I have never ceased to be amazed at the plethora of food stalls and restaurants in and around Ipoh. Restaurants open and restaurants close, some move and are never to be seen again and some perennials just stay put, serving the same old, same old. But the ones that remain stay true to their quality standards and the faithful customers continue to beat a path to their door.
One such location is the short stretch of Cowan Street or Jalan Raja Ekram between Jalan Dato Seri Ahmad Said and Jalan Leong Sin Nam. Here, the ground is thick with coffee shops and restaurants, each with their own unique offerings, open at different times and appealing to different tastes and pockets.
This column today is devoted to covering the large variety and choices available on this stretch, with taste treats for all tastes, palates and religious orientation.
Beginning from the Tower Regency Hotel end of the road, I began with breakfast at Kedai Kopi Keng Nam (No. 27) where their curry mee (big – RM4.50 and small – RM3.80) packs in the customers and they’re inevitably sold out by 11.00 a.m. Here too, sample prawn mee (RM3); their lor mai fan (sticky rice) with chicken curry or their chee cheong fun (flat rice noodles with bits of dried prawns and scallions) and wu tau ko (steamed Taro cake).
From here move on to Restoran Ipoh Padang Curry House (No. 93) where South Indian food is featured. Here you will find an assortment of curries (by the portion and dependent on type ordered), nasi briyani (RM7.00); mutton briyani (8.50); murtabak (RM4-5.00); and banana leaf meals. What I like best about this curry house is that unlike other Indian banana leaf places, this one serves different types of thosai all day long except between the hours of 1-2.00 p.m. (RM1-1.70 each). Open from 5.30 a.m. – 8.30 p.m. For more info you can call Anand at 012-5240122 or Vasu 019-5115137. Halal.
Best Mee Rebus
Moving further along on the same side of the road a few doors down is Nelli’s Deli, a newly-opened restaurant serving one of the best mee rebus I’ve ever tasted in Ipoh. Neither too sweet nor starchy, this mee rebus hit all the right taste notes for me (RM4.50). I then tasted their nasi lemak which came with a choice of chicken (RM5.00), cockles or kerang RM3.50; Squid or sotong RM3.50; and prawns or udang RM3.50. Do ask for the homemade sambal belacan which was spicily tantalising. Other items on the menu here include an asam laksa of a pretty good standard (RM4.50) and a fried rice special at RM4.50 which was very tasty. Open from 8.00 a.m.-6.00 p.m. Halal.
A few doors away from Nelli’s Deli we pass Koh Samui, Ipoh’s most well-known Thai restaurant where the decor is up market, the menu extensive and the food is a mix of Thai/Chinese. Halal.
For the Pub Crowd
Opposite to these two we find Let’s Rock (No. 48), a famous Kao Chiew Pai (old brand name) from Pasir Puteh specialising in curry noodles and ‘yeong liew’. Opening only in the afternoon from 4.30-11 p.m., this coffee shop caters to the pub crowd which has grown in numbers given the proliferation of pubs springing up in the area. Noodles RM1.30-1.50; yong liew 60 sen each. Apparently the curry fish head at the adjacent stall is worth checking out but I have yet to do so (S – RM23, M – RM26, L – RM32).
Coffee Shops on the Crossroad
Across the intersection, we come to three coffee shops at the intersection of Cowan St. and Jalan Leong Sin Nam. These are all open from early morning till after lunch and each one features a variety of individual stalls with different specialties. I will mention only the items that I feel are worth tasting, the rest being quite run-of-the-mill and mediocre in taste.
Kedai Makanan & Minuman Hua Nam (No. 30) has had either a changeover in ownership or they decided on giving the shop a face-lift. Whatever the case may be, the shop used to be called Wah Pun and was closed for quite a period before re-opening. The new stalls (some of them are new) offer some quite spectacular specialties as in the Gunung Rapat Asam Laksa – RM3; yeong liew – RM0.60-1.30; Siew Bee Nyonya Kuih (must try their rempah udang), Mee Goreng Pangkor which is quite misleading as it is ‘char koay teow’ and a delicious one at that – RM3.80; Hokien Prawn Mee – tender chicken, kangkong, tasty soup – RM3.80.
Kafe Wah Nam (No. 32) opposite does not fare so well in comparison. The only stalls I can recommend here is the Pan Mee in the morning and the Chee Cheong Fun stuffed with sangkwang. Restoran Chang Keong Dim Sum (No. 34) which is next door has a stall here in Wah Nam and the recommendation here is their Fried Carrot Cake 5.30 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.
Across the road from Wah Nam is Kafe Ipoh Central (No. 51-53). Here the items worth savouring are their famous Guan Kee Bak Chang (sticky-rice dumpling) which is of a good standard – RM5.20; Hor Hee – RM4; Apom Balik – RM0.90 each; Kee Heong Bak Kut Teh – from RM8; nyonya kuih – RM0.70 and Ipoh (Padang) Mee Goreng – RM3.50.
Last but not least is Restoran Ayam Tauge which only opens at night and even sporadically at that. Some swear by this small shop as the best Kai See Hor Fun (Ipoh’s famous rice noodle chicken soup) in all of Ipoh. Don’t get into your car expecting to eat these noodles though for they may not be open, but then there is always Lo Wong Tauge Ayam around the next corner!