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Motormouth From Ipoh

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Old Town Coffee Face-Off : Sin Yoon Loong White Coffee vs Madras Coffee

Old town of Ipoh is forever bustling with activities come morning until evening, a nostalgic part of Ipoh that's far from forgotten, and no doubt a dream come true for all food lovers on a gastronomic trail; From north to south, and vice versa.

The one that started it all ....
Previously, I blogged about Sin Yoon Loong white coffee, the oldest joint serving the now legendary white coffee of Ipoh. Though no doubt Nam Heong, or rather, Old Town White Coffee (those Kopitiam outlets that are mushrooming everywhere) is responsible for putting Ipoh's white coffee on the map, both domestically and internationally.

The same old setting, albeit plastic chairs being used now, instead of those classic wooden ones from days of yore
Sin Yoon Loong has been in business probably in my past life. Right until today, they've managed to retain the authenticity of their forte; the white coffee brew, a secret handed down from generations to generations.
Realise that having breakfast in Ipoh's Old Town can be a stressful endeavour. Searching for an empty parking lot is one, while fighting for a seat is another. Thankfully, the row of white coffee shops consists of 3 shops in a row, and Nam Heong on the opposite side. So there is backup after all.

Chee Cheong Fun with Mushroom Gravy

Toast with Kaya and Butter

All this while, I never had a full meal at Sin Yoon Loong. Only coffee and toast. Or their famous "Kai Dan Kou", or egg-flavoured roll with kaya.
The Chee Cheong Fun passed the test, at least to Mr Z anyway. He of course, was comparing to Sin Lean Lee's version, which is nothing to shout about in the 1st place. Sin Lean Lee is the coffee shop with that infamous stall serving Kam Chau Fan aka GOLDEN Fried Kuey Teow.

A hot, frothy cup of good old Ipoh's white coffee. THE original taste.

But nothing beats spending precious time chatting away with acquittances over a cup of rich, and fragrant white coffee. Feeling peckish? Order a serving of toast, buttered yet not overly cloying although substantial 'kaya' (coconut jam) is spread on the thin slices of crisp bread.
Location : Sin Yoon Loong @ Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Perak. The corner lot, before reaching the towering 20-storeys flat of Old Town.
But what IF you've waited for hours (slightly exaggerated, but you get my drift), yet you found NO empty seats? And with your craving for a shot of caffeine at an all-time high; runny nose, jittering teeth, sweat beads forming on the temple and all?

Another one of those famous banana leaf outlet in Ipoh .....
A hop and a skip away, you'll seek Nirvana. Your light at the end of the tunnel. Your solace, your requiem, your COFFEE. @ Sri Ananda Bahwan Restaurant.

Madras Coffee (thanks to yikyang for the heads-up)

The sweet Indian desserts of Ladoo, Palkova, and Mysore pak. Spelling may be off though.

So you're wondering what's Madras coffee? Also known as Indian Filter Coffee, not many might have heard, let alone tried this saltish, milky brew. I for one, was completely oblivious to its existence until duly notified by a reader.
Firstly, you gotta know how to drink it. Yup, you'll be served with not one, but TWO separate steel container, a cup with the thick & frothy coffee, and another smaller steel bowl of fresh cow's milk. Tastewise? Not too strong to jolt up that draggy system in the mornings, but pleasant and smooth, with a tinge of saltiness. There's a faint hint of herbs/spices which is not overwhelming, but leaves a fragrant note after you slurp down a mouthful. Not bad, definitely a beverage I'll come back for.

Whazzup, Matcha?!!!!

The desserts at Sri Ananda Bahwan were not sickeningly sweet, unlike most. The Palkova or milk sweet in particular, is creamy, soft and sweet enough to leave a lingering taste, yet not tooth-numbing terror. The ladoo was disappointing though, Samy's was far better.
Location : Sri Ananda Bahwan @ 7, Persiaran Bijeh Timah, 30000 Ipoh. It's the row of shops perpendicular to Sin Yoon Loong. Turn right at the crossroads with Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Loong, and you'll see this shop on your left.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Twins' Chee Cheong Fun in Menglembu, and It's Buntong's Kacang Putih

##This post was featured in the Star's Sunday Metro (3rd May 2009). Click HERE for the article. ##
I'd better return to my roots .... for now. Ipoh food galore, back to back. How bout that?! Had enough of Ipoh famous Nga Choy Kai aka Tauge Ayam aka Chicken Kuey Teow? Here's some Chee Cheong Fun (steamed rolled rice noodles, with condiments & gravies), all the way from Menglembu. The town famous for groundnuts, and hawker fare.

