Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ipoh 2012 - Dim Sum at Wah Nam Cafe

I was looking forward to a dim sum breakfast at the most famous dim sum restaurant in Ipoh  - Foh San Restaurant, but unfortunately plenty of other people had the same idea. The place was packed - as it was a Sunday morning and it looked like everybody who was anybody in Ipoh was at Foh San.

Disappointed, I went to a kopitiam neaby to get my dim sum fix. It turned out the be the surprise discovery of my Ipoh sojourn. 

The place was called Wah Nam Cafe. It didn't come up in any of the research I had done on Ipoh prior to the trip. But it was really busy and doing brisk business, so something must be good. Feeling quite famished after the failed attempt to snag a table at Foh San, I ordered quite a few things to try.

The Siew Mai was really good. The meaty filling was sweet and had a good texture.

The Har Gao was less successful - the skin being too thick and chewy.

I liked the steamed Pork Ribs which had nice flavours.

The Pan Fried Radish Cakes were just as they should be - crusty on the outside and soft inside - with a strong hint of white radish in the mix.

The best thing were these Giant Fish Balls. They looked ordinary from the outside, but inside they were stuffed with minced pork and prawns. Really delicious.

Washed down with a good pot of Chinese tea, it was a really satisfying dim sum meal. Was it because I was hungry ?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ipoh 2012 - Kinta Waterfront Hotel

Being a sleepy old town which is still off the mainstream tourist beaten path, Ipoh is understandably lacking in tourist infrastructure. Hotels are still few and far in between - and mainly limited to nondescript business-oriented budget establishments. There is however an ambitious new development in town called the Kinta Waterfront Hotel. This is quite a large investment with a hotel tower and a serviced apartment block next door. It is right next to the Kinta River which runs through Ipoh Town.

The design is nothing to write home about, but it is new and clean and has all the amenities you would expect in a modern hotel.

The rooms are large and spacious.

The most redeeming quality of this hotel has got to be the view. Being one of the tallest buildings in Ipoh, it offers magnificent views of the Ipoh surroundings, and the beautiful limestone hills in the near distance.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ipoh 2012 - Ipoh Old Town

The last time I visited Ipoh must have been around 20 years ago. At that time it already made an impression as a unique town full of Colonial architecture. Since then I have always wanted to go back for a visit, but it has remained illusive due to the awkward location. To get to Ipoh you either fly to Kuala Lumpur and drive there (around 200 km) - which takes more then 3 hours, assuming you managed to avoid all the jams. You can also drive from Penang (around 150 km) which is a little bit closer but will still take you more then 2 hours. Now there is a more convenient way of getting to Ipoh from KL - the new Electric Train Service (ETS) which operates regularly and gets you there in under 3 hours, and in relative comfort. 

 Ipoh used to be the 2nd most important administrative centre in Malaysia for the British Colonial Government. It came into prominence due to the presence of tin - and was an important mining town until the collapse of tin prices in the 70s. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view - the economic decline also meant that many of the old buildings have remained relatively intact.

Walking the old streets of Ipoh really feels like going back in time. Like Georgetown and Malacca, entire streets still remain in their relatively original state with very little new intrusions. But unlike Georgetown or Malacca which are thronged with visitors and tourists, Ipoh is relatively quiet as it has yet to be discovered by mass tourism. That is the main part of Ipoh's charm, and hopefully it remains that way.

Ipoh has some really nice Colonial buildings - like the Ipoh Train Station right in the centre of town.

And the St. Michael's School - one of the most handsome school buildings I have seen in Malaysia.

Besides Colonial architecture, Ipoh is also famous for its food which I will be exploring in the next few posts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Eating in Kuching 2012 - On3 Kopitiam

Judging from the crown, On3 Kopitiam must be the hottest kopitiam in town at the moment. If you go between 9.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. which is the peak breakfast hour in Kuching, it is almost impossible to get a table.

