mask the still remaining bitterness in the gourd.

This was followed by the leek with roasted pork. Siew Yoke Chao Suen – RM10. The leeks were thinly sliced and the roast pork’s crackling still “crackled”, which had me rudely trawling through the plate in search of more!

Grandma’s soup of the Day

The soup of the day was a marrow which is known in Chinese as “old cucumber” Lo Wong Kua, boiled with pork bones and meat – RM8.00. This is a very typical Cantonese home dish which brought back memories of the soups my grandmother used to make. This soup of the day will vary from watercress to lotus root to whatever else is available at the market in the morning. Many a traditional Chinese family will still have their children coming home to “drink soup” on Sundays even if they’re no longer living with their parents. This soup is usually left to boil for many hours and only ingredients which are known to be “cooling” are used for this type of soup.

Next came the Tao Fu Yu, steamed carp and soft bean curd in a sauce redolent with preserved soya bean sauce, mild chillies and garlic. As fresh water fish is not one of my favourites and this fish is also full of bones, I had one piece of the fish and concentrated on the bean curd. The taste was excellent though and had me wishing that they could have used another fish – RM12.

The next dish was the fried omelette with preserved radish or Chinese DaikonChoi Po Dan – RM7. This is the true staple dish, the dish that is ubiquitous in many a Chinese home kitchen when mother or grandma had insufficient dishes on the table. Tasty and just like I used to get it at home, with the radish in  bite-sized bits rather than the chopped variety one finds often in the market these days. And more importantly, they used the salty variety instead of the sweet one which I find cloying.

To finish off the meal, my nose had caught a whiff of belacan coming from the kitchen and I immediately demanded to know what it was. Fried Kang Kong, or water spinach as it is popularly known, fried with belacan was produced and promptly devoured with relish – RM5.

For 6 people, the total bill for all the dishes mentioned came to RM60. Another value-for-money meal for Cantonese home cooking par-excellence. A meal I couldn’t produce at home for the same number of people if I were to buy the ingredients and cook it myself.

Location:  Jalan Patrick Market, Off Jalan Bijih Timah, Old Town

Been operating more

 than 30 years

Operating time:  11:30am – 3:00pm

SeeFoon Uncovers More Dining “Oldies” In Oldtown


by See Foon Chan-Koppen

The small section of old town as one drives down Hugh Low Street or Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah, just after Kinta River, is a veritable warren of eating havens, some long established and others, mere stalls or coffee shops each boasting its signature dishes where the food cognoscenti go for good taste and good value.

‘Low Chiew Pai’

One such “oldie” is Tin Yik restaurant at 4-B Jalan Koo Chong Kong, nestled amongst a row of heritage shop houses down a narrow one-way alley where a big SUV can barely manoeuvre. This is another old family restaurant, started by Chang Kok Aun’s grandfather over 60 years ago. Like the other restaurant “oldies” which I have reviewed in previous issues, Tin Yik is one of the handful of kow chiew pai or “old brands” handed down to successive generations who are committed enough to take on the onerous task of satisfying the demanding palates of its loyal  customers.  This is quite a rare occurrence in this modern age where the younger generation usually distance themselves from the family business and run off to the big bright lights of the cities to seek their fortunes. My hope is that Ipoh will continue with this culinary heritage, a heritage well worth supporting and preserving.

Now in the hands of the fourth generation, the kitchen is manned by Kok Aun’s son, while he cuts a dapper figure in impeccable white shirt, khaki pants, taking orders and serving food.   The walls of the restaurant are lined with photographs of Kok Aun receiving various recognition and awards, the last being the Paduka Mahkota Perak, PMP, for his more than thirty-year service with RELA, intermingled with various framed articles of reviews on the restaurant from various newspapers.

The decor is simple, what I would term, “old shop house restaurant’ but very clean, unlike many other coffee shops that dot the Ipoh landscape.  Even without air-conditioning to which I’m addicted, I found myself not perspiring profusely as I normally do in “fan-only” environments. This I attributed to the high ceilings and the copious number of ceiling fans.

Hokkien Specialities

Tin Yik is a Hokkien restaurant, one of the few in Ipoh, serving specialities peculiar to Fukien province in China. Although the line between the various provincial and regional specialities have blurred in recent years, with restaurants now borrowing from one another, there remain certain signature dishes which are indigenous to the provincial groups. The Or Jian or fried oyster dish is one of these.

On the day we were there, there were unfortunately no oysters available and we had to settle for the shrimp (har jian) instead. Not a bad thing considering that I always have doubts about the safety of molluscs in our tropical climate. This came in its inimitable style – shrimps nestled amidst a slightly glutinous starch paste, with eggs, scallions and crisped at the edges. This was so evocative of my childhood tastebuds that I could have eaten the whole plate and asked for more! However, for my other friends at the table whose palates lean towards the Cantonese, the glutinous starch put them off.

