Fish has always been an auspicious symbol for the Chinese, as can be witnessed by the ubiquitous Koi ponds that abound in homes in Ipoh. For those unable to afford fish ponds, there is always that over-copied version of the swimming carp or Koi in all its myriad hues adorning many a wall of offices and homes.
The reason for its popularity lies in its symbolic significance because the Chinese word for fish, yu, sounds like the word for riches or abundance, and it is believed that eating fish will help your wishes come true in the year to come. And combined with another word yi, it signifies smooth passage or riches and abundance will come smoothly. Fish is steamed whole especially during the Chinese New Year period, as cutting up the fish will mean cutting off abundance. So with the festive season approaching I went fishing….. figuratively that is… with my Foodie friend Ginla Foo, and discovered Sunny’s restaurant.
Situated at the entrance to Taman Saikat in Gunong Rapat, Sunny Seafood Beer Garden is essentially a shack with tables and chairs. There are fairly decent toilet facilities though, located in an outhouse away from the restaurant, complete with sink and running water. Though basic in amenities, the kitchen and the variety of menu items more than make up for its lack of glamour and in Ipoh, as all we Foodies know, it’s the food that counts.
Value for money
Back to the fish: I was given a choice of live Haruan (snakehead), wild Tilapia or wild Lampang (I searched for an English name and came up empty) and knowing the first two, I settled for the third, the Lampang. And was I well rewarded. The fish was big enough for our group of seven and the best bonus was the humongous roe that came with the fish. Of course one can never be sure to get a fish with roe but this Lampang, caught in the wild and kept alive in a tank was steamed to perfection, its flesh smooth and succulent, and the roe, firm and with not a hint of fishiness or muddiness. At RM45 per kilo, it was great value for money.
Crème de la Crème
Next came what I thought was a soya braised belly pork dish. I was surprised by the springiness of the skin though, as the meat was fully tender and to my surprise discovered that it was wild boar; again at RM15 per portion, great value. But do order in advance as they don’t always have stock. We then tucked into kampong chicken cooked in rice wine (the post-partum Chinese staple for ladies) a dish I’m usually not partial to as I have always found the rice wine too sweet for my taste but in this case, the sweetness was just perfect – RM30. The dishes kept coming: steamed homemade fish balls RM9 for 10 pieces; fried Tang Hoon (bean thread noodles) and Beehoon (rice noodles) RM9 each; duck that was steamed, then roasted (tasty but a tad tough) RM48 for a whole duck. Following all this was the crème de la crème of the evening: the Crab with Bean-thread Noodles, two very large crabs bubbling in its own juices with the bean noodles soaking it all in – RM53.
We left groaning from the table, promising to return at proprietor’s Sunny Chang’s pleas. This we did the following week with alacrity and savoured their twice fried Kway Teow (rice noodles) with salted egg yolk RM22 (delectable); their crab fried with salted egg yolk (good but I preferred the clay pot version with bean noodles) RM 42 for three smaller crabs; their mutton curry with its unique Chinese touch that beats most Indian curry houses hands down RM30 and their stewed pork knuckle with mustard greens, only available if ordered in advance; RM42 for the whole knuckle. The taste of this last dish is similar to the much sought after home concoction, the ‘Tsoi Keok’ or chop suey whose origins came from left over banquet food. This had the right touch of tanginess from the assam keping and the chillies added the appropriate degree of piquancy to the dish.
Good news for CNY
According to its proprietor, Sunny’s is open from 12 noon till whenever, and they never close! The good news is that they’ll be open throughout the festive Chinese New Year season especially the first few days when most Chinese restaurants are closed. With the advantage of ample parking space, Sunny’s is set to be a hit this coming festive season.
Sunny Seafood Beer Garden
Lot 139474, Jalan Raja Musa Mahadi
31650 IpohSunny Chang: 012-558 1313
To order: Ms Lee 016-557 0608