Tag Archives: See Foon Chan-Koppen

SeeFoon goes from North to South in her Foodie quest


Musings of Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

The one lament I have about being introduced to ‘Tai Chau’ (literally translated to mean ‘big fry’) restaurants is that the dishes in each are, as the Americans would put it…‘same old, same old’. Meaning that they all serve the same dishes and have similar items on their menus. The only variations are in the preparation styles and the skill of the ‘wok’ person in the kitchen and the flavours he/she coaxes out of the food. And that is what separates the wheat from the chafe. And what brings in the customers like myself and my foodie friends.

For eat we must and daily. And while our eager group will check out any small nook and corner with any new opening bringing one or two of our curious ones to check it out, on the whole, we end up returning to some perennial favourites or adopting some new ones that we discover. While some of these may have been operating for years, like Lo Tian Seafood Restaurant which is in the north of Ipoh close to Jelapang, serving folks from Silibin, First Garden and Taman Rishah, some others like Restoran Likarli are relatively new, catering to up-and-coming communities like the burgeoning one in Seri Botani in the south, close to the Simpang Pulai toll.

In this review, I shall cover both outlets in one go as the menu items are similar and I will highlight only those items that impressed me.

Restoran Likarli 1Restoran Likarli

This is a two-shoplot restaurant with well spaced out tables and one side fully air conditioned. The service is brisk and friendly and they are happy to make recommendations.

One of their specialties here that they recommend to everyone is their Mun Cheong chicken, a 90-day old (most market chickens are slaughtered at around 40-45 days) bird of the Wu So Kai or ‘whiskered’ chicken variety. This is steamed and served with a ginger/scallion paste. As the chicken has had sufficient time to grow, the meat is more hearty and voluptuous without descending into stringy toughness which some old birds are prone to do. At an average size of 3kg and above, the serving is huge and it’s advisable to request for half portions if the group is smaller.

Restoran Likarli 5

The homemade pumpkin tofu served with tung fun or bean thread noodles and garlic had a velvety texture and was scrumptious, as were the green peppers and black beans, the peppers still crisp on the bite with the black beans lending its smoky saltiness to the dish.Restoran Likarli 3

Venison Kway Teow or flat rice noodles was delicious, the venison well seasoned and tender, imbuing its gamey flavour to the bland white noodles and raising it to culinary heights. Similarly, the salted egg yolk added to the batter of the fried sotong or fresh squid, lifted this ubiquitous denizen of the depths to another  dimension.

Restoran Likarli 4

Restoran Lo Tian 1Lo Tian Seafood Restaurant

This is another one of my foodie friend, Ginla Chew’s peripatetic finds and considering that its so close to where I live I will be eternally grateful. Apparently, this is a coffee shop that has been open for quite some time specialising in river fish and white pomfret which is always available. As white pomfret is one of my favourite fish, I shall certainly consider making it my local ‘canteen’.

The night we went, we had the wild river fish head which came in a claypot and was absolutely mouth-watering fresh and certainly a dish I would recommend. Next came the soft shell crabs fried with salted egg yolk-crispy and umami morsels that just melt in the mouth.

Restoran Lo Tian 3

Restoran Lo Tian 4

The Dong Por Yoke or pork belly braised in dark soya sauce was wobblingly delectable albeit a tad too sweet for my palate. However, the next dish of Ikan Bilis Szechuan style made up for it with its sizzling spiciness tempered by the tofu cubes, long beans and onions.

The Salt Baked Kampung Chicken was average with the smokiness overpowering the subtle flavouring but the wonton noodles fried with chunks of roasted pork was tasty and excellent value at RM10. As was the Tom Yam Fried Rice. For a finishing touch we had fried Umeji mushrooms and pea pods or ‘mange tout’ embellished with crispy bits of dried sotong or squid. One dish that we didn’t get to try was their Hot Plate Har Gao or dumplings on a hot plate which I promised to return to sample on another day.

All in all, Lo Tian with its very friendly lady proprietor Choong Poh Foong, is one place I shall frequent.

Restoran Lo Tian 2

Restoran Likarli
44 Jalan Lapangan Siber 10, Bandar Cyber, 31350 Ipoh.
Tel:  016 529 0298
Business Hours:  noon-2.30pm; 5.30-10.30pm
GPS:  N 04° 32.528’ E 101° 06.543’

Restoran Lo Tian Seafood Restaurant
11, Jalan Raja Perempuan Mazwin, Taman Rishah, 30100 Ipoh.
Tel:  05 528 3575
Madam Choong:  012 556 6557
Business Hours:  5pm-midnight
Closed every fortnight Wednesdays
GPS:  N 04° 36.6’ E 101° 03.32’

SeeFoon goes in search of Teochew Food


musings on food - food reviewsMusings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Call it Chaozhou, Teochew, or Teochiew as in the case of the Teochiew Restaurant on Maxwell Road but I drive past it almost daily and the name has caught my eye but like most other restaurants that my eagle foodie eye notices, I don’t dare make a move to try it until my intrepid Foodie frontrunner Ginla Chew has checked it out and decided it is worth reviewing that I venture forth, to eat, to taste and to write.

Teochiew Restaurant-2Such is the case with Restoran Teochiew. In the day, it looks nondescript enough but at night, its a bustling hive of activity as local foodies congregate to eat, drink and make merry in this restaurant with its open space next door.

As is typical, this is a fan-cooled-only space but they do lay on the red table cloths if you call to reserve a table. On the day we went, we were a group of six and my foodie friend Ginla was already there when I arrived with my two guests, one an American from Hong Kong and the other from USA.

