Monthly Archives: April 2009

SeeFoon has memories of Milan in Ipoh


Issue 76 – Musings On Food

SeeFoon has memories of Milan in Ipoh

I love Italian food. And I love Chinese food. I just love food. Period. In fact I don’t believe there is any cuisine in the world, no matter how unsavoury, where I cannot find at least one dish to enjoy.

musing_Issue76Loving Italian food as I do, I occasionally hanker after one fish preparation from a pescheria I used to frequent in Milan, back in the days when I used to go there often. Now that I live in Ipoh, I have tried a few times to reproduce this much loved dish Branzino salato al’forno (salt baked seabass) at home but alas without much success. By chance I was introduced to a new restaurant recently that serves a dish quite similar to the Milanese version I so miss. The best surprise is that this is a Chinese restaurant, newly opened in Ipoh.

Soon Fatt – 15 years young

Located on Jalan Seenivasagam, Soon Fatt has actually been around for about 15 years. Started as a ‘Tai Chow’ stall at the food court opposite the Excelsior Hotel, the restaurant is operated by a young couple, Chong Tack Ming and his wife Chan Foong Ho. Enterprising and dedicated, this committed duo will not allow any glitches to get in the way of their running the business. The day I was there, Foong Ho had brought her young daughter into the restaurant because her baby carer was indisposed and she played happily on a blanket on the floor behind the cashier’s counter while her mother was busy serving guests.

Extensive Menu

The menu here is extensive with more than 100 items.  Lunch items are very popular, with noodle and rice dishes beginning at a very reasonable RM3.50 per dish. Their service is friendly and efficient especially from Johnny a young Indian who speaks perfect Cantonese.

Salt Baked Fish “a’la Milanese”

The Soon Fatt version of my favourite salt-baked fish uses live Tilapia and is served on a bed of deep fried crispy cellophane noodles giving it its Chinese flavour. Understandably, Tilapia being a farm raised fresh water fish, can occasional-ly have tinges of muddiness but Foong Ho assures me that they make all efforts to keep the fish alive in pure water for a few days before serving, to reduce the chances of getting a muddy taste. The fish is encrusted in a thick layer of salt and baked, with skin and scales. When serving, the waiter will remove the salt and when finished with the top half, he’ll come back to expose the underside for you, to avoid the risk of getting too much salt on the flesh. RM20 for the whole fish and highly recommended for those on a low fat and low carbohydrate diet…..not low salt however.  I do miss the extra virgin olive oil that the Milanese version serves with their fish though. I used to love drizzling it on my seabass. Perhaps Soon Fatt may consider serving this on the side as an option?

Loss Leader

For the past three months, Soon Fatt has very cleverly promoted their sharks fin soup in individual tureens at the incredible price of RM8.00 per portion. At that price, I was expecting heavy starch, surima or synthetic crab, and maybe even synthetic sharks fin but to my delight, the soup was thick without being too starchy, with chunks of chicken and real chunks of sharks fin! This, in the F&B business is known as a loss leader….one dish sold below cost to draw in the customers. When I was last there, it was certainly working. Not many ordered the sharks fin but they must have been lured in previously and found the food to their taste and kept coming back.

House Specialties

Some house special-ties worthy of mention at Soon Fatt are their smoked chicken or Yin Wu So Kai, juicy and succulent chicken lightly smoked whole and cut in chunks for serving – RM25 for half a chicken; kale braised with whole pig’s trotter, Kai Choy Mun Chu Sao – RM25; Taro braised with spare ribs, Wu Tao Mun Pai Kwat – RM10; Mantis Prawn done either Gong Po – RM10 (dried chillies, dark soya, sugar, cashews) or Lai Yau – RM12 (butter, fried,) style; and their frogs legs with fried ginger – RM20.

Two noodle dishes worthy of mention are their Tai Lok Meen, fat Udon noodles fried in dark soya sauce with pork and lardons thrown in and their fried meehoon or vermicelli that comes like a pancake, slightly crispy at the edges and laced with meat, prawns and vegetables.

