My first proper visit to Ipoh was spent eating and walking about the old town, looking at colonial-era buildings and old shophouses. My sister, Christina, was my guide, and that was the best part of the trip because we haven’t hung out together in ages.
People make a huge fuss about Ipoh food, but I don’t see what’s so great about it. Then again, I’ve never known what the big deal is about Penang food either. I actually prefer Singapore hawker food – this statement outrages Malaysians, but, calm down, it’s just my opinion, OK? I’m from Johor (Segamat and Batu Pahat) and lived for many years in Singapore. Maybe that has shaped my taste preferences, and maybe Singapore food matches what I like more than Ipoh and Penang food does.One thing I do like about Ipoh hawker food is the chee cheong fan, which is served with a sweet, red sauce, much like the way it’s done in Segamat.
We also found a stall selling nian koh sandwiched between slices of sweet potato and yam, and then coated in batter and deep fried. I love this, and I used to get it at stalls in Bangsar, and also Damansara Heights. However, it’s been years since I last did.
Besides eating savouries and desserts at coffee shops and stalls, I also bought two kinds of Chinese snacks to eat at home: Beh teh soh and saqi ma.
Beh teh soh [left] has a lovely, sticky malt filling. Saqi ma is just a big cube of sticky-sweet chewiness. Wish I’d bought more.
Have been reading about beh teh soh and now I want to try phong piah to see what the difference is between the two. I believe I must have tried phong piah before but it doesn’t ring a bell. Apparently the pastry is soft whereas beh teh soh’s is crunchy. However, the filling is supposed to be the same. The slightly chewy malt filling is my favourite thing about beh teh soh, but I think it wouldn’t go as well with a soft pastry case. The crunchy beh teh soh case makes a nice contrast to the chewiness.
The best thing about Ipoh, for me, were the old shop houses and the colonial-era buildings. I do love old buildings of all kinds, even abandoned ones, especially if they’re overgrown with greenery.
Two other highlights:
One was the creepy crawlies at a Chinese medicine shop. There were eels to improve blood circulation; geckos for pesky coughs; starfish, sea horses and shark cartilege for goodness knows what. Eek!
And the other thing that I loved seeing was the shops selling stuff for the afterlife. Check out the altered names for the cigarettes! It’s interesting to note that even dead people have to be warned about cancer!
I enjoyed my short visit to Ipoh, and would like to visit again. Will definitely get more beh teh soh the next time!