We had come here specially for the Steamboat or Hot Pot which ‘legend’ (or what passes as legend in Ipoh, which is word of mouth) has it, is very special and very reasonably priced. This we immediately ordered and it arrived with a steaming tureen of bubbling stock and many  plates of goodies to dip into the soup.

Teochiew Restaurant-3

Unlike the usual steamboat stock one finds in other steamboat restaurants, this soup is your typical Teochiew one, with preserved mustard greens (Ham Choy), tomatoes and other unknown ingredients. I suspect this stock remains on the stove and is continuously replenished with fresh ingredients, not unlike some Hong Kong chefs who allegedly use the same superior broth that is preserved for decades (according to popular media). I wondered if this restaurant did the same thing but all attempts to get an answer was to no avail.

The ingredients that go into the tangy broth are not your usual off-the-factory-shelf ones. The standard set costing RM40 had nice fresh medium sized prawns in the shell, chicken slices, jelly fish, homemade minced pork scoops, tofu, regular fish balls and unusual meat-stuffed fishballs. These latter ones are very typically Teochiew and not easily available. The ones here were springy with the minced meat inside providing a burst of umami texture when biting into them.

Teochiew Restaurant-4Vegetables were minimal and we decided to order separately, calling for a big helping of watercress which were young and crispy. We could have re-ordered extra portions and make the hotpot our main meal but we chose to try other dishes instead and waited patiently for them to  arrive.

Other dishes came rapidly, the Keong Nga Kai or Ginger Chicken was well coated with a generous amount of ginger and had good ‘wok hei’ (pan fire), the chicken tender and juicy. Black vinegar trotters followed, not too sweet or sour and the trotter pieces cooked to the right degree of tenderness.

Mustard greens or Ham Choy came next, well married with roasted pork leg and stewed till tender. We then had the Fried Tofu, crispy morsels of soft tofu served with an interesting garlic, chilli and coriander or Chinese parsley sauce.

Teochiew Restaurant-7

The two dishes of distinction had to be the following: the Thai Style ‘Otak Otak’ which was tangy, spicy and full of flavour. Made from mixed seafood, the paste that binds it all together was irresistibly fragrant, hints of Thai basil appearing above the melange of other spices and the coconut milk lending its creaminess to the mixture.

Teochiew Restaurant-5

This was followed by pork ribs braised in a whole pumpkin, with peanuts providing texture and dried prawns lending their inimitable aroma, elevating the whole dish to new heights. The pumpkin was sweet, tender and juicy and eaten with the stuffing, I found myself in culinary heaven. Something so basic, simple home cooking raised to divine levels.

Teochiew Restaurant-1

We finished the meal with the ‘de rigueur’ noodle dish with on this evening and a specialty of the house, was the Kon Lo Meen or the dried fried noodles. This was done just right, with the usual prawns, egg, and green accompaniments; the noodles dry but well coated.

Teochiew Restaurant-6

This is one restaurant I would go back to again, a friendly place where the beer is cold, the food hot and some dishes, divine!

Suggested dishes:

  • Steamboat Set – RM40
  • Thai Style Otak Otak – RM25
  • Honey Ginger Chicken – RM12
  • Black Vinegar Pork Trotters – RM12
  • Fried Teochiew Tofu – RM8
  • Pumpkin Pork Ribs – RM26
  • Braised Mustard Greens with roasted pork – RM16

Teochiew Restaurant
10-Q Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (Maxwell Rd)
Tel: 05 506 3299
Business Hours: 10am-2.30pm and 5pm-midnight
Closed Tuesdays

SeeFoon Goes Gastro Bar Hopping


musings on food - food reviewsMusings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Where I used to be the doyenne of pubs and nightspots with loud music I now shun places where the decibel level is higher than 65 (the decibel level for normal speech), seeking instead, venues where quiet conversation, good food and reasonably priced drinks are the raison d’etre for going.

So when my gang of office colleagues suggested that I go bar hopping with them, I shuddered and was about to decline when one of them said, “The food is pretty good and if we go early, like after work, its not noisy”. After much cajoling, I relented and we all traipsed off to Bricks & Barrels for an early dinner.

Bricks & Barrels-2

Arriving at 6.30pm, the lights were dimmed and a few tables were already occupied mostly with drinkers. One big family of varying ages occupied almost one side of the room and it was heartening watching them tucking into platter after platter of food and relishing each bite.

Bricks & Barrels-1Our ‘small’ group of seven settled at one of the high tables with their equally high stools and proceeded with our order. Regular tables and chairs are available in the back garden but as the area was only fan cooled, we opted to stay in the air conditioned section in the front. The temperature here was comfortable enough and the piped music bearable to my ears, although the decibel level heats up considerably when the live music from Urban 7 begins at 9.30pm.

Bricks & Barrels is one of the new breed of ‘gastro’ pubs that have begun mushrooming in Ipoh. Based on the concept of an English pub and instead of serving boring pub grub as most are prone to do, gastropubs are meant to elevate pub food to gastronomic levels offering wholesome well prepared food at prices that while not cheap, nevertheless won’t make a hole in people’s pockets.

Bricks & Barrels does this well. This is a place where families can come to taste and sample western food and leave before the party crowd descends. This is when the music gets raucous and the beer and booze really start to flow.

