Many friends will ask me to take them back to Ipoh for a food trip. Its silly to compare Penang food with Ipoh food, they are so different. When I was growing up, there were ZERO bak kut teh stalls in Ipoh, except for one sole coffee shop that brews one large pot only on Sundays, and I still remember buying back for my grand-dad almost every other week. You need to be in Ipoh for 2 full days to sample the important eateries. I cannot quite provide exact directions to all, the city is so small, just ask and you will get there in no time. Had to steal the photos from the many wonderful food bloggers cause I don't really go around snapping photos. So here are my top must-go spots:
1) This coffee shop called Xin Quan Fang sells Ipoh famous dry curry mee. It’s located at 174 Jln Sultan Iskandar Shah, Ipoh. Business hour: 7am to 2pm. The very thick curry sauce comes in a small extra bowl if you ask for it that way. Its the heady mix of siu yoke, char siu and chicken and...
2) Once you have found Xin Quan Fang, walk ten steps to the corner shop and sample the best Hakka mee and taufoo. The chilli and garlic sauce is a dream. Also for break-fast only.
3) Now walk back up the road towards the police station, turn right and you will spot Yong Suan coffee shop. Go for lunch for the infamous nasi ganja, apparently it was so good and addictive that the rumour was that they sprinkled ganja into their sauces. Get the deep red dry curry slathered chicken pieces. This nasi kandar is really different from what you get in KL or Penang, just the many differing curry sauces they guy lathers onto your rice will be enough to make your taste buds dance, and get the juicy tender huge beef slices are magnificent too.
4) The Aun Kheng Lim Salt-Baked Chicken Restaurant is not your regular restaurant. There are no tables or chairs for anyone to dine in, it is in fact a 100% takeaway restaurant! You have to be good operating a coffee shop sized restaurant with no sit down diners and selling just one item! Aun Kheng Lim Restaurant is famous for producing the best salt-bake chickens to date. Opens around 5pm onwards till the chickens all sold out. The chickens are smallish and not overly salty but packed with the necessary herbs, meat tears off the bone like a good lamb shank. Good to tapau for the trip back.
5) Head to old town and ask for Nam Heong or Sin Yin Loong coffee shops - the best white coffees are served at these outlets. The many stalls selling food here are very good as well. In particular, the charkwayteow at Nam Heong and the chue cheong fun stall. Oh, get the memorable nostalgic tarncha (egg tea) as well.
6) The usual Lou Wong nga choy kai, although there used to be a much better one at Cowan Street but they open when they feel like it.
About 20 steps away from Lou Wong is the hugely popular Funny Mountain, the best taufoofar and soya bean in town. They are only open during late afternoon around 3pm till sold out. I guarantee you one bowl not enough. Be a local and ask for hak-park, ... soya bean mixed with leongfun... or be even more local and ask for a park-park,... soya bean mixed with taufoofar.
7) At night, ask for directions to Main Convent the school. Opposite is a long row of hawker stalls. The second or third stall sells the best ngau lam, ngau yoke yuen, ngau gun mee and the over the top chilli sauce. Cannot miss cause the lady and her daughters are all very very very skinny.
8) Further down the stalls, there will be many curry mee stalls but don't go for the mee, go for the liu, ask for foochook, foopei, sarkot etc served in curry soup.
9) The popiah at Kong Heng. Its good because of the crispy dried prawns and shallots.
10) Breakfast at Ming Kok for dimsum. Matches the best on offer in HK or Sydney. To me, its better than Fusan.
11) Have lunch at Wong Koh Kee, situated in a narrow romantic looking alleyway. Its better known as yeelaihorng (concubine's lane). Just ask the boss to name their top 5 dishes and have them with rice. Too good to name all.
12) While many go to Ipoh for the white coffee, it amazes me that many never mention the good old kopi-o, its always good at any coffee shops. Be a local and ask for kopi-shuet, not kopi-ping, the latter is used everywhere but not in Ipoh.
There are plenty more spots for good food but these are top of my list. Enjoy.