Issue 76 – Musings On Food
SeeFoon has memories of Milan in Ipoh
I love Italian food. And I love Chinese food. I just love food. Period. In fact I don’t believe there is any cuisine in the world, no matter how unsavoury, where I cannot find at least one dish to enjoy.
Loving Italian food as I do, I occasionally hanker after one fish preparation from a pescheria I used to frequent in Milan, back in the days when I used to go there often. Now that I live in Ipoh, I have tried a few times to reproduce this much loved dish Branzino salato al’forno (salt baked seabass) at home but alas without much success. By chance I was introduced to a new restaurant recently that serves a dish quite similar to the Milanese version I so miss. The best surprise is that this is a Chinese restaurant, newly opened in Ipoh.
Soon Fatt – 15 years young
Located on Jalan Seenivasagam, Soon Fatt has actually been around for about 15 years. Started as a ‘Tai Chow’ stall at the food court opposite the Excelsior Hotel, the restaurant is operated by a young couple, Chong Tack Ming and his wife Chan Foong Ho. Enterprising and dedicated, this committed duo will not allow any glitches to get in the way of their running the business. The day I was there, Foong Ho had brought her young daughter into the restaurant because her baby carer was indisposed and she played happily on a blanket on the floor behind the cashier’s counter while her mother was busy serving guests.
The menu here is extensive with more than 100 items. Lunch items are very popular, with noodle and rice dishes beginning at a very reasonable RM3.50 per dish. Their service is friendly and efficient especially from Johnny a young Indian who speaks perfect Cantonese.
Salt Baked Fish “a’la Milanese”
The Soon Fatt version of my favourite salt-baked fish uses live Tilapia and is served on a bed of deep fried crispy cellophane noodles giving it its Chinese flavour. Understandably, Tilapia being a farm raised fresh water fish, can occasional-ly have tinges of muddiness but Foong Ho assures me that they make all efforts to keep the fish alive in pure water for a few days before serving, to reduce the chances of getting a muddy taste. The fish is encrusted in a thick layer of salt and baked, with skin and scales. When serving, the waiter will remove the salt and when finished with the top half, he’ll come back to expose the underside for you, to avoid the risk of getting too much salt on the flesh. RM20 for the whole fish and highly recommended for those on a low fat and low carbohydrate diet…..not low salt however. I do miss the extra virgin olive oil that the Milanese version serves with their fish though. I used to love drizzling it on my seabass. Perhaps Soon Fatt may consider serving this on the side as an option?
For the past three months, Soon Fatt has very cleverly promoted their sharks fin soup in individual tureens at the incredible price of RM8.00 per portion. At that price, I was expecting heavy starch, surima or synthetic crab, and maybe even synthetic sharks fin but to my delight, the soup was thick without being too starchy, with chunks of chicken and real chunks of sharks fin! This, in the F&B business is known as a loss leader….one dish sold below cost to draw in the customers. When I was last there, it was certainly working. Not many ordered the sharks fin but they must have been lured in previously and found the food to their taste and kept coming back.
Some house special-ties worthy of mention at Soon Fatt are their smoked chicken or Yin Wu So Kai, juicy and succulent chicken lightly smoked whole and cut in chunks for serving – RM25 for half a chicken; kale braised with whole pig’s trotter, Kai Choy Mun Chu Sao – RM25; Taro braised with spare ribs, Wu Tao Mun Pai Kwat – RM10; Mantis Prawn done either Gong Po – RM10 (dried chillies, dark soya, sugar, cashews) or Lai Yau – RM12 (butter, fried,) style; and their frogs legs with fried ginger – RM20.
Two noodle dishes worthy of mention are their Tai Lok Meen, fat Udon noodles fried in dark soya sauce with pork and lardons thrown in and their fried meehoon or vermicelli that comes like a pancake, slightly crispy at the edges and laced with meat, prawns and vegetables.
Soon Fatt is a biggish restaurant, able to seat about 400 people. There are 3 private rooms downstairs and 2 big ones upstairs, each able to accommodate 2 tables each. When opened up, the downstairs room can accommodate 4 tables and the upstairs, 5. A recent lunch in a private room there saw us sitting 15 at a table (the largest table they can muster) and all my friends were delighted at the new taste treats that were being introduced. All in all a welcome addition to the Ipoh food scene.
RESTORAN SOON FATT
42 Jalan Seenivasagam, 30450 Ipoh
11.00 a.m.-2.30 p.m. 5.00 p.m.-10.30 p.m.