The menu at Bricks & Barrels is quite extensive although starters are restricted to three soups, two salads and a ratatouille which is a mediterranean-style stewed mixed vegetable in a tomato base served with sourdough bread. The mushroom soup which arrived was fragrant, thick and creamy and for the small eaters at our table, more than enough for two people. A Tapas or snack menu also serves as an alternative to starters and one has a choice of a variety of small titbits to whet one’s appetite as one waits for the main courses to arrive. These range from fried lamb bits to fried calamari or squid, buffalo wings or chicken bits.

Bricks & Barrels-6

The specialty at Bricks & Barrels appear to be meat with Pork dominating the menu and starring in myriad roles. From the English Roast Pork belly to the Roasted Teriyaki Pork Loin, or the Porky Parmigiana which is pan fried, breadcrumbed pork loin, topped with cheddar and mozzarella cheese, the pork menu is extensive.

Pork also shows up in their pastas in their Porky Carbonara, with Italian Parmesan cream, portabello mushrooms and bacon; their Roast Pork Aglio Olio which is simply spaghetti tossed with virgin olive oil, garlic and topped with roasted pork belly chunks a’la our Chinese Siew Yoke, combining elements of east and west; and their Spaghetti Porky Bolognese, the perfect option for those who don’t eat beef.

And if that wasn’t porky enough, three of their pizzas feature pork from the Hawaiian Pork Pizza with bacon, pineapple, Italian mozzarella to the Roast Pork Pizza and the German Sausage Pizza. Their pizzas are thin crusted, crispy and well worth ordering. On the night we were there we ordered the Smoked Duck Pizza which I would go back for.

Bricks & Barrels-5

But the crème de la crème and the most impressive dish is their Porky Platter, a Hog’s heaven for 4-6 people consisting of 3 types of German sausages, barbecued spare ribs, roast pork and potato wedges. Two types of sauce came with the platter as did Sauerkraut (German pickled cabbage) and pickled gherkins. The spare ribs were falling off the bone tender and the roast pork with its superb crackling a real treat, not to mention the crispy potato wedges which I couldn’t resist picking at. This platter was certainly enough for the seven of us with leftovers to spare.

Bricks & Barrels-3

We then ordered the Creamy Seafood Spaghetti with a white wine parmesan sauce, squid, prawn and capelin roe. This was delectable, with generous chunks of scallop, squid, big prawns, sundried tomatoes and the white wine bringing the right smidgen of tartness to the sauce. And to my delight, the spaghetti was al dente.

Bricks & Barrels-4

Bricks & Barrels-7By this time we were groaning with surfeit but soldier on we did and ordered dessert. We only managed one as the others we wanted were out of stock. The ingredients in this dessert intrigued us and proved to be worth the effort. This Premium Vanilla ice cream was topped with olive oil, sea salt and a raspberry balsamic glaze, marrying savoury with sweet. This was a mixed marriage that worked, the sea salt and virgin olive oil bringing a hint of the Mediterranean to an otherwise bland dessert.

Of course other meat items are also on the menu with chicken, lamb and even Wagyu beef but for me I will go to Bricks & Barrels for their porky dishes.

Ladies will be pleased to know that on Tuesday nights, selected complimentary cocktails will be served and massive discounts given on other cocktails.

  • Creamy Seafood Spaghetti — RM30
  • Spaghetti Roast Pork Aglio Olio — RM24
  • Mushroom Soup — RM12
  • Soup of the Day — RM6
  • Caesar Salad (with chicken) — RM20
  • Smoked Duck Pizza — RM32
  • Roast Pork Pizza — RM29
  • Porky Parmigiana — RM23
  • Porky Platter (for 4-6 persons) — RM98
  • Tapas — From RM13-RM16

Bricks & Barrels
28-30 Jalan Lau Ek Ching, Ipoh.
Tel/Fax: +60 5-253 8558
Email: BricksAndBarrelsHQ@facebook.com
Sun-Thu: 5pm-1pm;  Fri-Sat: 4pm-2am
GPS:  N 04° 35.919  E 101° 05.133

SeeFoon tackles 15 dishes in one sitting


musings on food - food reviewsMusings on Food

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.

Jale Inn-4

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.

Jale Inn-2We also ordered another dish of Sek Pan or Garoupa Fish Head cut in chunks and steamed with a thick black bean sauce, the fish pieces extremely fresh and the sauce was robust and tangy.

Jale Inn-5

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.

Jale Inn-1

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.

Jale Inn-6

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.

Jale Inn-3

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.

Jale Inn-7

Suggested Dishes:

  • 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


Jale Inn
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.


SeeFoon finds yet another ‘Tai Chao’ Gem in the heart of town


musings on food - food reviewsMusings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

They say that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and in my case, I am blessed to have found my ‘flock’. My group of Foodie friends are always the first to try out a new restaurant or in many instances discover little gems that often we walk or drive past without even a second glance.

Wu So Peng is a case in point. Discovered by my peripatetic foodie ‘scout’ Ginla Chew, this is another of the Tai Chao (meaning ‘Big Fry-Up’) restaurants with unprepossessing exterior but harbouring big ambitions in the kitchen. It even has a fancy printed menu featuring close to 200 dishes.

But menus aside, we all know that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, so a group of us traipsed off to give the restaurant a try. For a start I have to give the proprietors full kudos for being innovative. The restaurant is not air-conditioned but they did go to the trouble of setting up a cooling water drip system on their canopy to help relieve some of our extreme heat. There are ample tables with loads of space in between, not squashed in as some smaller restaurants tend to be.

