Ipoh! Mention the city and I think about mountains, caves… and well, food. Just like many of Malaysia’s bigger cities (think Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka), Ipoh has a vibrant food scene as well — popular for its hawker fares and local Chinese dishes, thanks to its large Chinese community. Being the capital city of the state of Perak, Ipoh is one of the more thriving cities in Malaysia; with tin-mining historical roots dating back to the 1920s and 30s.
I was visiting Ipoh for the weekend, and just like I do every trip to the city — I eat, eat and eat. I usually only visit for a day or two, and it’s always not nearly enough time to sample everything the city has to offer (and I’d tell myself I’ll be back again). So after having a go at all my Ipoh favorites this round, I decided to document my 2-day weekend food crawl. If you only have a couple of days visiting Ipoh and don’t have enough time to read restaurant reviews and ask for local advice — maybe this itinerary can help!
Ipoh is approximately a 2-hour drive from Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur (where I live); so after breakfast at home, I was headed up north via the North-South Expressway. I arrived just in time for lunch, and decided to drop by Pasir Pinji, a suburb about 2.5km away from Ipoh’s city center. Locals come here for the…
Yong Tau Fu and Assam Laksa
The stall is named after the huge trees surrounding it, and is so famous that a large sign at its entrance says, “We Are the Only One – No Branch”. It’s no wonder because the yong tau fu (tofu and vegetables stuffed with ground meat) here is absolutely delicious — it is cooked and fried on the spot; so just get a basket, take your pick from the huge selection of fried tofu skin, meatballs and vegetables, and then pass it to the lady at the counter with your order. I ordered a bowl of assam laksa and a plate of kon lo mee (dried noodles) to go with my yong tau fu. Did I already mention it was delicious?
忠记 Yong Tau Fu (Big Tree Foot – Tai Shu Keok)
Address: 652, Jalan King, Pasir Pinji, 31650 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 8.30am-5.30pm.
After lunch, it was time to head to my weekend accommodation in Ipoh Old Town (will write about the lovely guesthouse in my next post). En route, I couldn’t help making a quick stop for some dessert.
Tau Fu Fa and Soya Bean
The queue at this soy shop can get absolutely absurd. Most of the time I don’t bother to line-up, but during my recent visit it was suprisingly short so I managed to get myself a bowl of tau fu fa (soy bean curd) and a couple of bottles of soya bean milk. The portions here are exceptionally small for RM1.50 a bowl, but considering that I can never finish a big bowl anyway (AND after the lunch I just had), it suited me just fine. The curd was silky smooth and I liked that the sugar wasn’t overly sweet. There are no tables and chairs so it’s just standing with a bowl in hand by the side of the restaurant.
Kacang Soya Funny Mountain
Address: Jalan Theatre, 30300 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 10.30am till sold out.
Come night, it was time to head out to have my favorite dish of all time, and the reason why making trips to Ipoh are worth it for me. And looking at the number of people crowded around the two restaurants famous for the Ipoh chicken rice, I’m sure they agree with me too.
Bean Sprouts Chicken Rice
The two go-to restaurants in Ipoh for the famous bean sprouts chicken rice (nga choi kai in Chinese, and ayam tauge in Malay) are either Lou Wong or Onn Kee. I personally prefer the latter, as their chicken is always poached perfectly — juicy and firm, with the right amount of soy sauce, shallot and sesame oil. I can finish off half a chicken by myself! And of course, it goes well with a plate of chicken liver and gizzard, and crunchy bean sprouts. Service at both restaurants can be a little short — it is crowded all the time, you have to wait for your table by standing next to it, and it is extremely difficult to get the waiters’ attention. Food however, is served swiftly.
Onn Kee Tauge Chicken Rice
Address: 49, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30000 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 10/11am – 1/2am.
After dinner, I was feeling a little peckish and decided to drop by this dessert shop at the end of the street for something sweet.
Caramel custards have made it into the list of Ipoh must-have’s, and that of course, is perfectly fine with me. I much prefer the caramel custard at Gui Ling Tong compared to several other local shops; it is smooth, wobbly and topped with gula Melaka (palm sugar) that is oh, so good! However, they cost a little more here at RM2.90. The shop also has several different flavors to choose from — brulee, coffee and even matcha, with prices going up to RM6.80 per bowl.
Gui Ling Tong Herbal Shop
Address: 72, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30300 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 12pm-12am, closed on Wednesdays.
