By See Foon Chan- Koppen
When Dato’ Daniel Tay called, it was supposed to be a casual get-together, a relaxed meal with family, kids and friends, T-shirts and shorts being the order of the evening as the venue was a fan cooled outlet.
Relaxed it was indeed but little did I expect (nor my two friends whom I invited along), to be tucking into a total of 15 different dishes which were shared between eleven of us. Mind you, the dishes were not humongous but they just kept coming.
Jale Inn Restaurant is an unpretentious ‘Tai Chao’ restaurant on Gopeng Road, shortly after the turn-off to the Swimming Club on the way to Simpang Pulai and beyond. It is a corner shop lot with the name prominently displayed and coming from town it is hard to miss.
Although the decor is nothing to write home about, the dishes that come steaming out of the kitchen certainly is. Usually with restaurants like these, there will be some hits and some misses and while I usually only recommend the hits, I will sometimes comment on the misses for being too sweet or too sour, etc. But in the case of this Tai Chao restaurant, every single one of the dishes that I tried were hits!
We began with a steamed Tilapia (Kam Fong) smothered in a chilli bean sauce, the flesh smooth and soft and the sauce with just the right balance of flavours. As we were so many at the two tables (we were passing dishes back and forth) we ordered another fish which was the catfish or Pak So Kung which came redolent with ginger cooked in a claypot. The catfish was extremely fresh with none of the muddy taste that sometimes come with this fish.
For the fishermen amongst my readers out there, it is useful to note that they will also steam any fish that you bring along and charge RM16 per fish and up, depending on the size. So if you happen to catch a fancy sea or river fish, this is a good place to bring it to as their steaming techniques and recipes are good.
We then had the Claypot Lamb which was robust in a thick dark sauce oozing with the fragrance of ginger. This was followed by the Baby Romaine lettuce with salted whitebait or Ngan Yu Tsai, the greens still crisp to the bite.
Other dishes then came in quick succession. The Tse Tsap Pai Kwat, soya sauce spare ribs were tender while the vinegared Pig’s Trotters were succulent, juicy with the right balance of vinegar and sugar. Fried Sotong or Squid chunks were crispy on the outside, fresh and tender inside.
Jale Inn is famous for their frogs and we ordered two styles of preparation, one with dried chilli and the other steamed with essence of chicken and wine. Each preparation had its own inherent goodness and the frog legs were very fresh, velvety smooth on the palate and worth going back for more.
Home cooking Chinese style was represented by the next dish, the steamed minced pork with salted fish, one of my favourite comfort foods. The one at Jale Inn was perfect, the pork well marinated with the salted fish aroma permeating the whole dish.
Fried kangkong or convolvulus fried with sambal belacan arrived piping hot and full of ‘wok hei’ a Chinese accolade for dishes that have been well fried in high enough heat, retaining the goodness of the greens and melding the rest of the ingredients in a fragrant melange. So were the Fried French beans with onions and minced pork, the beans still crisp on the bite and the minced pork lending its umami presence to the beans.
It certainly was a fishy evening for another fish dish arrived, this time the fried Black Pomfret topped with preserved mustard greens. The black pomfret which lends itself to frying or spicy sauces was fresh and the mustard greens with its sauce provided the perfect touch of salty and tart notes to set off the fish.
As each dish only allowed for one morsel for each person to taste, we continued with our feasting, this time moving on to the rice and noodles, ordering three different dishes. The first of these was the Mee Goreng, with a distinctive Indian flavour but embellished with fried soft tofu instead of the harder one found in the Indian version. This was spicy with good wok hei but it was the Fried Rice that won the evening, delectable in taste and texture, each grain of rice separate and not too oily.
- Steamed Tilapia with Bean Paste (by weight) – RM35.60
- Ginger Claypot Catfish – RM35
- Claypot Lamb – RM12
- Frog Legs Kung Po – RM28
- Frog Legs Chicken Essence and Wine – M35
- Vinegared Pig’s Trotters – RM12
- Fried Kangkong with sambal belacan – RM6
- French Beans with minced pork – RM8
- Spare Ribs any style – RM12
- Black Pomfret with mustard greens – RM28
- Garoupa Fish Head with black bean sauce (seasonal) – RM30
- Baby Romaine lettuce with whitebait – RM7
- Steamed minced pork with salted fish – RM12
- Fried Rice – RM8
- All Noodles per one person portion – RM4.50
150 Jalan Gopeng, Ipoh.
Tel: 05-312 1398 or 019-557 2080
GPS: E 101 39.7” N 4 34’ 27.9”
Open: 6.30pm-2am; Closed 2 days a month.