Looking at their extensive menu, we decided to leave it up to them to bring their signature dishes one by one to the table. And bring it one by one by one by one they did – to a total of 13 dishes in all!

We tucked in first to the Sayur Paku (jungle fern) fried in sambal belacan and dried prawns. This had good wok hei or wok aroma and had a nice bite to it, the dried prawns providing a slight crunchy texture to the crisp Sayur Paku. Everyone was offered a bowl of the Lai Tong or soup of the day which, on the day we went, was a brown marrow or Lo Wong Kwa, umami and clear.

Other dishes came in quick succession, a Claypot Catfish fried dry in soya sauce, with scallions and garlic; Eggplant with minced meat which was delectable although a tad too oily; Tong Poh Yoke or pork belly braised in dark soya sauce was tender; Wu So Kai or whiskered chicken smothered in ginger paste and scallions; Marmite Chicken which was too sweet for my palate but others loved it and Sweet Sour Pork Ribs which were done just right – neither too sweet nor sour and the ribs tender inside.

Wu So Peng-4

The Pork Knuckle came next, a generously sized knuckle deep fried to a crisp, and almost falling off the bone. This was served with two different sauces, a Thai style sweet and sour with cucumber and onions almost raw and the other a dried Wai San, Gei Ji or Chinese Yam and Goji Berries sauce that was dark, robust and very umami. This was a delectable treat, the skin crispy, the meat tender and the gelatinous bits from tendons and some fat alleviating any tendency to dryness of the whole knuckle.

Wu So Peng-5

Next came the Asam Fish Head, cut into pieces, cooked with ladies fingers (okra), tomatoes, long beans and onions. This was tangy, not overly sweetened, the tamarind sauce with just the right note of acidity and the fish head pieces very fresh.

Wu So Peng-3

This was followed by a dish of pig’s Fallopian Tubes or Sang Cheong fried with dried prawns, scallions, garlic and oodles of my favourite Chu Yau Tsar (crispy chunks of rendered lard). I love offal and this came at the end which was a pity as I could have eaten more, the whole dish being so satisfying and appealing to my taste buds with the fallopian tubes rubbery (its an acquired taste), the rendered lard crispy, and the rest of the condiments and garnishes serving up a cornucopia of taste and textures.

Wu So Peng-1

By this time we were a group of very satiated diners but ever the inquisitive foodie, I needed a taste of something ‘Tsing’ (clear or pure in the sense of food) and promptly ordered a congee with frog’s legs and minced pork. We had to wait 15 minutes for it as it was done a’la minute but it was well worth it. The congee was delectably umami, the frog’s legs tender and succulent and the minced pork lending its flavour to the broth which we all slurped up with alacrity.

Wu So Peng-2

We promised ourselves to return on another occasion to check out their noodle and rice dishes as well as their specialty steamed fish which was listed with seasonal prices on the menu as were their crab and prawn dishes. This time we were happy to stick to the home-style dishes.

Wu So Peng-6

  • Sayur Paku (small) – RM6
  • Lai Tong (soup of the day) – free
  • Claypot Catfish – RM38 per kg
  • Eggplant (small) – RM7
  • Wu So Kai or whiskered chicken (half a chicken) – RM25
  • Marmite Chicken (small) – RM12
  • Shanghai (Sweet Sour) Pork Ribs (small) – RM12
  • Deep-Fried Pork Knuckle – RM40
  • Asam Fish Head (small) – 20
  • Fallopian Tubes or Sang Cheong (small) – RM10
  • Frog’s legs – RM30 per kg

Kedai Makanan Laut Wu So Peng
7 & 7A Plaza Kinta, Jalan Dato’ Tahwil Azar
Tel: Ah Choy 012-559 7840, Shop: 05-255 8840
Hours: 11am-10.30pm
GPS: N 04° 35.515; E 101° 05.019
Closed 2 days a month Wed/Thurs.

Going Nuts in Ipoh


Cover Story

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

While the Kinta Valley is synonymous with tin and the rich heritage it spawned, another commodity which has been overshadowed by the silver sheen of tin is the lowly groundnut, a cash crop that some entrepreneurial tin miners began planting during the Tin Rush from the 1880s onwards. Most of these groundnuts came from Menglembu where a majority of these tin miners lived. The people of Menglembu soon learned to love the groundnuts for its unique flavour and crunchiness. Before long, the term ‘Menglembu Groundnuts’ or ‘Man Lei Mong Fah Sang’ became a household name.

Going nuts in Ipoh - Ngan Yin 2

Groundnuts contain more protein than meat and about two and a half times more than eggs

One businessman who capitalized on this popular demand for groundnuts is Mr Ngan Yin. He developed his own brand ‘Kacang Cap Tangan’ – meaning ‘hand brand groundnuts’ using the image of a hand giving the thumbs up sign to signify excellence. This hand image which has remained unchanged from the beginning, was to become one of the most widely known symbols of good taste not only in Malaysia, but also in Singapore as well.

This very clever subliminal suggestion of excellence has seeped into the mind of the consuming public, gaining unconscious acceptance and probably accounting for the fact that despite the plethora of peanut brands out there, Ngan Yin (the eponymous brand name) today, has captured 60% market share.

Going nuts in Ipoh - Ngan Yin 3

Mechanization in 1975

As the lowly groundnut slowly but surely gained popularity to become the snack item for all occasions, Mr Ngan Yin, aiming for bigger and better markets for the groundnuts, incorporated his factory in 1975, increasing production and further imprinting ‘Kacang Cap Tangan’ into customer’s top-of-mind awareness.

