By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
I know that Ipoh is a food and foodie paradise but oftentimes, I have to trek to different places to satisfy either my, or my visitors’ insatiable appetites for all the iconic foods that Ipoh is renowned.
A recent discovery has settled all that for me and I can take my visitors to one restaurant and they can order and try different foods to their heart’s content. And I am not speaking of a coffee shop where diverse stalls ply their specialties. Often, I find myself going to one coffee shop for a particularly famous specialty in one stall but am left high and dry for sampling other dishes because the other stalls are frightfully mediocre in their offerings.
Much to my delight, this is not so at Makan Nyonya, a newly-opened restaurant where the menu is extensive and the quality of each item well above average with some even superlative. Now I am talking about Ipoh’s iconic foods like Curry Mee, Asam Laksa, Lum Meen and Kuih Muih and the list goes on and on. So now I won’t have to run around to different places for different items. It is all under one well decked out roof.
And it all comes out of one kitchen under the watchful eye of Nyonya Chef par excellence, Jason Chai, proprietor and head chef who picked up all his cooking skills at a young age from his mother. Jason who was working in Singapore, had to come back to Ipoh to take care of his mother when she fell ill and as they say, Singapore’s loss is Ipoh’s gain and with this Ipoh boy come home to roost, we have gained another great eating spot.
We went with our usual troupe from the Echo office and tried as many of the dishes on offer for that day, beginning with Nyonya Vinegar Pig's Trotters (Tsu Geok Tso) which was beautiful – neither too sweet nor too sour, the trotters braised to a tender and succulent texture and served with fragrant Thai rice and vegetable of the day – RM7.50.
Next was their signature Nasi Rendang, fragrant rice coloured with the Bunga Telang or butterfly pea flower extract (which they sell in bottles for tea at home) and served with Chicken Rendang and not one but two sambals, one ikan bilis and the other nyonya. This was different from the usual Nasi Lemak, both in presentation and taste. Excellent at RM5.
The menu items are almost too many to write in detail here and I will list here some of my favourites. Their Penang Nyonya Hokkien Mee, spicy prawn broth served over a selection of local noodles with prawns, kangkong (water spinach) and bean sprouts and their Nyonya ‘Lam Mee’ aka Penang Birthday Noodle, prawn broth base with Chinese wine served over a selection of local noodles with prawns, ‘Ku Cai’ (Chinese chives) and fat Ipoh bean sprouts. Both RM5.
We had their Laksa, both Asam (good with kembong fish tamarind broth) and Lemak described as Nyonya Laksa Lemak, a coconut milk curry “Hae Bee Hiam” (dried prawn base) broth served over famous Gopeng Rice noodle aka thick version of “Bee Hoon” aka ‘Lai Fun’ RM5.
Their Char Kueh Teow wok fried with prawn oil, Chye Poh (preserved Chinese radish) to perfection and served with prawns, fish cake and large eggs and their signature Power Cili Garam. This had good ‘wok hei’ and well worth the RM5.50.
I spied some ‘Tsong’ (glutinous rice dumplings) at the counter and immediately asked for one. Apparently the type of dumpling changes day by day. On this day, it was the one with ‘mei dao’ or black eyed peas mixed with glutinous rice and stuffed with a generous amount of pork, pork fat and salted egg. Well-seasoned and extremely tasty – RM7.
The pièce de résistance came in the form of a Kuih Muih platter where we could taste one portion of their variety of the day. Ours arrived with Lo Bak Ko (white radish cake), excellent; Rempah Udang (glutinous rice with spicy dried prawn filling wrapped in banana leaf), also superlative; Kuih Talam (coconut cream on top and green glutinous rice below); red bean cake; and a host of other goodies which changes from day to day. These items are ordered separately. And their Bubur chacha is wonderful too!
Makan Nyonya’s menu is inexhaustible. The special items change from day to day and it's worth going on different days of the week to check out these specials. This will definitely become my ‘flavour of the month’ for the next months to come. And the best part of all, no MSG, the bane of my culinary journey!Makan Nyonya#57 Laluan Tasek Timur 3 (behind Tesco Extra in Bercham)Pusat Perdagangan Tasek Indra, 31400 Ipoh.Business hours: 7am-3pm Closed MondaysTel: Jason 016 597 4848