The famous Menglembu Twins Chee Cheong Fun - Even featured in 8TV's Ho Chak before.
At this corner shop named Wing Kat Fong, in operation since the 60's (!!) and still going strong, sits a stall resembling your average 'chap fan' (mixed rice, or economy rice) stall. But with a twist or two. Not only are they famous for their nasi lemak and various curries (from chicken to pork, and squids, fish and prawns), their forte is the Chee Cheong Fun. Those smooth, steamed to perfection rolls of flat, white rice noodles.

Too full for a meal? Have some snacks, or chomp on a drumstick.
The stall is manned by a pair of male twins, probably in their 30's to 40's. Jolly, witty fellows (if you know them well enough) they are, also assisted by several staff, they run the stall ala clockwork-style, systematically taking orders and preparing them in a jiffy. Though the shop may be crowded (both the front and back portion of the colonial shop can be seated) at peak times, ie lunch hour, rest assured the wait for your food won't get relentless. After all, all that's needed is merely scooping and serving in an instant.

Curry Pig's Skin Chee Cheong Fun
I haven't tasted their CCF for a good many years. Since secondary days, if my memory serves me right. But the quality is still maintained; the silky smooth noodles actually needs no condiments per se, but douse them with generous ladles of pig's skin curry, and the plate of CCF rises to the occasion. Gracefully, albeit sloppily. Bring a tissue or two.

A plate of Nasi Lemak with Sambal Petai (!!! oh yeah !!!), a boiled egg, curry vegetables, and cucumber slices.
But my personal favourite, the utmost delicious, almost divine, Sambal Petai. With heavy scents of kaffir lime leaves, the sweetish, sour and slightly spicy sambal complemented the crunchy stinkbeans perfectly. I can almost imagine myself chomping on them day in and day out. But Motormouth may mutates into Stinkymouth by then though.

The tragic Siew Pau, and crispy fried chicken
They offer a lot of side dishes, or snacks. A substantial and impressive repertoire, that consist of fried chicken, yam cakes, Siew pau, etc. The Siew Pau however, is not up to par, way beneath the delectable taste of the Seremban originals. But the fried chicken is a must-try of sorts, almost every table ordered a plate. The batter was crunchy, and marinated well, but a little salty. Therefore omit the need for chilli or tomato sauce.

Windows to the World ......

The food is no doubt, cheap. The mains are priced at about RM3 onwards, and a meal for one won't cost anywhere near to RM10, lest your finger goes into spasm, or overdrive and pointed at all the tempting curries, and dishes on offer.

Wing Kat Fong @ Menglembu town
Location : The road parallel to the main road of Menglembu town. Opposite the Magnum 4D shop, within a short distance from Maybank of Menglembu. Exact location unsure (sorry) but should be easy to locate. Coming from Jalan Lahat/Ipoh town towards the roundabout with the GIANT groundnuts, take the right road into Menglembu town. Wing Kat Fong is situated on the road parallel to Jalan Lahat, on the right side.

Remember this house in the last post?

Heavens for kacang putih lovers ....

Yup, this is a house in Buntong's Kampung Kacang Putih (What an apt name eh? =P) selling these Indian snacks so synonymous with Malaysians, even a small child can differentiate his muruku from his pagoda.

At RM3 per pack, you're getting them fresh from the cows. Wait, that doesnt sound right somewhere .... I mean, from the wok.

Buntong is a town in Ipoh populated by mostly Indians, and famous for two things. Or more but I'm being ignorant as usual. Wanton Mee, and Kacang Putih.
Coming from Jalan Tun Perak towards the Buntong's BIG roundabout, take a 12 o'clock. Take the first left, and then another left, between two prominent kacang putih shops. This house is on that road (Laluan Sungai Pari 4), on your right. Opens from day til night, but you've gotta waltz in casually, and enter the shop from the side of the house.

