Subscribe to my RSS Feeds

Motormouth From Ipoh

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Foh San Dim Sum Restaurant in Ipoh - Old Is Gold?

If you're an avid follower of this blog (OK, don't puke), you would've noticed the lack of dim sum reviews in Ipoh. This, although Ipoh has been established as, and probably still is one of the BEST destination for a sumptuous, hearty yet reasonably-priced dim sum breakfast.

The perennial favourite of many, even if not for the dim sum alone, it has to be the charming, nostalgic & authentic breakfast experience
The dim sum scene in Ipoh revolves mainly around the BIG 3, namely Foh San, Ming Court, and Yoke Fook Moon. Of course, there are other newer ones, and some old-timers which sadly never really took off. For those in the dark, dim sum is one of Chinese's (or Cantonese, actually) most famous cuisine, typically eaten for breakfast and served with Chinese tea. Literal translation means "Touch heart", the delightful morsels are either steamed or fried, and served in small portions, thus one can avoid over-eating (yeah, right) yet sample many different varieties.

On a weekend - Notice the vultures? =P
This post arrives in a rather timely manner. Why, you ask? Because Foh San is moving away to a new location next month. For a good many decades, this dim sum restaurant at the junction of Jalan Dato Tahwil Azhar and Jalan Mustapha al-Bakri has been serving hundreds to thousands of customers on a daily basis. The rich history of Foh San can never be rivalled, just ask any of your parents or grandparents, and they'll probably be nodding in agreement.

On a weekday - SLIGHTLY better, hence leave the crutches at home.
I'll reveal the new location at the end of this post. For now, let's concentrate on the food. But wait, before you go thinking that you can simply waltz in, grab a table and order away, think again. The two photos above differ ever so slightly. The first was taken on a Saturday morning, and the second on a Tuesday's. Truth is, the crowd swells to its fullest capacity on weekends and public holidays. So either come early (VERY early), very late (but risk being served with fewer choices of dim sum, as the good ones tend to finish rather fast), or avoid Sundays/public holidays altogether.

What separates a routine dim sum meal, from a memorable, complete experience?
Firstly, I must show my utmost/heartfelt/deepest gratitude (suddenly so formal, eh?) to CK Lam & Hubby for the wonderful meal, and inviting this small potato (OK, large potato ..... happy yet?) for breakfast on a Saturday morning. They were on their southern escapade, all the way down south, yet allocated a little of their precious time for breakfast with yours truly. Aww ... so sweet right? Thanks again CK, and really glad to meet you in person, and your personal photographer too. =P

Har Gau - Prawn dumplings
The second visit was 3 days after, with KYT and FCOE. Though we've been working together for nearly 3 years now, we have NEVER gone for a dim sum breakfast. Given the convenient white coffee fix very near to our office, we never ventured further/drive out for breakfast. A shame, really, with so many territories unexplored, and tables unturned. Wait .... wrong metaphor there. Hehe ..... OK, let's see why Foh San manages to deliver time and again, and remains a favourite among locals, and tourists alike.

Yeung Ngai Kua - Stuffed Brinjals with Fish Paste

Their Har Gau (Prawn Dumplings) has no flaws, so to speak. Thin, translucent & pleated skin, enveloping around a dense filling with moist, succulent and almost crunchy prawnS, the combination of flavours is almost intoxicating (for a prawn lover, at least). Of course there's the scallions, water chestnut (if I remember correctly, sorry I gulped the morsel whole!) and seasonings that rendered every bite a delight.

The other favourite of mine is the stuffed brinjals with fish paste, a type of Yong Tau Foo commonly served with noodles. Of course these are not true blue dim sum, but Foh San does their stuffed brinjals really well. The accompanying sauce (a mixture of soy sauce, and Lea & Perrins, I think) omits the need for chilli sauce.

Clockwise from top left : Siew Mai (Pork dumplings), Fei Chui Mai (forgot the real name, sorry - Prawn + Pork fillings with mushroom), Yue Mai (Fish paste) and erm ... Solid Yellow Pork Dumplings with Black Pepper seasoning.
The steamed items overshadow the fried ones, with many choices on the trolley being pushed by the workers. But just like what vkeong has reviewed lately, the choices may not be comparable to other dim sum outlets. True somewhat, but not wholly. Foh San periodically comes up with NEW dim sum, and without proper menu nor promotion, you have to ask the staff for what's available. And some being grumpier than the others, they may not attend to your queries.
But hope's not lost. You can actually walk over to the trolley you're aiming for, and seek for the types you prefer, then hand-carry to your table. I even opened the covers of the dim sum baskets and shot queries, ala Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Or Slumdog's. Or maybe not.

