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see foon chan-koppen - food review - ipoh restaurant

SeeFoon uncovers treasures from a ‘long time ago

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musings on food - food reviewsBy See Foon Chan-Koppen 

When I first saw the signboard Lama-Lama of this restaurant in Falim (coming from Jalan Menglembu turn into road that leads to the Lumut Highway and from Lumut Highway, vice versa) I thought I was walking into a restaurant catering to Tibetan Buddhists as the name Lama is an honorific given to recognised teachers in that tradition. I soon realised that it had more to do with the Bahasa word for long time and translated from the Chinese expression of forever.

see foon chan-koppen - food review - ipoh restaurantsee foon chan-koppen - food review - ipoh restaurantsee foon chan-koppen - food review - ipoh restaurantsee foon chan-koppen - food review - ipoh restaurantsee foon chan-koppen - food review - ipoh restaurantPutting aside my fascination with names, I sat down with friends to enjoy a most delectable feast; as usual recommended by my foodie friend, Ginla Foo who blazes a trail across the length and breadth of Ipoh and its surrounds in search of good eats.

The dishes on offer at this restaurant are extensive. Proprietress Madam Leong makes the recommendations and details all her signature dishes some of which required a second visit for me to do justice to the wide choice.

Ubiquitous Dishes

On my first visit we had dishes which I would classify as more ubiquitous: Asam Sotong, fragrant, tangy not too spicy with generous sized portions of sotong (squid) cooked with ladies fingers RM12; live Tilapia steamed with spicy bean paste, soft flaky flesh that just comes off the bone, RM18; chunky portions of bean curd first deep fried and then lightly braised with Si Gua (a type of vegetable marrow), RM8; French beans sauteed with salted egg, RM8, and an interesting deep-fried pork patty redolent with the fragrance of salt fish which is ideal as an appetizer while having drinks waiting for the rest of the dishes. Their Kon Tseen Kai (dried fried chicken) with a coating of dark soya sauce, was delectable and even the breast meat which is usually dry and hard, was succulent and tender, RM12.

Heavy Artillery

The foregoing dishes were merely the foot soldiers in this battle for gustatory supremacy. The  heavy artillery came in the next two dishes which came in heaping big tureens. First the ‘wusou’ chicken (whiskered chicken…a favourite breed amongst the Chinese who prefer its meat) cooked in homemade yellow rice wine and flavoured with a variety of herbs; a post-partum delicacy that has caught on as a regular item on many menus. The one served here was perfect, not too sweet as is often the case, the chicken tender and the wine and herbs fragrant, RM28 for a large tureen.

Similarly for the Pig’s Trotters cooked in black vinegar, yet another post-partum dish (not that any of us at the table were in that condition!) that is cooked to perfection here – according to my taste buds that is – not too sweet and not too tart, the pig’s trotter chunks tender and succulent, informed by the fragrance of ginger and garnished with Mok Yee (wood ear fungus), RM15.

Signature Dishes Worth Second Visit

By this time, I had already made up my mind that I had to return to savour their other signature dishes, a task I performed with alacrity two days later at lunch. Here I will only mention the dishes which impressed me beginning with their Wu Tao Fish Head, a bubbling tureen of well braised viscous taro, permeating the fried fish head chunks with their inimitable fragrance and lending a perfect coating to their otherwise dry surface, RM25.

Another dish of note is their ‘Puppy Duck’ a name made famous by the restaurant Ming Feong, essentially a recipe that consists of braising cut  pieces of duck in ginger, dark soya sauce and spices and chillies (which was how they used to cook dog meat in days of yore). This was as good as what I remember of the its eponymous dish in Pusing; in fact the duck pieces were meatier here and more tender here and the saucing perfect. S/M/L RM12/15/20.

Next came the Rendang Chicken, again the Wu Sou Kai smothered in a rich ‘lemak’ sauce redolent of lemon grass, turmeric and all the wonderful spices that make rendang such a delicacy, RM23. We ended the meal with a plate of their Shanghai Noodles, Sang Meen (egg noodles known for their ‘al dente’ quality) fried with small prawns, bean sprouts, eggs and fried dried squid which was absolutely delectable. RM5 for one portion enough for two or three especially after a heavy meal.

Makanan Laut Lama-Lama Restoran
#12,14 Laluan Perusahan Menglembu 1
Taman Falim Indah, 31450 Menglembu, Perak.
Tel: 05 2821031
Open: 11am-2.30pm & 5-10pm
Closed: Not often; usually either Tuesday or Thursday
GPS: N 04 34 736  E 101 03 502


Ipoh Restaurant - homemade noodles

SeeFoon relishes oodles of noodles in Greentown

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See Foon Chan-KoppenBy See Foon Chan-Koppen

 

I often drive past the bright orange signboard emblazoned with the name Fonzie on the way to or from the Ipoh Echo office in Greentown and although it evokes memories of that popular TV series in the ‘70s and ‘80s ‘Happy Days’ which featured the loveable rogue the Fonze, as is usual in Ipoh, nothing piques my curiosity unless it is recommended by a friend. And as usual, my partner-in-crime, fellow foodie, Ginla Foo got me interested.

Located very conveniently two doors away from the Excelsior Hotel, sinFonzie actually dates from the ‘70s, having been established 35 years ago. Alan Wong, the current chef/proprietor took over the restaurant in 1997, bringing with him a wealth of experience from 10 years with Overseas Restaurant.

Ipoh Restaurant - homemade noodlesIpoh Restaurant - homemade noodlesIpoh Restaurant - homemade noodlesIpoh Restaurant - homemade noodlesIpoh Restaurant - homemade noodlesHomemade Noodles

Alan, who’s a meticulous perfectionist when it comes to all natural and healthy ingredients, tells me that his specialty lies in their homemade noodles: both wheat and rice. Unlike most other restaurants who buy their noodles ready-made from factories, he even makes their signature yeemeen by frying their homemade noodles himself. This way, he can assure customers of their freshness and eliminate the possibility of rancidity from stale oil.

