Musings on Food
By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
I used to believe that there was no Thai food worth eating in Ipoh, especially since I often go to Phuket and Bangkok and get to eat the authentic dishes there. Whatever I used to get here that passed as Thai were usually sweetened to local tastes and I could never find the very typical simple Thai dishes or ‘peasant’ food that are ubiquitous in Thailand and for which I have developed a hankering.
One such dish is Larp Moo, a minced pork (or it could be chicken) cold dish with its own distinctive characteristics. Minced pork is often mixed with slivered pig’s skin and tossed with lime, chilli flakes, coriander leaves, some shallots and a special dry-fried raw rice powder that lends an interesting roasted flavour and texture to the mixture. At Suphata Trupsum (the name of the chef proprietor), the Larb is most unusual with added pigs’ small intestines and liver chunks. Being an offal lover, I found it delectable. RM15.
This is a brand new restaurant and when my friend Chan Seow Lok invited me to sample the food here, I jumped at the opportunity. Lisa as she is called, serves a mixture of Thai and Chao Tsou dishes, the latter stemming from the large Chinese population in Thailand known for their regional specials.
A long time settler in Ipoh, Lisa goes often to the Thai border to pick up her fresh ingredients and as the sole chef in the kitchen, dishes up her creations in a jiffy. Her dishes are hearty and robust, nothing pretentious about them but the taste is distinctly, authentically Thai as are her Chao Tsou dishes which compare to some of the best I’ve had in China.
Even her Chicken Rice (which is quite popular in Thailand) comes close to what I grew up with in Singapore, the rice fluffy and tasty from the chicken broth, the chicken fresh from market, tender, succulent and the accompanying chilli sauce fiery enough for my taste buds. RM50 for a whole chicken.
Being an offal lover, I have often lamented not finding in Ipoh, the Chao Tsou version of the soya braised large intestine done to perfection, like the ones I used to get in HongKong where there is a large choice of Chao Tsou restaurants. Here at Suphata Trupsum, I have found offal heaven.
The large intestine arrived on a platter with braised pigs trotters and tofu. The pigs trotters were tender, the sinews and tendons soft and chewy and the meat falling off the bone while the pièce de résistance, the large intestine was braised to perfection, very well cleaned and nary an offensive smell, succulent and ‘umami’. RM18 per plate.
While all this talk of offal may be repulsive to some of my dear readers out there, let me assure you that Lisa has many other dishes up her sleeve to satisfy any taste buds and budget. The steamed Plakapong or Barramundi (Siakap in Malay) was done Thai style, with garlic, chillies, herbs and lime. Fresh and light RM35 for whole fish.
The next fish dish was the Pla Tu or Kembong fish a kind of small mackerel that is popular both locally as well as in Thailand. This is served steamed and lightly grilled or fried with a hot dipping sauce and a heaping plate of raw herbs and vegetables which is meant to be eaten with the fish. The herbs especially the fragrance of the Thai basil, lend a refreshing contrast to the fiery sauce and the firm flesh of the fish. RM25 for a set of two whole fish.
The ‘Lo Ngap’ or braised duck, again done Chao Tsou style, was tender and tasty RM35 followed by deep fried “Tsa Tsui Yu’ or Whiting was well seasoned, crisp, crunchy and can almost be eaten whole, bones and all. RM18 for 5 whole fish.
We then had the Goong Chien Nam Pla, which although ubiquitous in many Thai restaurants in Bangkok, was the first for me in Ipoh. This is Thai sashimi if you will, raw prawns (must be very fresh) ‘cooked’ in fresh lime juice, fish sauce and amply seasoned with fresh garlic, chillies and cilantro. I tasted the first prawn with trepidation, always being suspicious of eating seafood raw, especially ones purchased from local markets. To my delight, the prawns were very fresh and the marinade of lime, fish sauce and garlic had removed any fishiness from them. RM22.
Now no Thai meal for me is complete without the following two dishes: the Green Curry and the Kao Pad Pla Kiem or the fried rice with salted fish. The Green curry chicken arrived looking as it should: smooth thick sauce in the classical green colour, cooked with egg plant, herbs, chillies and spices. I asked if the paste was a packaged one and was delighted to discover that it was not, rather, hand ground and prepared by Chef Lisa herself. This was excellent, the sauce umami and spicy enough without being searing.
Finally after all the innumerable dishes and die-hard Foodie that I am, I had to ask for the one dish I invariably end a Thai meal with – the Kao Phad Pla Kiem or salted fish fried rice. This arrived in typical Thai fashion, in the shape of an inverted rice bowl, each grain of rice firm but fluffy. The rice was tasty enough and the only lament I had was that there wasn’t enough salted fish being used and instead of the dried salted fish, perhaps the next time I’ll request for the ‘Mui Heong’ (decaying fragrance) variety. RM5.
Restaurant Suphata Trupsum
354 Lorong Bercham 11, Kampung Bercham
Tel: Lisa 016-591 8272