‘Lor’ Noodles

Next came two delicious “Lor” noodle dishes, one a yellow noodle and the other the bean thread or glass noodle. “Lor” style is again typically Hokkien, a thick, slightly starchy sauce cooked with the noodles, with kale and a mixture of pork and shrimp thrown in. This soupy noodle dish is often eaten with lashings of black vinegar and as much white pepper as one can handle.

This was followed by the kwai fa tung fun (RM8), bean thread noodle fried with egg, pork, shrimp, scallions and again eaten with a dash of black vinegar. Often known as the poor man’s fried shark’s fin, it is similar in taste to its more expensive cousin. Certainly to be recommended.

Steamed Soup

Tin Yik is also known for their steamed soups. Just like Hung Kee which I reviewed, they have the heavenly bliss, earthly joy soup of pig’s brains and chicken feet, a very peppery pig’s stomach with chicken soup and a Yu Piu, fish gullet with chicken soup. All of these soups are incredibly good value at RM3.50 per tureen.

Next on the table was the Sai To Yu Meen, noodles made from fish paste in a soup with lots of greens. I was delighted to find this here as I know of only one other restaurant (Lucky’s in Pasir Puteh) where I can get this delectable dish. RM10.00.

We again ordered the Wu Tao Kao Yoke, taro braised pork which was tasty and redolent of the red fermented bean paste in which it was cooked. RM7.00.

Groaning at the seams after all that food, we had to find room for two of the restaurant’s home-made dim sum dishes (RM2.80), the siu mai, pork dumplings, and the steamed, bean-curd-skin wrapped century-egg roll. When asked if all their dim sum dishes which they serve from 7.30 a.m. onwards, were home made as these two were better than the regular street variety, I was disappointed to hear that all the others were from the larger production houses. Nevertheless, these two might just do the trick for me if I’m looking for a small bite for breakfast.

All in all I would recommend Tin Yik for its honest wholesome fare and value for money.

Tin Yik Restaurant

4-B Jalan Koo Chong Kong 30000 Ipoh, Perak

Tel: 05 254 7078

SeeFoon discovers Concubine Lane and Koh Kee


In this continuing series of musings on food, SeeFoon discovers Concubine Lane and Koh Kee

When I first heard of Concubine Lane, my over-active imagination immediately conjured up scenes of afternoon or late night rendezvous where chauffeur-driven limousines deposit wealthy tycoons as they sneak furtively into the lane for their romantic assignations with their concubines. After their love trysts, they may or may not retire to Wong Koh Kee for a snack or even a full meal.

Romantic Illusions

My overblown romantic illusions were soon to be shattered when I went with my group of Foodie friends for a meal at Koh Kee recently.

This tiny lane off Leech Street or Jalan Bijeh Timah, is officially known as Lorong Panglima but to all Ipohites, it is fondly referred to as Concubine Lane and locals flock here to queue up in the heat for a table at lunchtime. On my recent visit, the restaurant was packed by 12.30 pm and at 1.45 pm when we left, a long line of people were still waiting for seats. Not that I have a picture of what she might look like, but nary a concubine in sight!


Where Are The Concubines?

I was then told by Chan Seow Lok whose father owned some of these houses that the name Concubine Lane came about, not from the salacious activities of its inhabitants, but from an aberration in the original architectural design of this row of shop houses. Lorong Panglima backs onto Jalan Panglima and the houses on the latter wider road are really the frontage for this row of houses in the small lane. While the houses on Lorong Panglima are standalone and not accessible from the houses in the front, each unit of two share the same title deed. Sort of like Siamese twins, stuck to each other. Whether or not concubines lived in the back while the tycoon and first wife occupied the front portion is left to conjecture. Or whether concubines lived here at all is debatable.

Grandma’s Home


Nevertheless, Koh Kee has been here for three generations and thriving. Koh Kee is known for its home cooking, such as Grandma might make. The fare is simple, hearty and reasonably priced.

The first dish to arrive piping hot was the trio of steamed eggs RM6/12. This classical home specialty evoked for me memories of my Grandma’s kitchen where it served as the ubiquitous standby whenever fish or meat was scarce.

While the dish appears seemingly easy to prepare: lightly beaten fresh eggs, seasoned and steamed with salted and century eggs, yet, the perfect end result as that presented at Koh Kee is not so simple as any seasoned cook knows. The fresh egg was just the right creamy consistency with no steam bubbles creating pock-marks, the addition of the salted and century eggs in just the right proportion and the seasoning of soya sauce and oil just adequate.

This was followed by their PeiPa chicken, (RM14 for half) so named for the way the bird is cut open and spread out to resemble the Chinese lute, marinated, then air dried, seasoned with their secret sauce and then deep fried. The usual PeiPa recipe usually applies to duck but in Koh Kee, the chicken was equally tasty and succulent, served with a dipping Hoisin Sauce.