This is not your banquet-style restaurant but a place to bring friends and family for hearty noodles and rice, accompanied by a few selected dishes.

We started with a selection of their appetizers or as listed on the menu, their snacks. The vegetable roll, vegetables wrapped in bean-curd sheets and deep fried, were crispy at the edges and succulent in the middle –RM4.00 for two pieces. The fried dumpling or Gao Tze came with vinegar and sliced fresh ginger – RM4.00 for three pieces. The homemade fish balls were extra large and came in a soup – RM4.00 for two pieces.

Hong Kong Style Congee

As we were a large group on this particular day, we proceeded to order a variety of their noodle and rice dishes. My first taste of their porridge or congee justified our visit. Evoking taste memories of the congee I used to eat in Hong Kong; smooth, semi fluid, the rice reduced to creaminess that only hours of simmering can create, this congee had meat balls and egg, umami to the last spoonful – RM15.00 for a claypot enough for three or four people sharing other dishes. Other congee can be ordered with fish, abalone, or conpoy (dried scallops). But the base for all their congee comes with Chinese Kam Wah ham and eggs.

 Noodles Galore

Then came oodles of noodles. The Lo Shu Fun (short fat rice noodles), literally translated as ‘Mice’ noodles, with seafood, tomatoes and a touch of Chinese rice wine, came in a creamy sauce with the addition of  Zhejiang vinegar, one of the finest in Chinese black vinegar. I loved the tangy mildly tart taste of the vinegar which imbued the sauce with its own unique character – RM18.00 for a claypot.

This was followed by the quaintly named Lat Duck Hoi Sum (spicy hot and happy), rice noodles in a creamy sauce laced with evaporated milk and with enough chilli spiciness to give bite without searing and tear-ing. Topped with their homemade crispy bean curd skin (Fu Pei) sprinkle, this was delectable – RM18.00.

Piece de Resistance

More noodles ahead as we tucked into their piece de resistance Prawn Noodle soup, homemade wheat noodles in a well-simmered soup redolent of pork bones and prawn shells, topped by large prawns and served with a few sprigs of green – RM28.00 for grade 2 prawns and RM48 for grade 1 (to be ordered one day ahead).

Another of their signature noodles is their claypot-braised Yeemeen which Alan proudly informed me that because they are homemade and not rancid, is not soaked in water prior to braising (as is the usual method). This allows the noodles to soak up all the braising liquids from the prawns, meat and mushrooms that up the dish – RM28.00 per claypot.

Already groaning with the surfeit, the Lemon Grass homemade hollow rice noodles that came in a ‘Tom Yam’ type of broth with Chinese shitake mushrooms, cabbage and prawns – RM9.00 per portion, was the icing on the cake.

In between the group sharing the congee and noodles, we also ordered their 60-day old free range chicken. This was the blanched chicken which arrived without breast meat, one of the special touches that proprietor Alan Wong pointed out was their signature, given that most Chinese prefer the dark meat – RM13.00 for a portion to serve three or four people.

Fonzie serves a variety of healthy drinks which Alan is more than willing to recommend. They also do take-outs.

Restaurant sinFonzie
53 Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil
Tel: 05-2558481       Alan Wong: 012-5587988
Hours: 12-3.30pm and 5.30-10pm
Open 24/7 except for long holidays. Call to find out.


ipoh echo issue 143, musings on food, see foon chan-koppen, ipoh chinese food

SeeFoon discovers an oldie but goodie

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See Foon Chan-KoppenMusings on Food

By See Foon Chan-Koppen

ipoh echo issue 143, musings on food, see foon chan-koppen, ipoh chinese foodipoh echo issue 143, musings on food, see foon chan-koppen, ipoh chinese foodipoh echo issue 143, musings on food, see foon chan-koppen, ipoh chinese foodipoh echo issue 143, musings on food, see foon chan-koppen, ipoh chinese foodIpoh Garden South is one of my favourite haunts, whether it’s a trip to Kuku Spa for my manicure and pedicure, or a bowl of pork soup at Cong Yin or my occasional yearning for something vegetarian like the Lui Cha at Chor Kee. And many a time I have driven past Yam Yam with its sign saying Restoran Makanan Laut and not once have I considered checking it out until my peripatetic foodie friend Ginla Foo invited me and a group of friends for dinner one evening.

Yam Yam is an unassuming coffee shop with a bright yellow sign that you cannot  miss  especially at night when it is all lit up. Basic though it may be, on that evening they did put up a red tablecloth for us (thanks to Ginla). And to my surprise and delight, their menu is extensive, ranging from the simple home-cooking that many of us with Cantonese backgrounds grew up with to the delectable fresh-caught river fish, a specialty that requires good connections to local fishermen or suppliers as these are hard to come by – especially a fresh-caught Sultan Fish or Jelawat which was on the menu that evening.

Sultan Fish can be wild or cultivated and this particular one that we had was wild which made it even more of a treat as it is one of my favourite local fish and rarely available. It arrived steamed to perfection, complete with scales which help to keep the flesh moist and succulent during the steaming process. Sultan Fish is known for its fat content particularly around the collar and stomach and many folks avoid it for this reason, for reasons of weight gain. As for me, I tucked in with relish for the natural Omega 3s which is an oil that maintains heart health and lowers triglycerides. At RM130 per kilo, this is not a fish that one eats every day, but this one was well worth every gram that we paid for it, weighing in at 1.2kgs – RM156.

