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Motormouth From Ipoh

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Perlis - Hai Thien Seafood, Gua Kelam, and Shopping @ Padang Besar

My first visit to Perlis, the northern-most state in peninsular Malaysia, happened late last year. Click HERE for my post on Kuala Perlis Medan Ikan Bakar. Yeah, living in Malaysia for a good many years and yet to visit Perlis until last year. Shameful? Not quite. Here's another one : I have yet to step on the soils of the East Coast as well.

The journey took a good 5 hours from Ipoh to Perlis.
If only Ipoh's airport is put to good use. If only we can choose to fly everywhere, to all the states in Malaysia, at least. Rather than having to endure a taxing 5 hours' ride (longer than usual, as the vehicle needs periodic rest, else you'll be seeing flames!) from Ipoh to Perlis.

See the positive side of things ; Least the scenery of the rural areas made up for the lethargy courtesy of the long ride

Putra Palace Hotel @ 135 Persiaran Jubli Emas, 01000
Kangar, Perlis, Malaysia

Our chamber for 2 nights

How ironic. First we put up at Kondo Istana in Langkawi, and now we're staying in Putra Palace in Perlis. Talk about royalty calls. Putra Palace Hotel has to be Perlis' finest, as on the 2nd night, even the King arrived for a function. Complete with red carpets and all, we felt ..... privileged. Somewhat. Though no comments on the less-than-satisfactory bathroom.

Walking on planks may not be such a bad idea after all .....

The previous dining experience at Medan Ikan Bakar was forgettable, except for the pouring rain. Literally pouring, as the zinc roof leaked and many patrons had to endure overflowing tom yam. LOL. Plus the prices ain't cheap either.

Stuffed Dough Sticks/Crullers/Yau Char Kwai with Mayonaise

Thanks to our counterparts from Kedah, we were ferried to Kuala Perlis for dinner once again. But this time, we had our cravings for seafood appeased at Hai Thien Seafood Restaurant. This pork-free Chinese restaurant serves cheap and delicious seafood, and caters to patrons from all ages, and all races. Yup, the 1Malaysia concept works best from the fundamental level, owing to the ONE united love for FOOD (oh glorious food).

Batter-fried Squids and Butter Milk Prawns

Although Kuala Perlis is about 30 minutes away from Kangar town, there are locals who are more than willing to drive all the way there for dinner. But of course, most of the patrons are tourists, especially those stopping over for a bite on the way to or from Langkawi. Ferries to Langkawi depart from Kuala Perlis jetty as well, in addition to the ones in Penang and Kuala Kedah.

Sambal Kangkung (Stir-fried water convolvulus with shrimps and spicy sambal belacan)

Let's get on to the FOOD, shall we? One glance around the al fresco seating area, on wooden platform overlooking the waters, and you'll notice most (if not all) people go for the steamed fish, crabs, and various other fresh seafood.
One starter they recommended was the Yau Char Kwai (fried breadstick/Chinese crullers/Chakoay or whatever you call them) stuffed with fish paste, then drizzled generously with sweet mayo sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Very addictive stuff, expected to go well with beer as well! Though we had the very sweet and refreshing watermelon juice.

Thai-style Steamed Fish

The star of the evening had to be the steamed fish, arriving piping hot, still continuously heated with the charcoal-fuelled flame, and an extra bowl of soup to replenish the evaporated gravy. The fish was very fresh, without any slight hint of fishiness nor unpleasant muddy taste, and the slightly spicy & sour soup complemented the fish very well. Just remember to periodically 'bathe' the fish with the extra soup, as the heat dries out the soup rather rapidly.
The "Nai Yau Har" or Butter Milk Prawns came in a moderate portion for four, deepfried until crispy, and topped with generous shavings of fragrant egg strands. Fried squids rarely go wrong, to be dipped into the accompanying chilli sauce, ensuring a great snack to go with the meal.
Even the Kangkung with Sambal Belacan was stir-fried to perfection, with enough 'wok hei' (breath of the wok aka the slightly smoky/burnt aroma imparted from skilful frying)

From Chinese to Malays, and Indians to foreigners. One word : Muhibbah.

Pardon the poor picture quality, as the place was very dark, with only spotlights lighting the dining area. Of course, you can choose to be seated indoors with lights and fans, but the exterior ambience nails the complete seafood experience, does it not?
The meal costed about RM60 for the 4 of us. Yup, heard that right! With rice, drinks and all. Wow, to imagine inflation has yet to reach this simple town. We were immensely satisfied that we did the next most logical thing ....
We returned the very next night, for dinner.

