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
Proprietor 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.
Another 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.
Hard 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.
We 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.
#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