Musings on Ipoh Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

How often do you taste 21 dishes at one sitting? Well, a group of my friends succeeded recently when Eddie Foo, who is a serious Foodie and THE leading antique dealer in Ipoh, invited us for a meal at the newly-opened Black Earth restaurant in Greentown Business Centre.

Granted we were a large crowd (15 people) who made short shrift of the 21 dishes, but nevertheless there was more than a surfeit of food. The dishes came fast and furiously and Eddie had to tell them to slow down.

Authentic flavours from North East China (Harbin) claims the menu and pretty authentic it is as far as my taste buds go, having been to Harbin on quite a few occasions. Northern Chinese cuisine is known for its dumplings, and the measure of authenticity lies in the texture of the dough wrapping and of course the taste of the filling inside.

Black Earth Restaurant has quite a selection of dumplings to choose from, both steamed and fried with a variety of fillings. I tried both the pan fried and steamed dumplings, with the three types of fillings: Pork and Capsicum, Prawns and Cucumbers and the Egg and Chives which also come as a pan fried pancake RM1.50 each. There is also a pure vegetarian one. Steamed RM7 for 7 pieces and Fried RM8 for 7 pieces. I preferred the steamed dumpling over the fried as the steamed dumplings measured up to my taste test where the wrapping is still resilient, the filling moist and if you put the whole dumpling in the mouth, there is still the residual juice left inside that oozes out, adding its umami goodness to the whole mouthfeel. Just  like a good Xiao Long Pau except the wrapping in the latter is much thinner.

The fried mushrooms we started with where the batter was light and crispy, the mushroom still pliable and served with ‘wah yeem’ or seasoned salt, was snapped up with alacrity and we promptly ordered another plate – RM16. This was followed by one of their signature dishes, the seasoned ‘cloud ear’ mushroom served as a cold dish, crunchy and velvety all at the same time, with hints of sesame and Chinese wine – RM18.

Another cold dish to come was the sliced belly pork: tangy, delicately thin slices of semi fat pork crowned with a hillock of garlic that found favour amongst all at our table – RM20. A must have dish to order is the Veggie Balls, delectably crispy balls of Tong Ho or chrysanthemum flower with meat and served with their tasty spice salt – RM20.

The soup we ordered was the mustard greens (ham choi) and potato flour glass noodles with pork bones soup, the pickled mustard greens imbuing its mild salty, citrusy flavours to the soup and the glass noodles which have the delightful texture of being slippery while still retaining a slight resilience on the bite – RM28.

Their signature dish of Braised Pig’s Trotter has justifiable pride of place on their menu. Braised to a perfect tenderness, the skin and fat reduced to jelly, this is a dish requiring a big group to do justice to it – RM38.

Space constraints here limits my ability to describe all of the 21 dishes we had and I will only mention the ones that I would recommend. Their whole ladies fingers stir fried and topped with minced pork were each delectably tender, while the stir fried long beans with minced pork were suitably well seasoned particularly with garlic and still had a crunch to them.  Both RM16 each.

Other dishes of note were the Eggplant stuffed with minced pork, which came on a sizzling platter – RM18, and their Soya Sauce Fried Rice which was well rounded and most tasty – RM8.80.

We ended our meal with an old favourite: one that is seldom found in restaurant menus anymore, the Hot Toffee Sweet Potato. Usually using apples, this was an interesting variation. Of course this has to be eaten immediately, dunking the pieces into the cold water to harden the molasses and immediately feel the crunch as one bites into it – RM16.

The Black Earth is certainly worth patronising. Their menu is extensive, service is fast and at lunch time, they have a little stall outside selling the fried pancakes both sweet and savoury. Their private rooms upstairs are very comfortable with the one room we were in able to accommodate two tables and for a minimum order of RM300, the room is free and so is the Karaoke which comes with the room.

Black Earth Sdn Bhd
No. 7 & 7A, Persiaran Greentown 7,
Greentown Business Centre Fasa 2,
30450 Ipoh.
Tel.: 05 241 0219
Opening hours:  11am-3.30pm; 6pm-11pm