Are you one of those who seek out “famous” eateries around the Old Town area when you’re in Ipoh? That’s what I – and many people I know – do.
Secretly, many Ipoh-ites (or Ipohans, whichever grabs your fancy) see those food outlets as tourists traps. They know the best food is out there in the suburbs.
Thankfully, I have discovered one such area, Pasir Pinji, which is pretty close to the city centre, about 2.5km away. And yes, food prices in Ipoh is still cheap!
To initiate me on some of the local favourites, I enlisted Edmund Chak, an Airbnb operator of Lavender Lodge in the area. I’m not a breakfast person and normally do two meals a day (I’m also a lazy oink outside of work so that accounts for my prosperous tummy, not over-indulging in food). The reason I bring that up was because the next two days was literally a “gorging fest” with at least five meals per day.
It helped that it was a group of us indulging – that spelled out more varieties to share and try. So in no particular order, here are some must-try options.
1. Restoran Jen Jen
22 Jalan Chew Sin Oon, off Jalan Tokong (7am to 1.30pm)
Our first stop for breakfast was a must-do dish for Ipoh, namely hor fun; in this instance, kai (chicken) see hor fun. We had it on the fringes of Pasir Pinji on Jalan Tokong. It was definitely flavourful and one of the best I’ve ever had. I was told that the broth is made from chicken bones and prawn shells.
Please have the side dish of jellyfish taugeh – it’s very good. The char koay teow is apparently pretty good too.
2. Restoran Chong Kee Pokok Besar (Tai Shu Kiok)
1277 Jalan King, Taman Hoover (opens every day, from 8.30am to 5.30pm)
This is THE place for yong tau foo in Ipoh. It’s called Pokok Besar because there is a big tree which is part of the “decor” for the huge stall. There’s an impressive selection for you to choose from and you just join the queue and patiently wait your turn.
This stall is probably quite familiar to people outside Ipoh. specially after it was featured in a local TV food programme. So much so that a few stalls have opened up in Kuala Lumpur and other places using their name. So the owner makes it clear on a huge signboard above the food selection that they have not opened up any branches.
Was it worth the wait? For sure; every morsel was delectable.
3. Kedai Biskut Sin Eng Hoe
1263 Jalan Pasir Pinji 2, Kampung Pasir Pinji Baru (opens every day, from 9am to 10pm)
They make everything here themselves (and handmade too) and you can take a peek. The kaya puffs are slightly smaller than normal but they are delectable. There are a number of other varieties of well-known Chinese biscuits like lotus paste biscuits, lou poh peng (wife biscuits), salted egg yolk biscuits and the fa sung thong (peanut candy which I loaded up on). Of course, many people can’t leave without the famous heong peng (fragrant biscuit).
4. Jalan Prince Ais Sagu (Sek Lau Zhi)
Corner of Jalan Pasir Pinji 2 and Jalan Prince (opens only on weekends and public holidays, from 1pm to 6pm)
Just down the road from Sin Eng Hoe and at the junction (next to Cafe Happy City) is something I can rave on about endlessly. It’s a pushcart and it’s not there every day so that makes it even more of a precious find.
This lady with her relative served sago drinks and she has two versions – the Thai style red rubies with santan (coconut milk) and one with a a lemony syrup. For me, the second one was heavenly and I had a second helping which is also perfect when the sun is trying to set you on fire. My friends concurred.
The lady who makes this delightful concoction works full-time in a shoe factory (for 20 years), hence why she is not here every day.
5. Traditional Noodles Restaurant
19 & 19A Hala Pinji 2, Taman Hoover (closed on Thursday; opens Monday to Sunday, from 8am to 5pm)
Wan tan mee is pretty common but I must say the soup here is clear and tasty (and no hint of sodium glutamate). And the wantan is to die for. Generous yummy portions of the cha siew and the deal was sealed. There are also the fish balls and yong tau foo that my friends seemed to like (I’m not a fan of fish balls).
Let’s also say the bill for the seven of us was pretty cheap.
6. Restoran Kum Kee (Big Small Feet)
798-799 Jalan Sekolah , Pasir Pinji (opens from 5.30pm to 3am)
If you need to indulge your late night cravings, there is no better spot than this corner restaurant in the area. It’s opposite the Pasir Pinji police station so it’s hard not to miss and the crazy number of cars and people parked here should also be a clue.
Why that interesting nickname for the eatery? It refers to the signature side dish here – a mix of braised pork knuckles and chicken feet that connoisseurs swear upon. Knuckles are up my alley, feet not so much.
You can also get your fill of the famous Ipoh beansprouts (nga choy gai ) with chicken here. The noodles to go with it are also flavourful. We ended with the delish to the ninth level tau foo fah (sweet soy bean curd pudding).
How much did the whole meal cost for the seven of us? I handed out two RM50 bills to the uncle (who can take 12 orders with writing anything down) who returned one bill back to me plus two RM1 bills with a laugh. Yes, food in Ipoh is still cheap!
I was so taken with the food that I actually forgot to take pictures of the dishes.
7. Restoran Tim Shun Loong
22 Jalan Peh Kee Koh, Taman Kampar
This kopitiam has a few stalls that include Chan Kee Curry & Wanton Noodles (curry mee is supposed to be good) and 118 (for Hakka pan mee). But what I gorged on was the array of Nyonya kuih, all of them quite delicious. Those that I can recall are kuih lapis, onde-onde, sago kuih, kuih talam, wun chai ko (steamed rice with radish), egg tarts and lam fa fan (blue glutinous rice).
But they have also savoury items for you to choose from – cucur udang (where they are not stingy with the prawns), chee cheong fun, and even packet nasi lemak and bee hoon.
Definitely worth dropping by as you can have a complete meal here. Be prepared for the crowds though.
8. Kedai Kopi Tai Kung
18 Jalan Ong Chin Seong (off Jalan Tokong), Pasir Puteh (opens only in the morning)
Very unassuming place as most “great” finds tends to be. While everyone has their favourite chee cheong fun places in Ipoh, this is one hidden find. Its Hong Kong-style (apparently) servings has some great sauce to go with it, tasty but not too spicy. It’s quite cool to see the expressionless Aunty preparing the handmade dish herself.
And the coffee here can match any of the top coffee spots in town.
Lost & Found is a new occasional series that highlights the hidden ‘gems’ of Malaysia – destinations that are lesser known or may have been around for some time and are now being rediscovered – to help boost domestic tourism as well. If you have any places to recommend, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘Lost & Found’. Stories should be 600-800 words long, with six photos (1MB). We reserve the right to edit all submissions. Contributions will appear in Star2 or online at Star2.com.