Char Siew Pau - BBQ Pork Bun, and Sang Yuk Pau - Pork Bun
What's commendable about Foh San's dim sum is that most of the items come piping hot at your table; steamed freshly, and served on the spot. But of course there are exceptions, such as the case with the Char Siew Pau on the second visit, when it came lukewarm, almost cold to touch. But a rarity, really. And the Sang Yuk Pau was equally good. The other varieties they offer were the sweet ones, and Nam Yu Pau (pork with fermented bean sauce). Not sure about Tai Pau (Big Bun, literally) though.

Wu Kok aka Yam Puff
I've never been a fan of Foh San's Wu Kok, or Yam Puff, as I find them rather soggy the previous visit, and the quality rather inconsistent. The Saturday's Wu Kok was OK, but fortunately, Tuesday's version was far better, as they were freshly fried from the wok. Hence the crispy exterior, with oozing filling of chopped Char Siew (BBQ pork meat).

Left to Right : Ham Sui Kok. Fried Prawn Roll, Gyoza-like pan-fried dumplings, and Egg Tarts
Truth be told, if you order one of each of everything, you'll end up feeling really bloated and will probably skip your meals for the rest of the day. Other favourites include the Hor Yip Fan (glutinous rice in lotus leaf), Ma Lai Koh (steamed sponge cake), Hong Kong style Chee Cheong Fun, Loh Mai Kai (steamed glutinous rice) etc.

One of their special creation : Steamed rice roll (Chee Cheong Fun) stuffed with pork, prawns, and mushrooms.

This was very good, served with no sauce, but sprinkled generously with sesame seeds, and garnished with fried shallots and chopped scallions. Very tasty, fresh, and rightful combination of fillings.

Fried Loh Bak Koh aka Radish Cake
And last but not least, Foh San serves their Loh Bak Koh in a different manner. Whereas in most dim sum outlets, they simply pan-fried theirs and served plain in blocks, Foh San takes it a step further, and stir-fries them with bean sprouts, eggs, crunchy 'choy pou' aka salty,preserved radish and garnished with chopped scallions. A must try, although Penangites may notice the resemblance to Char Koay Kak.
On the whole, if you're sick of downing white coffee and toasts for breakfast in Ipoh, go for a dim sum experience. Trust me, you'll start your day with a bang .... though side effects include drowsy from all the food. But hey, that's when the Chinese tea comes to play! Wash them all down with a hot cup of tea, ponder over the dailies (though as of late, you'd better not spoil your mood or appetite with the power struggle, and H1N1 scare!), and unwind yourself before a hard day at work.
Location : Foh San Dim Sum Restaurant @ 2, Jalan Dato Tahwil Azhar, 30300 Ipoh, Perak.Tel: (605) 254-0308 Fax: (605) 253-5432. Here's a MAP.
NEW outlet : 51, Jalan Leong Sin Nam, 30300 Ipoh, Perak. Here's a MAP.
# Photos combined from 2 visits, on 2 different days #
# Relocation date unconfirmed, but sometime in June #


sakaigirl said...

Dim Sum for breakfast always makes me happy^^

YilingL said...

The har gau is really good but other than that through the years, Foh San has become more and more commercialized, kinda lost its nostalgic touch when I was younger. Nowadays, I dread having to find for a table there. Prices have also gone up too :(

Zheng Yang 琤洋 said...

i prefer meng kok....between, the foh san new shop look very very grand and nice

Rebecca Saw said...

ya lorr..was shocked when i heard the re-location bit..somehw cant beat the feeling of sitting at an old house with open roof kinda feeling..
but a grp of us r heading to North in June, hope to hop off at Foh san..

Agnes Cheong said...

Recently so many posts about dim sum! Killing me la coz I'm in hostel cant grab for dimsum!!! This week goin back home hopefully can fullfil my desire LOL~

Bangsar-bAbE said...

True blue or not, I love their stuffed brinjals!

Looks like you had a lot of dim reach 40 plate like me or not?? =P

Sugar Bean said...

"Touch heart" really makes me wonder why dim sum is called dim sum. Wu kok is one of my favourite dishes in dim sum. Looks good, gotta visit Ipoh some day, a pure food trip! :)

boo_licious said...

yums, I don't think we can make it for the old premises as our trip to Perak seems to be getting later and later! Sigh, great memories abt this place too.

J2Kfm said...

sakaigirl : me too. hahhaa ... nothing beats a leisurely session. almost theraperutic lah!

YiLingL : prices, yes. about RM15 per head now, judging from my previous visit. and we didnt go crazy with the order either. but still, compared to the others in Ipoh, I still like Foh San best.

