SeeFoon continues her relentless pursuit of little known ‘Tai Chau’ restaurants

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By See Foon Chan-Koppen

You can’t miss it if you drive along Jalan Pasir Puteh coming from town and towards Station 18. A corner coffee shop directly opposite Shatin Court, with a huge veranda, Kafe Pasir Puteh also sports a giant television where the local denizens gather for their tea or beers and swap stories of the day.

The sole chef, Chan Tuck Chai, presides in the open-air kitchen, dispensing mouth-watering stir fries, steamed freshwater fish and deep-fried goodies to local food cognoscenti.

Chinese Speaking Essential

So it must have taken the Chef and patrons by surprise when a troop of us marched in and sat down to order, a veritable United Nations of nationalities with only four out of the twelve, Malaysians. They had hardly ever seen so many foreigners, let alone one who looked like a foreigner but spoke fluent Cantonese (me). I must warn readers though if you do wish to go, to make sure you have a Chinese speaking friend with you, as ordering is all by recommendation only. And one last word of warning…do make sure you go with an empty bladder as you don’t want to even approach the toilet!

Chef Ah Chai who has been cooking since the age of 12 has, by the now current age of 36, had many years of experience behind him to serve up some pretty masterful dishes; having learnt from Hong Kong chefs at different periods of his life.

Best Fish Balls

The first dish we had was the homemade Saito Fish Balls, one of their signature dishes. These were some of the best fish balls I’ve tasted in Ipoh, springy, succulent with just the right degree of firmness, just blanched and served with an excellent sambal belacan sauce – 50 pieces for RM35.

Next on the menu was Bitter Gourd sautéed with roast pork, with a hint of garlic and black beans. This had good ‘wok hei’ or the flavour of the wok, as the Chinese like to judge their stir-fried dishes – RM20.

Wild Caught River Fish

Following this was a steamed Lampang Fish, a wild caught river fish that has to be eaten carefully as it has many bones. This was steamed with yellow bean paste and grated ginger. The fish that arrived was big enough for the twelve of us and the meat was tender and sweet. Their fresh fish changes daily and one has to ask for the recommendation of the day. Do ask for the price first as some fresh river fish can cost an arm and a leg. This one weighed in at 1.8 kg for RM86.

Non Cloying

We then had the steamed Kampung Chicken, tender chunks of chicken served with ginger and scallions – RM20 for half a chicken; followed by a delicious Petai (stinky beans ) and Sayur Paku (wild jungle fern) fried with fresh and dried prawns in a sambal sauce. This dish hit all the right notes for my taste buds: spicy, crunchy and no cloying taste of sweetness which is often found in sambal dishes from other restaurants. Similarly their sambal belacan sauce too is devoid of sugar which is just the way I prefer it – RM27.

Rice and Noodles

Their Tofu fried with garlic and dried prawns came next, crispy chunks of melt-in-mouth tofu crisped on the outside and juicy custard soft inside with the garlic and dried prawns lending extra crispiness in the mouth – RM6/8/12. Next to come was a simple sautéed green vegetable to be followed by a Fried Noodles done ‘Mee Goreng” style: yellow noodles with bean sprouts and chicken but with a curried flavour and slightly spicy – RM20. The Fried Rice that came after this was almost too much for most but as it was so delectable we all found ourselves tucking in. Fried with long beans and carrots, the long beans diced fine and still crunchy, the carrots lending their mild sweetness with each grain of rice separable and no enveloping oily film, the rice was a lovely culmination to a most enjoyable meal – RM10.

Other Specialties

I talked to Chef Ah Chai afterwards and asked for other signature dishes which we didn’t have an opportunity to try. He recommended the famous ‘Tualang’ prawns or Udang Galah which he serves two ways, head steamed and tails fried, RM80 per kg and do pre-order; the wild caught Frog’s Legs which are available year round, RM40 per kg and pre-order.

On receiving the bill and leaving totally satiated from the table I made a private resolution to return and try other undiscovered specialties from Chef Ah Chai in the future. Our total bill for 12 came to RM218

Kafe Pasir Puteh #4 Lot 73266 Jalan Pasir Puteh
Tel: 012-5095970/016-5630817 Open 12.30 -11.00 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays every fortnight.