Satay Ayam @ 60 cents per stick
This time around, there were only 3 of us, but nothing's gonna stop the gluttons !!! Especially after a hard day's work! For your information, we DID work while we were there. On a weekend no less.
We started with some satay (grilled skewered meat on sticks, served with peanut sauce), and though they were pleasant enough (compared to my last tragic visit to Haji Samuri, this was beyond delicious), nothing could detract our attention from chomping/bingeing/devouring/demolishing the oh-glorified .... SEAFOOD!

Kam Heong Mantis Prawns and Or Chien (Oyster Omelette)
Thousand apologies for the even worse picture quality, as I did not bother to bring my camera along. Yeah, back to my old reliable Nokia 5610, with harsh flash. But I couldn't care less. :)

"Strange-Taste Crabs" (No, really. That's the name given to the sauce)
We ordered a plate of compulsory greens (we wouldn't wanna be downing laxatives the very next morning!), the same Yau Char Kwai we ordered the night before, the mantis prawns, oyster omelette and CRABS!
5 dishes for 3 pax. That sounds so wrong .... or maybe not.
The crabs were cooked in an incomprehensible gravy; An amalgam of flavours arising - Sweet, Sour, Spicy and Salty. "Kwai Mei" or Strange Taste is the way of cooking, but I prefer my crabs cooked with chillies, or plain steamed (if FRESH). The crabs were far from XL, or L size for that matter. But the meal did not cost an arm and a leg. Not even a few fingers, so to speak.
The second meal costed RM50 only. And we were stuffed to the brim. BURP !!!!!!

The Cave of Darkness ..... GUA KELAM
On the last day, we went sight-seeing and shopping in Perlis. Yup, though Perlis may be more or less a dead town, but still holds a few attractions of her own. Gua Kelam is a famous tourist spot, near to Kaki Bukit of Perlis. The 370 metres long cave houses a wooden bridge, held in place with metal planks and sidebars, hence no worries on slipping and falling into oblivion.

Very, very dark ... be grateful for the light sources. Else risk getting your hair entangled with bats and other creatures of the night ....
Entrance fee at RM1 for adults, RM0.50 for children above 7 years of age. Parking fee at RM1 per entry. Opening hours : Weekdays from 8am -5pm. Weekends/public holidays from 8am - 6pm.
Gua Kelam's history runs deep, since the 19th century. Previously a mining area, Gua Kelam has since been developed into a recreational park, and one of Perlis' main tourist spot.

If humans have them many legs, we could've save a lot on petrol. But Vincci, Jimmy Choo and Crocs will be doing BRISK business!

Shopping paradise @ Padang Besar. Well, more or less.
Padang Besar at the northern end of Perlis is a shopping paradise. At least to some. If you're an avid jersey collector, (and do not mind the authenticity of them), or you're looking for bags, women accessories/clothings, or even snacks from our neighbouring country, then this should prove worthy of a visit.
For me? Nah ..... previous visit to Padang Besar was far from fruitful. The snacks (nuts, crisps, preserved fruits) were disappointing, except Thailand's Koh-kae Nuts, and nothing tickled my fancy.

Refreshments at the right time. Can't go wrong with sweet treats.
Back then, the Pulut Ayam, or glutinous rice served with fried chicken was a winner. Padang Besar has quite a number of stalls selling various Malay food, with heavy Thai influence. For instance, the incorporation of glutinous rice in cooking, and they even serve Mangoes/Durian with Glutinous Rice and Coconut Milk; One of my favourite dessert ever.
But the one we had at one of the stall was forgettable. Bangkok's version is still the champ here.

The endless fields of greens ..... Sugar Cane Plantation @ Chuping

G'bye Perlis ... for now. But my instinct told me : This CAN'T be the last trip to Perlis this year. Oh Lord, pray that my 6th sense FAILS !!!


SuwEi said...

padang besar again? u all reli miss the place..haha!

jasmine said...

not bad what the ambience of the place where u guys had seafood... though the name of the crab dish is kinda funny :P

allie said...

The sugar cane field scene is breath taking!
I heard there's a snake farm there, did you visit?

Agnes Cheong said...

Those photos that u took is owesome! Owesome photos always causes saliva drooling..

JENCOOKS said...

Your photoshots are improving by leaps and bounds and they continue to be therapeutic guide of your food and your journey. Or Chien looks out of place tho'.

Rebecca Saw said...

my cheap la the seafood!

Big Boys Oven said...

I notice northern food is awesome just need some exposure, great to have you writing about them! When you coming o KL, do let us know! :)

minchow said...

Hey I know you must have mentioned it at some point but what camera do you use? I am increasingly irritated by the limitations of my camera (especially the harsh flash, yes!) and shopping around for a new one. The Oyster Omelette looks strangely pale, or was it another casualty of the flash?

New Kid on the Blog said...

I like all the sky shots than the food. :)

Elin Chia said...