Zheng Yang : the new shop looks almost too grand to be a dim sum restaurant! :)

thenomadGourmand : oh really? wow, up north til Penang? tell me if you guys drop by. so i can steal a glance or two. haha ...

Agnes Cheong : hostel? haahha .. come out loh .. take a bus/cab.

Bangsar Babe : 40?!! cannotlah, 3 ppl only. somemore have to work leh ... cannot doze off.

Sugar bean : erm, touch the heart, maybe? since every morsel, every piece looks painstakingly crafted, and cooked.

boo_licious : with nomadGourmand as well? if in June, MAYBE still can pay the old outlet a last visit. if not, then just hop over to the new one.

New Kid on the Blog said...

when i was small, my dad used to ta pau foh san wu kok for us and the egg tarts too. i find that the wu kok isn't that soggy. maybe different chef??

iamthewitch said...

Why Foh San? No one's doing any coverage on Ming Court! Hmmph, I shall take that as my mission. :P I think the only dish I look forward to in Foh San is the Har Gau Wong. Huge and succulent!

Anonymous said...

is getting more and more expensive...and some of the items- quality really dropped d...

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

i remember those 6am half awake moments queueing up for a table..

no thanks man!

Selba said...

Wow! So crowded.... You make me hungry for dim sum right now!

Anonymous said...

Soon we would have Dim Dum Kai, along Jln Leong Sin Nam with 3 biggies operating next to one other. Foh Sum & one other at one side while my favourite MingCourt at the opposite road. Little further away ..u have 2 other much smaller dimsum outlet.
Cool..nice tourist area.

The new Foh Sum outlet is HUGE & well design. It will definately be the largest dim sum outlet in Ipoh.

email2me said...

I like the pork bun here a lot and it never fails me. The dim sum like you said inconsistent in the taste. Not always get the best out it.

minchow said...

Actually wide variety of nouveau style dim sum doesn't exactly compel me to visit -some har gau, some ham sui kok, wu kok and pei tan chuk and I am one very happy girl! Still can't believe they're moving... let's see if I can make it in June...

J2Kfm said...

NKOTB : depends. especially when later in the morning, you'll get those soggy unsold ones.

iamthewitch : Ming Court? oklah .... i'll go do a coverage to justify its popularity. who wanna follow? =P

SimpleGirl : true to both claims, but prices for dimsum in other places also increasing.

Joe : no need lah. can go at about 9am, but act like those vultures loh. eyeing tables after tables.

Selba : i'm sure you can find good ones over there?

Anonymous : its mad. imagine the parking problem on that street!
though good also, so one can hop from shop to shop. haha

email2me : how true, but still, i feel having a dim sum breakfast at Foh San is an unrivalled exp.

550ml jar of faith : how true. i normally stick to the usual ones as well, and judge from there.

HairyBerry said...

woah, havent had a good Nam Yu Pau in a longggggg time. somehow, the fermented bean paste and pork belly work really well. yeah, i was at foh san once and it was soooo packed, we went for curry noodles with char siew instead. must go earlier next time..hehe

fatboybakes said...

oooh, i intend to visit the rellies up in ipoh during school hols...must check this place out. is the foh san in KL (ss2?) anywhere near the standard of the original?

Wendy said...

cant wait for their new restaurant...nicely renovated... i think yok fok moon and meng kok gonna "pak woo yeng"

PureGlutton said...

Ipoh ppl go yumcha at 6am, so try and beat that if u can, LOL! Foh San is an institution in ipoh n always crowded! U hv to stand beside tables & wait for ppl to finish in order to grab a table!
J2Kfm: Most likely balik Ipoh next weekend - let's go yumcha?

FBB: SS2 outlet long time closed liao lah!

foodbin said...

i like their Dim sum but the Foh San in SS2 was a big flop!

jason said...

A post to clarify Vkeong's lack of variety topic? :p

When they move to the new outlet, it's really gonna be a big war among the Big 3. Shall we rename the street as "Dim Sum Street"?

choi yen said...

I can't eat much when come to dim sum, too meaty :P Btw, just like what I asked VKeong, how many ppl starring at u when u shooting while eating? ^.^

J2Kfm said...

Nic (KHKL) : weekends are intimidating. the new building covering 2 floors, and very spacious at that. sure minimize this problem. if not? hop over to Ming Court, or Yoke Fook Moon. :)

FBB : erm, since from the other comments, seem like the SS2 ones kinda sucked?

Wendy : doubtful, as Ming Court and YFM got their own clients.

