Friday, 27 February 2015

Bak Chang & Mural Hunting in Ipoh

When I came out from Restoran Ipoh Central, after having my breakfast on the second day of Chinese New Year, I spotted a truck selling "chung" or "bak chang" (glutinous rice dumpling) across the street by chance.

On closer inspection, I saw that this chap (a young guy) was selling a lot of bak chang and when you know he can sell such a large quantity of it, it'll probably be good.

Each bak chang is sold at RM6.  I told him that's pretty expensive...even more expensive than the ones I get from KL at RM5.  He smilingly's the new, I don't know if that meant it's pricier during the festive season!  So, I bought 5 to try.  Up close, they're a lot bigger than the ones I bought in KL though.

This was the one with "lok tau" (split green beans or mung beans).  It was filled with a chunk of pork meat (which is more fatty than lean), dried shiitake mushroom, salted egg yolk, dried shrimps and lok tau. 

I had one for lunch and found it to be quite good...just not as good as the KL ones I buy from my neighbourhood wet market (or the Pandan Perdana market).  My preference would be for a leaner pc of pork meat and the lok tau to have a more mushy and softer consistency.  A family member tried one and liked it so much that he requested if we could get more the following day.

So, we went bak chang hunting the following morning at the same place but his truck was no where to be found.  Luckily, I made some 'small talk' with him the day before and I remembered him pointing to a nearby coffee shop where he says he sells his chung.  We found Kafe Wah Nam and were relieved to find him there with stacks of chung. 

I bought another 5 lok tau and 10 "mei tau" (black eyed peas) as he had run out of lok tau (as I got there much later this time).  I definitely preferred the lok tau as it tastes better.

My Ipoh brother-in-law also took us mural hunting for the wall art murals drawn by renowned Lithuanian street artist, Ernest Zacharevic.  He is, of course, well known for his interactive street art in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Ipoh....and, of course, the now infamous and controversial Lego Thief in Johor Bahru.  He started his month long project in May/June of 2014 and painted a total of 7 murals in Ipoh.  I managed to get to 4 of them before the heat got to me....hee...hee.....and here they are:

Old Uncle Drinking (White?) Coffee (from a traditional coffee cup) on the side wall of Old Town White Coffee Outlet facing the Ipoh Padang.  This (to me) is his best piece of work among the 7 murals!  [#Note: Initially, there were rumours that the Ipoh City Council (MBI) wanted to repaint the mural after several complaints were raised about the old uncle's resemblance to the late communist leader Chin Peng (but the council later denied it).  What morons!!  What utter nonsense!!  The old uncle actually turned out to be an 80-year old man living in Penang (check it out here).]

2 Kids on a Paper Plane takes us on a trip down memory lane (I'm sure all of us remember playing with paper planes when we were kids).  This mural is within walking distance from Old Town White Coffee.

5 Packets of "Kopi-o Ping" (iced black coffee) in the open space car park along Jalan Tun Sambanthan (in front of Maybank).  The question on everyone's mind....why black coffee and not Ipoh white coffee, right?  This was my favourite one of all.  His previous mural of a small pack of kopi-o (opposite Sekeping Kong Heng and Plan b) started it all.  [#Note: If you check out Ernest Zacharevic's Facebook, you'll see that he has painted variations of these 5 packets of coffee...there's one where the packet drinks are in various colours (syrup drinks, maybe?), one with goldfish in them and one that even looks like iced teh tarik!]

Little Girl tiptoeing on a stack of red plastic stools while reaching for a cage of birds on a wall in Jalan Bandar Timah.  This piece I found to be rather "plain Jane", so I didn't take a photo of it.

The other 3 are murals of a hummingbird, a trishaw and a tin mining town.  Yet, I've not seen his biggest one (which he painted in 2 weeks in April 2014), spanning a massive 4-storey high on Wisma Allianz building wall in Jalan Gereja, that's closer to home )!!

