By Tan Mei Kuan & Vivien Lian (pics)
Get swept up with the energy in this jam-packed, town-hopping itinerary which showcases the best of Ayer Tawar, Sitiawan and Lumut in the Manjung District without breaking the bank. It’s all about eating and food shopping with a few sights thrown in. From must-eats (some spots even visited by Martin Yan, a certified Master Chef and popular television host), hidden gems, major attractions, cultural delights, insider tips to recommended accommodation, Ipoh Echo has got it all covered either for a solo trip or a family vacation. When was the last time you explored your own backyard? Better start packing now!
Exploring Your Own Backyard
Kick-start your morning with a bowl of kampua noodle (Fuzhou wanton mee) at an unassuming wooden corner shop (number 8) with SJK (C) Ayer Tawar as a neighbouring landmark. Open from 6.15am till 10.30am from 1996, its kampua noodle, laksa (rice noodle served in hot soup) and loh mee (noodle in a thick and savoury broth with bamboo shoots) are priced at just RM3.50 per bowl. Yek Ai Sin, the owner explained to Ipoh Echo in what would be her first interview with the media, “My kampua noodle has char siew (barbecued pork) and the noodle sauce is made of lard and dark soy sauce. These are made fresh by me every day at 4am.”
You will not miss the nasi lemak roadside stall at Ayer Tawar Wet Market with its constant long queue for its RM1.50 nasi lemak consisting of fragrant rice and sambal (chilli paste). Run by a Malay uncle named Anis who speaks fluent Mandarin, it opens from 8.15am till 10.30am (closed on Wednesdays).
After breakfast, drop by these two old-school bakeries: Siew Hua Biscuit (since 1944) and Kim Hock Bakery (since 1942).
Siew Hua Biscuit is famed for its steamed layer bun which resembles a fluffy pillow (available in kaya (coconut jam), peanut paste or bean paste), gong pian (traditional savoury Fuzhou biscuit created using either lean meat or fatty meat), seasonal pastries and Chinese wedding biscuits which go through a charcoal-fired oven.
Kevin Yak, the third generation running Siew Hua Biscuit, said, “Charcoal-fired oven produces more aromatic biscuits and pastries. We use all natural ingredients without any preservatives. Meanwhile, a quality gong pian should be made as thin as possible as it is crispier and lasts longer. The main ingredients are onions and minced pork.”
One interesting find is the jiu jiu biscuit which literally translates as “Uncle’s Biscuit”. It is a round, palm-sized soft biscuit filled with sesame seeds to be gifted to one’s uncle when distributing the wedding invite. “The bigger the biscuit, your uncle will return the favour by buying a bigger gold chain for your wedding,” Kevin enthused. Open from 10am, the products are made at 488 Kg Baru, 32400 Ayer Tawar and then sold at a shop just down the road at 181 Jalan Sri Sentosa 1.
Martin Yan Was Here
On the other hand, Kim Hock Bakery has been featured in the “Taste of Malaysia with Martin Yan” series in 2015. “We use rubber tree wood to fire the oven, just like in the past when there was no electric oven, which produces a different texture. We only use natural ingredients, using my father’s recipe. The all-time favourite is our Hainanese bread which is best eaten with kaya, sought after by local residents and coffee shops,” 70-year-old Hwa Kia Hwa, the second generation running the place shared.
Opens daily except Sunday from 2.30pm, the bakery is located at No. 1, New Village. Pork-free.
Another spot highlighted by Martin Yan is Lang Hua Mee Trading which crafts chemical-free Fuzhou wanton mee, yellow mee, wonton skin and dry wonton skin, another Fuzhou speciality here used in the making of soup. Lee Shi Hao, the fourth generation running the place pointed out, “We are the oldest noodle maker here. We make over 300kg of noodles every day.” Open from 5am to 12noon daily, it is located at Lot 1043, Jalan Ling Sing Hang.
Most of the stalls in Ayer Tawar get their noodle supply from here such as Nga Coffee Shop at Lot 11361 (No. 16) along Jalan Kilang Kelapa Sawit.