PureGlutton : sure thing! just drop me a mail, or a msg. but working on wkends sometimes, so cannot guarantee lah ...

foodbin : really that bad? maybe different sifu manning the kitchen.

jason : nah ... I've waited for another visit after the meal with CK Lam, to justify the dim sum. good name, so next time if you're back, no need perak otak finding a place for breakfast.

mimid3vils : the 1st visit we were seated under the stairs, hence hidden from public view. haha .. the 2nd time was a weekday, the crowd was not too bad.

Big Boys Oven said...

we are so lucky to be borned in Ipoh! Have you heard about a place called soon fatt?

KCA said...

wei wei wei... haha... yeahloh.. i oso prefer ming court though the serving is not so generous vs foh san.. ^^
wei.. let's go nxt time.. and u belanja,ok?? haha!! mou gu hon arr, MotorMouth... =P

UnkaLeong said...

Checked out the spot they were moving to when I was last in town. Huge! Must be at least 4 shoplots. Heard that they will be able to host wedding banquets as well at their new spot.

gill gill said...

we just had it once and it was years ago! always missed the breakfast time when traveling to south :(

move to a bigger space? hopefully can cut down the time for getting a table!

J2Kfm said...

BBO : yup, i blogged bout it before,

KCA : aiyo, dun 'wat' me lah ... hahaha. i gotta go to Ming Court once, and see what the hype's about. it's been YEARS since i last visited. one thing i dun like is you gotta share a table on most occasions, as they don't have small tables.

UnkaLeong : yeah true. oh you come to Ipoh often ah? hehe. the new lot looks sooooo grand. surreal.

ck lam said...

Luckily we managed to eat there before it closes. It was nice meeting you and hope we can go makan when their new outlet opens.

Not2Eat said...

I miss dim sum. It is a bliss to have dim sum in the morning during weekend.

SuwEi said...

At last u all went there again..i wil go there as early as 7am to get a table and to avoid ppl standing behind us while eating.hehe.btw their egg tart is my favourite, dunno why..haha! i stil prefer the current location compared to the new 1.

J2Kfm said...

gill gill : yup, keeping our fingers crossed now as well. :)

ck lam : the pleasure's all mine, really. somewhat star-struck again. haha .... lets go to the new place once they opened.

Not2Eat : how true. and how glad am i you're not advocating for Foh San to be in your post. hehe ...

Suwei : yeahloh ... sadly you cant join lah this time. my last visit was the one time we went last year, rmbr?

UnkaLeong said...

Not really lar. Definitely twice a year, maybe the odd visit or three throughout the year ;)

Ciki said...

dear small potato,
deh, what hpd to my comment?! i thought i left one.. anyway, we love the dimsum here and the aubergine is my (not cumi's) fav! old is good. old is best:D

sc said...

still so famous eh?
been ages since i went to foh san, dimsums still looks good..

J2Kfm said...

UnkaLeong : oh ic. by the time you come back the next visit, I think Foh San would be at its peak, at the new place.

Cumi & Ciki : I didnt delete your comment! really! hahah .. give u one char siew bao and quiet quiet ok?

sc : still so famous. none come close, though Ming Court also famous for the long, tedious wait.

Zheng Yang 琤洋 said...

i love ming court la...hehe...all the prawn dim sum very nice..foh san not my taste, but will test out on new shop ^^

kevin_chungx said...

ooo, yea, and the new location is HUGE, it's going to be like hong kong style...
I like foh san's yam puff! very crispy and fragrant :p

Steven Goh said...

Fook San change place dee? hope to get a better place else need to wait until die also cannot get the seat

J2Kfm said...

Zheng Yang : today supposed to go Ming Court, but strayed somewhere else. haha ... will do so in near future, ok/

kevin_chung: crispy? yes, when hot. but turns soggy very fast lah .... there's one in Bercham market, VERY VERY good wu kok.

Steven Goh : have yet. but gonna move in June it seems.

chan said...

Hi J2Kfm,

Not sure have you try "ying fa" at old town? i find the dim sum is quite good although it's not that famous. Just my 2 cents..

kolmankoh said...

Hi All,

If you guys are organising small group of 9 to 10 persons for travel and foods and require comfortable MPV please call me at 0162427722. or email at :

I will be grate to provide my best services and safety for your group to and fro.


Yong said...

I am very fond of dim sum and the leisure time of sipping tea and eat heap of different dishes. The dim sums in Fu San is just average , but paus are horrible , the lazy man sodium bicarbonate pau skin is sticky and taste less , give me those good old days Kampar 7 Kee yeast fermented pau skin any time ! The service in this restaurant is horrendous , dim sums are not served to your table , you have queued up in front of a small counter to order and take all your order back to your own table, how to enjoy a leisure meal and conversation with your friends and families ? The only good about this restaurant is the bloody Prices ! I will never go back to this restaurant !