Sunday, October 04, 2015

Makaning Continues in Ipoh!

After 3 days in Penang, we adjourned to Ipoh via a coach ride which took nearly 4 hours (because of a jam). But I have to say the coach ride reminded me of childhood bus trips to places like Genting and Cameron Highlands, only less spiral a journey.

It was my first time in Ipoh and I was excited. I've only heard that Ipoh water is very special resulting in the girls having fair, porcelain skin, and the kway teow being super smooth. Moohehe. I prepared a large 5-litre container to da bao some back.
Our first meal in Ipoh was a 9pm dinner of Ngah Choi Gei or Beansprouts Chicken recommended by our local contact there who is an Ipoh mei mei and a friend of my travelling mate. A seemingly simple dish of poached chicken and a plate of blanched beansprouts plus an order of innards later, I found myself in love with the dish. The chicken had a pleasant bite without being tough and had a good flavour complemented by the smoky, salty soy sauce. The beansprouts, doused in the same sauce, were a little shorter than the ones in Singapore and were delightfully plump and crunchy. A bowl of piping hot silky hor fun (think thin kway teow) in a light, tasty chicken broth anchors the meal perfectly. Ok, maybe two bowls of hor fun. Moohehe.

Restoran Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiao

Then we had a problem. This being our first taste of Ngah Choi Gei, we had no means of comparison.

So, Ipoh mei mei brought us to another stall, Lou Wong Restoran Ayam Tauge, selling the same iconic dish just about 7 minutes walk away. This version was similar in essence right down to the accompanying green chilli in soy sauce but had a broth that was sweeter (not really in a good sense) probably as a result of a wee bit too mooch rock sugar. The soy sauce for the chicken and beansprouts was also less smoky than the one at Restoran Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiao.

But the pork balls at Lou Wong were pretty scrumptious. Big, springy and I think flavoured with a bit of dried sole. 

Lou Wong Restoran Ayam Tauge

Speaking of chickens, it is interesting to note that if such an advertisement was made in Singapore, the chicken depicted might likely be bigger and moore plump to suit local taste preferences. Here, the wholesome kampong chicken feel appeals better.   

With two late meals of Ngah Choi Gei in a night, we were satisfied. But then we heard from Ipoh mei mei that there was a hor fun place not too far from where we were which was very popular with the locals. 

And the rest as they say, is a bowl of hor fun on the table. Moohehe. This Hor Fun was intriguing as the noodles were in small bits. Almoost disintegrated into the smooth, flavourful gravy. It made for convenient eating as no chopsticks were required! LOL.

Sorry for the haphazardly taken photo as I was pretty tired and almost ready for bed with all 3 servings of hor fun swimming in my head. Apparently this stall is known to the locals as "tang loi loi" (wait long long) in Cantonese, the main spoken Chinese dialect in Ipoh, because there is always a long wait for the food to arrive. And yet they wait, which should say something.

The next moorning, we met Ipoh mei mei for breakfast at a dim sum place near the Downtown Hotel where we were putting up at. This area has several dim sum eateries but she said Ming Court has better dim sum in her opinion. And it was good. Not super refined but homely and tasty. Particularly liked the fried yam balls stuffed with minced meat. 

I like the dim sum experience at Ming Court with its organised chaos of diners moving around waiting for tables, wait staff shouting and promoting dim sums on their trays and diners chatting away. Strangers share tables too. It is all very Hong Kong-ish. Moohehe.

27 plates later, we were belly happy.

Ming Court Hong Kong Tim Sum

Like Penang, Old Town Ipoh also has several wall murals which are popular with tourists, and are worth visiting while exploring the area and burning off some cow-lories.

At Restoran Thean Chun, it is as if time stood still. The kopitiam's interior has a charmingly old soul kept alive by the constant buzz of hungry diners.

What's not to be missed at Restoran Thean Chun is the Chee Cheong Fun. Opt for the version with a mixture of all three sauces (regular sweet chee cheong fun sauce, curry sauce and mushroom sauce) for a moost intriguing experience. The combination offers a complex mix of sweet, spicy and savoury flavours with a discernible tangy note from Worcestershire sauce. Sesame seeds, fried shallots and bits of minced pork contrasted nicely against the smooth, springy strips of chee cheong fun.

The popiah on the other hand had a punchy chilli paste but like Penang's, I didn't take to its overly soft texture. 

The Beef Soup Hor Fun was nothing to shout about though it is quite comforting. The Caramel Custard (in the background) is a sweet treat to try here. Soft, creamy but a little too sweet for my preference, I can see why it's so popular with diners here. Aku just tak sweet gigi lah. Moohehe.

But for dessert, I mooch rather have a bowl of that Tau Huay from the funnily-named Funny Mountain. The Tau Huay was no joke! I can still remember its warm, beany embrace with the lovely fragrance of soy beans. It was supple and soft but held its shape just barely enough with mild resistance before breaking away tenderly. #tauhuayorgasm. Moohaha. 

We also tried Ipoh Bak Kut Teh. Ipoh mei mei brought us to Tung Lok Hin Restaurant. The soup version was dark and leaned towards the herbal side while the dry version packed a savoury, spicy punch which called for rice.

A highlight of the trip was when Ipoh mei mei casually mentioned that our return Firefly flight will be exciting because the plane is a propeller-operated one. And we didn't even know lah! Firefly, why you no state so on your website? Moohehe. So yes, it was my first experience flying on board such an aircraft.

Firefly is pretty good actually with a 20kg check-in limit and complimentary refreshments likes Oreo, juices and soy bean milk on board. The plane is rather small (its body is smaller than the engine of a 747!) with no middle aisle seats. Just two sections of window seats. Leg room is a bit tight for this tall cow but thankfully the flight was just an hour long.  

Ipoh, your small sleepy town appeal is quite a refreshing break from the big city. Love the many quaint, weathered places and of course, your Ngah Choi Gei. Moohehe.

Chew On This: It seems that people here can't walk! Ok I mean they don't like walking and anywhere more than 10 minutes of walking is crazy to them. LOL.

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