The next dish was the Woo Tau Kow Yoke or pork brisket stewed with yam, tasty slices of fatty pork brisket layered between slices of yam or taro. Some establishments where I’ve eaten this dish may make it too dry but here the balance of meat and taro, to sauce, was just right.

Specialty of The House

A specialty of Koh Kee is their sautéed watercress with sliced roast pork (RM8/10/13) done with a hint of belacan (dried shrimp paste) and garlic. It was so good that we wolfed down the first plate and ordered a second.

Next came the Hong Siew Yu Tao or literally translated to mean Red Roasted Fish head (seasonal price). This is a method of preparation where in this instance, a Carp’s head, is first deep fried and then lightly braised in a soya sauce mixture whose ingredients will vary from chef to chef. Not being a fan of carp which I find has a muddy taste, I found the sauce to be delectable while the fish meat left me unenthused.

Two last dishes completed our food binge. The beef fried with bitter melon (RM8/10/14) and the bean sprouts with salted fish (RM 6/7/8) were both value for money and scrumptious.

For readers wishing to try out Koh Kee, I would recommend getting there early before the lunch crowd. Twelve noon is a good time. Or have brunch or a late lunch as Koh Kee is open from 11.00 am till 3.00 pm. It’s well worth the trip downtown. And it won’t make a hole in your pocket!

Forgotten Classic


by See Foon Chan-Koppen

Having lived in Ipoh for 13 years, I consider it gross negligence on the part of all my foodie friends for not introducing me to Hoong Tho Restaurant! While not as venerable in terms as age as Hung Kee which I reviewed in the previous issue, nevertheless Hoong Tho vies for a place in Ipoh’s food heritage archives, a popular family restaurant that has served happy diners since 1957.

I had heard of Hoong Tho often over the years and it was only a year ago when my hounding of one of my friends finally got her to relent and take me there. When asked why she had kept the restaurant a secret for so long, she was apologetic and said she thought the place was a tad too down-market for me!

Well it wasn’t quite the Ritz in Paris, occupying a two storey shop house on 20 Jln Bijih Timah (Leech Street) and sporting only wall fans with no air-conditioning, but one can see the vestiges of what was probably quite a trend setter in the old Chinese tea-house style, back in 1957. Alas, no efforts have been made to renovate nor refurbish and the physical premises have been left to languish in a state of neglect.

The culinary wizardry though, has not been neglected and has flourished to this day, recipes having been passed down to the current third generation who now run the restaurant.

Specialties of the house are their various noodle dishes done in characteristic Cantonese style with their own innovative touches. Their portions are generous one–person portions and of any of their noodles will be sufficient tasting for five or six people if ordering a few at one time.

Highest on my list of “must-taste” noodles is their Kwai Fah Meen, an egg noodle dish fried with eggs, bean sprouts and thinly sliced meat and other garnishes that has the reminiscent taste of sharks fin fried the same style, except that in this instance, instead of sharks fin they’re using the more environmentally correct noodles in its place and of course at a fraction of the price.

Next on my list of recommendations is the Sang Har Kon Cheen Meen, egg noodles fried crisp and topped with fresh water prawns in an aromatically fragrant sauce redolent of prawn stock generously added. Having eaten this dish in Kuala Lumpur on many occasions at quite exorbitant prices, I was delighted to find that this portion cost only RM10 and the prawns were fresh and firm.

We followed this with the Kon Chow Ngow Hor or the dried fried beef with rice noodles and the Wat Tan Hor or flat rice noodles with a choice of either fish paste or mixed meat and vegetables or sliced beef.

In fact Hoong Tho specialises in this Wat Tan, which means silky smooth egg, style of noodles where the noodles are first fried, some to crispiness and others like the flat rice noodles, with a touch of soya and plated. Then the sauce, cooked separately with choice of meat, fish or seafood, thickened with corn starch and egg white, is added and served immediately. At Hoong Tho their variety in just this style alone is quite phenomenal.  (RM5-5.50 per portion)

Having dipped extensively into the noodle menu, we then ventured into some of their other signature dishes. We had the Foong Wong Kao or Phoenix Balls, (RM8 for 4) minced pork paste wrapped around a salted egg yolk, with a further outer wrapping of pigs caul fat and deep fried. The end result is crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside and with the addition of pieces of water chestnut lending further texture, the salted egg yolk providing the right degree of saltiness, it was a delectable taste sensation for which I will go back again and again. They also do spring rolls with pigs caul, but the Phoenix Balls far surpass the spring rolls.

