Written by Veyroniqa
Most of you familiar with Malaysia would know Ipoh is a town famous for its delectable local food and is on every foodie’s bucket list. But where do you start?
Most people go with the popular choices but the problem with popular food is that there’s often two others that claim to be the best or better than the best, so how do you choose when you have limited time (and limited stomach space)?
I dislike wasting a meal on sub-par food so I’ve narrowed it down for you. Furthermore, I’ve taken the pleasure of hunting down lesser-known places because I know foodies – we don’t just want the famously delicious, we also want the unassuming stall with mind-blasting goodness.
TripCanvas’ Tip: Some of these stalls might have unpredictable changes to their opening hours during this period. So remember to call before you head down!
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1. Bite into traditional pastries baked in earthen kilns fired by coconut husks – 362 Heong Peah
Somewhere in Gunung Rapat is a whole street of shops selling traditional heong peah, which means “fragrant pastries” in Hokkien. These round pastries are often flattened with a flaky baked crust on the outside, with sweet sticky fillings made of malt and shallots on the inside.
If you venture into House Number 362, you’ll find many coconut husks out in front and these are used to fire up their earthen kiln. They insist that their pastries are more fragrant due to this, as the oil produced from the burning of the coconut husks will give the pastries a special taste.
Special respect should be given to them for keeping the tradition alive when other bakeries have long replaced their outdated furnaces with safe, conventional ovens.
Though of course, their handmade heong peahs might not be terribly consistent like machine-produced ones. According to one buyer, one of the pastries only had a tiny malt filling which we’ve chalked up to an extremely rare human error. Afterall, what is one peah out of thousands?2. The best taufufah still operating out of a rickshaw – Woong Kee Bean Curd Bercham Ipoh
If you go to Ipoh without having taufufah (soya beancurd pudding), did you go to Ipoh at all? You can’t leave without having a bowl of silky smooth soya pudding with a dash of ginger syrup.
A strong contender to Funny Mountain (which is where every tourist goes to), you’ll find shorter wait time and more generous servings at Woong Kee. Furthermore, there are three outlets in Ipoh, but the original is where you want to go to for that authentic experience – operating out of a rickshaw parked right outside a 7-Eleven shop!
3. A triple whammy of shredded chicken hor fun, caramel custard and satay – Thean Chun
Ipoh is also famous for its kai see hor fun (shredded chicken flat rice noodles), but you might not be able to decide between the many options, especially between the well-known Moon De Moon or Thean Chun. Well, I picked Thean Chun simply because… I’m greedy and there’s more options here! 😉
Next door, you can get Kong Heng’s pork satay (yum), popiah, rojak or Thean Chun’s very own caramel custard which is a popular dessert in Ipoh (double yum!) or equally famous chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll) while you’re waiting for the star of the hour to arrive (which might actually take an hour to arrive).
The slick-thin hor fun should be soft and chewy, slick with sauce or broth, depending on your preference. The broth at Thean Chun is a hearty chicken stock infused with the sweetness of prawns, so it’s unlike any other kai see hor fun you will come across.
Don’t expect great service here, nor do we recommend ordering drinks (their coffee is said to be very diluted), but many still flock here for the kai see hor fun. Best come early especially on weekends!
4. Locally loved dim sum spot with no tourists – Sun Kim Aik
There’s one thing the Cantonese do best and that’s dim sum. And one thing I love most is finding a locals-only secret food spot.
Sun Kim Aik is a neighbourhood dimsum that only the locals know about which makes it a win on all accounts, paired with fresh ingredients and low prices and you’ve got a winner on your hands!
If you’d like to try the dai bao (big bun), make sure to make a reservation because those sell out notoriously quickly. However, you can get the sang yuk bao (pork bun) which is basically the same thing, just smaller.
You must definitely try their bouncy har kau (prawn dumplings) filled with plump, fresh prawns. Personally, it’s the skin that makes or breaks har kau and this place has that sticky chewy consistency down pat. For something savoury, go for the egg tarts, char siew pao or yam puffs.
5. Nasi kandar aka nasi ganja – Nasi Ganja Kedai Kopi Yong Suan
Yes, you read that right – this place is known among locals as nasi ganja (which is a term used for weed), because their nasi kandar is downright addictive (or perhaps because it’s great for munchies?) but of course it doesn’t really contain drugs.