Let's hope there will be more of his beautiful and creative murals sprouting up in the near future! ;)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Restoran Ipoh Central @ Ipoh

Driving around and looking for a breakfast joint on the second day of Chinese New Year, we found ourselves at Restoran Ipoh Central @ Ipoh.
At least this coffee shop was big enough (though still congested with people) for us to find seats quite easily.  Not knowing what is good here, I walked around to 'survey' the stalls.  I knew I wanted to try Ipoh's Hor Hee and found 2 stalls in the same coffee shop, one with small fish balls and the other had large fish balls :D
I settled for the stall that had some newspaper clippings adorned (hey, if they're featured in the newspapers, at least I can be assured that it'd be decent....hopefully!).  I ordered a bowl of Hor Hee @ RM5 which is actually Ipoh "sar hor fun" (kuey teow/flat rice noodles) or glass noodles with fish balls and fish cakes (very similar to Penang's Kuey Teow Th'ng or KL's Fish Ball Noodles).  I chose hor fun.....hor fun in Ipoh is always good...smooth, thin, slippery....slurps!! :D
The fish balls tasted like they were made from pure fish paste.  It was nice but small (you can compare the size of the fish balls to the spoon) and the bean sprouts fat and crunchy.  The broth, however, didn't do anything for me :(  Later, when I left the café and passed by the stall, I saw the hawker putting in some fish skin wantans into a bowl of hor hee but I didn't get any in my bowl...aiyor, fish skin wantans are one of my favourite things to eat T_T (then I saw that the pic at the stall had 2 pcs of fish skin wantans in the bowl of hor hee)! >.<
My spouse had the Ipoh Curry Mee with "siew yoke" (roasted pork).  I'm not a fan of Ipoh's curry mee as it's quite different from our KL ones.  The Ipoh ones have a stronger spice aroma and the assertiveness of the curry powder is all I taste.  It's not as thick and fragrant with "santan" (coconut milk) like the ones in KL (which I love).
When ordering the curry mee, I noticed quite a few people ordering the Chicken Hor Fun from the same stall.  The poached chicken looked really good and so I ordered one for sharing.  The lady manning the stall was really busy and I could see that her customers would wait and take their bowls of cooked noodles themselves.  Not wanting to do that, I waited for her to bring me the noodles.  When it arrived, the chicken hor fun was topped with shredded chicken breast :'( instead of the chopped chicken pcs that I asked for.  [#Note: And then she mentioned that she's so busy she want to faint (and close shop soon) but there wasn't any mention about receiving money till her hand trembled though! :D :D]
I did prefer the broth of this chicken hor fun to the hor hee soup though.  If only they had given me the poached chicken, I would be a much happier person!  The Ipoh Curry Mee and Chicken Hor Fun cost RM9.50 in total.
My spouse ordered a plate of "Siew Yoke" (Roasted Pork) @ RM6 which turned out to be good when I was not expecting it to.  It was a nice surprise!  The crackling was crispy and had the right amount of saltiness and the meat was flavourful too.

My son had a plain nasi lemak (from a Chinese stall) as he couldn't find anything he liked plus he's not fond of any type of soup noodles.

This was my glass of Cold Ipoh White Coffee which was rather nice.

The supposedly good eats from this coffee shop (which I gathered from Motormouth from Ipoh's blog) are the pork chop and chicken chop rice and Canning Garden's "chee cheong fun" (rice noodle rolls)...both of which I didn't get to try as they were closed, of course!

My Personal Opinion

The Ipoh hor hee and chicken hor fun are palatable fare......but the surprise 'find' turned out to be the siew yoke.
This corner coffee shop is a fair place for a quick breakfast or lunch as it offers a lot of options at very reasonable prices.

Restoran Ipoh Central
51 - 53 Jalan Raja Ekram
30450 Ipoh

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Regalodge Hotel & The Limestone (Again) @ Ipoh

I've stayed at this place, Regalodge Hotel @ Ipoh last year when I went back to Ipoh for Chinese New Year and found my stay to be a pleasant one and (so) decided to book this hotel again this year.

This is a 3-star hotel and the room rate is still very much like last year...about RM180 nett.  The décor looked pretty similar to last year's as well.

The room I was given (this time on the 2nd floor) was not as pleasant as last year's (on the 3rd floor) coz the furnishings looked a bit older.  The giveaways were still similar to last year's...canned and packet drinks, a bag of chips, cup noodles and mineral water (and these are replenished on a daily basis).

