One of our contributors, Mr Fitness, is born and bred in Ipoh. He offers a local perspective on Ipoh food while I offer a traveler’s view.
When he returned to his hometown recently, I followed him so that he could drive me around. Free chauffeur. It is impossible to get around Ipoh without a car. Rent one if you don’t have lobang here.
The eating culture in Ipoh is that you take a seat and they will come and ask you for your order. Each person is expected to order a dish and a drink. The exception is when the kopitiam/restaurant has more than 1 stall. Then you go to the stall and order and tell them your table number.
You may also want to check out the authoritative food guide in Ipoh by Motormouth. I consulted his blog religiously for this entry. Miss Tam Chiak also made a list of Best Street Food in Ipoh last year.
In alphabetical order…
1. ASSAM LAKSA
Mr Fitness was reluctant to bring me to 忠记 Dai Shu Geok Assam Laksa (大树脚, Big Tree Foot; 652, Jalan King, Pasir Pinji, 31650 Ipoh; +60 12 5245408; 8.30am-5.30pm) because, he said, it has become such a tourist trap.
“But I’m a tourist!” I protested and he relented.
There are two Assam Laksa yong tau foo here. 忠记 is the original and authentic one. You pick your yong tau foo ingredients first (must order fried turnip known as sa kok). Then tell them how you want it done. Order like a local: dry noodles; the deep-fried ingredients in a separate bowl, and the non-fried ingredients in assam soup. Remember to tell them your table number.
The assam laksa is very very sweet, you can taste the intensity of sardines they put into the broth. The ingredients are tasty too. Can tell they are handmade from fresh ingredients. No wonder there is always a queue no matter what time you go. RM8.30 for 8 ingredients.
Nearby: Pasir Pinji chee cheong fun (see #3) & Pasir Pinji cendol (see #12).
2. BEAN SPROUTS CHICKEN / TAUGE AYAM / NGA CHOY GAI
“Tourists go to Restoran Lou Wong Tauge Ayam Kuetiau 老黄怡保芽菜鸡 (49 Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30000 Ipoh; T: +60 5 2544199; lunch & dinner),” Mr Fitness said, “but we locals prefer Onn Kee Restaurant Tauge Ayam Kue Tiau 安記芽菜雞沙河粉 (48/51/53 Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30300 Ipoh, Perak; T: +60 5 2531562; 12pm-2am).”
Onn Kee, also known as Ong Kee, is a must go! Diagonally across from Lou Wang, Onn Kee sits you by the tarmac road to eat. You add the beansprouts to your hor fun, giving a good crunch. Both the dry and soup hor fun have their strong points: the dry version is translucent and bouncy with a sweet starchy QQ texture while the soup hor fun has soaked up the essence of soup, the sweet sweet soup.
Now the chicken. FRICKING FANTASTIC. So smooth and pristine it treats for you as a playground; it slides down your throat. The sweet fragrant sauce the chicken sits on… I want to smear it all over myself and lick myself.
A word of caution: the food here is very greasy, but that’s their style. We spent RM26.60 for two persons.
Nearby: Lou Wang and Onn Kee are diagonally across each other. Tuck Kee (see #11) is nearby. Funny Mountain soya bean (see #12b), Xin Quan Fang Curry Mee (#5), Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee (#7), Pak Gong (#4), Nasi Kandar Yong Suan (#10), Sin Eng Heong kaya puff (#12e) are nearby but they open in the day.
Alternative: Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau (44 Jalan Raja Ekram, 31350 Ipoh; T +60 12 5203322; dinner from 7pm, closed M & Tu). This stall is Motormouth’s favorite.
3. CHEE CHEONG FUN
Canning Garden Chee Cheong Fun – Sold out at 10am!
I have always wanted to eat a savory cheong fun, not the sweet kind Singapore has. When we visited Canning Garden Chee Cheong Fun (Kedai Makanan Canning Garden; 27 Lorong Cecil Rae, Canning Garden, 31400 Ipoh, Perak; Coffee shop opposite of Canning Garden wet market, not the hawker centre; Opens from morning until sold out), it was SOLD OUT AT 10am.
Kong Heng Mushroom Chee Cheong Fun (RM3)
So we went to the alternative option at Restoran Ipoh Kong Heng (75, Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh; opens for breakfast to late lunch; Closed Wed). There are two coffee shops here, Kong Heng and Thean Chun. You can sit in either shops and order. There are also two cheong fun stalls here: the savory one (mushroom sauce, RM3) at Kong Heng, and the sweet one at Thean Chun (RM3.30). We tried them both and weren’t impressed.
Note: Thean Chun also has a good Ipoh Hor Fun (see #8), and caramel custard (#12d).