So nice...good food and travelling all the time...I want I want your job! :P I see the crab dish , now I wanna cook that...spicy,sour and sweet and everything nice in it hmmmm Piggies see Piggies wanna eat:))

HairyBerry said...

wah, really good prices leh! RM60 for 4 with that kind of good food is really a steal. the next day, 50 pulak! is it possible to cross to thailand from there ar?

foodbin said...

compare to KL it is dirt cheap!

Tummythoz said...

Got hotel smack right next to that seafood restaurant-ar?

Drooling buckets.

Bangsar-bAbE said...

Gosh...the stuffed yau char kwai is making me hungry!!

How come the oh chien looks liddat one? Was it crispy?

backStreetGluttons said...

Your dark & dusty inter-state Dining Odyssey of late we believe has now placed you in a rare coming-soon to-watch adventure food traveller worthy of gracing Tourism Malaysia's tourism brochures presently helmed by a hopeless marketing team. Go and talk to them !

ahlock said...

Gua Kelam looks so similar to Gua Tempurung.

Hey, did I smell some 'phobia' somewhere? :) green fields...

Hey, I'm a reluctant visitor to Alor Setar (Job assignments) and photos of open green fields such as the cane fields makes me 'sick' in the tummy :(

email2me said...

The Thai Style Steam fish will never disappoint you when you dine near Thai Borders. A must order I would say when you are either at Padang Besar or Haadyai.

YilingL said...

ipoh airport is confirmed the most pathetic airport in msia. even the one in alor star is much much much better!

food looks good :)

ck lam said...

Looks like a good outing...would be quite a near place to visit for us Penangites.

Sugar Bean said...

By looking at your blog, you seemed to travel quite frequently. Didn't know Perlis can be such an attraction, we want to travel around Malaysia! Thanks for introducing.

kevin_chungx said...

My gosh... those prawns, squids, fish, etc. cost only RM60? So cheap, compared to ipoh

iamthewitch said...

So cheap! You know the Strange Taste sauce or 'Kwai Mei'? We have the similar dish in my cafeteria, and guess what it's stated in the menu for the English equivalent? They listed there as 'Blame Taste'! Hahaha... And since I didn't know how to read Chinese, I had to ask my friend what does it mean. Only then I found out that Blame = Kwai in Cantonese. That's even weirder than Strange taste eh? LOL

My Taste Heaven said...

Hmm, which gua is better? Gua Kelam or Gue Tempurung? I never been to Gua Kelam before, but I like Gua Tempurung. Last time when I went there with my neighbour, we went to Ipoh town to have a very good " char suey". Could not remember which place was that. Too long already.

J2Kfm said...

SuWei : yeah, love it enough to go twice in half a year. it's strange, but in another half, we might be there again!

jasmine : kwai mei, or strange taste, or rasa lain, also commonly used as name for dishes with combination of flavours.

allie : didn't hear bout the snake farm though. wasted! but there's an ostrich ranch

Agnes Cheong : hahaha ... far from awesome though. it was a bit too dark.

jencooks : the or chien was not the crispy kind, but fell flat though.

thenomadGourmand : cheap eh? i was surprised as well. a supposedly tourist stop over some more.

BBO : oh sure thing! just came back last week though. =P

550ml jar of faith : the omelette is a casualty of the flash, AND pale in reality. i'm using a Panasonic Lumix LX3.

NKOTB : guess what? me too. hehe ...

Elin : your job's the best. baking and cooking with love ...

Nic : go to Bkt Kayu Hitam, then go Haadyai. haha .. which we didnt, in case you're wondering.

foodbin : dirt cheap alright. but KL also got a few cheap ones, few and far.

Tummythoz : got! there's a rather grand hotel facing Kuala Perlis Medan Ikan Bakar. forgot the namethough.

Bangsar Babe : or chien a disappointment. but the yau char kwai's good. ordered them on both occasions.

J2Kfm said...

BSg : that sounds so encouraging. i'd be willing to give up this day job ASAP. had the offer comes!

ahlock : hahaha .. too much of paddy fields eh? :)

email2me : delectable stuff! one of the better steamed fish i've had.

YiLingL : wondering why they dont expand, since the runway's short. or just concentrate on smaller flights to domestic destinations.

ck lam : of course! for us Ipohans (or Ipohites, i'm confused), the journey's a little taxing though.

Sugar Bean : you're welcomed! travelling's part of our job though.

kevin_chungx : even cheaper than normal 'tai chow' here.

iamthewitch : BLAME taste?!!! LOL. talk about direct translation ....

My Taste Heaven : for adventure seekers, for sure it's Gua Tempurung. Gua Kelam only a recreational park, with a bridge running through the cave.

cariso said...

I like your first pic! Very very postcard-like!

J2Kfm said...

cariso : thanks! :) it was a long ride, from day til night.

Anonymous said...

wooo'that are so delicious i really wANT to eat the picture are likely
too truely

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Hai Thein Seafood Restaurant said...

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