The Fried Mantis Prawns were shelled, in bite sized morsels, with a crispy cereal batter topped with tendrils of fried milk. Crunchy, sweetish and scrumptious – RM16.

Next we had Steamed Frogs Legs in Essence of Chicken, the frogs legs tender and juicy with the essence of chicken imparting its flavour to the otherwise bland meat. For those who like their food ‘Tsing’, (Cantonese expression for light taste as opposed to pungent or robust), this is the purest way to eat frogs legs – RM33.

Chicken in Chinese Rice Wine was sweet and as my readers know by now, I’m not partial to sweet savoury dishes but my friends at the table enjoyed it and vouched for its superiority – RM24.

The lamb braised with ginger, water chestnuts, bean curd sheet and snow peas was more appealing to my tastebuds; robust and well coated with sauce that goes well with white rice – RM15.

The next two dishes though were right up my alley, tickling my tastebuds and bringing back childhood nostalgia for dishes at grandmother’s kitchen. The ‘Tsang Cheong’ (pig’s fallopian tubes) sautéed with dried prawns and chillies was just the way I like it…the meat springy with a nice bite, the dried prawns lending their inimitable aroma and the chillies providing the necessary oomph to the dish – RM12.

This was followed by one of my favourite childhood dishes, the steamed meat paste done Hakka style with dried squid and dried prawns. Absolutely delectable and merits a revisit – RM16.

Other signature dishes here at Yam Yam which we didn’t get to taste include their ‘Wat Dan Hor’ (smooth egg rice noodles) – RM 5.50 and their Salt Baked chicken. Half – RM23; whole – RM45.

With food this tasty I’ve promised myself a revisit.

Restoran Makanan Laut Yam Yam
9 Lebuh Raya, Taman Ipoh Selatan. Hoe Chee Wah: 012-5651510
Open 10.30 a.m – 3.00 p.m.;  5.00-10.30 p.m.
Closed Mon/Tues

ipoh echo issue 142, Ray of Hope Bercham, See Foon Chan-Koppen, musings on food

SeeFoon discovers a Ray of Hope in Bercham

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By See Foon Chan-Koppen

ipoh echo issue 142, Ray of Hope Bercham, See Foon Chan-Koppen, musings on foodipoh echo issue 142, Ray of Hope Bercham, See Foon Chan-Koppen, musings on foodipoh echo issue 142, Ray of Hope Bercham, See Foon Chan-Koppen, musings on foodipoh echo issue 142, Ray of Hope Bercham, See Foon Chan-Koppen, musings on foodipoh echo issue 142, Ray of Hope Bercham, See Foon Chan-Koppen, musings on foodipoh echo issue 142, Ray of Hope Bercham, See Foon Chan-Koppen, musings on foodMost food outlets exist to serve food to those unwilling or unable to cook for themselves and hope to turn a profit in the process. Some special food outlets have a dual purpose: serving food as well as helping those who serve. The Ray of Hope Kafe is one of these food outlets that not only serve good food but in the process, do good as well.

The Ray of Hope is a non-profit, non religious multi-racial centre set up by St Peter’s and St Augustine’s churches, Ipoh. Its sole objective is to give hope to people with learning difficulties. The cafe was opened in July of last year in partnership with the Hong Leong Foundation. Its bakery which now produces a wide variety of breads and confectionery was set up by the Rotary Club of Ipoh in 2008 initially for vocational training and now it is turning into a commercial enterprise in the hope of raising much needed funds for the centre.

I went to the Ray of Hope (in the vicinity of Ipoh Kiara Condominium in Bercham) not having too many expectations for a gourmet lunch, given that the Kafe serves multiple purposes: teaching the learning disabled vocational skills; provide them with opportunities to interact with customers and developing social skills; teaching them service skills and hopefully to provide a source of funding for the centre.

Delightful Surprise

Well I was delightfully surprised. An interesting assortment of breads and confectionery arrested my attention and the staff were all standing around with big smiles on their faces. Dato’ Dr Yeoh Beng San, Advisor and Fundraising Chairman for the centre, and his wife Datin Mary Yeo, who is the dynamo behind the centre and the main mover and shaker for the cafe, greeted me with open arms and proceeded to show me around the training centre, the bakery and kitchen. Everything was immaculate and the toilets were the cleanest I’ve ever encountered – an almost impossible feat by Ipoh standards. I was also struck and touched by their motto which is emblazoned on the wall in the cafe and which says: “Every Life Counts, Every Person Matters”.

Extensive Menu

The menu is extensive. There are more than 20 different rice dishes and a similar number of noodle dishes not to mention spaghetti dishes and western dishes like chicken chops with a big choice of sauces and, fish and chips. The noodles run the gamut from egg noodles, to flat rice noodles to vermicelli to Japanese Udon to ‘lou shi fun’ (short stubby rice ‘pasta’).

I will mention the few items which I tasted and consider the ‘must-haves’. The Assam Laksa was a generous portion, the soup/broth had a fulsome body to it unlike some others I’ve had before which can be plain watery. I could taste the fish that had gone into making the broth as well as the various herbs and spices which are critical to its turning out successfully. Chunks of fish with pineapple and cucumber slivers, topped with a sprig of fresh mint, complemented the smooth white ‘lai fun’, enveloped in the broth – RM5.50.

I spied Nasi Lemak on the menu and being a big fan of this ubiquitous dish, promptly ordered it. I was glad I did. Served with Pandan/Coconut Rice, the Chicken Rendang that came with it was comparable to some of the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere in Malaysia and Singapore. Add to this the aromatic flavour of the pandan (screw pine leaves) and coconut in the rice, and the usual condiments of peanuts, egg and ikan bilis; and I found myself in foodie heaven – RM6.00.

I next tried their Cheese Baked Rice, a heaping bowl of rice with a mixture of seafood topped with a big slice of fish and oven baked with a generous helping of cheese. If ever there was a fusion dish of east and west, this is it; the cheese melted to a golden brown and slightly charred, the pan-fried fish underneath soft and flaky while still lower down, the rice with its garnitures, fluffy and full of flavour. This cheese baked rice comes also with chicken and instead of rice, with spaghetti – RM 12.50.

Star Bakery

But it is the bakery that shines as the star of the show in the cafe. I sampled their cookies, their different types of bread, their sweet and savoury buns, and particularly noteworthy are their Lemon Cheese Tarts. At RM0.70 for the bite-size and RM1.80 for the larger ones, they were melt-in-the-mouth delectable and I, a professed non-sweet eater found myself reaching for a second one. I made myself a mental note to order these for takeaways, for birthdays and other parties or as dessert petits fours with coffee at home after dinner; I also tried their Siew Pao, thin fluffy pastry with a tasty chicken meat filling. Helped by the students in filling and wrapping, these paos are made by one of the teachers at the centre and are her own recipe. Excellent – RM1.50.

Of Pasties and Biscotti

Two other bakery items of note are their curry puffs and their pasties. The huge pasty is laudable; the crust, a cross between a suet and short crust pastry, enfolding a filling of chicken and vegetables that was delectably flavourful. This is a meal in itself and is served with salad – RM7.00. The curry puff has the same pastry and filled with a curry filling that actually has meat in it instead of the usual potatoes and onions – RM1.50.

Other items from the bakery which make great party offerings are their boxed cookies and their biscotti, paper thin crisps encrusted with almond and pistachio slivers, an Italian favourite of mine that is great with coffee or just for nibbling. Biscotti: RM12.00

So for all my dear readers out there who read this column, remember that the next time you feel the urge for some confectionery, need to bring a gift to someone’s house, or organising a gathering, remember to place your order with the Ray of Hope Kafe and while there to pick up your goodies, linger awhile and try some of the items on their menu. Not only will you enjoy the taste treat but you’ll be helping a good and worthy cause.

Ray of Hope Kafe (Halal)
24 & 26 Persiaran Bercham Selatan
Taman Sri Kurau, Bercham
Tel: 05-5488796 Open Mon-Fri 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
GPS: N 04 37 459   E101 07 455              Email: ray.of.hope.ngo@gmail.com

Italia Mia - musings on food - see foon chan-koppen

SeeFoon goes Italian

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See Foon Chan-KoppenBy See Foon Chan-Koppen

Chef Kenny Lim doesn’t believe in shortcuts. Coming from a family of hoteliers, Kenny has been drilled in formal kitchen and culinary skills from the age of 17 when he went to Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland. Armed with a diploma in Hotel Management from Les Roches (rated one of the top four hotel schools in the world), Kenny decided that hotel management was not for him and went straight into doing what he loved best: cooking.

Italia Mia - musings on food - see foon chan-koppenItalia Mia - musings on food - see foon chan-koppenItalia Mia - musings on food - see foon chan-koppenItalia Mia - musings on food - see foon chan-koppenItalia Mia - musings on food - see foon chan-koppenItalia Mia - musings on food - see foon chan-koppenItalia Mia - musings on food - see foon chan-koppenSince then he has worked in some of the finest kitchens in both East and West Malaysia including stints with Shangri-la and Regent Hotels in Kuala Lumpur, the Hard Rock Cafes in Singapore and KL, the Cyberview Lodge in Cyberjaya and many others.

It was serendipity that found him in Ipoh where he and his wife were staying with his brother -in-law before moving on to Penang, where he was considering re-joining his ex-boss at the Hard Rock Hotel there. Finding that his wife and their three girls aged 16, 15 and 9 loved Ipoh, and as luck would have it, he met up with an American investor who was keen to take over the existing Italia Mia restaurant which was then up for sale. And so a partnership was formed, with Kenny presiding in the kitchen and Soli, the American partner’s wife helming the service and front of the house.

I noticed the difference the first time I went there after the new management took over. I have always been a regular at the ‘old’ Italia Mia and I needed to find out what was happening in the ‘new’.

The decor has remained but the menu was different – more trattoria style and less formal. But it was the prices that caught my eye. Visibly lower than the previous management, the only option was to use the old adage ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’, which a group of us did with gusto.

We decided to blow diets to the wind and ordered a selection of their appetizers that included fried mozzarella sticks and deep fried calamari (squid) both served with their home-made marinara sauce, a tangy fresh tasting tomato based sauce that lent a piquancy to the fried titbits.

We then had a slice of pizza each, the one we ordered being the Pepperoni (beef) from a choice of five. The crust was thin and crisp, with a generous topping of cheese and pepperoni. The roast duck pizza is apparently a must try and will be on the new menu which is due out shortly.

The Parrot fish Piccata, pan fried with capers and served with a lemon butter sauce was very flavourful, tinged with the tartness of the capers which complemented the firm fresh fish.  It wasn’t on the menu and was one of their featured ‘Fish of the Day’ specials. However, this will be on the new menu – RM42.

We followed this up with the country roast lamb rack, marinated and braised in own juices served with ratatouille (mixed vegetables stew) and mashed potatoes. Hints of rosemary, garlic, and citrus flavours wafted from the table as we tucked into this very succulent lamb – RM56.

Next was the Seafood Spaghetti A’lio O’lio one of their signature dishes, a cornucopia of seafood – prawns, mussels, squid – pan fried with garlic and tossed with white wine and al dente spaghetti, topped with parsley – RM28. Definitely a must-have for those into seafood.

The entire menu is small but with a selection to please all palates from the vegetarian to the ‘fishtarian’ to the carnivore with a choice of chicken, lamb and rib eye steaks.