Thean Chun chee cheong fun
Nearby: Thean Chun and Kong Heng are beside each other. Two coffeeshops selling best white coffee, Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Loong, are nearby (see #9). There is good muah chee at Nam Heong (#12a), and if the day is hot, get ice ball from Bits & Bob (#12c).
Alternative: Pasir Pinji Chee Cheong Fun (House No 1456, Jalan Pasir Pinji 5, 31650 Ipoh; 1pm-4pm, closed Wed & weekends). This stall is run in a private house, made by a granny. Sounds very interesting. Motormouth’s review here.
4. CHICKEN RICE
We waited 40 minutes for Pak Kong chicken rice (Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong; 27, Jalan Theatre, 30300 Ipoh; 11am-2.30pm)… and it is worth it! The chicken skin is incredibly gelatinous. And the sauce of the chicken goes amazingly with the rice, yellow from the chicken fat. This is heart attack on a plate, but it is so good. No wonder they only open 3 hours a day!
One factor that assuages our impatience at waiting for the food is the excellent service. There is an energetic young lady, who smiles and observes everything despite how hectic the place is. She speaks fluent English too. If I ever open a restaurant, I’ll poach her to be my manager.
We spent RM22 for two persons.
Nearby: Lou Wang (#2), Onn Kee (#2), and Tuck Kee (#11) open in the evening. Funny Mountain soya bean (see #12b), Xin Quan Fang Curry Mee (#5), Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee (#7), Nasi Kandar Yong Suan (#10), Sin Eng Heong kaya puff (#12e) open in the day.
5. CURRY MEE
Restoran Xin Quan Fang (174, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, Ipoh 30000; T: +60 16 5314193; 7.30am-noon) is a kopitiam that houses Seng Kee Curry Mee, also known as Famous Police Station Curry Mee (Ma Ta Liu Curry Mee). You can choose the type of noodles: mee, kuay teow, and bee hoon. The normal version costs RM$4.50,but if you want to separate the ingredients from the noodles, it’s RM$11.
It is freaking delicious. When you dunk the fat pork belly into the spicy chilli sauce, it’s fireworks in the mouth. Unlike Singapore’s Curry Mee, Ipoh’s version has no coconut milk. The extremely spicy curry tastes strongly of Sichuan pepper and cardamon. Very shiok.
Nearby: Lou Wang (#2), Onn Kee (#2), and Tuck Kee (#11) open in the evening. Funny Mountain soya bean (see #12b), Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee (#7), Pak Gong (#4), Nasi Kandar Yong Suan (#10), Sin Eng Heong kaya puff (#12e) open in the day.
Alternatives: Kedai Kopi Nam Chau 南洲白咖啡 (54 Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Perak; 7am-3pm, white coffee is good)
Yee Fatt Dry Curry Noodles (39 Jalan Kampar, 31650 Ipoh, Perak; T: +60 5 2421043; breakfast & lunch)
6. DIM SUM
Ming Court Hong Kong Tim Sum 明阁香港点心(32/34/36 Jalan Leong Sin Nam, 30300 Ipoh, Perak; T +60 5 2557134; closed Th) and Foh San Dim Sum Restaurant 富山茶楼 (51 Jalan Leong Sin Nam, 30300 Ipoh; +60 5 2540308; 6.30am-2.30pm closed Tue; facebook) are across from each other. “Tourists and celebrities go to Foh San because the restaurant does excellent marketing, but we locals prefer Ming Court,” Mr Fitness said.
And I think Mr Fitness is correct. Looking at Foh San’s photos, the dim sum looks so run-of-mill. Ming Court has character. At Ming Court, people hover about seated patrons, hoping to snag a place–no queue, no system. You’d better be good at musical chairs.
And the dim sum is explosive. The siew mai looks miserably shrunken like balls after a cold swim but tastes delicious. Porridge is sweet; cheong fun starchy but gentle and dissolves; muah chee breaks open to reveal grounded peanuts, whose sweetness is made more sweet with salt. We paid RM24.70 for two persons.
Alternative: Restoran Ying Fa (1C Jalan Sultan Yussuff, 30000 Ipoh; T: +60 5 2548061/ +60 12 4504565; 6am-noon daily)
7. HAKKA MEE
Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee (formerly Yin Yau Kui Hakka Mee; 164, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, Hugh Low Street, 30000 Ipoh, Perak; 7am-12pm daily, ad hoc off day) is Mr Fitness’s favorite food. His alma mater is nearby, and he used to come here.
The meatballs are littered with cuttlefish so they are intensely sweet. But it is the noodles that stand out. The texture is amazing, reminding me of beancurd skin. And the bits of umami mushroom cling onto each strand of noodle give it a musky fragrance. Mr Fitness likes to add ginger and the tangy but not spicy chilli to the noodles. RM6 a bowl.