Soon Fatt is a biggish restaurant, able to seat about 400 people. There are 3 private rooms downstairs and 2 big ones upstairs, each able to accommodate 2 tables each. When opened up, the downstairs room can accommodate 4 tables and the upstairs, 5. A recent lunch in a private room there saw us sitting 15 at a table (the largest table they can muster) and all my friends were delighted at the new taste treats that were being introduced. All in all a welcome addition to the Ipoh food scene.


42 Jalan Seenivasagam, 30450 Ipoh

Tel: 05-2436864

11.00 a.m.-2.30 p.m.   5.00 p.m.-10.30 p.m.

SeeFoon goes halal in search of the perfect fish-head curry


Issue 75- Musings On Food

Every once in a while, I find myself becoming ‘porked’ out and long for some hot spicy mutton and seafood taste treats to quell my craving for spices. That is when my thoughts turn to fish-head curry and Salim’s.

My favourite Salim’s (there are three branches), is in Jalan Bahru, off Jalan Tokong in Pasir Pinji. Tucked away in a quiet corner almost at the end of this short street, Salim’s is almost quaint in its façade. Unlike most other curry houses in Ipoh where the modus operandi is based on the ‘eat-and-run-and-forget-the-looks’ operational philosophy, Salim’s is a curry restaurant where an attempt has been made to create some semblance of hospitality.

Occupying the entire ground floor of a stand-alone two storey house fronted by tall bushy palms and lined along its side by smaller ones, the restaurant is clean and airy and aided by adequate fans, the entire searing-hot curry experience in temperature-hot humid Ipoh becomes bearable and even enjoyable.

Third Generation

Proprietor Mohamed Salim is the third generation in a family of seasoned food service operators. He has been in the present premises for 20 years, having moved from Jalan Ali Pitchay where he first started in a coffee shop in1985. By dint of sheer hard work, he has grown his chain of restaurants to three and judging by the crowd and high turnover of diners on the day I was there, I’ll wager that before too long, Salim will be adding more restaurants to his empire.

As is the custom of all these curry houses, the opening hours are long (6.30 a.m. – 10.00 p.m. at Salim’s Jalan Bahru) and thosai, chapati, other breads and roti canai as well as murtabak are only available from 6.30 a.m.-11 a.m. and then from 3.00 p.m.-10 p.m. The rest of the day, rice is the main staple served, whether white or Briyani which happens to be one of Salim’s signature dishes.

Fish Head Specialty

Salim’s is known for their fish-head curry. Depending on the catch of the day and availability in the markets, the type of fish head will vary from day to day. On lean days, they make do with the ikan tenggiri or local mackerel, which is priced the lowest in their range. Other fish varieties include the mah yao (threadfin), sek pan (garoupa) hong chou (grouper) and the hong si (red snapper) being the most expensive. This latter fish-head, which can be huge is usually served split in two to keep the price down. In general, the fish-head curry will vary in price from RM15-RM60 per portion. The platter portion I had the day I went was huge, with generous helpings of ladies fingers and brinjal. The fish head was caught-that-day fresh which meant that I could tuck into all the gelatinous bits behind the eye with gusto. The gravy was gutsy, tempered by the tomatoes which helped in the mellowing of the fiery chillies.

Other Dishes

Carnivore that I am, I ordered their mutton curry which came in a one portion size of a small shank on the bone. This was meltingly tender and the only regret I had when grappling with the bone was the lack of a long thin fork to extract the bone marrow, which to my chagrin, no amount of sucking would dislodge! Fresh local mutton is available on Wednesdays and Saturdays while imported frozen mutton is used on other days.RM3.50 for usual portion RM4.00 for shank.

Other dishes which came rapidly were the fried chicken which was succulent and very tasty, the kampong chicken curry which was mild and mellow (RM5.50), an unusual sambal (free) which is a specialty of Salim’s which I found interesting and kept asking for more….tangy, pungent, and added the right touch of piquancy to the other dishes.

Crab curry is available depending on market availability and on the day we were there, crab was available and we had one portion which consisted of a whole ‘flower” crab – RM10.00. This came with its characteristic tangy gravy, with a hint of tamarind.

The vegetables accompanying all these dishes vary from day to day and the three types we had were all pleasant and had enough of a variation in taste to make a vegetarian happy.


