To celebrate the oneness of Malaysia also means to fete its delicious diversity. In this series, we take a closer look at the iconic foods of the country’s states and territories.
Click the link for all the stories in this series on Great Malaysian dishes
Illustration: Zulhaimi Baharuddin
They say that the most beautiful women in Malaysia are from Ipoh, pointing to beauties like actresses Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh and Carmen Soo. Some say it’s due to Kinta Valley’s clean air and fresh water, though that’s still up for debate.
But what brooks no argument is that the best hor fun, or flat rice noodles, are from Ipoh. And everyone concurs that’s definitely due to the fresh spring water from the mountains which is used to make the noodles.
So it is the hor fun that people throng stalls for. Though flat rice noodles are available everywhere in Malaysia, those made in Ipoh are distinctively fine and velvety, gliding smoothly down the throat and always a treat for the palate.
Ipoh hawkers have concocted their own special stock to complement the smoothness of their hor fun.
Elsewhere, rice noodle soup is made with plain pork stock. Ipoh’s version is made with pork stock sweetened with prawns. The best hor fun stock is subtle in its sweetness, lightly coating the thin, fine noodles.
Hor fun is garnished simply with lightly-poached shredded chicken and blanched prawns, with chives to liven up the dish.
Even in sleepy Ipoh, the wait for hor fun at popular stalls can be up to an hour, especially on weekends and public holidays.
Savour the noodles at Thean Chun Coffee Shop (also known as the Hall of Mirrors) on Jalan Bandar Timah or next door at Kong Heng. Local blogger James Tan (Ipohmotormouth) also recommends Ah Tiong Chicken Kuey Teow Stall at Restoran Pulau Sembilan at Jalan Bunga Raya 5, Pasir Puteh and Moon De Moon Restaurant at 148, Hala Wah Keong in Ipoh.
More dishes from Perak
Perak’s rendang tok is distinguished by its liberal use of spices, as well as aromatic plants such as lemongrass and cekur root. It is believed to be created by palace cooks and used to be served only to the royal family. This rendang is distinguished by its drier texture and darker colour. It is slowly cooked till the liquids are reduced, and the beef is fried in the rendered fat. This results in meat which is more flavoursome than other types of rendang.
Chicken and bean sprouts
This signature Ipoh meal can be paired with rice cooked in chicken stock or flat rice noodles. The chicken is poached in stock and the bean sprouts are quickly blanched and doused in soy sauce and sesame oil. It’s a deceptively simple meal but there’s nothing like biting into the luscious chicken with a silky-smooth, just-cooked texture.
Ipoh white coffee
Unlike regular black kopi-o which is produced by dark-roasting coffee beans with sugar, margarine and wheat, white coffee is lightly roasted with only margarine to produce a purer coffee taste. White coffee originates in the Ipoh Old Town area, where coffee pride runs high and rivalry among kopitiams is rife. Stalwart Sin Yoon Loong had to battle Nam Heong for pole position when the latter start to rise.