Coffee is still making my head spin and my heart race. I am not exactly a coffee fanatic but I would still like to be able to enjoy a nice aromatic cup once in a while. But it’s tough when even the 3 in 1 variety does this to me. Oh well….. I still stock up on my favorite Ipoh Old Town, 3 in1 coffee whenever I can, though I’ll try to take them in moderation.

Me and the kids just returned from a week’s break in my hometown of Ipoh. We have not been back for almost 3 years. Ever since my sister moved into her “palace” at Putra Heights in Kuala Lumpur, everyone prefers to gather there for reunions as it’s nearer and more comfortable there. To us HDB dwellers, her 2-storey link home is a palace! So it’s high time we pay my folks a visit at the original place of our childhood. Apart from wanting to spend time with them, I also miss the local food there. Ipoh is well known for it’s food and people are willing to travel all the way north for cheap and good food. It’s about 8-9 hours coach ride from Singapore. We’re doubly blessed because Dad knows where all the good food are. A friend once said that many people are passionate about food but few are discerning. I’m proud to say that my Dad belongs to the later. Mom on the other hand is more easy-going. Usually the really good stuff are located in obscure places. My brother-in-law, the one living in the palace, once brought us to an eating place tucked away in a factory! And I have memory of Dad packing us kids into his car and driving deep into the rubber plantation near Sitiawan where a secluded seafood eating paradise sits amidst the rubber and coconut trees. We would order loads of cheap and really good seafood and a jar of todi (coconut wine). These wine are freshly made from the coconut tress surrounding that area. If we wanted fresh coconut water, there were monkeys trained by the owners to climb up these trees to pluck fresh coconuts! It was such a thrill to watch them! Now won’t you say that was a truly unique dining experience? Unfortunately when I was young I took things for granted and paid little attention to the names and locations of these hangouts. I just tagged along to wherever Dad brought us. That was a huge mistake because without Dad, I’m lost and will probably have to settle for commercialized, modernized and sanitized food courts all my life. Maybe the next time I’m back I should sit Dad down and make him recite to me all the locations and names of these places. For now, these are some of the places I can recall, where you can find cheap and good food in Ipoh. I’ve included the Cantonese names as well, they way they’re known by locals there.

  • Foh San Dim Sum Restaurant (Fu San in Cantonese) – for dim sum of course, very crowded, be there early.
  • Cowen Street (Ko Wan Gai in Cantonese) – for curry noodles, sweet and savory glutinous rice topped with curry or kaya, zue cheong fun with mushroom sauce. Trust me, you’ll ask for more. Everything is sold out by 9 or 10am, so be there early. Forgot to take down the name of the “signboard” though. duhh….
  • Woolly @ Ipoh Garden – unfortunately they’ve tuned it into a modern food court but the char kuey teow there is still very good.
  • Glutton’s Square (Dung Gu Ting in Cantonese) – hawker centre with a huge variety of authentic local dishes. a few notable ones are, claypot rice, zhe char where you can order a variety of seafood prepared in local style, grilled sambal stingrays, Penang laksa, chicken rice, Lo Bak, Nonya kuehs and many many more. Evenings and weekends are overcrowded.
  • Lou Wong – for it’s famous Nga Choi Kai (chicken with beansprout). My brother says the standard has dropped though. I can’t tell because I don’t eat chicken…..nor pork….nor beef.
  • Bee Ghek @ Ipoh Garden South – for authenthic peranakan food. Pricier by local standards though. For Singaporeans, it’s still a bargain.
  • East Ocean Chinese Restaurant @ Chemor (In Cantonese, Dong Hoi for East Ocean, Zue Mou for Chemor) – Chemor is at the outskirts of Ipoh, about an hour’s drive. Cheap and good Chinese food. We ordered sambal petai as well (all time favourite. the more pungent the beans, the better!), which is not exactly a Chinese dish. So I think they do cater to local tastebuds as well.
  • MP Restaurant @ Greentown – it’s the latest, happening, place to dine. They serve a variety of Western, Asian and local dishes. There is also a buffet-style steamboat. The aroma of the Dong Guai herbal soup base for the steamboat was irrisistable. There’s al fresco dining (which is really nice), as well as indoor dining. Everything happens within the compound of a renovated and upgraded bungalow. The ambience will certainly appeal to yuppies but when we were there, we saw people of all ages and walks of life. So I guess it is really an all-inclusive place. The prices are the highest among all the others I’ve listed above but it’s not too unreasonable. It ranges from below RM10 for a salad to RM30+ for a grilled seafood platter. The steamboat buffet price for adult is about RM24 I think. Again, by Singapore standards, it’s quite affordable.
  • Nasi Lemak @ Old Stadium – RM1.60 for a generous portion of nasi lemak as good, if not better than, the one at Adam’s Road or Changi V in Singapore?
  • Prawn Mee – I have absolutely no idea what’s that place called, somewhere not too far away from where the Jusco Mall is. They moved from the city center to this location several years ago. They only operate at night. It’s THE BEST prawn mee (noodles) anywhere, anytime. Most prawn mee in Malaysia are Penang-styled. Unlike the milder ones found in Singapore, they are spicer and definately more exciting in flavor and texture! Unfortunately to our great loss, the old man has retired! I just found out last in this trip. ((sob sob))
  • Old Town Kopitiam (Kau Kai Cheong Kor Pi in Cantonese) – I finally saw for myself the original famous Old Town Kopitiam (coffee shop). I have never ever notice it in my entire 18 years living in Ipoh. No they do not serve the 3 in 1 variety, God forbid! Everything is done the old fashion way. I don’t know if they serve the hazelnut flavoured coffee at their original outlet but the ready-packed ones seem to be a hit locally and abroad. It’s in a very humble setting unlike the modernized franchised outlets that have sprung up all over Malaysia. The funny thing is that I didn’t know their white coffee is so popular until I live abroad. It’s the same with our hor-fun, nga choi kai, hor-hee, char kuey teow, laksa, salt baked chicken, pomelo and many more. I didn’t know what the big deal was until I became the accidental tourist.
  • Inchi-cabin – That’s the way you pronounce it to the waiter. No it’s not in a cabin somewhere. Inchi-cabin is the name of a finger food. It’s not the name of a place. A few places in Ipoh has it in their menu. It’s a sort of dry spiced chicken nuggets. It has a unique taste according to my family who has tried it. Me of course, don’t eat chicken, so I don’t know but they look good. 


This post would have been much more interesting if I have photos to show you but silly me didn’t bring a camera along. Duhh….

Now, who wants to come along the next time I plan a trip there?