Today, the Ngan Yin empire is helmed by Mr Ngan Yin’s son Dato’ Gan Tack Kong, who despite his busy schedule as the Chairman of FMM Perak Branch and sits on many boards and committees, found the time to give Ipoh Echo an interview.

Going nuts in Ipoh - Ngan Yin 5

Two Varieties, White and Red

“Our groundnuts are of two varieties, the Spanish white and the Spanish red. The Spanish white are favoured by the Chinese while Malays generally prefer the red variety which is marketed as Shandong Peanuts. The Spanish white was originally grown by small farmers in plots throughout Malaysia and particularly around Ipoh and Menglembu. These smaller and more delicate nuts, take 92 to 95 days to mature while the reds which are bigger, more robust and more oily, (peanut oil is produced from these) take 110 to 120 days.

“Middlemen would collect the groundnuts from farmers just after the monsoon and deliver them to us for processing which in the old days was a laborious manual affair lasting 11 days of salting, cooking, drying in the sun and then roasting. All this changed when my father set up his factory and mechanization came in.”

Semi-Processed Imports

Today, farmers are not planting groundnuts commercially in Malaysia anymore. All the groundnuts that Ngan Yin processes and package are imported from Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Cambodia. Their factories are in Cambodia and here in Malaysia in Mambang Di Awan near Kampar.

The groundnuts come in semi-processed, meaning that they are already salted, cooked and dried. The factories then roast and sort them for the final packaging with the inimitable hand symbol emblazoned across the package or tin. Aside from a move to brighter neon colours to attract a younger market, the graphics have remained the same for all of the 65 years that the company has been in business. And the old fashioned square tins are still being sought after since the good old days when these air tight tins were hoarded to be re-used as containers to store other dry food items.

Going nuts in Ipoh - Ngan Yin 6

The Original Health Snack

“No preservatives are added to the groundnuts so when you think about it, here they are, pristine  in their natural shell, lightly salted, each ‘nut’ packed with its own monounsaturated “good” fat, low in saturated “bad” fat, and voila, we have the original healthy snack. Its no wonder that our products are now placed alongside other snack items on supermarket shelves except that our Ngan Yin groundnuts are way ahead of the game in terms of heart healthy value” Dato’ Gan added.

Nutrition Facts

And there is ample reason for groundnuts to be a favoured snack food. An ounce of groundnuts can provide up to 14 per cent protein in one’s daily diet. That’s more than any other nut and legume. This high amount is especially beneficial in the diets of children, vegetarians and those aged 50 and above.

The groundnut is particularly valued for its protein content (26 per cent). On a kg for kg basis, groundnuts contain more protein than meat and about two and a half times more than eggs. Being an oil seed crop, it contains 40 to 49 per cent oil. In addition to protein and oil, groundnuts are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and boron.

According to The Peanut Institute, Albany, GA, USA, an ounce of groundnuts can provide 25 per cent of vitamin E and essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium and zinc required in your daily diet. All these act as antioxidants which help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. It is a good source of vitamin B containing folate, which helps prevent birth defects and reduces homocysteine in the blood thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. It is a good source of phytochemicals, that is, natural substances in plants which provide a variety of health benefits including reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

Recent clinical research shows peanuts (a more popular name for groundnuts) can fight obesity because it slowly releases high glycaemic sugars into the bloodstream. This slow release of energy results in less frequent hunger pangs.

Going nuts in Ipoh - Ngan Yin 1

Peanuts Facts

While “nut” is in their name, peanuts are in fact legumes (Arachis hypogaea). Peanuts actually grow underground, as opposed to nuts like walnuts, almonds, etc., that grow on trees (and are sometimes referred to as “tree nuts”). Peanuts, along with beans and peas, belong to the single plant family, Leguminosae.

Legumes are edible seeds enclosed in pods. As a group, they provide the best source of concentrated protein in the plant kingdom. While groundnuts’ physical structure and nutritional benefits more closely resemble that of other legumes, their use in diets and cuisines more closely resembles that of nuts.

Going nuts in Ipoh - Ngan Yin 4Big Business   

Groundnuts are no small business. With an annual turnover of RM40 million, Ngan Yin is constantly on the lookout for new markets and new sources of revenue. New customers now include Firefly which serves packets of the shelled roasted peanuts on its flights and a similar small pack is available for sale at retail outlets and supermarkets.

While there are peanuts everywhere – shelled, salted, unsalted, smoked, a plethora of options  are out there – and yet there is instant recognition when one hears the name Menglembu groundnuts. With such a successful track record and recognition especially amongst the Chinese population worldwide, Ipoh Echo asked Dato’ Gan if plans for a Peanut Museum have ever been mooted, to which he replied, “Considering that so much has been talked about re the setting up of a Tin Museum, I have often thought that a Peanut Museum would be most appropriate especially as Menglembu groundnuts has became a household name. Our hand signature logo is instantly recognisable wherever one is in the world and one day I would love to see the packaging immortalised in a museum. Together with all the other brands like the well known Pagoda and the Fisherman. Of course, the first step is to collect all the old paraphernalia that went into the processing of the original Menglembu groundnut”.

So the next time you crack open a groundnut, remember that they first achieved popularity as a snack food in Menglembu, on our very own doorstep.

Seefoon checks out a family restaurant


musings on food - food reviewsMusings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

When a restaurant has been around for 18 years, and still going strong, I reckon that they’ve got the formula right and chances are, they’ll still be around for the next 18. This is certainly the case with Beacon Point, a cheerful, bright café whose menu has stood the test of time and faithful diners will come for their individual favourites choosing from quite an extensive menu of snacks and main courses.

