Ipoh offers more than grand colonial architecture or old Asia charm. It is one of the best spots in Malaysia for a gastronomic safari and my favorite next to Penang and Melaka.
Ipoh is the capital of Perak State, about 205 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The rich mineral deposits from the limestone cliffs surrounding the Kinta Valley and its fresh and clean water are believed to be the essential ingredients that make their food unique.
As the locals say, “Eat while in Ipoh”.
If there is one thing that would lure me back to Ipoh, it will only be its heavenly curry noodles served at the family-run Restoran Xin Quan Fang. This local favorite has been serving its one and only dish for over 20 years and has perfected the special chili gravy which is concocted from a secret blend of curry powder and spices.
The curry noodles are best eaten with a side dish of braised roast pork, chicken and prawns sprinkled generously with Ipoh beansprouts. If you love savory and spicy dishes, this famous delicacy will leave you wanting for more. Just make sure to visit early in the morning because it’s often sold out by noon.
Bean Sprout Chicken Noodles (Ayam Taugeh)
I never thought that such a simple chicken noodle soup could be this good and popular. But then this is Ipoh, proud home of the best Kway Teow (silky-smooth flat rice noodles) in Malaysia as well as the plump, juicy and crunchy Ipoh bean sprouts which are nourished by its rich soil and fresh water.
We tried our first bean sprout chicken at Restoran Onn Kee at Jalan Yau Tet in New Town. A steaming kway teow noodle soup came with a plate of soft, fragrant boiled chicken; a plate of bean sprouts and an extra bowl of meatballs. It was my first orgasmic food experience since we arrived in Malaysia.
Ipoh White Coffee
A visit to Ipoh would not be complete without trying out its famous White Coffee (Bak Kopi in Cantonese). Unlike black coffee, the beans are roasted without the addition of sugar. It is brewed in a sock sieve using hot boiling water. Condensed and evaporated milk are then added which makes it a bit sweeter than your normal latte.
Ipoh White Coffee is also served in the famous Old Town White Coffee food chain found in major cities in Malaysia and some parts of the world. But if you happen to be on this side of town head to Sun Yuan Long or Nam Heong (the original shop of the food chain) for a truly authentic coffee experience.
Biscuits and Pastries
Whether you choose to munch on them while ambling your way around Ipoh’s colonial structures or bring them home as take-away goodies, Ipoh has a wide selection of tasty pastries and biscuits. My favorite is kaya puff, a type of pastry filled with sweet creamy coconut and egg jam. Sin Eng Heong is popular for its kaya puff and has a good range of biscuits, Ching Han Guan for the meat floss biscuits and Yee Hup and Seng Kee for the heong peng.
While satay is widely available in the country, trying out Ipoh’s cheap and delicious satay made our street food safari here even more memorable. After walking around the city for the whole afternoon, we made our way to the Children’s Playground at Jalan Raja Musa Azis.
I laid out my sarong in the grassy part of the park, bought a dozen sticks of chicken and pork satay and a plate of popiah (Malaysia’s fresh spring rolls) from the food stalls nearby. Charles got his cold beer fix from 7eleven and another plate of fried kway teow. We ate and drank the night away on our last night in Ipoh.