After the rest of the night ‘trying’ to paint Ipoh town red, I was famished and ready for more food. What better way to end the night than a nightcap of noodles and well, baby octopus?
Wat Tan Hor and Baby Octopus
Tuck Kee Restaurant (and the newly extended Sun Tuck Kee Restaurant) are along the same road as the chicken rice shops, so during dinner, the entire street is packed with hungry patrons filling up all these restaurants. Tuck Kee however, opens way into the night, and makes the perfect spot for supper. I absolutely love the boiled baby octopus with spicy sauce (one of my Ipoh favorites), and it goes well with the restaurant’s signature wat tan hor (Cantonese flat noodles in egg gravy). The noodles are just okay for me, but the baby octopus is a must!
Tuck Kee / Sun Tuck Kee Restaurant
Address: 61, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, 30100 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 5pm till late.
Up early and ready to continue my Ipoh food journey. The city is famed for its many breakfast selections — from dim sum to Ipoh white coffee, and lots of noodle choices. Many of the popular places run out fast (especially during the weekends), so it’s best to get there early. Why don’t Ipoh people sleep in!?
I decided that I would love a bowl of Hakka Mee (dried noodles topped with minced pork) for breakfast — and there’s no better place to get one than at Paris Restaurant. I liked that the ‘uncle’ at the stall was extremely friendly, and they don’t get as packed up as many of the other hawker stalls around town (read: easy to find a table to sit at). The noodles are springy, the minced pork (I had an extra serving) was flavorful, and I also ordered a bowl of fish balls to go with my meal. A single serving of noodles and 10 fish balls cost me RM10. For another option, the famous Ipoh curry noodles shop, Xin Quan Fang, is just next door.
Address: 264, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, Hugh Low Street, 30000 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 7am-12pm.
I spent the rest of my morning roaming the streets of Ipoh Old Town — admiring its beautiful murals, and dropping by the popular spots of Concubine Lane and Kong Heng Square. When it was time, I was all ready for lunch.
Chicken Prawn Kuey Teow and Pork Satay
I had a real Ipoh feast for my final meal in Ipoh! There are a couple of good hawker restaurants around Ipoh Old Town — but Thean Chun Restaurant has the best kai si hor fun (chicken and prawn kuey teow noodles) in town. The Tricycle Chicken and Prawn Kuey Teow is the reason why people fill up this small restaurant — just imagine a bowl of silky white noodles, tender chicken slices and peeled prawns all mixed up in a thick chicken broth. Heaven! But that wasn’t enough for me, I also ordered me some pork satay, chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll) and caramel custard.
Thean Chun Restaurant
Address: 73, Jalan Bandar Timah, 31650 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 9.30am – 4am, closed Wednesdays.
While checking out the many hidden corners of Kong Heng Square (that makes great Instagram pictures), I got myself an ice treat to combat the merciless Malaysian heat.
Bits and Bobs brought me back to my childhood days. The small cafe is filled with old memorabilia, which included old school toys and treats like chewing gum, popping candies, sugus sweets and even games like Snap! and Snake and Ladders. But what caught my attention most was the ice ball! For RM5, I got myself a sarsi and rosella doused ball and had so much fun sucking on it. The balls are served on a brown paper, and as the ice melted, I somehow managed to stain my white shirt and got my hands all sticky. Ah well!
Bits and Bobs
Address: 99 Jalan Sultan Yussuf @ Kong Heng Square, 31650 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 10am-5.30pm, closed Tuesdays.
The plan was to head back to Kuala Lumpur before evening, so my food crawl in Ipoh ended after lunch. But before leaving, I had to get my hands on some of the local treats and bring them back with me.
Established in 1987, Aun Kheng Lim is the pioneer of yim kuk kai (salt baked chicken) in Ipoh. I never leave the city without buying at least two whole chickens to take home! The chicken is wrapped in paper and then baked with salt crystals and herbs like ginseng and wolfberry; and is sold for RM19 per chick. It makes the perfect snack — and best eaten by tearing off the pieces with your bare hands. I guess that’s why you bring it home.
Aun Kheng Lim Salted Chicken
Address: 24, Jalan Theatre, Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh, Perak.
Opening Times: 9am-6pm.
Other famous snacks I brought back from my trip to Ipoh are pastries like heong peng (Ipoh fragrant biscuits) and kaya puffs; as well as the pomelo.