FOODMusings

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

Musings 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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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 Peng7 & 7A Plaza Kinta, Jalan Dato’ Tahwil AzarTel: Ah Choy 012-559 7840, Shop: 05-255 8840Hours: 11am-10.30pmGPS: N 04° 35.515; E 101° 05.019Closed 2 days a month Wed/Thurs.

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See Foon

SeeFoon Chan-Koppen has been writing a food column called Musings on Food in the Ipoh Echo since 2009. It is widely read both in print as well as online which receives more than 1 million hits a month. Her forte is in communications, having honed her skills after graduating from the University of Singapore where she worked for the Straits Times Group and was a food critic for the New Nation. Her knowledge of food and cooking come from more than 30 years in the hotel industry based in Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong and subsequently Kuala Lumpur. During this time, she has travelled all over the world and eaten at the best and worst restaurants. She is totally intimate with the subtleties and nuances of most cuisines of the world having been involved in opening over 50 hotels throughout the Asia/Pacific region and China where she helped to conceptualize Food and Beverage themes and critiqued on food quality. SeeFoon calls herself a global citizen and now chooses the serenity and friendliness of Ipoh to the bright lights of the many cities she has lived in. She also loves the food in Ipoh and is passionate about telling the world about it.

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