The address of the shop/house.
I'll be off for a week, from this Wednesday or Thursday onwards, going on a vacation-cum-holidays-cum-work to KL. But not 100% though, as work follows closely, much like a dog chasing its tail. Or the other way round. Whatever. So pardon me for the lack of posts. (Am I hearing a sigh of relief there?!! Huh? *_*)

NEXT POST : The Battle of the Coffees .....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Tall Order - Fifteen Tower Tauge Ayam in Ipoh

A very very short post. That's a promise. :)

Don't be fooled by the duo of fat chicks. There are WAY more hidden somewhere, to be freshly prepared on the spot
Ipoh is famous for the Tauge Ayam, or Boiled/Steamed Chicken with Bean Sprouts served with Kuey Teow (flat rice noodles). Names such as Lou Wong, or Onn Kee have garnered enough limelight/attention of their own, successfully placing them on almost all tourists' must-eat list, and enough copycats to warrant a laugh (or snigger) or two.
But if you're wondering are those the BEST that Ipoh has to offer? Well, think again.

The fat bean sprouts of Ipoh. They say it's the water that miraculously fattens the sprouts. What say you?
Other worthy contenders such as Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau (on Cowan Street/Jalan Raja Ekram) Got MAP!, Kam Hor at Ipoh Garden (MAP here), and this one, near to Buntong, but not quite.

A portion for 3, not the smoothest chicken, yet thankfully not as RAW as Lou Wong's.
Fifteen Tower Tauge Ayam, situated at Pusat Makanan Zui Xiang Cun at cross between Jalan Tun Abdul Razak and Jalan Tun Perak, somewhere near to Buntong (where the Indian community dominates in Ipoh), and Medan Kidd (the former main bus station of Ipoh).
The name of the stall probably refers to the nearby dilapidated 15-storeys flat in Buntong, visible from the food court itself. The place only opens for dinner, and highly advised to come early to avoid a long and restless wait. No TV to entertain your children, nor finger food to satiate that growling tummy. But there's a satay stall which opens from about 7.30pm onwards, and another stall at the other end selling fried rice, noodles and such.

The Wet and the Dry version of the Kuey Teow noodles. Simply garnished with chopped scallions, a dash of pepper, and liberal serving of the sweet stock. Notice the pale colour of the dry version? They were out of dark soy sauce. Hmm.
Once seated, do not be anxious and walk over to order. They'll come over and take your order, no matter how long it may take. No menus (duh), thus no need to crack your head on what to order and what not to order. Just perform a simple head count, ask for chicken, bean sprouts, and side orders of chicken's 'spare parts' (innards, offals, or whatever you call them) or braised chicken's feet. We opted for the latter, but sadly they were not serving them that evening.
Tastewise? The noodles are good. So smooth they required practically no chewing, and slithering down one's throat with ease. The flavourful broth was no doubt boiled from the extras, bones and all from the chicken, and complemented the flat rice noodles perfectly. The dry version was equally good, if not better. A dash of soy sauce, sesame oil, some pepper, but without the usual dark soy sauce, my only gripe was the small serving. Yup, one or two mouthfuls, and voila! You'll be staring at an empty bowl. No joke.
The chicken on the other hand, was not as smooth though still tender & succulent enough. Not the best I've tasted,but previous horrifying experience at Lou Wong (with blood and all!) had me thanking the heavens above for the (slightly over) cooked chicken.
Dinner for three came to RM17. Possibly one of the most economic option out there, and definitely one of the better ones in Ipoh. Now, I wonder why not many have blogged about this place before? Hmmm .....

Pusat Makanan Zui Xiang Cun @ Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (Got MAP !!!)
If you need further directions to this one, feel free to ask. Slightly off the tourists' tracks, this may be trickier than expected. But if you know where Ipoh's railway station is, then this should be a no-brainer.

Any idea where's this place? NOT an idol's villa. NOT my house, certainly! But a place for one of Buntong's most famous product.

Guiness Out. Motormouth's Out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Motormouth Bids Hanoi Goodbye - The Finale

Continued from Halong Bay - Kayakking and Snake Wines ....

