Monthly Archives: July 2009

SeeFoon goes in search of Teochew Porridge

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Issue 78- Musing On Food
SeeFoon goes in search of Teochew Porridge

Teochew porridge is a journey of nostalgia for me. In my youth in Singapore, it was an eating experience that always hit the right notes on my palate. But having lived many years in Hong Kong where Chiu Chow (the Cantonese pronunciation) food was elevated to the heights and one’s pocket ravaged to the depths, I found myself associating Teochew or Chiu Chow with cold flower crab, soy-braised goose breast, delicate Chinese chive dumplings and many other delicacies that only the HK restaurateur will conjure up. All costing an arm and a leg and perhaps a mortgage on your new house!

Now that I live in Ipoh, I find myself retracing some early culinary journeys and relishing not creating a deficit in my budget. Recently I was transported back to my childhood memories when I went in search of the quintessential Teochew Muay as I remember it being called in those days.

Teochew cuisine comes from Canton province in China but with a character all its own. Teochew porridge as it is found in Malaysia is essentially an economical, ready prepared ‘fast food’ not unlike the ubiquitous economy rice offerings that one finds in just about every coffee shop in town. There is one difference: no genuine Teochew porridge will offer sambal(led) or curried accompanying dishes as one would find at the various economy rice stalls.

Teochew porridge is quite different from Cantonese porridge in that it is more watery and the grains of rice, while soft, is still quite distinct. Flavouring is never added to the porridge and the idea is to marry all the different tastes of the accompanying dishes that come with the meal with the bland porridge. The basic ones are preserved vegetables, braised beancurd, preserved bean curd, peanuts, salted duck eggs and many more. Teochew cooking relies heavily on tau cheong or preserved bean paste and their ‘Loh’ (not to be confused with the Hokkien ‘Lor’) method…..essentially a method of braising in soya sauce and spices like star anise, cinnamon.

I sampled the Teochew porridge at two restaurants recently and these are some of my recommendations:

Yew Ming in Old Town

Yet another 3rd generation-run restaurant, Yew Ming has been around for more than 70 years. Comprising 2 shop lots, there is no queue for tables and the restaurant though not air-conditioned is cooled by ample fans. We began with the ikan kembong (a type of local mackerel) that comes either fried or steamed topped with tau cheong (soya bean paste) – RM3 per fish. The fish cakes or Yu Pang was tasty and had the right springy mouth feel. Pig’s trotters and large intestines braised in the traditional ‘Loh’ style could have packed more ‘oomph’ RM12 as could the Carp fish head song yu tau, steamed with garlic and soya bean paste – RM22.

The Choy Po Dan, omelette fried with preserved radish had the right degree of saltiness for the bland porridge – RM12 and we finished the meal with a big bowl of Seaweed soup and fish balls Yu Tan Tze Choy – RM10. Porridge here costs RM0.80 per bowl. Some of the dishes are pre-cooked but most dishes here can be ordered and prepared à la carte.

Hung Wang

Operating since 1969, this Teochew porridge restaurant serves very few à la carte and other than their steamed fish, all their accompanying dishes are pre-cooked. The best time to arrive is just after 11.30 a.m. when all the accompaniments are laid out in a cornucopia of abundance.

To go with the porridge (RM0.70) is a dazzling array of dishes ranging from the standard salted duck eggs, fried or braised ikan kembong RM3.50 each, peanuts and ikan bilis, fish cake RM1.50, braised tofu RM1, to some of their house specialities which I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Amongst these are the braised pig’s blood – RM0.80, duck’s heart, gizzard and livers, RM5.00, the whole baby octopus RM5, fu kuah or bitter melon with black beans – RM2 and brinjal in tau cheong – RM1.50.

Deserving special mention are their signature dishes, the Loh Ngap or braised duck in their special soya sauce and their large and small pigs intestines. It is rumoured that the Loh sauce is never thrown away and every day, the chef adds fresh ingredients and braises the ducks, and pig’s offal in this sauce which gets intensified over time. Friends of mine who felt squeamish about this idea, are obviously not familiar with the idea of the ongoing stockpot…..both in Western and Chinese kitchens….where if the pot is boiled every day, no danger of food contamination occurs. Who knows, may be the sauce in which my duck breast and pig’s offal was braised is 40 years old!

Hung Wang
7 & 9 Jalan Leong Sin Nam, New Town.
11.30 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
Thursdays closed

Yew Ming
Restoran Yew Ming
81 & 83 Jalan Bandar Timah (Leech Street),
Old Town.
10.00 a.m. – 2.30 p.m.

SeeFoon visits an old favourite…..

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Issue 77- Musings On Food

SeeFoon visits an old favourite…..

My girlfriend and fellow Ipohite, Ella Macdonald of Filipino decent, is not a foodie, nor does she speak Cantonese. To her lunch is a desultory picking of what’s put in front of her, company and conversation taking precedence over food. Yet whenever she suggests lunch, the first place she opts for is Sin Hup Kee.

It certainly isn’t a conducive environment for conversation but since they went up market and put in air-conditioning as well as acoustic mufflers on the ceiling, the noise level has diminished considerably. Company and conversation aside, the reason this is her favourite is that this is one restaurant that tickles her taste buds!

New Family Affair

Sin Hup Kee has been in operation for over 30 years. Formerly situated on Jalan Raja Musa Aziz (Anderson Road), it moved to its present premises on Leong Sin Nam Street 12 years ago. The name which means new collaboration or joint venture, was actually coined when they first started operating as a partnership under the name Hup Kee. When Chef Lau Wah Hoy his wife Tan King Bee decided to go on their own, they added the “Sin” which means “new” to the name.

Today the name is synonymous with home-style cooking at reasonable prices. Judging by the popularity of the restaurant, tables are best reserved in advance However, if you show up on a whim, they make a quick turnover as service is fast and people leave the moment their meal is over and the wait for a table is never more than a few minutes or so during which time, one can order one’s food.

The menu is in handwritten Chinese, so for the non-Chinese speaker, ordering can be somewhat daunting but for  readers out there, I’ve included all the Cantonese phonetics, so give it a go.

Signature Dishes

The  dish for which Sin Hup Kee is famous is their Kon Jeen Kai or Honey Chicken. RM7/12/18 for S/M/L. These are chunks of chicken cut Chinese style (on the bone), marinated and dry fried. Every delicious morsel of chicken is generously coated in an almost-black honey-flavoured sauce which clings to the meat and not languishing on the plate as is often the case when this dish is not well executed. The chicken was tender and cooked to perfection…..not too dry and not soggy.

Next to arrive was their Sam Wong Dan literally translated to mean the 3-King Egg. RM5/7. This dish while simple in its method of preparation – the fresh eggs are beaten, mixed with water, salted egg yolk and chopped century black eggs, seasoned and steamed till just set – requires quite a bit of skill in getting the proportions and timing absolutely spot on. The dish arrived velvety smooth with a generous addition of both salted and century eggs.

Then came the Ham Yu Fah Lam Po a sizzling claypot of pork belly sliced paper thin, with onions, dry red chillies, and the piece de resistance salted fish, whose aroma came wafting towards our table even before the dish arrived. RM12. I couldn’t stop picking at this dish throughout the meal and even took an extra spoon of rice to soak up the delectable sauce at the bottom.

The other dishes then came in rapid succession. Their signature Assam Fish Head, cut pieces of fish head peeking out from a tangy, well-blended tamarind sauce that had bite but not spicy enough to intimidate those with timid palates. RM25.

Next to arrive was another signature dish, their Tow Kok, Ai Kwa, Ha Mai, Choi Po special, a fried concoction of long beans, brinjals, dried prawns, preserved turnip  and garlic. RM7/8/12. Eaten hot off the wok, this dish is one of the reasons Ella and I keep returning to Sin Hup Kee.

Winning Loyal Fans

Other dishes for which this restaurant has won its fans include their Tong Po Yoke, soya-braised belly pork, RM18/28, This was one of the tastiest  braised pork belly I’ve had in a long while. Another equally popular dish is their Vietnamese Curry Chicken or mixed seafood, a pungent dry curry fragrant with curry leaves. RM12/15/22 and their individual portions of Kai Lap Fan a rice dish topped with a sauce made with chicken cubes – RM4 – is certainly value for money.

Sin Hup Kee is open both for lunch and dinner and on weekends, to cater to more people they open up their second floor which in effect doubles the seating capacity. As for me, I prefer to avoid the crowds and if I’m hankering for good old-fashioned Cantonese fare, I’ll just call, place my order and ‘Tah Pau’ or takeaway to enjoy in the comfort of my own home.

Restoran Sin Hup Kee

Address: 17 Jalan Leong Sin Nam, 30300 Ipoh

Tel: 05-2423128

Operating time: 11.30 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.; 5.00 p.m. –

10 p.m. Closed: Tuesdays