The ultimate gastronomical guide to make the best of your foodie adventure.
The next time you are planning to go for a food trip in Ipoh, be sure to put on the loosest pants you have because — believe me — it wouldn’t fit you at the end of the day. Known to be the birthplace of Malaysia’s famous white coffee, Ipoh has its own pride when it comes to local cuisine; from sweet creamy egg tart to silky-smooth caramel custard to crunchy beansprout and succulent juicy chicken. Liked by many mainly because of the savoury taste, some of these cuisines come with a long history since before the independence day! And of course, eventually, it has become the identity of this proud city.
I went for a one-day food trip to Ipoh recently and here are the top 12 places you should never miss.
1. Ming Court Hong Kong Tim Sum
If you are a dim sum lover, you must have heard about the legendary Ming Court Tim Sum in Ipoh. Easily get packed by 9 o’clock in the morning, the restaurant is located at the end corner of a building on Leong Sin Nam Street. Although the place is crowded with patrons coming to have their breakfast, the premise is cosy and air-conditioned. In most cases, the table has to be shared with other patrons and this ‘thap toi’ (sharing tables) tradition, apparently, is kept alive at this place.
The service provided here is tip-top! As soon as you get the table and settle down, you will be immediately swarmed by the friendly aunties carrying trays from all directions. I was overwhelmed at first when approached by the first aunty as I couldn’t catch up with what she said. Guessing from my confused facial expression, the aunty slowly repeated what she said and explained to me what was on the tray. Honestly, I am not a fan of dim sum, so I just nodded to all her suggestions.
I’ve read somewhere that the black sesame soup is favoured by many but the “Woo Kok” yam puff — oh, boy — it was terrific! The crispy bite on the outside and soft, savoury fillings on the inside was definitely to die for. Apart from that, the price was reasonable – between RM2.40 to RM4.10 per plate.
Ming Court Hong Kong Tim Sum
2. New Hollywood Restaurant
For those who are craving for Chinese cuisines but halal-conscious, New Hollywood Restaurant at Jalan Lee Kwee Foh, Canning Garden is the best option. Operating for over 30 years, the humble restaurant is known among the local Muslim community in Ipoh. The concept is somewhat similar to any other typical Chinese restaurants — a mini food court with a few small stalls stationed at the corners of the restaurant.
The restaurant is usually packed from breakfast to lunchtime. Among the famous dishes are char kuey teow with succulent prawns and hearty curry mee, but I’ve decided to try for the freshly made chee cheong fun — either with chicken or prawn fillings — and yong tau foo.
The yong tau foo was average, but the chee cheong fun is marvelicious! The texture was silky smooth, ladled with sweet red sauce with a touch of soy and shallot oil, garnished with fried shallots, sesame seeds and pickled green chilies! A perfect blend of flavours in your mouth, you’d want another serving! Price-wise, a plate of chicken chee cheong fun is RM4.50 while a bowl of yong tau foo is RM6.00 — which are reasonable.
New Hollywood Restaurant
3. Funny Mountain Tau Foo Fah
Strolling around the old town of Ipoh can be exhausting under the scorching hot sun. Quench your thirst by having one of Malaysian’s crave at Funny Mountain Tau Foo Fah. Known for the finest soya bean produce, your trip to Ipoh would have been in vain without trying the best-extremely-soft-silky-melt-in-your-mouth tau foo fah and the fresh soya bean drinks and soya with cincau.
You can either have it in the comfort of your car (drive-thru concept) or join the flock of customers sitting by the roadside.
Funny Mountain Tau Foo Fah
4. Let’s Rock Restaurant
With that funky name, who would have thought that this restaurant specialises in yong tau foo — or stuffed fish paste in English — and noodles. Located at Cowan Street — the same street as Cowan ‘Ayam Taugeh’ Restaurant — the premise is undeniably spacious and usually get the crowd at night.
There are 3 operating stalls at the moment; an apom stall, a curry fish head stall, and of course — the perennial favourite food of many — a stall selling fish ball noodles and a selection of yong tau foo. Ultimately, orders are all done at the counter. Walk over and pick your favourite pieces of stuffed fish paste.
Let’s Rock Restaurant
5. Ipoh Kong Heng Restaurant
The name is very much familiar to the locals as it has been around for a long time. Some even have nostalgic memories of going to this restaurant-upgraded-from-coffeeshop as little kids. According to the senior citizens, its pork satay is said to be legendary, though some claim that the taste has somewhat changed from the old days’.
If you’re a popiah (spring rolls) lover, you should give it a go here. The aunty that makes the popiah is not the same from when they first started, but she is making hers almost exactly the same way as the original one. The fresh popiah is better, in my opinion, compared to the fried version.
Ipoh Kong Heng Restaurant
6. Zun Seng Fatt Coffeeshop
Located just two blocks away from Ipoh Kong Heng, next to Thean Chun, what caught my eyes was this signboard:
Apparently, the uncle who serves chicken rice originally at Ipoh Kong Heng has moved to this shop. It is famous for its Kai Si Hor Fun or chicken kuey toew and pork soup noodle but we’ve decided to taste the chicken rice instead – and we regret not. The chicken rice is superb – chicken meat is juicy and tender with slightly a silky and slippery texture.