Next destination is the Ayer Tawar Heritage House started in December 2016 by the Manjung Kutien Association. It tells the culture of the Kutien community with artefacts dating as far back as the 1920s. Entrance is free and by appointment only. For more, contact 019 558 2543 (Ling Size Hing, president) or 012 577 7227 (Tian Chin Thai, vice president).
Charge your phone before the visit because you’ll have a lot of role playing to do!
More Ayer Tawar Eats
A shout-out to Ling for providing us with insider tips on more awesome eats in Ayer Tawar.
It included Shuan Fu Fuzhou Pau at Lot 1014, Jalan Ling Sing Hang for its steamed layer bun and fat gao (Chinese steamed cake),
shaved ice dessert at Ah Choo ABC at No 438, Ayer Tawar New Village,
Pantai Remis rojak (salad dish served in hot sauce) from the roadside stall next to SMJK Ayer Tawar,
Ing Hua Restaurant (for its red wine mee sua, fish maw, sweet and sour fish fillet and mixed vegetable with scorpion fish) in Taman Seri Indah and
hand-kneaded pau (steamed bun) and fragrant peanut soup from Hock Chuan Coffee Shop at No 129, Jalan Besar available from noon.
Sun Hon Siong Restaurant, beloved by generations, offers red wine noodle too at No. 142, Main Road.
For dinner, dine under the stars at the roadside stall which has been operating for over 20 years right next to Ayer Tawar Heritage House for its fried Fujian mee, handmade pan mee soup, fried curry mee, fried meehoon with lala (clam), prawn crackers and fried chicken. Opens every day from 6pm to 11.30pm except Tuesday, the amiable owner, Liang Choo Khing will be glad to serve you.
Ayer Tawar Stay
Check out the Ting Residence which opened its doors in 2014. With rooms that feel like home, colours and lighting make a fashionable statement at the accommodation. Amenities like Wi-Fi access, air conditioning and intercom telephone are provided. Parking lots behind enclosed gates are guarded by CCTV. It is located at Lot 1122, Jalan Ling Sing Hang 2. Get a Superior Triple Room here for only RM99: http://www.booking.com/Share-gwdk8Eo For more, visit www.tingresidence.com or call 05 672 9196.
Heard of Fuzhou ting bian hu, which literally translates to “wok-side paste”? To prepare, a very thin layer of rice milk is poured onto the side of the hot wok. Once it is cooked, the paste is scrapped down into the centre of the wok which is already filled with broth. Due to the painstaking skill needed to make this traditional dish, it is limited and the only place serving it in peninsular Malaysia is Come To Eat Coffee Shop here. Lee Hee Long, the owner said, “It is a vanishing art. I learnt by observing my grandmother making it. You need to grind the rice milk to produce smooth ting bian hu. Another dish that you cannot find anywhere else but in Sitiawan is Fuzhou long yen, knife-cut noodle.” It opens at 7am till 2pm at No. 5, Jalan Raja Omar in Taman Arasu. From 2pm onwards, Lee’s self-made Fuzhou thousand layer cake and various paus are sold.
Alternatively, get yourself a bowl of authentic loh mee with its broth heavily flavoured with dried cuttlefish and bamboo shoots at Lee Chuo Restaurant (since 1983) next to Kampung Koh Wet Market. Open from 5am till 5pm, kampua noodle and handmade pan mee are also available.
A nameless stall next to Petronas petrol station in Kg Koh from 6am serves the best loh la (loh mee plus laksa) and self-made sambal.
Speaking of Kg Koh, search for the famed Kg Koh Chilli Sauce at Ngo Kie Siong Trading Company which started in 1972. It is currently run by Ngo Kia Bing, the second generation, who explained that it is sheer hard work as the ingredients are prepared from scratch and one has to face the inevitable, constant chilli sting in eyes and nose. Open from 8am till 5pm daily at 220, New Village, Kg Koh.
Kg Koh is also home to Wat Sitawanaram, a Thai-Buddhist temple with a towering sitting Buddha.
Seeking an educational experience? First, visit Mr Honey Bees Farm to see first-hand the harvest of 100% pure, untreated, mature honey made by Apis mellifera bees (Italian bees) which takes place every Sunday at 10am. Swing by its website: www.bee.my. Entrance is free.
