Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Mention ‘Mah Lat’ to me and I go instantly into my Pavlovian reflex and start drooling. Well not quite literally drooling but all my gustatory senses are heightened and my taste buds can barely wait for that first searing hit on the tongue, travelling down the gullet and creating a warm sensation in the stomach.

I am addicted to spice, especially chilli, and when you add Szechuan pepper to the equation, I’m in eating heaven, accompanied by the inevitable runny nose, wads of crumpled tissues, in a trail of devastation left by the fiery fare followed by the gulps of tea or water to ameliorate the heat. Some friends have remarked that I must be masochistic to enjoy that kind of torture (which it is to some palates) but on mine the heat only heightens my dining pleasure. To each his own I always say. So when I discovered yet another ‘Mah Lat’ sensation in Ipoh, I made a beeline for it.

Why in a hot climate like Malaysia we need to sit around a steaming pot and get all steamed up is a question that is best left unanswered. And Ipohites certainly like their steamboat or hot pot as can be witnessed by the increasing numbers of steamboat restaurants sprouting up like mushrooms after the rain.

Delicious Fish Steamboat has barely been open for three months and already they have a fan in me. Specialising in Szechuan hot pot, they also have other wok-fare on the menu if your preference leans away from this popular style of dining. Located opposite Festival Walk on Jalan Medan Ipoh 1, their sign board is emblazoned across the front and you just cannot miss it.

Their signature steamboat comes with a choice of broth, either the Szechuan spicy soup or the Healthy herbal soup. Or you can order the Yin Yang combination in one pot containing both types of broth. So the non-spicy eaters can stay with their herbal soup and occasionally take a daring dip in the spicy section while the adventurous palates can go full blast into their fiery encounter. The herbal soup has six types of herbs and is delectably umami on its own without waiting for all the other ingredients which are to be cooked to add flavour; as is usually the case with other broths in other establishments. The spicy broth comes in three degrees of chilli heat. I opted for the medium heat and even for my palate, that was almost too hot to bear but somehow I managed! All broths, whether in combination or stand alone, are RM30 and refillable.

There is a very wide range of raw ingredients to choose from including Wagyu beef slices at RM38, NZ lamb at RM36, and Sakura Pork at RM22; pricey items like Abalone slices at RM48, Sea Cucumber at RM28 and large prawns at market price. Vegetables and other accompaniments like bean curd, bean skin, noodles, start at RM6 per portion with seaweed wakame at RM12. A choice of fresh mushrooms are available from RM6.

Sauces are plentiful and they have a whole table laden with different sauces for you to mix your own. I found this most helpful as often the sauces served in other steamboat restaurants are pre-mixed and usually not to my taste.

A specialty here is their fish, all live and swimming in large tanks towards the back of the restaurant. A choice of grass carp – RM38/48 S/M; catfish – RM66/78 S/M or Garupa which is sold at RM6.90 per 60g portion. There is a choice of cooking styles beginning with their signature which goes by the surprisingly innocuous name of Boiled Fish Szechuan. Well this unlike any boiled fish I’ve ever eaten, velvety smooth fish slices (careful with the bones) hidden in the fiery depths of the Szechuan broth which is chock full of chillies, Szechuan  peppers (which is characteristic in Szechuan cuisine primarily to numb the taste buds) and a host of other ingredients which was difficult to make out. I loved it but my guests found it almost too hot to handle! Next time I’ll order the low-heat version.

Other styles for the fish include a soup made with salted cabbage, one with fresh green pepper and another with tomato. I did not have an opportunity to sample the other wok-fried dishes on the menu but if the Fish soup and the Steam Boat are anything to go by, they’re going to be equally exemplary.

A word of advice to novices of Szechuan cuisine. Do start with ordering the low heat and work up to the high heat. My evening with the medium heat was sufficient to almost test my spice limit.

Delicious Fish Steamboat
19 & 21 Jalan Medan Ipoh 1
Bandar Baru Medan, Ipoh.
Business Hours:  12pm-3pm & 6pm-10pm
Tel: 016 550 0990, 05 545 1648, 016 550 0936
www.facebook.com/delicfish