The menu at Salim’s is extensive and thanks to Mohamed Salim’s organisation (he’s there every day to control quality and keeps a close watch on his kitchen), the quantity and quality of food is maintained throughout the day by him and his team of chefs and helpers from India.

In fact, his reputation for excellence has spread so far and wide that he has served royalty and catered to some very exclusive functions, a side of the business which he has been developing nicely.

I only hope that, as his catering business develops, he continues to maintain the quality of food in his outlets and continue pleasing his faithful customers who come from all over Ipoh to eat at his restaurant.

Address: 75 Jln Bahru, Off Jln Tokong, 31650 Ipoh. Phone: 05-2555786. Opened 6.30 a.m.-10.00 p.m.

Ipoh Hawker Food


Hawker Food IE80

 Lui Cha (‘Thunder Tea’)

Surprisingly, not everyone knows what Lui Cha is! Ipoh is one town that appears to have a proliferation of Lui Cha stalls, owing no doubt to the fact that a large number of local folk come from Hakka origins. It is a Hakka dish that is primarily vegetarian except for the dried prawns that may be included for added flavour. Lui Cha comes in two parts – one is the diced or minced vegetables on white rice topped with roasted peanuts and sometimes sesame seeds, and the other is the aromatic green soup. Mix the two together and you have a fantastic blend of textures and flavours and a most satisfying meal. The soup is a blended combination of Chinese green tea leaves, mint leaves, saw tooth coriander leaves, Thai basil, peanuts and sesame seeds. Traditionally, the soup ingredients are put in a deep Lui Cha pot and ground with a guava stick until finely crushed and it forms a paste, and then steeped in boiling water or brought to a boil. If one is hard-pressed to find a Lui Cha pot and a guava stick, the trusty old blender works just fine! The array of shredded or diced vegetables can vary but usually one finds mustard green, Chinese kai lan, chives, French beans, sayur/cangkuk manis or sweet potato leaves, leek, beancurd, preserved radish (choy po), black-eyed peas, dried shrimps, etc. Altogether 7 to 9 types of vegetables and condiments are used. The vegetables are lightly fried in oil and seasoned. Of all the stalls reviewed, only one served raw vegetables as an alternative. If you have not tried Lui Cha, we recommend that you do. Healthy and hearty, you may just become a fan!

9am – after lunch
Saturdays closed
17 Psrn Greentown 7
Greentown Business Centre
Vegetables are tasty and the soup has lovely mint and basil flavour. The only stall that also has uncooked vegetables 3.30 4
10am -2.30pm
Closed Mondays & the 15th day (new moon) 
Big Tree Food Garden, Off Jln Tokong, Behind Tuck Kee Restaurant, Pasir Pinji Vegetables are tasty and soup has distinct mint & basil taste. More onions in ingredients 3.00 3.5
10.00am till after lunch
Off 2 days a month
43 Tgkt Tmn Ipoh 7, Ipoh Gdn South Tasty and flavourful. 3.30 3
9.30am -3 pm
Mondays closed
494 Jln Sekolah, Kg Tawas Lots of ingredients. Soup a bit light. 3.50 3


Hawker Food IE81


Wat Tan Hor

A reader wrote in about our review on Lui Cha (issue 80). It was pointed out that the translation for ‘Lui’ does not mean ‘thunder’ but ‘to grind’. Although the two words sound the same, they are written differently in Chinese. Mr Wong, we stand corrected – it is ‘ground tea’. This time we will attempt to translate Wat Tan Hor as ‘smooth egg rice noodles’. Do feel free to correct us.

Wat Tan Hor is Kuey Tiau (broad rice noodles) fried and seasoned, and smothered in thick egg gravy. Ideally, the egg gravy should be thick but not too starchy. The egg gravy usually has: vegetables, prawns, meat, fishcake and of course, beaten egg and the best ones – and this is the sinful part….have oodles of Chu Yau Tsa or fried lardons!  What gets the seal of approval is the accompanying chilli sauce – it is usually Sambal Belacan. Good sambal makes good Wat Tan Hor!