Little Hanoi Restaurant @ 9, Ta Hien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Tel : 04-9260168
I promised the finale will be arriving soon, didn't I? After the 117th chapter, and months and months of procrastination (and subsequent infection with the lazybug), finally ... ahem, FINALLY the Hanoi posts are coming to an END.
Phew. Probably you're heaving a sigh of relief as much as I am doing now. On second thought, maybe not. =)

Ya got some cash to spare? The Collage of Cash. From all over the World.
Back from the night stay on the boat at Halong Bay, we checked into Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel once again, for the very last night in Hanoi. Wow .... a week just flew by, and work's starting in 2 days!!! OMG. Why holidays seem shorter than workdays? Beats me.

Very, very dark ambience. Cozy, but poor lighting = bad for photographs
After resting our limbs and joints, we heeded the hotel owner's advice on a restaurant over at Ta Hien street, within walking distance from the hotel. Little Hanoi's the name, serving up authentic Vietnamese dishes in an air-conditioned setting. A quaint little cafe of sorts, with a branch across the lane. Why they chose to open a branch within walking ... no, make that 'spitting' distance? Beats me. Again.

Grilled Pork with Citron and Chilli, Caramel @ 50,000 VND/RM10/USD2.90
Strange name for a dish, therefore I ordered this. Only to realise citron = LEMONGRASS!!! Alamak ..... my most feared dream came true.
Luckily, the taste of the dastardly plant was far from overwhelming. In fact, the grilled pork strips with lemongrass and chillies, then sprinkled with sesame seeds, was rather tasty and oozing with flavour. That's where the caramelized part originated, probably.

L-R : ??? (sorry, lost the receipt), Mixed Spring Rolls (30,000VND/RM6/USD1.70), and Grilled Aubergine (40,000 VND/RM8/USD2.30)
The spring rolls were nothing extraordinary, resembling most of the fried stuff we had on boat, and in Sapa. But the grilled aubergine (eggplant) was sweet, and savoury at the same time. Realised that most Vietnamese restaurants serve brinjals/eggplants in their menu.

Fried Noodles with Seafood and Vegetables (55,000 VND/RM11/USD3.20)

The lightly stir-fried noodles with seafood and assorted vegetables was fresh, crunchy (from the various greens) and delicious. The noodles used was of the thin, 'king noodles' aka 'Wong Dai Meen' kind. But not the cheapest option, that's for sure.

Fried catfish with Dill and Spices (55,000 VND/RM11/USD3.20)
But the best dish of the evening had to be the fried catfish with dill and spices. Served with lots of caramelized onions, chopped dill and spices, the catfish fillets were lightly-coated with batter, and fried to perfection. The tender and succulent fish fillet reminded us of the catfish spring rolls we had at Highway 4 a few days earlier. A must-try, if you ever step into Little Hanoi, or its sister outlets elsewhere.
On the whole, the food at Little Hanoi was average at best, with some hits and some misses. With prices slightly higher than the average street fare, this place is best for tourists longing for a comforting meal, with a soothing ambience to boot. And Little Hanoi even boasted on its listing in Lonely Planet.

Don't look up. Lest you want your eyes to get criss-crossed from all the wires.

Scooping niftily into each glass, she worked with such charm

While the gals were busy doing what they do best (read : shopping), we wandered over to a shop serving nothing but sweet desserts, in the form of 'Che', or mixed ice dessert.
A glass at 10,000 VND/RM2/USD0.60 only

The concoction was refreshing, albeit slightly out of place amidst the cold weather. The ingredients in the glass? Colourful, sweet and chewy items. Sorry as Motormouth forgot about itemization when seated on those low stools, threatening to break one's back after a hard day's work. I mean, walk.

Aiks! Anyone can translate?!!! Maybe got the influence from our very own ABC?

'Oc' or snails, boiled to the delight of the masses.

Where even the most sane female would go Ga-Ga over. And over.

Wondering what they're digging into?