Not knowing what was good there, we settled on our orders based on the looks. The kids love the Kolon Mee with extra fishballs. It was nicely done, with the typical Kolon Mee flavours very well recreated here.

There was a stall specializing in Taiwanese food. We ordered the Pork Chop Noodles which was very good. Not in the picture was the Taiwanese Beef Noodles which turned out to be one of the best you can get in Kuching.

I decided to splurge and went for the Foochow Prawn Needles with giant fresh water prawn. Locals call this Fresh Water Lobster and it is priced accordingly too. A bowl of the noodles with one large prawn will set you back RM 25.

The prawn was perfectly cooked with the flesh still tender and juicy. The soup retained all the sweetness of the prawn. This particular type of prawn is a delicate creature and will be ruined even just slightly overcooked. The version here is comparable to the famous prawn noodles at Ming Kong Cafe in Sibu, but is it worth RM 25 ? Maybe once every few months.

On3 Kopitiam is at Jalan Song behind the Onejaya Shopping Centre.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Eating in Kuching 2012 - Kwong Chin Seafood Centre

There's lots of hawker food and kopitiams in Kuching, but if you are looking for a place more suitable for an occasion, the choices are a bit more limited. After you've been to the same restaurant a few times, it can feel a bit same-old same-old. Thanks to the introduction from a friend, I've found another great place for a nice meal in Kuching. It is Kwong Chin Seafood Centre at 3 1/2 Mile Jalan Datuk Amar Kalong Ningkan. It is next to the Canon Head Office.

I am surprised I have not heard about it before, perhaps the patrons all want to keep it a secret. But the secret is out, as the last time we were there the place was packed.

This is a simple kopitiam style restaurant, but the food is restaurant quality. Try the Yam Chicken which is one of their signature dishes. It has a thin layer of chicken meat sandwiched with yam paste and deepfried. Crunchy and tasty.

 The Fish Rolls wrapped in Bacon - another signature dish that is unusual and tasty. The fish rolls have a crunchiness and bite that is missing from mass market fishballs.

Noodles with Homemade Fishballs. The noodles are cooked "Kolon Mee" style, seasoned with a light soy sauce and then topped with fried shallot and homemade fishballs.

Homemade Tofu with Minced Pork.

Cantonese Hor Fun - very well done. The rice noodles have the required "wok hei" or burnt taste.

Wok Fried Crabs with Eggs. A very fragrant and delicious version - with lots of lemongrass and garlic. The eggs are good to the last bite.

The food at Kwong Chin is very good and reasonably priced. A great place to go for a simple meal or even for an informal celebration.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eating in Kuching 2012 - John's Pie

It is always great to see someone trying something new in the Kuching food scene. One of the latest additions is John's Pie - a tiny shop at Wisma Phoenix along Song Thian Cheok Road that specializes in pies. They also do tarts and quiches as well.

The place is very small, with only a couple of tables seating maybe 5 to 6 people. Most customers would come to takeaway - much like the common takeaway shops in Australia. 

I've tried their beef and chicken pies - both not bad. Instead of lots of fillers like potatoes, you actually get chunky bits of meat like in a proper pie. The flavours are also good. 

What they need to improve on is the pastry - which tastes a little under-baked. Now you know where to go when you have a craving for pies in Kuching.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kuching 2012 - Satok Weekend Market

The Satok Weekend Market has existed for as long as I can remember and has become an institution in Kuching. It is even a very popular tourist attraction in its own right. For better or for worse, the Government has decided to move the Market to a new custom-built building. To me this may not be such a good idea, as the whole idea of a Weekend Market is that it is a temporary market - taking over existing spaces which serve other purpose for the rest of the week. That is the raison d'etre of a weekend market, and also a big part of its charm. By moving it to a permanent building, it loses its temporary character and become just another market. But the decision has been made, and the market has to move. I visited recently to capture some images before it is gone.

Vendors always try to display their goods attractively to entice the customers.

Always some interesting sights at the Market.

Some you may not have seen before, and can only get at the Satok Weekend Market.