A meeting of minds last weekend with Singapore Chowhound, klyeoh, on my home turf in Penang started this discussion on the eating possibilities of the often overlooked home of the famous "white coffee" - Ipoh. There has been only a couple of threads before on what I'd call Malaysia's third dining city:
Ipoh has the unenviable position of being sandwiched right between Malaysia (and some say the world)'s top street dining city, PENANG, and Malaysia's uber-dining capital, KUALA LUMPUR. Whereas Penang is Hokkien or Fujianese thru and thru, with dishes reminiscent of those you will find in Taipei or Kaohsiung, Kuala Lumpur is an all-out Cantonese dining city where Chinese food is concerned, with traditional Cantonese foods prepared the traditional olden way which even Hongkongers have forgotten.
Ipoh's coffeeshop dining culture, on the other hand, is dominated by the Hainanese/Hylam or Hoilam-Chinese. They churn out incredible "pak ka fei" or white coffee, which are pale freshly-roasted coffee scented with cocoa and margarine and other stuff unknown. These coffee pack a caffeine punch, and one is usually buzzing after a second cuppa.
This thread revisits the top Hainanese coffee places in Ipoh and some of the best foods to be had there. Ipoh's food scene is too rich to fit into one thread, so what I'm listing below is a minute subset of what you can find in Ipoh's food places. So here goes:
(1) SIN YOON LOONG, 15-17 Jalan Bandar Timah, Ipoh Old Town. Come early if you want to avoid the crowds which will pack the place to the brim by 8am. Poached eggs on toast, Hainanese kaya jam, various local kueh-kueh and Ipoh-style chee cheong fun with lots of crispy onions & chili sauce on top are unmissable. Killer white coffee.
(2) NAM HEONG, 2 Jalan Bandar Timah, Ipoh Old Town. This shop faces Sin Yoon Loong right across the street. I liked this place because of its large selection of savoury eats like fried koay teow, Cantonese dim sum and Hainanese-style noodles with dumplings. Another killer coffee spot.
(3) AH CHOW, 31 Jalan Bandar Timah, Ipoh Old Town. Come here if you can't squeeze into the legendary duo of Sin Yoon Loong and Nam Heong. Its coffee will slay you on the spot. And don't miss their curry mee, chockful of chicken and tau pok.
(4) NAM CHAU, 54 Jalan Bandar Timah. Good poached eggs with toast, curry mee and strong white coffee.
(5) SAM MAN (3 DOLLARS) COFFEE HOUSE, 34 Pesara Ipoh 1, Ipoh Garden. Coffee, noodles, cakes, buns, toasts. Every item is "sam man" or 3 ringgits.
(6) KONG HENG & THEAN CHUN. This twin eating houses have been mentioned in one of the earlier Ipoh threads, but one CAN'T mention Ipoh's eating culture without at least acknowledging this place. If you are lucky, Ipoh-born movie star, Michelle Yeoh, may pop in here for a meal. I hear she never misses this place everytime she returns home for a vacation. Good Ipoh hor fun, pork and intestines satay, popiah, chee cheong fun and loh bak.
(7) WONG KOK KEE, 3 Lorong Panglima. This is a Cantonese restaurant which serves great gwoo lo yook (sweet and sour pork), spicy sai yong choy (watercress) stir-fried with sambal belachan and siew yoke (roast pork) and ham yu nga choy (beansprouts with salted fish). Many many other Cantonese homestyle cooking as only granny knows how.
Now I feel like going down south to Ipoh, heh heh.