Closed every 2 weekends
61 Jln Yau Tet Shin, New Town Has oodles of lardons – tasty & aromatic.  Sambal is perfect. Noodles finer than others. 5.00 4
25 Jln Leong Sin Nam, New Town Individual portions are cooked separately.  Need patience. Usually has a 45-minute wait. 3.5
Sundays off
174 Jln Raja Dr Nazrin Shah (Jln Gopeng) Prawns are fresh. A good portion of ingredients. Tasty but a bit starchy. No special ‘sambal’ only served with ‘chilli padi’. 4.00 3.0
Rest days not fixed
12 Jln Che Tak, New Town Gravy a bit light. Noodles acceptable. Taste normal – not much ‘tai chow’ flavour. Chilli sauce nothing special. 5.50 2.5

Hawker Food IE82


Roast Duck

Unlike roast chicken, roast duck may not find favour with some people. Where you can’t go wrong with chicken, duck – if it’s not cooked well, can come out as tough as shoe leather! Done well, it is tender and succulent, and the skin – thin and crisp, with a sliver of fat beneath. It is usually accompanied with plum sauce, duck gravy and chilli sauce. The duck gravy comes from the filling of the duck itself which may have, amongst other things, ‘dong quai’ (Chinese angelica). This may not go down well with some people who do not like the strong herb whilst others find this flavourful and aromatic. Five-spice powder may also be added to the seasoning. Some shops will even crisp the skin just before serving.

Off alternate Saturdays 
70 Persiaran Greentown 1, Greentown Business Centre (Tel: 016-5614690) Good homemade plum sauce and chilli sauce. Duck sauce has nice herbal taste. From 37.00 to 39.00 4
Off 4th Mon & Tues
638-640 Jln Kuala Kangsar, Taman Tasek Damai (Tel: 05-2911550/ 014-6008300) Tender and succulent. Gravy has a ‘tau cheong’ (preserved beancurd) taste. 3.5
585 Jln Jelapang. Tender and succulent. Gravy has ‘dong quai’ flavour. 3.5
Closed 3rd Thur & Fri
60 Jln Lee Kwee Foh, Canning Garden (Tel: 05-5477813) Skin well roasted and has a slight smoky taste. 3

Hawker Food IE83


Pan Mee

Pan Mee or Mein are homemade noodles. Lumps or sheets of noodle dough are flattened and bits torn or inched off into bite-size pieces. Sometimes a noodle-making machine is used and the dough can be cut into broad flat strips (like Fettuccine) or round & slim strands (like Spaghetti). These are then cooked al dente a portion at a time. The soup base is made of anchovies (ikan bilis). A handful of sayur manis, seasoned pork, mushroom and sometimes fungus (mok yee) is also added to the soup. This rich and flavourful dish is garnished with shallot and garlic crisps, crispy fried ikan bilis and served with sambal belacan or similar chilli sauce. Pan Mee can also be served dry.

RESTORAN SUN AND SUN6.30amafternoon Sundays off  3 Persiaran Bandar Baru Tambun 16, Bandar Baru Tambun  Soup is very favourful. Has fungus (‘mok yee’), pork cracklings or chu yau char, mushrooms. Nice crispy ikan bilis. Sambal very good. 3.30 4
PUSAT MAKANAN CHHA YONG7.00am-2.30pm2 days a month off  2 Tingkat Taman Ipoh 11 Ipoh Garden South   More rustic delivery. Noodles are only served as torn bits. Soup very flavourful. Mushrooms added. Sambal is good but a bit on the sour side  3.50 4
KEDAI MINUMAN & MAKANAN HUA NAM6.30-11.00amClosed 2 days a month 32 Jln Raja Ekram (Cowan St), New Town Has ‘mok yee’ (fungus), sayur manis, strips of pork, soup tasty, sambal is good, good amount of crispy ikan bilis.  3.30  3.5
STALL12.30-5.00pmSundays off every 2 weeks Kg Tawas Market, Kg Tawas Has mushroom, minced pork, fish cake. Ikan bilis is a bit tough but soup is tasty. Chilli paste is cooked in oil.  2.80 3

Hawker Food IE84


Nyonya Kuih

Those of you old enough will remember the ‘kuih man’ selling Nyonya Kuih and laksa. Carried on his shoulders and balanced on a bamboo stick, was a red and black tiered bamboo basket lined with banana leaves where the delicious and very colourful assortment of kuih were placed and carted about. (It was quite amazing that a charcoal stove was brought along to keep the laksa gravy hot.)

