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  • Writer's pictureRick

West Malaysia Day 14: Traditional Local Eats in Ipoh

Sunday. I woke up early to beat the crowd to Nam Heong (南香茶餐室), a popular coffee shop among locals and visitors to Ipoh. Several other coffee shops along the same street were opened for the day too, so I had alternatives if Nam Heong was too crowded.

Fortunately, I found an empty table, grabbed a seat and ordered a Penang banana leaf fried kway teow (槟城蕉叶炒粿条) from Lim Fong stall. And a white coffee.

When ordering “white coffee”, interpretation varied. Instead of specifying what I wanted, I simply said “one white coffee” to the staff to see what would that be. As a result, an iced coffee with condensed milk was served. I looked around the coffee shop, most of the tables were having the same iced coffee, including elderlies. I guessed this could be “the” white coffee of Ipoh or it was the signature beverage of Nam Heong.

Nam Heong (南香茶餐室)

After finishing the char kway teow, I bought a small pack of two chwee kueh (水粿) from another stall to try. It had a thicker texture and the dried radish topping was much nicer than those that I tried in Singapore.

I had brought out my laundry for washing but there were no laundry services in the old town. The nearest self-service laundry shop that I could find on Google Maps was in the new town.

I crossed the Kinta River and came to the art lane of Ipoh new town where I slowed down my pace and took photos of new artworks from my last visit.

Art lane of Ipoh new town

I came to Cleanpro Express, a self-service laundry service, about 30 minutes after setting off from Nam Heong. The machines accepted only tokens. The cleaning steps were similar to the laundry service I used in Malacca. Cold water washing was RM5 and drying was RM5.50 (28 minutes). Detergent was not free and cost RM1.50 per box and the dispenser accepted only 50-sen coins — I needed 3 coins. Total cost was RM12 but I had a RM50 note and a 50-sen coin.

The coin machine would not accept RM50 and RM100 notes. Fortunately, a kind man who was waiting for his clothes to be dried had smaller notes for my RM50. I inserted RM12 into the coin machine and it dispensed all tokens and two 50-sen coins. What if I did not have a 50-sen coin myself? Wash my clothes without detergent? Dumb...

It took about an hour to complete the washing but it was an unpleasant experience. The shop had a glass panel facing the morning sun and greenhouse effect was making it warm inside the shop. A fan was operating initially but stopped 15 minutes before my washing was done. It was either the sauna in the shop or the sun outside the shop.

I did not realised I was very near to Tong Sui Kai (糖水街), the famous dessert street of Ipoh. Apart from desserts, most of the stalls along this street served great dishes too. The stalls usually opened in the evening, but I took a peep anyway. All the stalls were closed.

On the way back to the hotel, I walked past a dessert shop named Fu Fu 21 Sweet House (家家吃糊小馆) that looked quite new — only 5 months old. I went in to cool down and had some dessert. I had a small apam balik (香脆煎弄包) with banana, peanut and sweet corn, and a bowl of walnut paste. The apam balik had thin crispy crust and not bad as a snack. The walnut paste was very smooth and not sweetened. Not bad.

Fu Fu 21 Sweet House (家家吃糊小馆)

I was back in the hotel to hang my clothes to cool them. Rest a while before heading out again.

For lunch, I went to Nam Chau Kopitiam (南洲茶铺) just beside the 2nd Concubine Lane. Nam Chau used to be a traditional coffee shop but was refurbished as a cafe. I had their signature dry curry mee, that came with prawn, chicken shreds and slices of char siew covered in not-so-spicy curry gravy. And, also, their signature white coffee.

Nam Chau Kopitiam (南洲茶铺)

Without much to do, I went to look for all the street arts that belonged to the “Art of OldTown” series. Out of 7 artworks, the pieces named “Kopi-O” and “Girl” were gone.

“Art of OldTown” Murals

And I came across a mural by Yip Yew Chong, a Singaporean artist who painted numerous murals in Singapore. The name of the mural in Ipoh was probably “Kedai Sin Ma” (新马商店) and was painted in 2017, which month? It must be after July 2017 since that was when I was last in Ipoh.

“Kedai Sin Ma” (新马商店) Mural

I came across Restoran Two Six (26茶室) along Jalan Panglima and saw the stall of YG Homemade Biscuit (熊记手工饼), which used to be in the Concubine Lane, inside the coffee shop. I chatted with the friendly couple. They were selling their homemade pastries but only the kaya puffs were left in the afternoon. I bought one of the kaya puffs with butter flavour to try. It was very nice! I was surprised that the crust could be so crispy.

YG Homemade Biscuit (熊记手工饼)

After turning right at the next corner, I came to Ding Feng (顶丰潮州豆腐花), which sold soya pudding desserts. It had moved out from the Concubine Lane too. I wanted to try their signature cold tau fu fa (招牌冷豆花) but it was sold out, so I ordered the Teow Chew tau fu fa (潮州豆腐花). I was told to eat the soya pudding without mashing it up so as to eat the soft pudding with a layer of caramel sugar on top.

Ding Feng (顶丰潮州豆腐花)

After the dessert, without any places to go that was neither eat nor drink, I went back to the hotel to rest again.

At around 5pm, I went to Chakori Cafe (二奶冰室) to have some drinks. I had a yuzu soda. At 6pm, I placed my order for food before the kitchen closed at 6:30pm. I ordered a creamy butter fried chicken rice that came with a scrambled egg. The creamy sauce used basil / curry leave and some chilli. The taste was not bad.

Chakori Cafe (二奶冰室)

While eating, it rained, a heavy downpour, and I was marooned in the row of shophouses that Chakori Cafe was located. Nobody left the cafe, none came in too. Anyway, I had nowhere else to go except to Kiki Lalat for an another drink. So, I sat in the cafe, finished my meal, wrote my blog posts and waited for the rain to stop.

Around 7pm, the rain stopped and I left the cafe, tried to stroll around to digest the food before going for some drink. After walking for less than 15 minutes and really nothing else to do in the old town, I went to Kiki Lalat which was void of customers after a heavy rain.

I had a tuak (RM20) this time and it came with ice. The characteristic taste of sweet fermented rice was there with a faint fruity presence. But it got diluted by melting ice over time. I understood from the staff that ice was added because they worried that customers might find the rice wine too sweet.

Kiki Lalat

I finished the glass of tuak, but the night was still young, I went for another glass but without ice to taste the wine better. To me, I liked the natural taste of rice wine even though they might be a little sweet. I learnt that all the wine at Kiki Lalat were self-made by the owner.

After the drink, I went back to the hotel and a great night sleep.

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