We had our reunion dinner in Ipoh pretty early this year as we had to eat (and wash up) and get ready for the 8 pm mass (as Ash Wednesday coincided with Chinese New Year Eve this year).  It was a home cooked dinner with dishes like braised duck, poached chicken, freshwater prawns in egg white, wine and ginger, pork and yam in "nam yue" (red fermented bean curd), stir fried "jiu hu char" (jicama with carrots, dried shitake mushrooms and dried cuttlefish) served with fresh lettuce leaves, fried Ipoh beansprouts with salted fish, stuffed bean curd and fish balls, curry chicken, "loh hon chai" (mixed vegetables in nam yue), "lor bak" (deep fried meat rolls), fried fish and some others.

Because of the early dinner, we were feeling a wee bit hungry later in the night and decided to check out their room service menu.  The room service menu is from the same (and only) restaurant in the hotel, The Limestone, so you'd be assured of a fairly decent quality and taste.  The room service menu is quite extensive with offerings from soups to salads, pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and mains...with most priced under RM30!

I ordered the Hawaiian Seafood Mini Pizza @ RM27.50...I know, I know, it's not cheap but room service never is!  When the mini pizza arrived, I was glad to see that it wasn't that mini but roughly the size of a 10-inch pizza ;)

It was filled with salmon chunks, squid slices, small prawns, beef bacon bits, sliced onions, red and green capsicum in a tomato-based sauce and topped with melted cheese.  I think it was well worth the price with the plentiful ingredients...and, surprisingly, the taste was rather decent (for room service).

It's not usual for (most) Malaysians to tip at restaurants (unlike in US for example) coz there's already a 10% service charge in the bills but the funny thing is, there's no service charge at Limestone (including the room service).  So, I gave a tip (equivalent to about 10% of the bill) to the server who brought us the food.  Would you have tipped (even if there's already a 10% service charge in the bill) since this is room service?  I'm quite blur when it comes to tipping.  How much is a fair tip (say, for a server for room service, bellhops who assist with the luggage or those tasked with opening car doors, for example) in your opinion?

From our previous positive dining experience at Limestone, we opted to have our breakfast there again (this year) on the first day of Chinese New Year.  It sure beats the mayhem at dim sum restaurants or driving around to find good eating places that are open during the festive period.

I had The Limestone's Finest Club Sandwich (that's what was stated in the menu) @ RM16.50 which is their house special English layered club sandwich with turkey ham, fried egg, iceberg lettuce, cucumber and cheddar cheese (which I omitted, of course) dressed in mayo.

I won't say it's the finest club sandwich...kekeke....but it's as a sandwich should be (no complaints there).  The 2 portions of the triple decker sandwich are actually substantial enough for two (as a light breakfast).

That's because each breakfast order comes with a further 2 slices of complimentary bread and a drink of your choice.  I chose the croissant which came with butter and strawberry jam but the croissant turned out to be quite dense (better option to stick with plain toast).

This was the coffee of choice...."when in Rome, do as the Romans do", so I chose the Ipoh White Coffee (what else).  It was served in a more "atas" (fine dining) style....hee...hee! :p

You can also order their Breakfast Set @ RM19 (I call it Freestyle Breakfast Set) where you can have the option of selecting your choice of eggs, meat, bread and drink.  This is the omelette with mushrooms and beef bacon.

Partner that with a Fresh Orange Juice and you're good to go.

Or you can book the room with the breakfast included at a cost of RM15++ per person which works out to be more or less the same (depending on what you order).  Most of the breakfast menu items are priced under RM20.

My Personal Opinion

All in all, I still had a pleasant stay at Regalodge but (perhaps) might want to try a different hotel next year.  If you're looking for a fairly priced hotel stay (that won't blow your budget sky high since there's so much spending already for the festive season), this is a comfortable hotel for under RM200 a night.

Regalodge Hotel
131 Jalan Raja Ekram
30450 Ipoh
Tel: 05-242 5555

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Yoke Fook Moon (Dim Sum) @ Ipoh

We began our "balik kampong" ritual (returning to hometowns for the festive period) and left KL around 7.20 am and this year the journey took a little longer....close to 3 hours to get to Ipoh (we arrived shortly after 10 am).  Upon reaching our destination, we offloaded the foodstuff I brought (from KL) at my spouse's late grandfather's home and left for breakfast thereafter.