Pigs caul has gone out of fashion in most Chinese kitchens as the dire warnings of high cholesterol has permeated most people’s awareness and so it is rare to find a restaurant that still use it. It is also a difficult ingredient to clean, and use with dexterity. So I congratulate Hoong Tho on sticking with some of these old traditions. Where else would we find some of these almost “extinct” culinary masterpieces which should be preserved for posterity, not just for its novelty value but for the skill it requires and the taste it imparts to the dish.

Other dishes of note are their Fried Fish Paste dumplings or Chao Yu Wat, fresh-made that day, wrapped in wonton skin and deep fried, (RM2.20 each) their Yeung Chao Chow Fun or Cantonese fried rice which has a deliciously distinctive taste contributed by the crispy fried dried prawns (RM 5.50), their various dumplings (RM1.00 each) and plain greens (RM6.00).

The menu at Hoong Tho is extensive and a meal for 6 averages RM10.00 per head at the most. Value for money in today’s financial crunch.

Location: 20 Jalan Bijih Timah (Leech Street)

Operating time: 10:00 am – 9:30 pm

Closed: Tuesdays

Tears in Heaven


A  2-month-old baby girl survived an accident which killed her parents, 2-year-old brother and maternal grandmother.

She stands to inherit RM2 Million. The inheritance includes money in banks, investment in shares, properties, EPF and insurance compensation. Her parents died without a WILL or TRUST in place. Her 2 uncles and paternal grandmother now want to adopt her.

Under these circumstances, the baby’s parents would be deemed to have died intestate and all their assets would be frozen. In order to unlock the frozen estate, the family will have to apply for a Letter of Administration (L.A.) to administer the estate. When the family applies for L.A., they have to choose 2 administrators and find 2 Sureties/Guarantors as it involves a minor. Since 3 of her family members want to adopt her, the Court would ultimately have to step in to decide on the appointment of a legal guardian. The decision of the Court may go against the wishes of some family members, but the Court will always decide based on the best interest of the child. The family members may fight to be appointed as the administrator or guardian for self-interest. The time frame to apply for the L.A. can be lengthy and costly.

If the baby’s parents are non-Muslim, their estate would be distributed according to the Malaysian Distribution Act, 1958 (Amended in 1997) i.e., ⅓ to the deceased’s parents and ⅔ to the baby girl. The question is, “Do you want such distribution to take place?” If the answer is no, then you must write a WILL immediately so that you can choose your Executors, Guardian and beneficiaries. In addition, you can also set up a TRUST especially for children who are minors. At least by doing so, we will not be left with only ‘Tears in Heaven’ and watching from the above, our loved ones going through the pain and suffering.

Peter Lee is an Associate Estate Planning Prac-titioner (Wills & Trust) with Rockwills International Group.
He is also an Islamic Estate Planner providing Wills & Trust services for Muslims. He is based in Ipoh and can be reached at: 012-5078825/ 05-2554853 or

Will Writers Ipoh



Too often we have heard this sad statement, “I should have…”

The blood test results are out and we hear regrets like, “I should have… done this test regularly”, “I should have… controlled my diet”, “I should have… seen a doctor earlier instead of procrastinating”. All these “I should haves…” are expressions of regret and show that prevention is better than cure. If we want to be the architect of our own life and to design our destiny, then we must take action to control and prevent unpleasant things from happening.

One of the “I should have…” statements we can avoid would be to ensure we have written a WILL. By writing a WILL, you are able to appoint your EXECUTORS and GUARDIANS for children who are minors. Sometimes loving parents assume that if they pass away, their parents or even their brothers or sisters would automatically be the guardians of their minor children. Sadly, this is a false assumption. They have to be appointed before they can act. If no guardians are appointed under the WILL, then guardians will have to be appointed by the Court by application.

Under the Guardianship of Infants (Amendment) Act, 1999, the mother of an infant child is given equal rights with the father on matters relating to the custody or upbringing of a child. With the amendment, a parent can actually appoint someone to be a guardian for the child who is a minor and also to act jointly with the surviving parent. This helps to allay the fears of those who cannot trust their spouse/ex-spouse for whatever reasons to bring up the child alone.

Wouldn’t it be extremely important if we can plan for the future to protect our children and avoid the “I should have…” situation? Therefore, why not take the first step to protect your family by writing a WILL?

Peter Lee is an Associate Estate Planning Practitioner (Wills & Trust) with Rockwills International Group. He is also an Islamic Estate Planner providing Wills &Trust services for Muslims. His Book “To Delay is Human but to Will is Divine” (96 pages, RM28, Hard copy) is available at Rashi Mini Market (019-510 6284), No. 37, Jalan Perajurit, Ipoh Garden East or at Ipoh Echo. Chinese and English version of his book is also available at his office: No. 108 (2nd Floor), Jalan Raja Ekram, 30450 Ipoh, Perak. He can be reached at: