Over the years of living in Ipoh, I’ve often heard the name Pusing whose most famous dish has always lingered in the recesses of the Foodie part of my mind, partly because of the squeamish connotations the dish conjures up and in large part because it piqued my curiosity.
I am referring to the infamous Kow Tsai Ngap or Puppy Duck. Whether it is an urban legend or its original recipe really came from preparing dog meat (which I’m inclined to believe is true considering that the Chinese are notorious for eating anything under the sun that moves), I finally went with some friends to satisfy my palate and my curiosity. The historical fact that Pusing was a large communist enclave during the first Emergency might lend credence to the dog eating rumour as food had to be scarce at that time.
It does require some effort to get there as Pusing is about 15 km outside of Ipoh. If you take the Lumut highway, continue past the turn offs for Falim, Menglembu and after a large Petronas station on the left, you’ll see a huge sign board at a traffic junction on the right that says Daerah Majlis Batu Gajah. That is your signal to take a right and follow that road till you come to the T junction that is Pusing. The restaurant Ming Feong is on the left a few shop houses down after turning left on the main road of Pusing.
The restaurant is unprepossessing, the old style coffee shop of another era with ample fans, well spaced out tables and the usual listings of their specialties in Chinese on the wall. The lady who served us was friendly noting that we were unfamiliar with the dishes and made the recommendations for us.
Naturally the first dish that came to our lips was the Puppy Duck. When I asked her about the doggie origins of the dish she denied it vehemently and said that she has never known the restaurant to have ever served dog in its 48 years of operation!
The ‘Puppy Duck’ came in a clay pot, cut into bite-size pieces, drenched in a very dark sauce that was slightly sweetish. The duck was the ‘Fan Ngap’ a kampong variety of duck that is less fat than the usual farm raised species. The duck was tender although somewhat bony, lacking meat. The sauce was strongly redolent of old ginger which imparted its flavour and permeated the duck pieces – RM23.
The next to arrive was one of their signature dishes, a preparation that the owner had personally learnt in Hangzhou, China. Called Sai Wu Wan Yu or West Lake Carp, this is big Carp, deep fried to a crisp and coated with a slightly sweet sauce. RM18/20 depending on size of fish.
Highly recommended was their Lam Yu Pai Kuat, pork ribs marinated with red preserved bean curd and deep fried. Tasty, but too sweet for my palate although my friends loved it – RM16.
We followed this up with the Sang Har Meen fresh water prawns with crispy noodles served with a thickish egg sauce. RM15 with two prawns. The Tau Cheong Fah Lam, pork brisket braised with preserved yellow beans was tasty RM10 and the Hakka Taufu Pok Mun Har Mai fried bean curd puffs braised in soya sauce with dried prawns, superlative – RM7.
All in all Ming Feong serves good wholesome Hakka style food at reasonable prices.
But a visit to Pusing is not complete without a foodie browse at the stalls diagonally across the street from Ming Feong where the almost lost tradition of Hakka-style kuih is still available and makes the drive out to Pusing just to buy them worth every mile.
There are about three larger stalls and a few smaller stalls selling a mouth-watering array of kuih. Unlike the ubiquitous Nonya Kuih, the kuih here in Pusing is strictly Hakka, with the most interesting and rare one being the Hak Pang or black pancake, its colour derived from the Kai Si Tang (literally translated to mean chicken sh*t climber) a local creeper that is touted to remove wind. It is a flat pancake made with the above mentioned plant and glutinous rice flour, with no filling and flavoured with coconut milk. It has an interesting chewy texture quite unlike the soft texture of usual kuihs and is not too sweet. Even I with my absence of a sweet tooth, loved it. Other kuihs in these stalls are equally interesting with my favourites being the glutinous rice balls filled with sesame or coconut. Most kuihs sell for 35 cents with some going as high as 60 cents! A steal when compared to their city cousins.
While browsing check out the cucur udang (fried prawn pancakes), the fried sweet potato balls, the Wu Tao Ko (steamed taro cake), the Mok Su Pang (tapioca cake) and a host of others. Another interesting stall sells Hahm Yoke Chung glutinous rice dumplings with pork fat, dried prawns, mushroom, black-eyed peas RM3 for the ‘pillow’ dumplings with salted egg – RM1.70 for normal wedge shaped without salted eggs.
So get in your cars and take a leisurely drive out to Pusing. Tasty treats await.
MING FEONG RESTAURANT Owner: Chook Hing Ho, P.P.N. P.P.T. A.M.P.
37 Main Road, 31550 Pusing