We went hunting for a place to have breakfast.  We got to Thean Chun but it was closed.

So was Ipoh Kong Heng next door.  Looking for a place to eat on Chinese New Year Eve (and the next 2 days) in Ipoh is like "looking for a needle in a haystack" as most of the good ones would be closed.

We found Sin Lean Lee open but, when we ventured into the coffee shop, we noticed that all the stalls were closed or on the verge of closing for the day.  The only stall I saw still doing business was the supposedly (famous) Char Kway Teow stall but I overheard the stall workers telling the customers that there would be at least a 45 mins to an hour wait.  On hearing that, we decided not to stick around.

We then ventured to the dim sum places and found Ming Court closed but Foh San and Yoke Fook Moon open.  Eating dim sum in Ipoh during Chinese New Year is sheer madness!  Madness to get a seat, madness to get the attention of the servers and madness to get the food!!!  I once noticed customers having to queue up to get their own dim sum in Foh San...and there was no way I was going to do a paying customer and get treated like beggars in a soup kitchen!

We stepped into Restoran Yoke Fook Moon @ Ipoh and got a table easily (and that's because it was close to noon already).  This was my second time eating here (I was first brought here by an ex-colleague of mine about 3 years ago).

Once seated, we saw the server passing by with a large of tray of this and quickly ordered the Fried "Har Guin" (Prawn Roll) @ RM6.40.  It was filled with prawns and something paste, I think.  My family members enjoyed this and ordered 2 more plates.  It was good but not as good as some of the ones I've eaten in KL.  The filling was really plump and generous but the wrapping was not as crispy as I would have liked.

The Steamed "Har Gow" (Prawn Dumpling) @ RM6.80 was pretty decent as it was abundantly filled with fresh prawns though the skin could be thinner.

This is the Lotus Leaf Glutinous Rice @ RM5.80 that is slightly different from the usual ones that are wrapped like a square.  This was wrapped in a roll form.  It wasn't as nice as the glutinous rice was not soft enough and the filling was scarce.

Next, we ordered the Pan-Fried "Lor Bak Kou" (Carrot or Radish Cake) @ RM5.  This was extremely softer in texture than all the versions I've eaten thus far and rather flavourful as well.  I liked this a lot if only it was served hot (right after it's been pan-fried), it would have been even better.  But for those who don't like their radish cake extremely soft, then this version is not for you.

I also requested for my favourite Stuffed Brinjal @ RM5 (for 2 pcs) that came with a robust thick sauce.  This got our stamp of approval.

We also ordered the Steamed "Chee Cheong Fun" (Rice Rolls) @ RM4.30.  This is one with "char siew" (barbecued pork) filling.  The chee cheong fun was smooth but the sauce and sambal were not quite up to mark.

A usual accompaniment for dim sum is the chilli sauce and "teem cheong" (sweet sauce).  The teem cheong in Ipoh is, of course, quite different from the ones in KL.  Here it's slightly reddish in colour with a more sweetish undertone.  But what I noticed is that this sauce is pretty elusive as it's not freely available on the table.  [#Note: So, when I specifically asked for it, the server asked me how many plates I needed and then brought the teem cheong bottle to the table, took out 3 plastic sauce plates and filled it up...and then he took the sauce bottle away!]  I don't know why it's such a 'guarded' commodity (in a dim sum place)....kekeke!! :D

I packed 5 tubs of Mango Pudding @ RM3 to go (when I noticed a poster on the wall advertising it).  The tubs were really mini in size and it was certainly not cheap @ RM3 each.

The mango pudding did turn out to be quite good...very concentrated with mango flavour even though the pudding consistency was a tad gummier than expected.

My Personal Opinion

Overall, the dim sum was decent...after all, it's a household name and usually on the list of food bloggers' 10 best dim sum places in Ipoh (although many KLites will probably argue that they can find a lot better ones in KL).  The various fluffy "paus" (steamed buns) here are proclaimed (by a well-known authority on Ipoh food) to be the best in Ipoh but I didn't try any, so I can't vouch if that is so (perhaps on my next trip).

The standout (for me) was (undoubtedly) the pan-fried radish cake.  What made it a standout was the incredible softness of the radish plus the combination of spring onions (and chives?)...and the abundance of it on the radish cake.