Having been in business since 1957, this place is ultra famous. You will see long queues around lunch time but don’t be put off because that’s for takeaways only. You’ll be served rather quickly and your only concern should be which curry to pick or if you should just go with “kuah campur banjir” in which your dish will be literally flooded with various curries.
According to regulars, the best combination is ayam merah (chicken cooked in dried chilli), sambal nyok and kuah campur – but to each their own!
6. Ipoh-style bean sprout chicken – Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant
Update: This restaurant is currently closed until further notice.
Ipoh’s famous bean sprout chicken (also known in Cantonese as ‘nag choi kai’) is named so as the chicken is served with a generous serving of plump bean-sprouts and you won’t find any rice at Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant. They serve their chicken with flat rice noodles (kuay teow) which is an interesting twist.
Now, some people (like my dad) might dislike the fact that chicken rice is served cold but there’s a reason for that – the chefs actually dunk the chicken into cold water once it’s cooked to lock in its juices. It’s a method called “shocking” that stops the cooking process and prevents the food from losing its colour and texture. Seriously.
The chicken is always perfectly cooked because the lady behind the chopping board will inspect every piece of chicken for any signs of pink and shuck it into the boiling hot water if she finds any.
If you’re adventurous enough to try chicken organs, go for it. Apparently the intestines and gizzard are rather tasty.
According to some, the shop closes randomly depending on the owner’s schedule so do call before heading over!
7. Slurp this bowl of fishy hor hee goodness – Li Heng Fatt
Another distinctly Ipoh dish: hor hee. It’s a scrumptious bowl of tofu and veggies stuffed with fish paste, fish balls, fish cake, fish wonton and noodles, filled to the brim with a clear fish soup base.
You can choose your noodles, they offer yellow noodles, glass noodles, flat rice noodles and rice vermicelli, which is my no.1 recommendation because it just goes so well with everything and complements the fishy components as well as the lighter base. The other noodles would only fall flat and make it taste bland, in my opinion.
However, you should definitely add the fried beancurd into your meal because it will take it to the next level!
8. If you don’t know anything about Ipoh, you will know white coffee – Sin Yoon Loong
The origins of white coffee came from a Hainanese coffee roasting master in 19th Century Ipoh. Unable to get used to the taste of British coffee, it was adapted and made sweeter. Today, it’s known all over Malaysia as… Old Town White Coffee.
If you would like to trace it back to the first place white coffee was served, look no further than Sin Yoon Loong.
Established in 1937, you will find the oldest and most authentic, if not best white coffee in Ipoh. Furthermore, it’s a quaint little nook that serves perfectly wobbly eggs on toast, as well as roti-kiap, which is a localized jam-on-toast confection.
If you’re looking for something more substantial, there is roast pork, wanton mee and chee cheong fun too.
9. ‘Golden fried kuey teow’ is the moniker for its famous dish – Restoran Sin Lean
This eatery is known for its ‘golden fried kuey teow’ due to the exorbitant price for a tiny portion, making it as precious as the mineral. 😉 But this hasn’t stopped people from queuing for that handful of kuey teow topped with a runny sunny side up!
You can choose to have it with cockles or prawns, but I like my kuey teow with just wok hei (which is known in Cantonese as wok fragrance). I think that the stir fried fare in Ipoh does much better than anywhere else thanks to their bean sprouts which offer a juicy crunch in each bite.
They also serve delectable beef noodles and hearty curry noodles with crunchy roast pork.
10. Hakka Mee so good they named themselves – Famous Mee Hakka, Paris Restaurant
While Ipoh is largely Cantonese, you can also find Famous Hakka Mee at Paris Restaurant – that’s the actual name of the stall. Not particularly known by tourists and mostly patronized by locals, Paris Restaurant has been in operation since 1968 and there are a few different dishes you can try there.
First, the hakka mee: you can get a serving of lobak (five-spice meat rolls traditionally made from pork tenderloin, spices and beancurd sheets) and meatball soup to go with your springy noodles, or you can have it simply with its mince pork toppings.
The thing about hakka noodles is that people either love it or hate it and personally I’m not a fan but my friends love it, so give it a try and let me know which team you’re on!
11. Rich peanut soup and bouncy muar chee at Ipoh’s best kept secret – Hong Kee Mah Chee
I love chancing upon food stalls that operate out of the owners’ residential homes because how much more hidden can you get?! This stall is situated right outside the owner’s home and come rain or shine, she will be there with her sweet treats.
Passed down for generations, from father to daughter and now daughter to son, there’s just something wondrous in their creamy peanut soup (aka fah sang woo in Cantonese) but nothing beats their muar chee.
