I am a huge advocate for Malaysian food and have written numerous posts and recipes about Malaysian cuisine—Penang street food, Malay cooking, Nyonya Food, etc., but Malaysian food is beyond what you have read on Rasa Malaysia. Hence, I have invited a talented Malaysian food blogger J2Kfm who is based in Ipoh (怡保) —another food mecca in Malaysia—to introduce Ipoh street food (hawker food) to us. Ipoh sits in between Penang and Kuala Lumpur (KL), and it’s blessed with abundant local specialties and rich in its culinary offerings. Please welcome J2Kfm or Motormouth From Ipoh to Rasa Malaysia and let’s learn more about the great foods in Ipoh (check out the gallery above) and most importantly, where to find the best!
Thanks a zillion for inviting me over to spread my poison all over your most esteemed blog. I am honored, to say the very least.
My name is J2Kfm, and I have been blogging for about 2 years now, over at Motormouth From Ipoh – A Malaysian Food Blog. Guess the title’s self-explanatory huh? Yes, I am writing mostly on Malaysian food, in particular delicious food from my hometown of Ipoh (怡保), in the state of Perak, situated on the western coast of Malaysia…(learn more about scrumptious Ipoh food after the jump)
Ipoh where?! I can’t blame you, really. Most would not have visited, let alone heard of the name of Ipoh, for the comparatively low profile city sandwiched between Kuala Lumpur and Penang had always been overshadowed by the undoubtedly more famous cities of Malaysia.
But just imagine a quaint little city surrounded by breath-taking limestone caves, years of hidden legacy, a serene lifestyle and a vibrant mix of people from all walks of life. But of course, not forgetting the signature street foods of Ipoh; from the patented Ipoh’s rendition of smooth “Kai See Sar Hor Fun“, or flat rice noodles in soup, served with generous shreds of poached chicken meat, garnished with chopped scallions and served with some chopped bird’s eye chillies in soy sauce on the side. (Get Sar Hor Fun recipe by A Table for Two here). Slurping your way through this wonderful yet unpretentious bowl of noodles is a delightful feast on its own. If you’re not fond of soupy noodles, no worries. Go for the DRY version instead, when you can have your serving of the same “Sar Hor Fun” but this time tossed in a mix of soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and a dash of sesame oil.
The ultra smooth noodle owes its property to the water sourced from the hills, or so everyone claimed. And that same source of water has been providing the locally-grown bean sprouts with sufficient nutrients, to ensure a plump and juicy finish, almost unrivaled when compared to bean sprouts grown in the other states of Malaysia. Having doubts? Hop over to any of the famous Bean Sprouts Chicken (or “Tauge Ayam” in Malay) outlets all over Ipoh, in particular Lou Wong or Onn Kee in town centre. And be amazed at the marvel of smooth poached chicken served with a piping hot bowl of “Sar Hor Fun”, and accompanied by a gigantic portion of blanched bean sprouts on the side. Trust me, you will want to come back again and again for this delectable treat!
If that did not manage to entice you, let me introduce you to Ipoh’s lip-smacking dry curry noodles. Wait, how can a bowl of curry noodles be DRY you wondered? That’s when the noodles of your choice are first blanched, then tossed in soy sauce for flavor, then subsequently poured on with the thick, rich and redolent-with-spices curry. Usually, the noodles would be accompanied by slices of Char Siew, or barbecued marinated pork, shredded chicken, cockles, and sometimes even crunchy roasted pork, aka Siew Yoke. The sinful ensemble got my appetite worked up every single time, especially when a squeeze of lime is added for that zesty touch. Commonly I get my fix at Nam Chau Coffee Shop (which has 5 branches all over Ipoh now), or Yee Fatt, which sports a more traditional interior, and has been serving their brand of Hainanese curry for decades now.
Sometimes the cravings for street foods come knocking at the most unexpected hours. In between meals, late nights, or when you’re plain seeking for a lighter meal, Ipoh offers an admirable array of street snacks; from the velvety smooth “Tau Fu Fah” or soybean curd in a sweet & light syrup flavored with ginger, to various confectioneries such as the popular “Heong Peng”, or literally translated to Fragrant Biscuits from Gunung Rapat, and an aromatic, frothy beverage named white coffee.
At a stall which caters to drive-through customers (Yeah, for real!), Funny Mountain serves up bowls after bowls of their signature Tau Fu Fah, a refreshing hit with the crowd especially on those forlorn, scorching hot afternoons. You can choose to dig into your bowl of Tau Fu Fah standing, seated on those limited wooden benches, or even in the comfort of your car, with engines roaring away. But of course, the environmentalist in me would not suggest for you to do so.
Over in Gunung Rapat, a small community near to the famous limestone caves of Ipoh (Sam Poh Tong and Kek Look Tong are two of the more prominent ones, in case you’re wondering), you can find traditional coconut shells-broiled Heong Peng, a crunchy biscuit with a sticky molten filling made from maltose, and shallots, and topped with toasted sesame seeds. The joy of biting into one is immense, especially when the crispy and flaky pastry falls off from the moment you sink your teeth in, then discovering the fragrant and sweet ‘nectar’ hidden beneath. Yee Hup and Seng Kee are the brands that I frequent mostly, though I prefer the latter for they still stick to the traditional method of producing the biscuits; broiled with coconut shells as fuel, in a huge jar made from bricks. If you’ve seen the production of naan bread, you would have a rough idea on how these ovens look like.
To cap things off, a visit to Ipoh is never complete if you do not take a sip of our famous white coffee. WHITE coffee?! No, I’m not going bonkers, nor seeing things. The coffee still looks like your average cuppa, but one sip from your cup and you’ll be enticed by this rich, aromatic and velvety smooth concoction. The coffee beans are roasted lightly with margarine to reach that buttery, creamy flavor everyone’s hankering for. And to enjoy your serving of this robust creation, hop over to Ipoh’s old town, lined by heritage buildings since the colonial days. Many coffee shops serve this addictive beverage, but personal favorites include Nam Heong, Sin Yoon Loong, and Nam Chau which coincidentally, serves my favorite dry curry noodles.
Ipoh is merely two hours worth of drive from Kuala Lumpur, and you can even fly directly from Singapore on a daily basis. The strategic location of Ipoh sandwiched between Kuala Lumpur and Penang (THE definitive hub of street food in Malaysia!) makes this city an ideal stopover for food, fun or simple forms of relaxation.
Are You Tempted, Yet?
How to Get to Ipoh?
For your information, Ipoh city is about 150km from Penang, and 200km from Kuala Lumpur. So it’ll take roughly 2 hours to travel from Penang to Ipoh, or Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh.
Modes of transportation are rather limited, for Ipoh’s airport can only accommodate smaller planes. Currently, the Sultan Azlan Shah airport in Ipoh only serves a few routes, one being the daily flight to and fro connecting Ipoh-Singapore. You can take the express bus service from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh, at Pudu bus station, for about RM15-RM20 per way. There are many bus companies that ply the route, at hourly intervals, so rest assured you won’t get stranded at the bus station helplessly. Though be warned that on weekends, public holidays or festivities, it’s highly encouraged that you reserve your ticket prior to embarking on your trip.
Another option is to take the train from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh, a journey that takes 3 hours and cost from RM12 per person upwards. You can purchase your tickets online at www.ktmb.com.my, or at any counters at the various KTM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu) stations, the most prominent being KL Sentral in Kuala Lumpur.
From Penang, you can take a bus, or cab to reach Ipoh. The journey takes about 2 hours, using the expressway. You can buy your ticket at Sungai Nibong bus station on Penang island.