“to graze – to eat a variety of appetizers as a full meal” (dictionary.com)
Food stalls all over Asia are a natural grazer’s delight and particularly in Ipoh where there is a cornucopia of available outlets. All one needs to do is gather a group of friends, hop into the car and whizz off, not having to contend with stressful traffic jams, park with ease along the roadside and graze from outlet to outlet.
I did this recently with my usual group of Foodie friends led by the indomitable Ginla Foo who somehow manages to ferret out some of the most obscure but delectable places where hidden culinary treats await.
This time, the general locale chosen was Chemor. We began with Tanah Hitam, at Kampung Tersusun at a local coffee shop named Chee Kong. Tanah Hitam is well sign posted along the road leading from Chemor to Tanjung Rambutan. Coming from Chemor look for a large Chinese arch beside the Tanah Hitam Police Station and turn in. Follow that road and within less than one kilometre, the restaurant is on the right.
The specialty of this outlet is its confinement or post-natal noodles. They also serve a variety of other noodle dishes but as we were grazing, we went only for the Yuet Por Fun or confinement noodles. This culinary tradition dates back to historical times when food was the only medicine and women who had just given birth required nourishing food to restore vitality. What sets this dish apart from regular noodle soup is the ingredients that go into it: oodles of fresh liver (full of vitamins and source of B12 and folic acid), small intestines (same), pork and fish slices, prawns and a minced pork omelette redolent with ginger (Chinese panacea for many things!). And I must not forget the key ingredient: a small bottle of Chinese Shao Tsing rice wine mixed with their home brew is placed on the table for you to help yourself. Although 11.30 a.m. was a tad too early to be imbibing, I nevertheless, in the name of research (sic) put in a splash and found it enhanced the taste of the soup to greater heights. RM5 per bowl with choice of noodles. Another outlet in Bercham run by the son also serves the same dish.
We then headed back towards Chemor turning right at the traffic lights when we hit the main road of Jalan Kuala Kangsar till we came to yet another Chinese arch right beside the Kanthan Baru Police Station when we turned right, then left and at the corner of Kanthan Baru 14, we came to Restoran Chong Chew.
We came here for their Hakka Yeong Liu, and as it was a Saturday, their Lui Char (available only on weekends), their Tsai Kwei and their Chee Cheong Fun with pig skin and/or wild boar curry. Their Yeong Liu were very generous sized pieces of tofu, brinjals, bitter melon stuffed with a fish and pork paste and fried. Worthy of particular mention is their stuffed tofu, big chunks of a very tasty tofu stuffed with a paste that had a lingering aftertaste of coriander. No sauce was needed for their Yeong Liu as every morsel was well seasoned. RM1.30 per piece for the large tofu and RM1 for all others.
Weekend Lui Char
Next came the Lui Char, served only on weekends because of the very complicated preparation involved: rice topped with a mixture of chopped greens, peanuts, choi po (preserved radish) long beans, and served with a bowl of thick hot green ‘tea’ which is a blend of basil, mint, sesame seeds, sweet potato leaves, dried shrimps and other secret ingredients known only to the Hakka Hor Por chefs who make this specialty – RM3.20; large RM4.00. Proprietor Chong Kee Kew swears that all the ingredients are completely natural and no MSG is used.
Disappearing Tsai Kwei
There were so many other temptations here that we ordered one of each to taste. The Tsai Kwei, glutinous-rice steamed dumpling, another of their specialties, comes in pink, stuffed with a choice of ham choi (preserved Chinese cabbage), sengkuang (yam bean, a kind of turnip), peanuts, (slightly sweet), garlic scallions and kow choi (chives) were all tasty, my favourites being the yam bean, preserved Chinese cabbage and the chives. Unlike other places where I’ve tried this fast disappearing delicacy, these were not dripping in oil and felt a lot healthier – RM0.70 each.
Next to come was the Chee Cheong Fun which came served with a choice of curried pig skin with long bean, RM2.60; their mushroom sauce, RM2.10; or the Wild Boar curry, RM3.80. Their homemade Lo Mai Kai (steamed glutinous rice with mushrooms and pork and chicken) is well worth tasting – RM2.40.
By this time, although we only ordered one portion of everything and shared amongst six people, we were stuffed to the gills and had to give up on our plans to graze a bit further so we abandoned plans for a third location which will be covered in the next issue.
Kedai Makanan Chee Kong
(N 04 43.560 E 101 08.653)
201 Kampung Tersusun, Tanah Hitam
Tel: 016-5212649 (Mother, Kwai Lan) 6.00 a.m.-12.30 p.m.
Bercham Outlet: 89, Bercham Itaman Satu (From Tesco Express past the police station on right); Tel: 010-2205121 (Son, Kevin) 7.00 a.m.-1.30 p.m.
Restoran Chong Chew
(N 04 44.538 E 101 07.173)
282 Kanthan Baru, 31200 Chemor
Tel: 05-2017616 8.00 a.m.-6.00 p.m.
(most items are gone by 2.30 p.m.)