The aunty suggested their caramel egg custard. It was slightly above average — a delicate balance between the sweetness of the custard and the bitterness of the caramel with smooth and rich texture — worth a try.
Zun Seng Fatt Coffeeshop
7. Cendol ‘Abang Kacak’ (Handsome Brother)
Luckily the name is not ‘Abang Hot’ or else you’ll be melting under the hot sun — just kidding!
The original name of this humble cendol stall is Wawasan Cendol but thanks to the power of viral, it is now more well-known as Cendol ‘Abang Kacak’. The stall is set-up in front of Thean Chun Restaurant on a three-wheeled motorbike. There are a variety of cendol to choose from, including cendol kacang (red bean), cendol jagung (corn), cendol lengkong (grassjelly), cendol pulut, cendol with Nata de Nenas and cendol with Nata de Coco, with the price ranging from RM3 to RM4.50.
Cendol ‘Abang Kacak’
8. Lou Wong Bean Sprout Chicken Restaurant
One thing you should not miss out when visiting Ipoh is bean sprout chicken. Lou Wong is among the two oldest restaurants along with On Kee, which both enjoy the same reputation for serving deliciously tender poached chicken. Nga Choy Kai (Cantonese name for beansprout chicken) is usually eaten with either rice or flat noodle.
While On Kee is Lou Wong’s utmost rival (situated right across the street), the bean sprouts are simply the best. Crunchy, juicy and fat, the ‘tauge’ is lightly blanched, then tossed lightly with a dash of soy sauce, and some sesame oil for that extra, inviting aroma that you couldn’t resist but to crave for it. The garnishing of chopped scallions and red chillies lend some colours, guaranteed to have you craving for more.
Lou Wong Beansprout Chicken
9. Noor Jahan Bakery
Located at Jalan Raja Ekram, this small humble shop has been operating since 1902. Widely touted as one of the first three bakeries to open in Ipoh, it is now the oldest bakery in the city since its establishment. Decades ago, the shop was known for its freshly made loaves of bread with its aroma penetrating every corner of the shop. That, however, is not the case anymore. Today, as more people would go to fancy bakeries, the shop has been struggling to survive for a quite some time now.
Nonetheless, Noor Jahan Bakery still stands firmly because of their loyal customers from the old days. Until today, Noor Jahan Bakery is popular for its currant bun, soft fresh donuts and fruit cakes, and a few other sweet delights that you can’t find anywhere else.
Noor Jahan Bakery
10. Sin Eng Heong
Whoever mentions the name will immediately think of the irresistible kaya puff. Baking a variety of traditional biscuits since 1961, Sin Eng Heong is most notable for its sensational delight of kaya puff. A bite down on its golden flaky hand-made crust to reveal the most delicious oozing coconut jam filling simply can make you go crazily crave for more bites! Made fresh daily, expect long queues even as the shop is about to open. But the wait for this decadent pastry is definitely worth every second!
Sin Eng Heong
11. Thumb’s Cafe
A few years back, when hipster cafes were budding expeditiously in Ipoh, Thumb’s Cafe was one of the earliest to catch people’s attention. Located in Greentown area, the original building used to be a hostel for orphanage under Kompleks Badan Khidmat Islam Perak (BAKIP). After its successful refurbishment, the cafe appeals to many eyes because of the interesting infusion between western and traditional local elements – thanks to its owner’s extensive exposure to the tourism industry.
Just like the well-known must-have meatball at IKEA, one of Thumb’s Cafe’s signature dishes is homemade meatballs with a little twist where the strawberry jam is used instead of lingonberry jam. Other bombs worth trying are the lamb chop and curry mee — abundance in portions and definitely palate-pleasing. And oh! Its interior design is also perfect for your Instagram feed, so be sure to take a lot of shots.
12. Konda Kondi Cafe & Bistro
Named after one of the local traditional games in Malaysia, this notable hipster cafe serves not only Mexican food but also some local delicacies. Located in the heart of Ipoh old town, Konda Kondi offers homemade pasta, tacos, burgers and some light bites for your palate pleasures.
Its Smoked Duck Carbonara was indeed savoury and worth every bite but the lamb chop was a turndown. The meat was slightly hard and the wedges were cold too. It was a bit of a disappointment there BUT — this Ais Krim Goreng (fried ice cream) was another level.
Just a small set-up on the corridor next to Konda Kondi, Freddo.MY gives you a different way to enjoy the ice cream. Just as the name suggested, the ice-cream is indeed ‘fried’ for about 2-3 minutes before it becomes hard enough to be rolled. You can customise your fried rolled ice cream according to your liking at an affordable price.
Konda Kondi Cafe & Bistro
There you have it — top 12 must-eat places you should not miss when you’re going for a foodie adventure in Ipoh. Of course, as it was a one-day trip, this listicle is not an extensive and in-depth food trail. Expecting part 2 — maybe?