Having been on 8tv’s Ho Chak program, it goes to show how good they are – going on to capture not just the hearts of the local people but even being noticed by national media.
12. Top notch wat tan hor and moonlight kuey teow – Tuck Kee
I thought I could only find these two dishes in KL, but you can find some pretty good variations at Tuck Kee! You can fix up any cravings you have or try what passes as good stir fried kuey teow in Ipoh is. However, you might find it a little lacking as it doesn’t have that wok hei taste.
That’s not to say that isn’t not a delicious blend of flavors. The wat tan hor (flat rice noodles in egg gravy) and the moonlight kuey teow (a cracked raw egg on top of the kuey teow resembles the moon, and hence the name) are so silky smooth with a chewy finish. Furthermore, the seasoning is to die for, especially when paired with lard (ask for more!!)
You can get a plate of boiled baby octopuses for RM 18 and you’ll see it on everyone’s table – according to those who have tried it, it’s perfectly cooked with a nice crunch. You can pair it with the dipping sauce which will give it a little kick of spice or eat it as is and savour its freshness. Though I tend to steer away from exotic food, especially if it’s a debatable cuisine, they don’t eat them live here, so I guess it’s okay.
TripCanvas’ Tip: Be careful you don’t go to the wrong restaurant because there are three Tuck Kees in the same area but this is the original one!
13. Come for a traditional Cantonese brekkie of chee cheong fun – Canning Garden
Today’s chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll) is nothing like the dishes of old which you will find at Canning Garden, which is now run by the second generation, passed on from father to son.
Famously known for their selection of sauces, you can choose from mushroom gravy, chilli sauce and sweet red sauce or you can go all in!
Topped with a generous smattering of fried shallots, these springy rice noodle rolls are a blessing to your taste buds.
If you happen to be there around 11am, you want to look out for the fried chicken breast at the economy rice stall because it went viral when Hong Kong actor, Chapman To, posted a photo of it. Due to its popularity, it’s not cheap at RM 3.20 a piece!
14. Time for some old-school cendol – Deen CT Corner
Cendol is always a good idea, especially when the uncle selling it has been in business for more than 20 years.
Can’t make up your mind what toppings to go for? You can order the PJK – pulut (glutinous rice), jagung (corn) and kacang (red beans). The fragrant blend of the palm sugar and coconut milk in their cendol is mouthwatering, plus the stickiness of the pulut goes well with the chewy consistency of the cendol.
But I’d personally stay away from the corn though because while some might like the salty crunch it provides, it might taste a little sour to others. If you’re like me, go for their biasa instead which is just red beans and cendol. The OG classic.
Feeling adventurous? You’re more than welcome to give life to your own creation by choosing from the available ingredients.
15. What is Ma Ta Liu? It’s curry noodles opposite a police station – Xin Quan Fang
If you are impatient, you need to know that the customer is not king here – if you want to eat their famous curry noodles, you’d better sit quietly. Even raising your hand to get their attention might result in a scolding.
However, good things come to those who wait and this will be worth every second. With the option of dry and soup paired with your choice of noodles, you can customize your bowl of savoury goodness which comes with Ipoh’s famous crunchy bean sprouts, beautifully roasted pork belly and tender slices of chicken. Many people have likened it to Sarawak laksa sans the coconut milk.
If you’re a big eater, make sure you add more noodles for RM 1 or you’ll be sure to leave dissatisfied. Or, if you want something frills-free, you can try Sun Seng Fatt instead – but you’ll find that their curry is less fragrant that the one you will find at Xin Quan Fang.
16. Have some ice blended snow beer – Kafe Yoon Wah
Now to unwind and chill after a hardcore day of eating, there’s nothing better than a glass of ice cold frozen beer, which you will find at Kafe Yoon Wah.
The froth of the beer is smooth and you’ll find that the beer’s bitter notes are obscured by the temperature, making it a refreshing beverage. Don’t drink too fast though – you don’t want to get brain freeze. 😉
There’s nothing notable to eat here (and the wait time for food might get a bit ridiculous) so make sure you come with full bellies. However, they do have some snacks and street food to go with your night out, such as poached octopus and fried chicken.
There you have it, these are the legendary eateries you shouldn’t miss when in Ipoh, which is after all a foodie’s paradise! Tell us your favourite and let us know if there’s a foodie spot we missed! Don’t forget to tag your fellow foodies and plan your next weekend trip!