By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
I have been meaning to revisit the almost ‘antique’ Teo Chiew Restaurant that I wrote about in the 16 November 2013 issue of Ipoh Echo but alas, contrary to what people believe and the question I am asked most “how do you find so many restaurants to write about?”, restaurants are aplenty in Ipoh and when one closes, a new one opens and I seldom find the time to revisit the restaurants I have reviewed.
That was what happened with Teo Chiew restaurant and when my foodie kaki Ginla Chiew told me excitedly about her latest find, the Hong Feng Restaurant which has replaced Teo Chiew, I couldn’t wait to visit. The old restaurant was quite dingy and was a fan-cooled-only coffee shop. Now the new Hong Feng (opened since January this year) has a sparkling air-conditioned section and an outdoor seating area... more comfortable by far but the question in my mind was, ‘Is the food quality as good?’; often a fate suffered by new ‘wannabes’ trying to break into the Ipoh food scene.
Well I was not disappointed. In fact the quality of food coming out of the kitchen was excellent on the two occasions I went to sample the food.
Manager Wong Yeng Hing was most attentive (not only to our table but to all the other tables there) and very willing to accept feedback. When we complained that one of the dishes served was too salty, he offered to replace it.
And the dishes were really very well plated…..none of the slap dash, dump it in the bowl or plate and put it on the table but each dish had very carefully arranged greens, flowers and one dish even had a heart made from sliced tomatoes. Kudos to the chef.
Now for the food itself.
Pork Belly with Fu Tsuk or dried bean sheets was melt-in-mouth tender, with the bean sheets providing just the right complementary blandness for absorbing the juices from the belly. Served in a heart made up of sliced tomatoes, it was a feast for the eyes as well as palate and great anticipation for Valentine’s Day which was just around the corner – RM18/27/36 for S/M/L.
Chicken chunks served in a fried Yam or Taro Bowl (Chinese Futt Put) was delectable with special credit going to the Taro which was well seasoned, crispy on the edges and satisfyingly soft and oozy on the inside. The chicken could have been deboned to provide for lazy diners like me – RM16/24/32 for S/M/L. There are over 13 styles of preparation for chicken alone and this particular one is not even on the printed menu. We also had their Smoked Chicken which was beautifully tender, served with a fermented bean curd sauce (Fu Yu). Very tasty. RM35 (half) and RM70 (whole).
The popular chicken curry wrapped in a whole bread (Mongolian bun) was beautifully presented with Wong meticulously opening up the bread and tucking in the sides presenting the whole dish like a flower. The bread was light and fluffy and the curry was spicy and creamy, redolent of coconut milk which they used liberally. Here finally is a chef who has come to his senses about using santan (coconut milk), as I was becoming quite exasperated with the evaporated milk which is often substituted in a lot of restaurants. Don’t people know that coconut milk is healthy and evaporated milk is not! RM 16/24/32 S/M/L extra RM15 for the Mongolian Bun topping.
The steamed fish which Wong called Cheong Sao Yu (Orange Roughy) the longevity fish, steamed Cantonese style with soya sauce and topped with scallions, was firm fleshed but smooth and velvety in mouth feel – RM138.
They have a variety of different fish and it all depends on the ‘catch of the day”. Also they have Boston and Australian Lobsters, Spider and Australian King Crab, fresh oysters, geoduck and Scotland Bamboo clams all of which require advanced order and subject to availability and seasonal pricing.
I managed to taste some more seafood the following day when I went back for lunch. Their mud crabs were live and I chose to have it Yeem Cook or baked with salt without the interference of other condiments and spices. Yummilicious. RM75 per kg.
Next came the prawns (Meng Har or sea prawns) cooked Pei Fong Tong (typhoon shelter a’la Hong Kong) style, a recipe which brought back nostalgic memories of the evenings when friends and I would sit in a sampan and be rowed out to the cooking boats at the Hong Kong typhoon shelter (this was in the 70/80s) and sit under the stars eating delectable seafood. Today all that is left are memories and close facsimiles of the recipes. And the one at Hong Feng comes pretty close. Well not exactly a replica but a good blended taste nevertheless with lemon grass, dried and fresh chillies, garlic, shallots, dao tsi (dried black fermented beans) assam, and curry leaves providing a tasty coating to large ocean fresh prawns. 300g RM42.
For me the measure of a good kitchen is how well they do steamed eggs. Hong Feng’s Sam Wong Dan or Three King Steamed Egg with century, salted and fresh eggs was steamed to perfection, velvety smooth, silky consistency with just enough century and salted egg to not overpower the fresh, and just enough salt to add flavour. Someone at the table remarked that it tasted bland but then I reminded him that this was because there was no MSG in the dish and his palate had grown so accustomed to MSG – RM12.
We then had a braised tofu in claypot. The tofu was homemade, smooth, and cooked with fish slices, prawns and carrots. Delectable. RM12. We finished with the Wat Dan Hor and again they were very generous with the garnishing of the noodles with thick fish slices, prawns and a thick yummilicious egg sauce that was umami without help from MSG – RM12.
Personally I loved it. I did not have my usual MSG reaction the following day (my legs and ankles would swell to elephantine proportions) and taste of the dishes was robust without being overwhelming. I would come back here over and over again. I hope the quality of food will keep up as their popularity increases.Restoran Hong Feng10-Q Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (Maxwell Rd)Tel: 05 506 3299Manager Wong Yeng Hing: 011 1116 1148Business hours: 11am-2.30pm and 5.30pm-11pmClosed on ad hoc basis.GPS: N 04° 36.622’ E 101° 04.537’