If you happen to be in Ipoh, this dim sum place is worthy of a visit!

Restoran Yook Fook Moon
67 - 69 Jalan Leong Sin Nam
30300 Ipoh
Tel: 05-241 6589

Monday, 23 February 2015

Jake's Charbroil Steaks @ Starhill Gallery

When we think of the old steakhouses that have been around for 2 to 3 decades and are still popular among steak lovers...inevitably The Ship, Victoria Station and Jake's Charbroil Steaks are the three that would probably come to mind.
I've eaten at their Medan Damansara branch a few times (though the last time has been a while) but this is my first time trying Jake's Charbroil Steaks @ Starhill Gallery.  My friends and I decided to break with tradition this year and went with western food for our pre-Chinese New Year celebration meal together (before we all embark on our "balik kampong" ritual).  We didn't want the usual Chinese food we had the previous year here (as we knew we'd probably be partaking in a lot of Chinese food during the festive season).

I ordered a couple of starters to share, starting off with the Crispy Potato Skin @ RM15 (for 2 pcs) which is one of their signature starters.  The potato skin was fried till super crispy and it was filled with diced onions, capsicum, smoked beef and topped with melted cheese.  This we loved and it was as good as I remembered it to be.

Next up was an old classic that's still popular to this day...the Prawn & Mango Cocktail @ RM27.  This was served in a large glass with prawns, sliced mangoes, tomatoes, julienned lettuce at the bottom and a wedge of lime.  The cocktail sauce that dressed the prawns were insufficient (in my opinion) coz once the prawns were eaten, there was a mountain of shredded lettuce that was deprived of any sauce.  Although I was appreciative that the mangoes were sweet and plentiful, I think the price tag is too much for a dish that only had 6 prawns (RM18 would have been more tolerable).

Another super popular starter here is the Station Master's Choice (that's what stated in the menu) of Oxtail Soup @ RM22.  This thick robust flavoured soup, with falling off the bone meat, is indeed really good.  I would say it's as good as the one at Maria's SteakCafe, only thing's a pretty small portion compared to Maria's.

For the kids to share, we ordered the Chicken Mushroom Soup @ RM16.

We were served some complimentary garlic bread (with the 2 soups ordered)...nothing quite like Victoria Station's garlic bread though. 

The kids also shared a main which was Jake's Charbroiled Chicken @ RM32.  It's just a deboned chicken thigh that's been grilled and served with fries and some sticks of raw carrot (don't ask me why they put raw carrots on the plate if it's not meant to be eaten...we're not rabbits)!  This chicken does not come with any sauce and, knowing that children would probably want sauce, I requested for some mushroom sauce on the side.  There's nothing much to complain about a simple grilled chicken except for the price which I felt was (again) too high (RM20 would have been more reasonable but, then again, this is Starhill).

My friend had the Black Angus Ribeye (200g) @ RM111 cooked to medium rare.  The meat was cooked perfectly and the meat was flavourful and tender.

Another had the Black Angus Sirloin (200g) @ RM99...again perfectly cooked to medium rare as requested.  The sirloin had a bit more fat (at the sides) than the ribeye, it was still tender but the meat was not as flavourful as the ribeye.

My friend and I decided to share the Australian Aged Tenderloin (200g) @ RM82 and asked for it to be cooked to medium rare doneness as well.  This was a thick cut of meat but it was tender.  My only complaint was the meat was not well rested as evidenced by the outflow of juices from the meat when I cut into it (sorry, no snapshot of the leaked juices).

All the steaks can be served with a choice of black pepper, garlic or mushroom sauce (upon request) but we like to eat our meat 'naked' in all its glory ;)  [#Note: For those on a budget, they do have cheaper cuts like the grain fed sirloin (@ RM63) or ribeye (@ RM73) or if you have money to splurge, go for the wagyu steaks (from RM208 to RM288).  If you're a big meat eater, there's the bone-in porterhouse steaks (min 400g, from RM106 - RM145) and T-Bone steaks (min 400g, from RM125 to RM172).]