Beacon Point 2

What most people come for though is their large selection of scrumptious cakes, with cheesecake being the number one favourite. And then there are their other specialties.

My particular delight is their Fried Nasi Ulam or Herbal Rice, a delectable portion of rice mixed with finely sliced mixed herbs, redolent with ginger flower or bunga kantan and serai or lemon grass, and served with sliced purple onions and one of the best sambal belacan sauces I’ve ever had. It is this sambal belacan that elevates the Nasi Ulam to new heights and after demolishing the first plate with alacrity, I had to request for a refill which they obligingly supplied.

Beacon Point 1

Another signature dish of the house is their Laksa Lemak, an interesting fusion of the Asam Laksa which uses condiments like raw sliced onions and cucumber and using the same type of thick rice noodles called Lai Fun except that in this instance it contains coconut milk and tuna fish.

Their Chicken Pie which runs out pretty fast (it was down to the last one on my last visit and we had to quickly reserve it) has a lovely flaky crust and they are generous with the filling of chicken, potatoes and carrots which was savoury and succulent. We shared one chicken pie between the four of us which left us craving for more but it was the last pie!

Beacon Point 5

We ordered the Chicken in a Basket next which arrived piping hot, crispy and crunchy and served on a bed of French fries. Unlike many a fried chicken which can end up dry and leathery, this chicken was good to the last bite.Beacon Point 4

By this time, the desserts were beckoning to us. Sitting in their refrigerated glass display, the choice was impressive. We had a choice between Butter Rum Cheesecake; sinfully nice 3-Layer Chocolate Cake; Irish Coffee Cheesecake; Coffee Marble Cheesecake; Blueberry Cheesecake; Brownies with single scoop ice-cream; Lemon Poppyseed Cheesecake; the choice was a difficult one.

We settled for one slice of the Carrot Walnut and the Chocolate Moist cake. The Carrot Walnut was moist and not too sweet, holding together well on the fork, releasing its subtle flavours on the tongue, textured by the crunch of the occasional walnut; while the Chocolate Cake could have done with more melted chocolate, but was nevertheless a good choice for the chocoholic at our table.

Beacon Point 3

Beacon Point has specials which change every day and after 3pm a larger Western menu featuring items like Chicken Chop with Black Pepper Sauce, Chicken Maryland, Chicken Spaghetti Bolognaise and on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Roast Beef with a choice of three different sauces feature on their menu.

The drinks menu is equally extensive featuring ice blended drinks, milkshakes, floats and fruit juices. No wonder that Beacon Point is known as ‘Your Family Restaurant’.

  • Fried Nasi Ulam or Herbal Rice – RM8.20
  • Laksa Lemak – RM9.30
  • Chicken Pie – RM5.90
  • Chicken in a Basket – RM9.90
  • Butter Rum Cheesecake – RM6.80
  • 3-Layer Chocolate Cake – RM6.80
  • Irish Coffee Cheesecake – RM6.50
  • Coffee Marble Cheesecake – RM6.20
  • Blueberry Cheesecake – RM6.20
  • Brownies with single scoop ice-cream – RM7.90
  • Lemon Poppyseed Cheesecake – RM6.20
  • Carrot Walnut and Chocolate Moist Cake – RM6.20 each
  • Chicken Chop with Black Pepper Sauce – RM14.90
  • Chicken Maryland – RM15.40
  • Chicken Spaghetti Bolognaise – RM12.90
  • Roast Beef with a choice of three different sauces feature on their menu – RM16.90
  • (every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday)

Beacon Point
41 Lintasan Perajurit 6, Taman Perak, 31400 Ipoh
Tel: 05-546 9916
Business Hours: Mon-Thurs: 9.30am-6pm, Fri-Sat: 9.30am-10.15pm, Closed Sundays
GPS:  4° 36.871’N, 101° 7.587’E

SeeFoon goes South Indian by day and North by night


musings on food - food reviewsMusings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

It is interesting as well as unusual to find a restaurant that combines both the more aristocratic North Indian Moghul style cuisine with the robust and fiery South Indian banana leaf variety. While the southern style relies more on coconut milk and rice and is more spicy, the northern staple is more wheat based and utilises yoghurt to temper the heat from spices. It is also milder.

Old Andersonian Club and Cafeteria-2At the Andersonians’ Club and Cafeteria, one will have to make two trips to sample both types of cuisine as it serves South Indian at lunch and North Indian mughlai food in the evening.

This club cafeteria has been around for many years with the current catering having changed hands 16 years ago. Under the able management of Karthar Singh, the restaurant has garnered a following of loyal supporters who enjoy the choice of cuisines, coming both for lunch and dinner for a change in textures and flavours.

Lunch is buffet style with one going to the counter and selecting the food which is then presented at your table in portions while dinner is à la carte. For lunch, as is usual with the banana leaf style of service, rice is served on your banana leaf with a choice of 3 vegetables and a dhal curry. These come in pails which are heaped on to the banana leaf in whatever quantities you wish for and top-ups are also included as part of the meal. For vegetarians, this is an economical meal for RM5 per person, with Rasam (a sour clear soup with herbs and spices) thrown in for free.