Their wine list is modest ranging from RM85 to RM110, great for an evening of wining and dining in air-conditioned comfort in a European ambience, with white table cloths, where the service provided by Soli is extremely friendly and superlative and for me most importantly of all, where the toilets are clean and fresh smelling!

Italia Mia Ristorante Italiano
10 Persiaran SC12/1, Sunway City, Ipoh
Tel: 05-5474007
Closed Wednesdays
Pork Free

ipoh echo issue 140, see foon chan-koppen, musings on food, ipoh food

SeeFoon gets hot and steamy in Gunung Rapat

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See Foon Chan-KoppenBy See Foon Chan Koppen

I’m not usually a fan of steamboat unless they’re specially ordered in advance from some of my favourite restaurants where I know the chefs and where they’ll make the stock from scratch. Then I can rest assured that I won’t leave with a bad case of MSG allergy to which I am very prone.

ipoh echo issue 140, see foon chan-koppen, musings on food, ipoh foodMost of the dedicated steamboat restaurants I’m afraid, fall into the ‘make-stock-with-a-heaping-teaspoon-of-MSG’ category and these I avoid like the plague. It was therefore with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation to try out the newly opened Super Taste Steamboat Restaurant in Gunung Rapat.

It is not the easiest to find but if you travel on Jalan Musa Mahadi which is the main road leading to Jalan Gopeng and past MayBank on the left, look out for the mini market Yoon Foong and turn left at that junction. Go 1.2 km on that road until you reach Persiaran Wira Jaya Timur 23. Turn in and go all the way to the end and there on five shop lots is Super Taste Steamboat Restaurant.

ipoh echo issue 140, see foon chan-koppen, musings on food, ipoh foodipoh echo issue 140, see foon chan-koppen, musings on food, ipoh foodipoh echo issue 140, see foon chan-koppen, musings on food, ipoh foodipoh echo issue 140, see foon chan-koppen, musings on food, ipoh foodipoh echo issue 140, see foon chan-koppen, musings on food, ipoh foodThis is a family affair with brothers John and Johnny, Johnny’s wife and a whole clan of other family members and their friends, proudly demonstrating their culinary skills as they pool resources to produce all the soups, sauces and other ready made ingredients that go into the steamboat.

This is what makes this steamboat special. All the stock is homemade with a choice of spicy Tom Yam or clear stock which is served in separate pots. So those who wish to have their food more spicy can cook their ingredients in the spicy soup while those preferring a milder taste can use the clear stock.

All the dips and sauces too are special, with a choice of four different concoctions to choose from. As each person has four dips in front of them, one is certainly spoilt for choice. None of the factory made standard chilli sauce here. Each sauce is unique and stands on its own merit, all concocted by family member Angie Ng. There is the red chilli sauce made with fresh chillies, garlic and fresh herbs; the satay sauce made with fresh red chillies, galangal, lemongrass, toasted peanuts and other fresh herbs; the green chilli sauce, a combination of green chilli padi, garlic, lime and fresh herbs; and the house oyster sauce (her own creation) – green chilli padi, garlic, coriander and other fresh herbs.

The choice of ingredients for the steamboat is huge. There is the usual sampling of fish balls, fish cakes, fish wantons, sotong ball, etc., but worth ordering are their homemade items like the dumpling, the pork tendon dumpling, the pork meat ball and the homemade fried bean curd dumpling which are much tastier than the factory produced varieties to which our palates have grown jaded.

There is a profusion of vegetables to choose from, a sampling include watercress, Chinese cabbage, Choy Sum, Pak Choy, Tong Ho and broccoli or Kailan as well as mushrooms like oyster and Enoki.

Side dishes include tofu, dried seaweed, egg, vermicelli and deep fried noodles. Meat dishes include sliced beef, sliced pork belly, pork liver, pork intestines and chicken.

But it is the seafood selection that captures one’s attention and taste buds. Weekdays will see the usual offering of sliced grouper, prawns, scallops, clams, mussels, squid, jelly fish and fish maw but weekends is when the place becomes packed.

Weekends is when the live fish come in from Pantai Remis and further afield and families would gather here to eat the live flower crabs, whole pomfret, sometimes mantis prawns and whatever other live goodies are available. These are understandably sold at seasonal prices.

A Super Taste Set is available at RM15.00 per person for a minimum of two people as are wok fried a’ la carte dishes. I would recommend going on a weekend although one may have to queue for a table but the steamboat with the fresh caught seafood will definitely be worth the wait.

Super Taste Steamboat
1A-9A, Persiaran Wira Jaya Timur 23A, Taman Panglima, 31350 Ipoh, Malaysia.
Tel.: +60 135148884
GPS Location: N 04.34.242   E 101.08.286
Open Monday to Sunday: 5.30-10.30 p.m.

 


Kuala Sepetang, Perak, Malaysia

SeeFoon spends a lovely Sunday afternoon by the sea

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See Foon Chan-KoppenBy See Foon Chan-Koppen

Kuala Sepetang, Perak, MalaysiaI have often heard the name of Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld) mentioned but the occasion has never arisen for me to venture there. So when the invitation came from Chris and Christine DiGiovanna for a Sunday lunch by the sea, I jumped on the bandwagon.

Kuala Sepetang, Perak, MalaysiaA group of us set off at noon arranging to rendezvous at the toll exit for Changkat Jering heading north on the north/south highway. After the toll, we turned left and followed directions to Taiping. On reaching a T-junction with a big sign saying Taiping Bandar Warisan we turned left and followed signs for Kuala Sepetang. It was a pretty straightforward way from here on and the only tricky bit was on arriving at Kuala Sepetang where a little manoeuvring led us to the restaurant, Kedai Makanan Tepi Sungai, set back a little from the road.