Equally enlightening is Saloma Vineyard and Nursery which grows and sells a variety of grapes, figs, herbs and others. More info on its website: www.salomavineyard.com.
Next is the Sitiawan Settlement Museum, the first Christian museum in Malaysia that records the history of Fuzhou settlers who migrated south to Sitiawan. Entry by donation.
Grab lunch at Seng Jee Chan by ordering a bowl of authentic Fuzhou red wine mee sua (wheat vermicelli also known as longevity noodle). Seng Jee Chan has been brewing red wine and producing yeast that helps with the fermentation of the red rice since 1940.
You can opt for King Yew Restaurant which offers traditional Fuzhou dishes such as mixed vegetable, red wine mee sua, sweet and sour fish, oyster omelette and fish maw. For more, contact 05 691 6621.
Two cool hangout spots which popped up in Sitiawan are The Farm Café and School of Animals. For instance, School of Animals is a quirky and unique space which serves an extensive range of crafted beer, homemade kefir drinks and good food such as cheesy chicken sloppy joe, all day Iberico sausage breakfast, Japanese egg pizza and Japanese curry rice. Other spots worth checking out are The Baker’s Hut and Iwan Grill Place. Iwan Grill Place is a cosy spot serving both Western and Asian cuisine.
Your trip will not be complete without packing home some 100 per cent hand-pulled mee sua from Lucky Food Enterprise (behind Simpang Lima’s only petrol station),
gong pian from Sitiawan Cheong Cia Gong Pian (No. 12, Jalan Tok Perdana)
and mung bean biscuit from San Yew Chay Biscuit Shop (193, Lorong Belakang, Kampung Koh).
One powerhouse in the seafood restaurant scene is pork-free Villa Seafood Restaurant at No. 384, Kg Cina. Established for over 20 years, highly recommended are the four heavenly kings made up of four types of seafood, oyster omelette, marmite crab and fried mee hoon with crab. Open from 11am till 10pm. Closed on Wednesday.
One hidden gem is Nan Leong Crockery Shop which has been around for about 50 years and is filled to the brim with every old-school household item one can imagine from enamel crockery, poultry waterer, biscuit mould, wooden clogs, bamboo steamer basket to paper umbrella. Located along Jalan Lumut, it is open from 10am to 6.30pm (close on Sunday).
A stone’s throw away from Sitiawan Cheong Cia Gong Pian and other attractions is the Mornington Hotel (Sitiawan branch) which makes it an ideal stay for its location alone. Offering heart-warming hospitality and value-added service, Mornington is devoted to pampering you like a family member in an oasis of comfort. Room type ranges from standard queen, deluxe twin, standard family, deluxe suite to two-bedroom suite. Book our room for RM84 per night here: http://www.booking.com/Share-8FuAhOW
For details, call 05 692 818.
For morning exercise, an adventurous option will be a morning trek up the 331.4m Engku Busu Hill while a family-friendly option will be a stroll at the Mangrove Park teeming with tiny blue crabs and mudskippers. Both are self-guided.
For the adventurers, Engku Busu Hill.
For families, Mangrove Forest Park.
Sate your appetite at D Warisan Restaurant (closed on Monday) from 10am till 5pm. Self-service. During the weekend, take your pick from the over 60 Malay dishes available especially its ulam (traditional salad) and ikan bakar (grilled fish). Walk off your meal at Teluk Senangin Beach right after.
The Teluk Batik Beach is another popular choice easily accessible by car. The soft-sand beach is situated in a bay with a good amount of shade for that tropical atmosphere.
All rooms in The Orient Star Resort Lumut have a panoramic view of the sea and its surrounding area with modern comfort and amenities with ample parking to boot. Designed with simple elegance, the deluxe resort is located along the bank’s waterfront overseeing the azure blue sea (Lot 203 & 366, Jalan Iskandar Shah, 32200 Lumut). Recreation facilities and family package are available. Book our room for RM119(breakfast included) here: http://www.booking.com/Share-KCZtJg. For reservation, call 05 683 3800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.