Ipoh - The Chinese Food Haven!
If you need a good excuse to visit Ipoh, the capital city of Perak, then let it be for the scrumptious variety of food. For as long as anyone can remember, Ipoh is famous for three very distinct points. Firstly, the city is well-known for the "perfect PH balance" in the water supply thus spawns the second famous point - beautiful women with immaculate skin complexion (thanks to the water, it seems) and last but not least, the FOOD!
Because of the large variety of food and the many mouth-watering restaurants/stalls in which you can check them out, I will be doing a 3-part review of sorts to try and explain the essence of these wonderful foods that has made the city of Ipoh famous to date!
This article will concentrate on just the wonderful local cuisine, mainly Chinese food. Allow me, with this article, to guide you through a treasure chest of eateries that promises to sate any food enthusiast's palate. From hawker food to restaurant dining, this 3-part article will attempt to cover some of the famous places in Ipoh that has great Chinese food! I will begin at the heart of the matter - Ipoh Old Town. This will be followed by Ipoh New Town. Next, I'll cover some great food within the Ipoh Garden South and Canning Garden districts and finally, other delicious tidbits that are not to be missed!
Ipoh Old Town
The older side of Ipoh is appropriately known as "Old Town". Located here are some of the oldest 'kopi tiam' (coffee shops) in Perak. Till this day you can still find the same shops that were around some 40 years ago. The food here not only tastes good but comes with a legacy that dates back at least a few generations. Old Town and New Town of Ipoh is separated by a bridge across the Kinta River. If you are coming from New Town and after crossing the bridge, you will come to a cross junction where you can turn either left or right (the road that leads to left or right is named Jalan Bukit Timah).
To the left of the junction is a very famous textile shop named Kong Fatt. Plenty of beautiful and cheap textiles can be purchased here. A few doors down from that textile shop is where you will find the now-commercialized and highly popular 'Ipoh White Coffee'. Do take note that there are three shops which are well-known for their excellent blend of white coffee. They are (1) Sin Yoon Loong, (2) Xin Yuan Hoong and (3) Xin Yuan Foong. Incidentally they are located just next to each other. However they are open for breakfast and lunch as Old Town is pretty dead in the evenings, so make sure you go either in the mornings or afternoons only.
From the previously mentioned junction, alternatively turning right would lead you to two of Ipoh's most famous coffee shops, Thean Chun and Kong Heng. They are located just next to each other. These friendly shops are great as you can order your meals from either shop regardless of where you are seated and have it delivered to your table. Speaking of table, it is quite difficult getting a table at this coffee shop especially on weekends. Come to think of it, it is also difficult finding a place to sit on weekdays too. The shop is not very big but the old-styled decorations will please many who are into antique and old buildings. Best of all, these antiquities are not part of a faux décor, in fact; they are antique looking because they have been there for the longest time. It is amusing to find a number of restaurants in Kuala Lumpur trying to imitate this old-styled decoration.
Now, let's go back to the food. Thean Chun is famous for their Kuey Teow Chicken Soup Noodle (a flat kind of noodle with chicken slices and prawn-based soup) and Caramel Custard that melts in your mouth. Be sure to ask the waiters for this sweet dessert after your meal. It is something not to be missed! The Caramel Custard is so sweet that you get a glass of cold water accompanying the dessert. I dare say that people with sweet tooth will love it immensely! Thean Chun is also nicknamed the "House of Mirrors" for the huge wall mirrors along an entire wall or better still, the "Shouting Place" as the waiters loved to shout the orders to each other back and forth.
On the other hand, Kong Heng is famous for their Pork Satay (barbecued meat on skewers) which is made by a very eccentric old man who loves to tell people how excellent his satay is. He will come right up to your table and thrust a plate of satays on it. You get to eat as many sticks as you like. If unfinished, simply leave it behind (he will just take it back) and you will be charged according to the number of sticks you have eaten. Funnily, it hardly seems hygienic to me, but after so many years in this business with roaring success, I believe it is not in my place to question his hygiene methods! Crunch up the satay dipped in peanut sauce, and you will agree with me that they are simply heavenly. Besides, it is not common for Chinese to be selling satay, let alone the pork variety. It is usually a Malay cuisine. Apart from that, the Laksa and Cuttle Fish are also worth a try as they are one of the best you can find in Ipoh.
For the curious traveler, you may want to take this little detour. Just before you reach Thean Chun, there is a side-road named Jalan Market. Here, you will find a shop named Sin Seng Fatt that has very good Curry Noodle. So good is their curry that the curry stock is sent to their franchisees in Hong Kong. Again using Thean Chun as a landmark, go further up to the road junction, and here you will see a corner coffee shop named Sin Lean Yee, which has very good Fried Kuey Teow. However be warned, the helpings are small so you can most probably polish off two to three plates in no time. On that note, it pretty much sums up Ipoh Old Town's famous Chinese eateries.
Now, let's check out the delicious fare at Ipoh New Town in my continuing article.
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Published on 12/11/03