THIS. Thit Bo Kho @ Beef Jerky Salad @ 10,000 VND/RM2/USD0.60
At this corner lot (not even a lot, it's by the sidewalk) facing the lake at the northern end, many people were squatting by the pathway, seated on the small plastic stools, tucking in with much gusto. Thit Bo Kho. OK, the green light was given, as no 'CHO' in the name. Cho = Dog's meat, in case you're wondering.
But it was here that I learned a tough lesson. A very, very memorable one at that. Since people always say "Do what the locales do, if you're not sure of a certain custom in a foreign country", I ordered a plate of whatever the guy next to us ordered, and proceeded to inspect with caution. OK, the plate of greens and herbs was topped with slices of beef jerky, from fat cuts to lean ones, and crushed peanuts. So far, so good.
Then of course lah, being an obedient boy (hehe), I followed suit whatever the guy was doing. He squeezed a liberal amount of chilli sauce from the plastic bottle placed conveniently on the floor within reach from every patron.
The chilli sauce looked harmless enough, more like garlic chilli sauce from Kampung Koh, at most. But boo-hoo-hoo. NEVER underestimate a chilli sauce from any Asian country. One minute I was jokingly teasing, joking and laughing about, the very next I was breathing FIRE !!! My throat was scorched, I was choking and instantenously, my hand shot up and ordered a glass of, what else? Whatever drink the guy ordered. Though this time I had to put my faith in him.

Some random sights at the eastern side of the lake
But credits to be given where they're due, the salad was a fresh mix of raw vegetables, with various herbs, and the grilled beef jerky reminded me of our very own Char Siew, albeit slightly drier. And remember to hold the chilli sauce, or spread it thoroughly, before popping a whole mouthful of them firecrackers.

The only lighted structure in the middle of the lake

Trang Tien Plaza @ the southern part of Hoan Kiem Lake
The temperature was at an all-week low, even colder than Sapa at night. And me wearing mere short pants and slippers wasn't helping one bit. I felt out of place, as the Vietnamese were all brandishing winter wear, or at least sweaters and jackets. While us Malaysians were still revelling in our summer, and strolling around in shorts, t-shirts and such. Such arrogance, eh?

One of the Best spot for a cuppa hot coffee, overlooking the lake
It was very chilly, with strong wind blowing every few seconds, and I practically shivered and hid behind every tree, lamp post, and whatnots that I stumbled upon. Yeah, and a full bladder ain't helping at all. There was NO public toilet in sight, hence I trudged my way over to Trang Tien Plaza at the far south end of the lake. A requeim from the freezing weather, and of course, succumbing to nature's call. :)

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre @ the Northern end of the Lake
Hanoi Guesthouse bought the tickets to the water puppet show for us. Two types of seats available, at 40,000 VND/RM8/USD2.30 or 60,000 VND/RM12/USD3.40. We were given the former, as the better seats (nearer to the stage) were all booked by tour groups that day. And notice that the guesthouse bought the tickets for us IN ADVANCE. Hence early booking is highly advised. We asked for the later show, as we feared we could not make it in time, after all the shopping and dilly-dally-ing.

The Best chapter throughout the show.
Showtime was at 9.00pm (10.00 pm Malaysian time); rather late, by their standards. Happened to be the last show for the day. Do take note that the water puppet show is presented in Vietnamese language ONLY, no translation, though you'll be given a brochure listing the skits in various languages. Comprehension may be hard, but the main point was to embrace and appreciate their efforts in reliving what could be the main form of entertainment back then. Many may find the show boring though. But refrain from snoring, OK?

The cast of the 1 hour show. Wonder how they protect their permanently wetted feet.
We were drained after the show. The cold weather was rather discouraging, and we flagged any taxis in sight. Though at that hour, not many were willing to fetch all 6 of us in one cab. But we succeeded, and sped to our rooms in record time.
After a while, hunger pangs struck, at the most unGodly hour. But with a gleam of hope, half of the entourage ventured bravely down the streets of Old Quarter, at about 11.00pm (12 midnight M'sian time). Lo and behold, not only were most streets unlit, almost all of the shops and stalls were closed, or on the verge of closing for the day. Tough luck. We turned around, with tails between our legs (hehe), and fell into a deep, deep slumber ......

Goodbye Hanoi. Will there be another trip? ;)
And that's officially, a WRAP, folks. Take a bow now, it's curtain's call. 7 Days of Odyssey to one of the most interesting destination in Asia. The hellacious motorbikes, the trail of gastronomic delights, endless revelations and discoveries, historical monuments/ornaments/figures, and last but not least, the many faces and personalities of the Vietnamese people.
For the complete saga, please click and proceed from there.
Motormouth Bids Vietnam .... Tam Biet.