A New Beginning

This Chinese New Year is the fourth I celebrated with Wuan’s family in Ipoh. Something is different this year. I was embraced by a sense of belonging, a sense of familiarity, a sense of festivity that I have not experienced in a long time, not since my mother’s death in 2003.

In the subsequent years after her passing, I had consciously chosen not to partake in the celebrations. I was simply too disraught to even think of making merry. Festivals were mostly spent in quiet reflections of the sacrifices she made to ensure that I was never in need.

Although the pain of losing her is still as fresh today as it was seven years ago, I realised that the grieving has to end somewhere for the living to begin. The advent of the new spring is as good a time as can be to start afresh. That was what I did and intend to do from now on.

New She Lai Ton Restaurant yee sang
Flavourful salmon yee sang from New She Lai Ton Restaurant.
Photo by Wuan.

We spent four days in Ipoh, taking along Fei Por and Cheeky with us for their vaccinations and annual check-up at the Ipoh Garden Animal Clinic. As for us, it was feasting, feasting and more feastings. Needless to say, the Chinese New Year season is the most difficult time for me to keep to my low-protein diet.

New She Lai Ton Restaurant red cooked pig trotter with black moss
Hung siew chu sau with fatt choy (Red cooked pig trotter with black moss).
Photo by Wuan.

Of all the restaurants we ate at, we liked the food most at the New She Lai Ton Restaurant. We had one half portion of salmon yee sang and three simple dishes as there were only Wuan’s parents and us for that meal. The yee sang came in a very generous serving. We had to confirm with the waitress to be sure it was indeed for us. Of all the yee sang I have eaten this year, this is the best.

New She Lai Ton Restaurant steamed fish with tau kan
Steamed king grouper fish (long tan) with tau kan.
Photo by Wuan.

The hung siew pig trotter with black moss was well marinated and tender. I actually had to stop myself from eating too much. Next up was the steamed fish fillet with tau kan (bean curd sheets). It was done just right despite the restaurant being almost full. The stir-fried lai pak with garlic looked deceivingly plain but was tasty.

New She Lai Ton Restaurant stir fried lai pak with garlic
Stir fried lai pak.
Photo by Wuan.

The food was so good that my mother-in-law is already planning the next reunion dinner and new year lunch at this restaurant. Wuan and I certainly do not have any objection. We all left the restaurant with our appetites fully satiated. Most importantly, the restaurant is accessible from the car park. We usually have a hard time selecting a restaurant that I could get into.

The joy of celebrating the Chinese New Year, the rekindling of family ties and the sitting down for a good meal together have all stirred up that warm and fuzzy feeling in me. Finally, after so many years, I have again found the reason to be happy during these auspicious occasions.

Restoran Wong Koh Kee Take Two

We went on a road trip last Friday. Wuan had to clear her annual leave. So we decided to do some travelling up north. First stop was Ipoh where we spent the night. A trip to this former tin mining city is never complete without a hearty lunch at Restoran Wong Koh Kee. This popular restaurant is tucked along the narrow Lorong Panglima at Ipoh old town where Chinese tin tycoons used to house their mistresses. I have put up an entry about Restoran Wong Koh Kee last year. I love the food there so much that I feel it warrants another entry in this blog.

Restoran Wong Koh Kee steamed three yolk egg
Sam wong tan – steamed fresh chicken eggs, salted duck eggs and century eggs.

We went with Wuan’s parents, Florina and Sam (Wuan’s sister and brother in law). We ordered two of my favourite dishes, which are also the restaurant’s signature dishes, are “ching sam wong tan” and “sai yong choi siu yuk chau ma lai chan”. The other dishes were stir fried bean sprouts with anchovies and “hung siu chu sau man hum choi” (braised marinated pig trotter with salted vegetables).

Restoran Wong Koh Kee stir fried watrercress in belacan
Stir fried watercress in belacan.

“Ching sam wong tan” literally means steamed three yolk egg. Fresh chicken eggs (kai tan), salted duck eggs (hum tan), century eggs (pei tan) were steamed together with minced pork. Soya sauce was added just before serving. This dish was perfectly done, like always. It had a smooth custard-like texture. The minced pork and chopped pieces of century eggs provided contrast and taste. As a kid, I liked to mash them together with rice. I still do it now.

Restoran Wong Koh Kee stir fried beansprout with anchovies
Stir fried beansprout with anchovies.

“Sai yong choi siu yuk chau ma lai chan” is watercress and roast pork stir fried in belacan (shrimp cake). Belacan gave it a salty and pungent aroma. Only tender watercress stalks were used. Otherwise, it would have been fibrous and chewy. This dish is usually fried with beef slices. We do not eat beef and subsituted it roast pork instead. It tasted just as good.