Nearby: Lou Wang (#2), Onn Kee (#2), and Tuck Kee (#11) open in the evening. Funny Mountain soya bean (#12b), Xin Quan Fang Curry Mee (#5), Pak Gong (#4), Nasi Kandar Yong Suan (#10), Sin Eng Heong kaya puff (#12e) open in the day.
Alternatives: Hakka Mee @ Restoran Cathay [17A, Jalan Dato Tahwil Azhar (Osborne Street)]
Kedai Kopi Kwong Hong (Jalan Gunung Rapat, 31350 Ipoh, Perak)
8. IPOH HOR FUN
Singaporeans call it “Ipoh hor fun,” Ipohians call it “kai see hor fun” (鸡丝河粉). Locals eat at Tricycle Chicken & Prawn Kuey Teow @ Thean Chun Coffee Shop (73, Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh; breakfast and early lunch; RM5.50). The secret here is the broth, so sweet with a thousand prawns. A surprising good match between the chicken shreds and the sweet broth.
Note: the caramel custard (#12d) and chee cheong fun (#3) are famous too.
Nearby: Thean Chun and Kong Heng (#2) are beside each other. Two coffeeshops selling best white coffee, Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Loong, are nearby (see #9). There is good muah chee at Nam Heong (#12a), and if the day is hot, get ice ball from Bits & Bob (#12c).
Alternatives: Moon De Moon Restaurant (148, Hala Wah Keong, 31400 Ipoh; corner of Hala Wah Keong – Selasar Tebing Kinta 5; 7.30am–12.30pm, Closed Mon)
Ipoh Ah Tiong Chicken Kuey Teow @ Pulau Sembilan Restaurant (2, Jalan Bunga Raya 5, Taman Boon Bak, Pasir Puteh 31650 Ipoh; early morning until sold out, usually by 10 am)
9. IPOH WHITE COFFEE
People waiting for a table at Sin Yoon Loong. Fastest gets it.
Sin Yoon Loong White Coffee
The two best white coffees in Ipoh are situated opposite of each other: Nam Heong Coffee Shop 南香茶室 (2, Jalan Bandar Timah, Ipoh 30000; 7.30am-3pm) and Sin Yoon Loong White Coffee (15A Jalan Bandar Timah, Ipoh 30000; T: +60 5 241 4601; 6am-4pm; facebook).
Mr Fitness said, “I prefer white coffee at Nam Heong (RM1.90, above).” According to online sources, the chain cafe, Old Town White Coffee, with 200 outlets, is by the son of the owner here.
I, on the other hand, prefer Sin Yoon Long, because it’s very gao (thick), and very sweet but doesn’t feel cloying.
Note: there is a popular muah chee at Nam Heong (#12a).
Nearby: A little walk from Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Loong are two other coffeeshops, Thean Chun and Kong Heng (see #3, #8, and #12d). If the day is hot, get ice ball from Bits & Bob (#12c).
10. NASI KANDAR
The queue that spanned across 3 shops
Nasi Kandar Yong Suan (Rumah Tumpangan dan Kedai Kopi Yong Suan; 2, Jalan Yang Kalsom, 30250 Ipoh; M-F 10am – 5pm, weekends 10am-3pm) is also known as nasi ganja–ganja means weed–because it’s so addictive. When we were there, the insane queue spanned across 3 shops.
RM5.60 includes rice, a special chilli paste, curry sauce, fried chicken, and salted egg. The chicken is moist inside, the curry sauce potent with many spices.
Alternative: Gerai Makanan Dan Minuman Rahamath Nasi Kandar (Jalan Dato Sagor, 30000 Ipoh; next to Masjid Negeri Perak/Perak State Mosque; lunch only, closed Sun, first Sat of the month, and public holidays).
11. WAT TAN HOR
What Singaporeans call “hor fun” at cze char stalls, Ipohians call it “wat tan hor.” And the most famous of all is Tuck Kee (61, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30300 Ipoh; T: +60 5 2537513; 5pm onwards til late night).
The difference between Singapore’s and Ipoh’s versions is that Ipoh drowns their hor fun in the sauce, and that Ipoh slips in the egg at the last moment, so you can still have a whole molten yolk. Tuck Kee’s wat tan hor(RM6) sauce has a very very strong prawn taste, which is too pungent for me. Go for the 月光合 instead.
Tuck Kee is also famous for their poached octopus (RM12), drizzled with garlic oil and fried garlic bits. It’s good on its own and when dipped into the sweet chilli sauce with peanut bits.
