Saturday, April 27, 2013

Under the Big Tree: Notes from Ipoh

As anyone from Ipoh will tell you, the "Big Tree" in Ipoh is not just any big tree... it is a well known hawker joint!  I just made my first trip to Ipoh, to visit my uncle and cousin, together with two other family members. As usual, my family members indulge in eating and shopping on holiday. So although there is nothing about Peranakan or Eurasian culture in this post, I thought I'd put it up as a sort of companion post to my earlier, gluttonous, (in)famous celebration of food in Penang.

Braised fish head
We reached Ipoh on the Friday afternoon, and after checking into our hotel (Ipoh Downtown - clean, reasonably priced and very well located) we were off! After a short shopping excursion, we went for dinner at "Best Restaurant" on Jalan Yang Kalsom. The food was well-cooked, with the standouts being the soft tauhu with fish paste on top, and the braised fish head (chopped in pieces, battered, and beautifully fried, then served with tauhu, vegetables and a savoury gravy). A good meal indeed.

But today was the day when we did our worst. The tally for me :

- Curry mee, with smooth, translucent thick bee hoon noodles.
- Chee Cheong fan (CCF), with pork and mushrooms. A light gravy, sprinkled over with sesame seeds and fried shallots.

We then crossed the road, only to find Canning Gardens CCF there. Of course, we had to eat it. The sauce is much thicker and sweeter, but the noodles are also soft and went down as smooth as silk.

Dim Sum selection
Ming Court Dim Sum is supposed to be one of the best dim sums in Ipoh. Somehow, all the restaurants of the same type congregate in the same place. Dim Sum restaurants together, Tauge Chicken together, etc etc. Fortunately for us, our hotel was on the street just parallel to the dim sum restaurants (walking around the corner in the other direction, we would hit the tauge chicken restaurants).

I really enjoyed the yummy dim sum, with nice yu mai (sort of a steamed fishball), fried fishballs (no nasty factory fishballs here); dumplings with pork and peanut filling; mua chee with a soft, gooey exterior complemented with sweet-salty peanut filling within. Also a soft and fluffy cha siu pao and a smooth black sesame cream dessert.

I'm surprised that after all this we still had room for Funny Mountain tau huey (or toufu fa) for a second dessert!

Post-lunch snack
YTF at Big Tree
Yong Tau Foo under the Big Tree. Despite our extremely substantial lunch, we went here because we had heard of the famous Big Tree and wanted to at least see the place.  Big Tree itself was crowded, with lots of people either having a late lunch (or their own after-lunch snack).  We went to the next door "New Big Tree" for the YTF (a branch of the original which is in the original Big Tree) - cleaner, newer, shorter queue for YTF.  A place I'd want to go back to again, given the opportunity, because I was so full after the precious rounds that I had only space for a few pieces of YTF and a sweet sour lemon lime drink.

Apparently people from all over Malaysia, Singapore and even Hongkong come for JJ Swiss Rolls.  These rolls come in many flavours, big ones, and mini ones  We had a half of chempadak and half of durian.  I liked the fruity filling, and the roll itself was nice, but somehow maybe we should have tried the minis with their interesting flavours of spinach, pumpkin, and so on.

Ipoh Tauge - shorter, fatter, crunchier
Tauge chicken at Lou Wong. The chicken is probably the same as what you get in Singapore. The tauge on the other hand was definitely different- Ipoh tauge is shorter, fatter, crispier than its Singapore cousin.  And it was blanched just right so that it remained crunchy. The hor fan in the very tasty chicken stock soup was also very good - thin, transluscent and smooth.

It's probably best for my weight that we're leaving at 7.30am tomorrow.

With thanks to family members on this eating binge, it's great to be able to share food with you!  Especial thanks to aunt and cousin, who helped come up with the title to this post.


A Happy Send-off
Obviously, we managed to get in one last breakfast (Ipoh Central Cafe opens before 6.30am, which is when we got there!). Another plateful of CCF to share, and a yummy breakfast of wan tan mee, with 5 small, perfect little wan tans in transluscent wan tan wrappers.

We also had a good lunch of KFC at the airport.  Juicy chicken, fried just right.  Somehow even KFC is better in M'sia!

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