We also shared the Angus Grain Fed Bone-In Beef Spare-Rib @ RM159 which is their house speciality.  These ribs have been marinated for over 24 hours with garlic and pepper and Jake's own BBQ sauce.  As this is a rib, the recommended doneness is medium well to well done (I asked for well done to ensure that it's well charred).  The meat is served filleted from the ribs, so eating it is made easier but don't forget to attack the bits left on the bone as well (that's the well charred and yummy part)!  The meat turned out a bit drier and chewier than I expected.  It was not as good (or as tender) as I had remembered...either the standard has dropped or my taste buds have been 'elevated' (from eating more steaks)! :D

All the main courses were served with corn on the cob, baked potato and boiled vegetables.  I only noticed the server (standing by the side) waiting to garnish our baked potatoes with beef bits and sour cream (after we've finished taking the pics).

My Personal Opinion

Overall, the steaks were decent....after all, Jake's is still on the list of many food websites' Top 10 Best Steakhouses.  The prices are a bit on the high side and, at these prices, I can certainly find similarly priced steakhouses like Maria's SteakCafe or Angus House that are more to my liking.

If I do come to Jake's again, I'll stick with the black angus ribeye or order the black angus tenderloin rather than the similarly priced spare siree, I won't be ordering that again, that's for sure!! :'( 

Jake's Charbroil Steaks
LG11 LG Floor Starhill Gallery
181 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2148 1398

Monday, 16 February 2015

#ewew fries Prawn Crackers

After seeing suituapui's blog about prawn crackers (and his comment that he has never seen this type of prawn cracker), I thought I might as well include my favourite prawn crackers in a post.  I make these (which means I fry them only lar) on a yearly basis (without fail).  They're my most favourite thing to eat during Chinese New Year.
I usually buy these homemade prawn crackers from the same vendor at the Pandan Perdana market (or sometimes from an ex-colleague of mine).
These ones I bought are from the Pandan Perdana market and they come in a packet of 600g and is sold at RM24 a pkt (I can get about 4 1/2 large containers from 1 pkt).
These prawn crackers resemble a somewhat fat fettuccine (in terms of shape). 
As it comes in a long noodle strand, you have to break it up into about 1-inch pcs before frying, otherwise it's impossible to fry them in one continuous strand.
Fry up these little babies in hot oil and drain on paper towels.  I like these ones coz they really have prawn taste in them (unlike some).  They might not look very pretty but they sure taste great :-)
These ones are cooled enough to be stored in large containers......ready to be gifted away...I need to go fry up some more!
There are also these crab stick crackers that my son likes (which I don't know how to make).  I was told it's made from those fake crab sticks (my mom said you just peel the crab sticks into strands and fry them up.  If so, how do they make them so crispy...flour?).  She did make them one year but it wasn't quite successful (so, it wasn't so simple after all)....ah well, that's why my sister buys them from the 'experts' who know how to make them (and this year the one she bought was really crispy) can see that they're in thick strands (not the thin ones like most are)! :D
The other thing that I like to eat are these fried (dried) prawn rolls.  I wouldn't even dream of making these (not that I know anyway) as it's a lot of work.  My sis gifted me these as well (from Tong Kee).
The one thing my mom is successful at making....and that's frying cashew nuts.  Her fried cashew nuts contain no salt.  She would make them every year and give them away to family members.
Besides these, I've received other goodies from family, friends and neighbours but these are the few that I really like.  I don't need much, just a few fried stuff is more than sufficient to satisfy my simple needs.  After all, how much can 3 people eat anyway, especially when we're not 'snackers' ;)

Also, this is the first year (after many, many years) that I've decided not to buy any "long yoke" (barbequed dried meat) simply for 3 reasons...1) I'm trying not to eat them, 2) they've gone up in prices so much over the years that it's ridiculous and 3) I don't want to get shortchanged on the weight and be 'cheated' anymore (see my earlier write-up here)!

Over the years, I've actually cut back on buying Chinese New Year goodies as most end up unfinished long after the festivities are, waste not, want not!  In fact, there's no necessity to buy any nowadays as mine are usually gifted to me (so, thank you) when I make them cookies and prawn crackers. 

So, here's my new year wishes for all readers of my blog...

...may good luck and good fortune always be with you,
in other words....."ong mali"
Kung Hei Fatt Choy
 ...time for a short break.....
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