Panorama Upstairs

I thought we had arrived at a market, judging from the basket loads of seafood and fish being unloaded and despatched. Feeling a bit squeamish at the chaos and market conditions, we negotiated a steep flight of stairs leading us to the first floor where a panoramic view of the river greeted us. I breathed a sigh of relief, having been delivered from the prospect of eating in the squalid conditions downstairs.

Upstairs, the breeze was delightful as we were given a corner table right on the edge of the water where the river winds its way to the sea and we could see the fishing boats coming in, delivering their fresh catch of the day.

Fresh Caught and Superlative Cooking

Kuala Sepetang, Perak, MalaysiaI can’t remember when I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single dish we had that day. Every single item was fresh caught and the cooking for some of the dishes was superlative.

We began with crisp fried baby shrimp, battered and fried in their shells, as we sipped our wine and waited for the other dishes. They soon arrived in quick succession but because the restaurant was full to overflowing, we had to wait a while before our orders came.

Live Crabs and Clams

The live flower crabs sautéed with dried shrimp and cucumber slices was an unusual recipe for the crabs but one that I found delightful and not as cloying as other crab recipes.

This was followed by big round clams steamed with Chinese wine and topped with fried chopped garlic, each clam as fresh as can be, and not a single bad one amongst all that we had at our table.

Kuala Sepetang, Perak, MalaysiaThe squid was next, with salt, pepper and chilli, battered and delectably crunchy. In fact, the dish was snapped up so quickly that I requested for a second portion. Next came the Assam fish, this time a flounder or Ikan Pari. I often don’t order this fish because inevitably I find that it’s not fresh. Not here though. The fish was the freshest Ikan Pari I’ve ever tasted and cooked in the tangy Assam sauce which had the right balance of sweetness and tartness to make the dish memorable.

Then came the steamed prawns, sweet, succulent large prawns steamed on a bed of egg custard, redolent with scallions and chopped fried garlic.

Kuala Sepetang, Perak, MalaysiaBaby Crabs – A Rare Find

As people around my table were satiated and ready to just sit back and enjoy the refreshing breeze coming from the sea, I spied a plate of baby crabs being delivered to the next table and promptly ordered one. Now, I have had soft shell crab and all manner of other types of crab, but never have I ever had baby flower crabs, which these were. My curiosity was soon satisfied when they arrived, each tiny crab crunchy to the last bite as I justified my greed by telling my friends that the chitin of the shells was a popular slimming aid.

We were a party of 10 and our total bill for the dishes mentioned came to RM288. Apparently they also have the highly prized white pomfret at RM8 per100g and large Mantis prawn at RM32 each. What is also very popular, but which I have promised myself to return to savour, are their cockles which are farmed there.

Kedai Makanan Tepi Sungai (RT Weld Restaurant) – Pork Free
No. 150 Tepi Sungai, Kuala Sepetang, 34650 Taiping.
Tel: 05 8581169     012 5598798 (Kee)
Business Hour: 12 noon – 8.30 p.m.   GPS Coordinates : N04 50.150   E100 37.620.
Closed on Wednesdays

Musings on Food - Taro Japanese Fusion Buffet - See Foon Chan-Koppen

SeeFoon’s battle with buffets

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See Foon Chan-KoppenMusings on Food

By See F00n Chan-Koppen

I have always had a love/hate relationship with buffets. On the one hand the quality of food and cooking is often suspect and on the other, the variety of food is so diverse, that one inevitably will find a few items to suit one’s palate. Buffets are where I bring my ‘big’ guys like my son and my nephew where they can tuck in to their hearts’ content while I leisurely pick at their plates, tasting a morsel here and a bite there, having the opportunity to sample every thing else till I find the few that I really want to savour, before I make a move for my selection.

Musings on Food - Taro Japanese Fusion Buffet - See Foon Chan-KoppenThis was precisely the strategy I employed recently when I went to Taro, the newly-opened Fusion Japanese restaurant in Greentown. Located almost directly opposite Maria’s and Chayo in Greentown Business centre in a standalone bungalow house, Taro shares premises with Kon Shong, a Karaoke lounge upstairs.

Strictly Buffet

Strictly Buffet only, the restaurant can seat more than a 150 people and is open for both lunch and dinner seven days a week. At RM59.90 for lunch and RM69.90 for dinner per person, the restaurant offers good value for money with over 100 items of food on offer. The extra RM10 for dinner covers the fresh made-to-order hand rolls with no limit on the number of orders!

Musings on Food - Taro Japanese Fusion Buffet - See Foon Chan-KoppenService is friendly and helpful, with plates being cleared from one’s table as they’re emptied and fresh cooked items delivered promptly as soon as they’re ready.

As Managing Director Peter Ngui, who has worked in Japan for a number of years and whose brainchild it is, explained, Taro aims to please the large middle market with its pricing policy, variety and quality. Their special discounts for seniors aged over 60 and children under 130cm in height of a generous 50% while those below 90cm eat for free, make it economical enough for whole families to dine out and be given a Japanese food treat which under normal circumstances would cost an arm and a leg.

Staggering Variety

Musings on Food - Taro Japanese Fusion Buffet - See Foon Chan-KoppenThe choice and variety is staggering. The system consists of clips which are on your table. As you move around from station to station, there may be stations where the food is cooked a’ la minute and you’d drop a clip with your table number into the bowl indicated for that particular item and the food is delivered to your table when ready.

A drinks counter serves a choice of fresh made fruit juices sweetened with fructose but you can tell them to hold the sugar as I do when I order.  And right beside that I spied a Haagen Daz freezer chest with a choice of five flavours, which is part of the buffet!