Restoran Wong Koh Kee braised deep fried pig trotter with salted vegetables
Braised deep fried pig trotter with salted vegetables.

I do not know how much the final bill came to. It was Florina and Sam’s treat. Thanks, you two! Nevertheless, the price of food here is reasonable. That is the other reason why I like eat here. The menu is quite extensive. But they are written in Chinese. The son of the restaurant’s founder is running the place now. He will usually recommend some of the popular dishes. The next trip to Ipoh will definitely be Restoran Wong Koh Kee again and most probably the same few dishes. It may sound boring but my taste buds are not complaining yet.

Ipoh Chee Cheong Fun At Ipoh Old Town

Wuan and I were in Ipoh over the weekend. We took Cheeky there to have him neutered. He is nearing one year old. Of late, he has been making awful noises and showing signs of restlessness and aggression. Neutering would calm him down somewhat. We also want to let him out of the house regularly. Neutering will reduce the occurrences of him roaming too far away.

Jalan Bandar Timah in Ipoh Old Town
Jalan Bandar Timah in Ipoh Old Town.
Photo by Wuan.

That trip to Ipoh was also a good opportunity for us to explore Ipoh Old Town, especially the coffee shops along Jalan Bandar Timah. The coffee shops here serve the famous Ipoh White Coffee. Since Wuan and I do not drink coffee, we were there for the food only. Finding a parking space was difficult. We had to circle the area twice and decided to park a distance away.

Hong Hin Hakka noodles at Jalan Sultan Yusuf in Ipoh Old Town
Hong Hin Hakka noodles at Jalan Sultan Yusuf in Ipoh Old Town.
Photo by Wuan.

While making our way there, we chanced upon another kopitiam called Hong Hin at the corner of Jalan Sultan Yusuf and Persiaran Bijih Timah. It was packed to the brim with the breakfast crowd. There were people standing around waiting for tables. While Wuan when to check the food that drew the crowd, an uncle who was waiting beside me said it is Hakka noddles and really worth the wait. When Wuan got back, she said they had run out of Hakka noodles. So we made our way to Jalan Bandar Timah.

Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong and Kedai Kopi Sun Yuan Foong at Jalan Bandar Timah in Ipoh Old Town
Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong and Kedai Kopi Sun Yuan Foong at Jalan Bandar Timah in Ipoh Old Town.

The coffee shops there were equally packed with people standing around waiting for tables too. We chose Sin Yoon Loong and waited for our turn at the tables. We were lucky as several aunties occupying the table where I was waiting had just finished their breakfast. While I took my place at the table, Wuan went over to Sun Yuan Foong, the coffee shop next door, and came back with two plates of Ipoh chee cheong fun.

Ipoh chee cheong fun from Kedai Kopi Sun Yuan Foong
Ipoh chee cheong fun from Kedai Kopi Sun Yuan Foong.

That was my first time eating Ipoh chee cheong fun. It has mushroom and chicken gravy (I think), red sauce (tim cheong, tee cheo), chilli sauce, pickled green chillies, sesame seeds and deep fried shallots. Somehow, I still prefer the Penang chee cheong fun that comes with red sauce (tee cheo), chilli sauce (huan cheo cheo), prawn paste (heh ko), and a sprinkle of sesame seeds (mua) and deep fried shallots (eu chang).

Kon lou Hakka noodles from Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong
Kon lou Hakka noodles from Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong.

Still feeling hungry after that, I ordered a plate of kon lou Hakka noodles without extras. It was just the flat noodles stirred in soya sauce and bean sprouts, and garnished with spring onions and comes with chilli sauce by the side. It tasted, well, just like noodles in soya sauce. After those two dishes, my taste buds were still screaming to be titillated.

Siu yuk lou (roast pork seller) at Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong
Siu yuk lou (roast pork seller) at work at Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong.
Photo by Wuan.

Right beside our table was a siu yuk stall. The siu yuk lou (roast pork seller) has a steady stream of customers buying from him. All the time we were there, he never stopped chopping the roast pork. He also had char siu (barbecue pork) on skewers displayed but his siu yuk seemed to be more popular. Wuan ordered RM3 worth of siu yuk which was the minimum amount he would sell. The skin was crispy. Finally, I had a few bites of good food that my taste buds agreed with. Siu yuk is not unique to Ipoh but it was good nonetheless.

Siu yuk (roast pork) from Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong
Siu yuk (roast pork) from Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong.

It was not an exactly fruitful morning where food was concerned. The next time we are in Ipoh, we plan to go to the coffee shop opposite this one called Nam Heong to have a taste of what is being offered there. If we are early enough, we will surely drop by the Hakka noodle shop at Jalan Sultan Yusuf to find out why people would queue for the food.