Old Andersonian Club and Cafeteria-5

The lunch buffet has a wide selection of items. The Mutton Curry was tender, medium spicy with well blended flavours. The Dry Chicken was spicier with a more robust coating. There is a choice of cutlets made from fish or chicken. I opted for the fish which turned out to be spicy and very tasty. The fish curry was mild, with a smooth creamy sauce and the cauliflower and potato dry curry rounded out the meal nicely. Our total meal for two came to RM23 which was a very satisfying meal indeed.

Old Andersonian Club and Cafeteria-7

For dinner, a printed menu is available from which to choose. There is the classic Tandoori Chicken, marinated with exotic herbs, spices and yoghurt and grilled in a clay oven. Our portion which was the entire thigh and drumstick, was grilled to perfection, slightly charred on the edges, marinated just right, and still succulent inside.

Old Andersonian Club and Cafeteria-1

We had a Mutton Vindaloo which was delicately spiced and cooked with potatoes. The mutton was tender with a very dry gravy, the potatoes providing a slight thickening. A dish worth noting is the Fish Methi, pieces of boneless fish cooked in a thick sauce with methi or fenugreek leaves, a powerful herb containing many minerals and vitamins. The blend of spices in the sauce was robust and most appetising.

The back of the menu had a list of Chef’s specials and I was recommended the Sizzling Tandoori Chicken, which arrived as its name implies, on a sizzling platter, smothered with a sauce which I found too sweet to my taste but which went down very well with my guest – RM12. I also noted on the same specials listing, Fish Head curry which is priced at RM25-30.

Old Andersonian Club and Cafeteria-3

To accompany our meat dishes, I ordered the Brinjal or Eggplant Masala, prepared with onions in a spicy sauce. This was delicious, the eggplant with a perfect ‘squishiness’ and  great with the Cheese Garlic Naan which was a large serving-plate-sized oven baked bread topped with the aforementioned ingredients. To temper the spiciness of all the various dishes, Raita, a yoghurt ‘salad’ of finely-chopped raw vegetables mixed in yoghurt completed the feast.


Vegetarian Banana Leaf Meal: a choice of
3 vegetables and dhal – RM5
Mutton Curry
Dry Chicken – RM4
Fish Cutlet – RM2
Chicken Cutlet – RM2
Fish Curry – RM4

Old Andersonian Club and Cafeteria-4


Tandoori Chicken – RM8 per portion
Mutton Vindaloo – RM9
Fish Methi – RM8
Sizzling Tandoori Chicken – RM12
Eggplant Masala – RM6
Cheese Garlic Naan – RM5
Raita (chopped vegetables in yoghurt) – RM4


Old Andersonian Club and Cafeteria
932 Jalan Hospital
Tel: 05-241 1615 or 012-501 7377
Business Hours: 11am-3pm & 6pm-10.30pm, closed every 2nd Monday
GPS:  4° 36.244’N, 101° 5.240’E

SeeFoon does a ‘Steak’ Out in Greentown


musings on food - food reviews3Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Maria’s is a long established restaurant in Greentown and has garnered a following and a reputation for being one of the best steakhouses in Ipoh.

One has a choice of sitting outside on the pavement and watch the world go by or inside in cool comfort where the steak aficionados come. Here you can mull over the signboard that lists the various types of steak available. And there is a tempting choice available too, one to suit most palates and pockets.

One can order a chilled Australian Ribeye Steak (about 200g) for RM48 or pay more for the Angus at RM44 per 100g. Then the tastier selections come in (not that Angus is not tasty but there is a difference) and with it the price. Wagyu Beef (an Australian version of the Japanese Kobe) comes in 3 grades, 5, 7 and 9 with incremental prices per 100g as the numbers go up (see prices below). Of course at the top of the list is the quintessential steak, the Kobe and here at Maria’s it’s a grade number 6.

Maria showed me the Kobe Steak before whisking it away to be grilled and it was pink and completely well marbled. This is one time to throw caution to the wind and forget about clogged arteries and cholesterol, I said to myself. And what a treat it was and am I glad I decided to indulge.

Marie's Restaurant & Cafe 4

The Kobe Steak weighing in at around 200g arrived on the table with simple steamed vegetables, carrots, broccoli and pan-fried potatoes. Maria recommends in the menu itself not to have sauces with the steak but of course will comply and provide on request. Also she recommends eating the steak either medium rare and best rare. Well my steak was a trip to paradise. Served rare, I could almost cut it with a fork, being so tender. The meat was succulent, fragrant  and the mouth feel, velvety smooth.

To be fair, I was so carried away by my Kobe Steak, that I forgot to mention that Maria’s is not ONLY a steakhouse. They do have an extensive menu that includes the usual pastas, soups, lamb, chicken and fish dishes. The pies at Maria’s are particularly well known and popular, all homemade by self taught chef Maria Tan. I particularly like her Beef Pies which are juicy inside, with a crust that is crumbly and flaky at the same time.

Marie's Restaurant & Cafe 3

We started with an Oxtail Soup, thick and robust with two pieces of oxtail whose meat fell from the bone effortlessly. This was served with a slice of garlic bread and followed with a Caesar Salad, creamy dressing with chopped walnuts, beef bacon bits and croutons.

The fish dish came next, a Grilled Salmon Steak topped with Bonito flakes (dried skipjack tuna) and served with an interesting citrus sauce of orange, soya and zest. Unusual flavours.

 Marie's Restaurant & Cafe 1

The finale came with the Tiramisu, this one with strong hints of brandy and Tia Maria liqueur smothering the sponge finger base and infusing the mascarpone cheese filling with its fragrance. Chocolate shavings sprinkled on top finished the presentation which was wolfed down in a jiffy. I almost regretted agreeing to share one portion between two people.