There are some common ingredients in Nyonya Kuih. Fresh coconut milk custard with a filling – kuih kochi santan or as a topping as in kuih talam – the bottom green layer is made from green pea flour and extract of fresh pandan leaf (screwpine). If it’s green it’s probably pandan. Caramelised grated coconut is used as fillings or toppings as in kuih ketayap and pulut inti; when mixed with gula Melaka (brown sugar) makes a lovely oozy filling for onde-onde. Glutinous rice goes very well with coconut jam (kaya) – as in the blue marbled pulut tai tai. Ang koo (aka birthday kuih) comes in red and green – the filling is made from fresh green beans. Baked bengka ubi (tapioca), radish cake, kuih sago lapis, seri muka and yam cake (Wu Tow Ko), kuih lapis, kuih kosoi, rempah udang, are but a few more.

39 Lintasan Perajurit 10, Ipoh Garden East
Tel: 5462585/012-5285485
Stall #21, Anikaselera, Ipoh Garden. About 15 varieties. Almost all are good. 0.60-0.70 4
Kedai Buah Ban Soon Heng, 55 Jln Lau Pak Khuan, Ipoh Garden.
Kedai Buah-Buahan Hing Won
, 3 Lrg Cecil Rae, Canning Garden.
Less than 10 varieties but texture and taste are good. 4.50 per pack of 10s 4
Khoo Siew Bee 016-5487791 or Lee Vinni 016-5487792
Jln Leong Sin Nam, New Town or
Res.: 36 Psrn Wira Jaya Timur 40, Tmn Leow Yan Sip
About 10 varieties. The taste is about average but the rempah udang is quite nice. 0.50-0.70 3
Sundays off
44 Jalan Tokong, New Town
Tel: 012-5192054 or
05-2534386/ 2547140 (Res.)
More than 10 varieties. Taste is average. 0.40-0.60 3


Hawker Food IE85

Mee Rebus/Goreng & Pasembor (Indian Rojak)

If you’ve lived long enough in Ipoh, you may remember Pasembor at two padangs, that is, Greentown Padang and Ipoh Padang. Pasembor contains fried prawn & coconut dough fritters, bean curd, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, bean sprouts, and cucumber mixed with a sweet thick, spicy peanut sauce. Mee Rebus is made of yellow egg noodles, boiled, with a spicy slightly sweet curry-like gravy. The gravy is made from potatoes, curry powder, water, salted soybeans, dried shrimps, and peanuts. The dish is garnished with a hard-boiled egg, calamansi limes, spring onions, Chinese celery, chillies, fried firm tofu (tau kua), fried shallots and bean sprouts. Mee Goreng is the same as Mee Rebus, except that the noodles are fried dry. A good accompanying dessert is cendol; so the two stalls can usually be found side-by-side. There is no rating for this review because they are all good in their own way.

Mon-Sat 11.00am-6.00pm 
7 Jln Tun Sambanthan (Opp. the Ipoh Padang), Old Town Pasembor gravy is spicy and less sweet. Mee goreng good. Mee rebus good. 3.00 for all
Restoran & Rumah Tumpangan Beauty Baru, 97 Jln Yang Kalsom, New Town All three are good quality. All 3.50
Medan Selera Greentown
Jalan Hospital (Opp. Uda Ocean)
Pasembor spicy but a bit sweet. Keropok is crisp. Mee rebus gravy tasty and noodle texture good. Mee goreng not spicy enough. Mee Rebus & Goreng: 3.00
Pasembor: 3.50 (with sotong)
RESTORAN PELITA TescoNo. 2, Jalan Jambu, Taman Teh Teng Seng Pasembor not available. Mee Goreng lacks zing. Mee Rebus OK. Mee Rebus/ Goreng: 3.00