Cold and Hot Sections

Musings on Food - Taro Japanese Fusion Buffet - See Foon Chan-KoppenIn the cold section you’ll find 4-5 types of Sashimi, all kinds of sushi, jelly fish, fresh oysters, seaweed, kimchi, tofu, different types of soba with help-yourself-sauces. For dinner, there is the additional choice of fresh made hand rolls with selections of 4-5 alternating between salmon, shrimp, tuna, California, Unagi (eel) and which may change from day to day. The California hand roll which I ordered arrived with the Nori (seaweed) still crisp and crunchy, a defining quality of a good hand roll.

In the hot section, the choice is even more boundless. Cheese topped baked oysters, grilled large prawns, salmon, Saba fish, fried Shisamo (the special fish which is full of roe), soft shell crab, Unagi or eel, Tempura prawns, fish, and vegetables and not to mention the teppanyaki table where the chef behind the counter is constantly busy frying up diners’ choice of beef, chicken, lamb, seafood, and whatever is their hearts’ desire from a generous selection. And I must mention the individual ‘Nabe’ which are claypots of selected seafood, tofu and vegetables served in a choice of broth and cooked at the table.

In the steam section, Chawan Mushi (Japanese savoury steamed egg custard) vie for attention with Herbal Soup, while elsewhere, ready prepared fried noodles, mixed vegetables and even snacks like peanuts, and other children’s favourites await the eager diner.

Finally for dessert, if the Haagen Daz section does not call to you, go to the refrigerator where fruits, jellies, cakes, custard tarts and other sweets await.

Musings on Food - Taro Japanese Fusion Buffet - See Foon Chan-KoppenTaro Japanese Fusion Buffet
131 Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil, Greentown, 30450 Ipoh.
Tel: 05-241 2551

Operations Manager Chloe Liew: 016-2031711
Open 7 days a week

Lunch: 12.00-3.00 p.m.
Dinner:
6.00-10.30 p.m.

Pork Free

Restoran Splendid, Ipoh Garden East, Ipoh

SeeFoon checks out street corners in Ipoh Garden East

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By See Foon Chan-Koppen

Ipoh is often touted to have more good eating places per square kilometre than most other cities in Malaysia. It is almost impossible to have a disastrous meal in Ipoh – (I know I can hear some of you protesting) – if one goes by certain rules of thumb when being adventurous and walking in to unknown restaurants to try their fare.

Without patronising the gourmands out there who read this column and who know all this, I am offering here a few tips to keep in mind for the food novices amongst you, when going to a new place.  Firstly, do not walk in if the place is empty. If it is packed to capacity, it’s a good sign. Secondly, as you’re walking to an empty table, glance around at all the other tables and notice what others are eating and what looks appealing. Thirdly, ask for the head person/boss/chef/whatever and ask for his recommendations, his signature dishes and lastly what do most of his customers order. With these tips in mind, it really is impossible to have a bad meal anywhere in Ipoh.

This is certainly the technique applied by my foodie friend Ginla Foo who brought us recently to Restoran Splendid in Ipoh Garden East. A corner restaurant on the slip road of Hala Bandar Baru Tambun, just after Citrus Restaurant, Splendid is only open at night and is packed especially on weekends when all the families are on their weekly outing.

Daily Soup and Weekend Specials

Restoran Splendid, Ipoh Garden East, IpohProprietor and chef, Soo Kok Yew, and his friendly staff will happily recommend his specialties particularly the ones on weekends which will vary from week to week.

We were there on a weekday and Ginla had ordered the menu which began with braised tofu topped with diced pork and black mushrooms. What was unusual about this particular offering was the base on which the tofu sat, which was a thin egg custard, which when scooped up with the sauce made for a creamy addition to the tofu. RM7/12 for S/M.

The soup of the day was the ‘Fan Got’, a type of taro-like thick root vegetable boiled with pork spare ribs and chicken feet. While most of the westerners at our table shunned the chicken feet, the rest of us Orientals tucked in with gusto, leaving only the root vegetable which is usually not eaten, being terribly fibrous and used primarily to impart its special sweetness to soups. RM15 for a portion for 8 people.

The Ham Dan chicken was next, chunks of chicken fried crisp with the addition of salted egg yoke which was delectably palpable on the surface. The addition of curry leaves added a further piquancy – RM8/12 for S/L.

Restoran Splendid, Ipoh Garden East, IpohAnother meat dish followed, the soya sauce/black vinegar fried spare ribs, tangy, not too cloyingly sweet and with just the right touch of vinegar. RM8/12 for S/L

Signature Prawn Curry

The next dish to arrive was one of their signature dishes, a prawn curry fragranced with turmeric in a thick coconut/milk based curry sauce that was very mild yet redolent with Indian flavours. Prawns at RM8 per 100g. Our dish that evening for eight people had 500g of prawns RM40.

Restoran Splendid, Ipoh Garden East, IpohHard on its heels were the Assam Fish Head, pungent, sweet chunks of fish head cooked with okra and long beans. RM6 per 100g; the Ham Yu Fah Lam Po, thin slices of pork belly sautéed with onions, dried red chilli and that overriding aroma of salted fish, RM8/12 and the Eggplant fried with belacan RM7/10, all of which were scrumptious.

As we sat there in semi stupor after all the dishes had been wolfed down with alacrity, the aroma of Wat Dan Hor (smooth egg rice noodles) wafted by and we watched with longing as plates of noodles and different types of rice dishes were served to the late ‘supper’ crowd.

Restoran Splendid, Ipoh Garden East, IpohWe asked for the list of noodle and rice dishes and was handed a very extensive menu with tempting items like Fried venison with dried chilli; bitter gourd chicken rice; dried chilli sour Mantis prawn rice, salted fish rice; special venison rice and sambal petai rice. We all then made a vow to return another evening to sample some of these which ranged in price from a reasonable RM3.50 for the simple noodle and rice dishes to RM8.00 for the fancier venison versions.