Marie's Restaurant & Cafe 6

All in all, Maria’s is a well-rounded restaurant that is strong on steaks but non beef eaters will also get a good meal and those with belly room left over can look forward to the choice of desserts and cakes that Maria’s is famous for.

Beef Steaks:
Kobe                           RM185 per 100g
Wagyu # 9                 RM115 per 100g
Wagyu # 7                 RM85  per 100g
Wagyu # 5                 RM70 per 100g
Angus                         RM44 per 100g
Oxtail Soup               RM 19.50
Caesar Salad             RM14.00
Seafood Spaghetti   RM 23.50
Salmon                      RM38.00
Tiramisu                    RM13.50

Marie's Restaurant & Cafe 2

Maria’s Restaurant and Cafe (Pork Free)
60 Persiaran Greentown 1
Pusat Perdagangan Greentown, 30450 Ipoh
Tel: 05-242 4233
Business Hours: 4pm-11.30pm daily.   GPS:  4º 36.942’N, 101º 7.365’E



SeeFoon seeks out seafood at its most extravagant


musings on food - food reviewsMusings on Food

 By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

There is a general belief amongst foodies that the best seafood restaurants are situated by the sea. Being the lazy diner that I am, I seldom venture out on long trips whether its to Pantai Remis or Tanjung Tualang or Matang. So whenever the urge for fresh seafood comes on, I head for Lucky’s right in the heart of town.

Lucky Restaurant is a veritable shrine for seafood lovers looking for the biggest, the rarest, and the freshest seafood and fish and willing to pay the high prices that some of these dishes fetch.

To be fair, not everything at Lucky’s is expensive. Lucky’s also has the best prawn wonton in Ipoh which one can eat with a plate of noodles and feel satisfied that one has had a good lunch and not have to mortgage the house to enjoy it. Or their heavenly, springy, homemade fish balls which Lucky Cheong swears is made from pure fish meat, a mix of saito (wolf herring) and tao foo yu (Yellowback fusilier) with no other additives other than salt and water. And there is always a fried fish to nibble on while waiting for the other dishes to arrive — RM1.50 per piece; not to mention their double-fried roast pork whose crackling is rendered more crispy by the frying. But these are all merely appetizers for the fans who flock to Lucky’s and who come for his specialties.

Musings - Restoran Lucky - 5

Musings - Restoran Lucky - 7

Lucky Cheong always has some special fish up his sleeves. Whether it’s the giant grouper or loong dan which is prized for its thick, velvety smooth gelatinous skin; or the parrot fish; or his specialty (depending on availability) the tao dai (large white pomfret, seasonal price), Lucky has a choice of 8 preparation styles from which to choose according to customer’s taste and inclination.

Musings - Restoran Lucky - 6

His signature dishes are many. My particular favourite is his Fish Noodle Soup which comes sizzling hot in a claypot. These are thick filaments made from fish meat that resemble Japanese Udon in looks but are completely different in taste. Because they’re made from pure fish meat, the ‘noodles’ are springy on the bite and also serve to lend its umami flavouring to the soup which usually comes with Tientsin cabbage, and a choice of any other fish that one may order with it. Occasionally I have had these fish noodles with whole fresh lobster (sold at RM130 per kg) which makes it a dish precious for every bite and every drop of soup.

Musings - Restoran Lucky - 3

What is very popular here at Lucky’s is their Crab Congee, a steaming tureen of rice congee where the rice has been boiled down to a thin gruel and flavoured by the crab with its red roe, permeating the dish. This can also be ordered with their large prawns for those who are not fond of crabs.

And while on the subject of congee, their crème de la crème has to be their ‘Fairy’ Congee or in Cantonese, the Sun Seen Rice Porridge, the same umami congee enhanced with shark fin, abalone, scallops and crab meat.

Musings - Restoran Lucky - 2

Finally a write up on Lucky is not complete without a mention of their Braised Prawn Noodle, Sang Meen the al dente egg noodles which Lucky Cheong tells me are made specially for his restaurant with duck eggs, braised in a velvety smooth sauce thickened with egg white.

Musings - Restoran Lucky - 4

It’s always good to have a chat with Lucky himself before you order as he always has a special or two of the day to recommend. These are usually highly innovative concoctions which Lucky himself dishes out.

His teas are also worth sampling as Lucky is quite the tea connoisseur, the shelves on one side of the restaurant being lined with boxes and patties of Chinese tea, some aged and apparently highly coveted by tea aficionados.

Suggested Dishes:
Prawn Wontons – RM0.50 each
Fish Balls – RM1.10 each
Giant Grouper or Loong Dan – RM110 per kg
Parrot Fish – RM40 per kg
Tao Dai (large white pomfret) – seasonal price
Fish Noodle Soup – RM3 per person or RM11 minimum for the basic dish
Crab Congee – crabs at RM70 per kg
‘Fairy’ Congee or Sun Seen Rice Porridge – RM150 for 6 persons
Braised Prawn Noodle or Sang Meen – large prawns or Meng Har at RM80 per kg

Musings - Restoran Lucky - 1

Restoran Lucky
266 Jalan Pasir Puteh, Pasir Puteh.
Tel.: 05-255 7330, 012-501 6630, 012-510 6279
Business Hours: 7.30 am-3.30 pm
Closed 1st and 3rd Wednesdays
GPS:  4° 34.802’N, 101° 4.913’E