Nearby: Lou Wang (#2), and Onn Kee (#2) open in the evening too. But Funny Mountain soya bean (see #12b), Xin Quan Fang Curry Mee (#5), Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee (#7), Pak Gong (#4), Nasi Kandar Yong Suan (#10), Sin Eng Heong kaya puff (#12e) open in the day.
12. DESSERTS & SWEETS
a. Besides having good white coffee, Muah chee outside Nam Heong Coffee Shop 南香茶室 (2, Jalan Bandar Timah, Ipoh Perak, 30000) had a very long queue when we were there. You can tell how textile and springy the muah chee is by the lady pulling and slicing it into cubes of equal size. Very delicious. RM3.
Nearby: Sin Yoon Loong (#9) across the street from Nam Heong is very popular with their white coffee. A little walk from Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Loong are two other coffeeshops, Thean Chun and Kong Heng (see #3, #8, and #12d). If the day is hot, get ice ball from Bits & Bob (#12c).
b. After school, Mr Fitness would walk from school to bus stop, and in the middle of the walk, he would stop soya bean curd at Funny Mountain Soya Bean & Tau Fu Fah (49, Jalan Theatre, 30300 Ipoh; +60 16 5950369 / +60 5 5469968 / +60 12 5161607; closed early afternoon). Cars drive through to take away, or you can stand around to eat. The bowl is very small but the beancurd is very very smooth. Still, 10 years ago, Selegie Soya Bean in Singapore was at this standard. Since I’ve eaten something similar in Singapore, I wasn’t very impressed.
Nearby: Lou Wang (#2), Onn Kee (#2), and Tuck Kee (#11) open in the evening. Xin Quan Fang Curry Mee (#5), Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee (#7), Pak Gong (#4), Nasi Kandar Yong Suan (#10), Sin Eng Heong kaya puff (#12e) open in the day.
c. Bits and Bobs (99 Jalan Sultan Yussuf @ Kong Heng Square; 10am-5.30pm; closed Tue; facebook) is a knickknack shop selling ice ball (RM3). It’s fun, and it has to be the most instagrammed Ipoh food, but surprising it’s not thirst quenching.
Nearby: Thean Chun and Kong Heng are just in the next building (see #3, #8, and #12d). Two coffeeshops selling best white coffee, Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Loong, are nearby (see #9). There is good muah chee at Nam Heong (#12a).
d. The ice ball at Bits and Bobs (see above) is the most instagrammed food, and the second is caramel custard @ Thean Chun Coffee Shop (73, Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh; breakfast and early lunch). Not bad, not too sweet and quite smooth.
Nearby: Thean Chun is also famous for its chee cheong fun (#3) and kai see hor fun (#7). Kong Heng is next door (#3). Two coffeeshops selling best white coffee, Nam Heong and Sin Yoon Loong, are nearby (see #9). There is good muah chee at Nam Heong (#12a). If the day is hot, get ice ball from Bits & Bob (#12c).
e. Sin Eng Heong 新荣香 (64, Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri, 30300 Ipoh; T: +60 5 2439659 / +60 12 4534596) has famous kaya puffs. Although it opens early, the puffs are freshly baked in batches and people are willing to queue to wait for a piping hot batch!
Nearby: Lou Wang (#2), Onn Kee (#2), and Tuck Kee (#11) open in the evening. Funny Mountain soya bean (see #12b), Xin Quan Fang Curry Mee (#5), Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee (#7), Pak Gong (#4), Nasi Kandar Yong Suan (#10) open in the day.
Alternatives: Hong Kee Mah Chee and Peanut Paste (in front of 550A, Jalan Queen, 31650 Ipoh; 1pm-6pm; closed Th; T: +60 12 3828651). See Motormouth’s review.
K.Idrus Indian Cendol Stall (Jalan Bunga Raya, Pasir Pinji, 31650 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia; 12pm till sold out; Motormouth’s review)
13. SNACKS TO BUY FOR FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES, AND RELATIVES
If it’s impossible to finish eating all these food, and the cafe food, in your short travel, then I highly recommend these six based on taste:
Petit Mary Patisserie
Dai Shu Geok Assam Laksa (see #1)
Onn Kee Beansprouts Chicken (#2)
Pak Kong Chicken Rice (#4)
Xin Quan Fang Curry Mee (#5)
Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee (#7)
If you prefer to eat at the iconic places, go to
Dai Shu Geok Assam Laksa (#1)
Lou Wong (#2)
Foh San (#6)
Sin Yoon Loong (#9)
If you want to eat at popular and/or hip places,
Bits and Bob (#12c)
Caramel custard from Thean Chun (#12d)
If you have a stereotypical impression of what Ipoh food is, and want to try them,
Lou Wong (#2)
Thean Chun Ipoh hor fun (#8)
Ipoh white coffee – Sin Yoon Loong (#9)