Restoran Splendid, Ipoh Garden East, IpohRestoran Splendid
#1 Hala Bandar Baru Tambun 18, Desa Tambun Indah, 31400 Ipoh
Tel: Soo 012-5738822     Open : 5.00-11.00 p.m.
Closed : every other Tuesday

Musings on Food - Restoran Simpang 3

SeeFoon dishes out her dragon favourites

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See Foon Chan-KoppenBy See Foon Chan-Koppen

As I welcome the year of the Dragon, I can’t help wondering what unexplored taste treats await my ever eager palate in the coming twelve months. Yet the memories of past food explorations linger in the recesses of my mind, ever ready to spring into active service whenever a particular food topic comes up in conversation. Certain dishes and particular restaurants remain my favourites, prompting gustatory yearnings that demand to be satiated.

So this first food musings in the Dragon year will be devoted to revisiting some of my favourite restaurants and the dishes that bring on the salivary juices.

Musings on Food - Restaurant Wong Kok
Restaurant Wong Kok

In no particular order, I will list the restaurants and the dishes that appeal to my palate. Beginning with Wong Kok in Pasir Pinji, Chef Lum never fails to satisfy with his sea cucumber salad, a tangy cold dish of sea cucumber tossed with an assortment of crunchy greens, in a dressing of sesame oil with SzeChuan pepper and other spices. Another ‘must-have’ for me is their Mo Mai Jook or no rice congee, a thick foamy broth thickened with egg white and served with crispy wonton. Tel: 05- 2435431.

A few doors away on the corner is Tuck Kee and my favourites here are their braised beef short ribs, the Har Meen or prawn noodle soup and the Wat Dan Hor, or literally translated means smooth egg flat rice noodles. Tel: 05-2419071.Musings on Food - Restoran Li Garden

Still in the Pasir Pinji area, Sun Po Po is a great place for a late dinner or a midnight supper. Order their Indian Mee Goreng, spicy yellow noodles, the Hakka noodles or their basil fried rice. Tel: 05-2537273.

Li Garden by the airport is great for its scrumptious fish head soup (must order in advance) chockfull of delightful ingredients like pig’s tendons, shark cartilage, Yunan ham, stuffed bean curd and of course the fresh-that-day fish head chunks. While here, order the fried pork belly as appetiser and if you still have room, their braised beef brisket is second to none. Tel: 012-5183370.

Musings on Food - Restoran Li GardenFor the best fish noodle (these noodles are actually made from fish meat and without flour of any kind) soup, Lucky in Pasir Puteh is the place to go and while here, order their fish balls and their wonton soup. Proprietor Lucky Chong always has something fresh up his sleeves, whether its lobster, large pomfret, crab or prawns. But do ask for the price first before you order. Tel: 012-5016330.

Further up Pasir Puteh you’ll find Kafe Pasir Puteh which has, in my opinion, the best homemade Saito fish balls in Ipoh, bouncy, springy and utterly fresh-made that day. Tel: 012-5095970.

Musings on Food - Restoran Simpang 3
Restoran Simpang 3

For Halal food, nothing beats Simpang Tiga in Greentown where the dizzying display of Nasi Padang dishes is accompanied by a choice of interesting sambals. For those looking for Halal Dim Sum, go no further than Greentown Dim Sum on Persiaran Greentown 4, Greentown Avenue. Especially tasty is their fried carrot cake, which is spicy, and has a generous helping of bean sprouts and preserved radish.

Indian banana leaf aficionados are not left out in my list as I often have my Thosai (available all day except between 1.00-2.00 p.m.) and other curries at Ipoh Padang Curry House on Cowan Street and once in a while I’ll send out for Samy’s specials like duck, turkey and crab curry all the way from the main road of Chemor; also Halal.

In Chemor too is another favourite haunt of mine especially at this time of the year when the giant frogs are in season. Wong Kee does them to an art, deep fried with ginger slices and when ordered with their Sang Yu (Snakehead) fish soup, is worth the trip to Chemor. Tel: 012-5182686.

For the best Tom Yum Soup in all of Ipoh, order in advance with Arun at a Different Taste in Bercham. She speaks Cantonese and although she will always have the prawn or crab Tom Yam, you can persuade her to make a fish head Tom Yam if you give her enough notice. Here too their crab vermicelli is the best I’ve tasted as are their fish balls. They also serve Frog Congee. Tel: 012-5021132.

Elsewhere in Bercham, the Steam House is a particular favourite with my favourite dishes being the Ham Har Tsing Fa Lam (steamed pork belly with preserved shrimp paste), their steamed egg dishes and their special steamed kampong chicken. Tel: 05-5486034.

When my hankering turn to thoughts of shellfish, I usually pick up the phone to Sao Mei, the proprietress of

Musings on Food - Shing Lee Restaurant
Shing Lee Restaurant

Shing Lee restaurant, in Puncak Jelapang Maju, Sao Mei, who goes personally a few days a week to Pantai Remis to pick up seafood which can be found swimming in the many tanks in the restaurant, will also occasionally call me when she has particularly large flower crabs (all live) and roe crabs which I love. My favourites here are their Mantis prawns which I order fried with salt and pepper (with some chillies), their flower crabs steamed with cucumber and their spiny snails (an acquired taste for some). A must have is their crispy kangkong. Tel: 016-5935848.

Going even further afield is the Lemon Tree Restaurant in Matang near Taiping which has a specialty I have never found else where: the shark’s liver which comes pan-fried and tastes like a slightly fishy foie gras. Dishes here are their fried crispy prawns, the oyster pancake, the crab with salted egg and steamed Mantis prawns. Tel: 016-5963598.