Nowadays, as a result of the popularity of the Ipoh Echo as ‘The Voice of the Ipoh Community’, my column appears to be widely read and perfect strangers come up to me at restaurants and eating places to either tell me that they have tried some of my recommendations, or to make some recommendations of their own.
My tailor Alan, while not a stranger to me, did just that recently when I went to him for some tailoring work. He pointed to a corner shop across the road (Ipoh Garden East past Citrus) and asked me if I had eaten there. Always on the alert for new culinary delights, I jumped at the opportunity and pumped him for more information.
Faux Sharks Fin
Alan quickly reeled off a list of dishes that this restaurant Sam Poh is famous for and one dish made me prick up my ears. Faux (as in fake) Sharks fin that tastes like the real McCoy. Now I have always loved Sharks fin…yes you greenies out there…I am admitting to this heinous crime…but lately owing to pressure from friends, friends’ friends, and particularly, from friends’ children, I have not been ordering this dish. It does not mean that I can shut off the hankerings, so when Alan mentioned Faux Sharks fin, I felt compelled to satisfy my taste buds.
Twelve of us descended on Sam Poh one Sunday evening to find it busy to overflowing. As I had taken the trouble to book earlier, we found ourselves on the pavement at an extra large table complete with (oh what a treat!) red table cloth.
A sign posted on the wall warned us that alcohol brought to the premises would be charged a corkage fee per bottle. After much to-ing and fro-ing we agreed on being charged a flat fee of RM20 for all the bottles we brought, for which we were rewarded with two large bottles of water, ice and glasses.
The dishes arrived in rapid succession. Starting with the Fish Head curry, grouper head cut into chunks in a mild very tasty ‘lemak’ curry sauce, smooth with ladies fingers, and other vegetables. RM34. This was followed by the ‘Fatt Put’ a fried mashed taro basket filled to the brim with a mixture of vegetable – french beans, mushrooms, carrots. The yam basket was crisp on the bite and soft and smooth inside, the vegetables which are sauteed separately and then placed into the yam ring, were also crisp and full of ‘wok hei’ a sure sign of good Chinese stir fry. RM13.
The next dish to arrive was so scrumptious that we all unanimously voted to order a second portion. This was a large grilled squid, the tentacles crisped at the edges, the body gently charred to release that inimitable grilled squid fragrance, topped with a mildly flavoured abalone sauce. Utterly delectable. RM22 per portion. Egg plant with salted fish came next, well braised, with hints of salted fish flavours, RM9.
Almost the real McCoy
Pork belly slices, fried crispy and topped with a sweetish teriyaki/barbecue sauce was a hit at the table especially with the westerners who were with us that night. RM15. Then came the reason I was there in the first place: the Faux Sharks fin which came braised with silky bean curd and oyster mushrooms. I was expecting some soggy strands of jelly passing off as sharks fin but I was delightfully surprised to discover some thickish, quite springy strands of look alikes that actually tasted almost like the real thing. The addition of black vinegar brought back memories of the bowls of the real stuff I used to eat in my pre-ecological days. A yummy ecological and economical substitute at RM12.
Another dish worthy of mention was the braised pork leg with pig’s tendons. Hints of Shao Tsing Chinese rice wine permeated the succulent chunks of meat, bones, tendons and skin; velvety smooth, gliding down one’s gullet with a slurp and a swallow. RM15.
The Ham Dan (salted egg) chicken was a tad on the salty side but nevertheless delectable, liberally coated with salted egg yolk that was more of a sauce than a batter. RM18. We finished our meal with one of the best Hokkien fried noodles, a dish I have not eaten in a very long time, Singapore being the only place where I’ve ever had it (other than when my mother used to do it). What is special about these yellow noodles which arrived looking very bland and anemic is the almost soupy consistency which in the best of traditions is usually fried with squid, pork belly and prawns and bean sprouts. The soupiness comes from prawn stock which lends its distinctive flavours to the whole dish. RM12.
All in, our bill for 12 people came to RM223 and as we left all groaning from the surfeit, we promised each other to return and do it all over again.
Sam Poh Restaurant
17 Persiaran Bandar Bahrun 16
Desa Tambun Indah
Tel.: 016 5516869 Elliza: 016 501 9345