Taiping is a lovely snoozy town half-way between the food cities of Ipoh and Penang. This is the perfect place for a stop-over or stay a weekend and get to know the friendly locals and the simply delicious dishes that have hardly changed in decades...
I want to retire here and grow fat...
Driving up north? Or traveling back to KL? Take a half-day detour in our latest favourite foodie town: Taiping! Most places in Taiping are actually pretty walk-able if you’re up for it. In between meals/snacks there are several sights worth checking out, like the Taiping Zoo, Taiping War Memorial, and the very lovely Taiping Lake Gardens. But be warned: it’s such a tranquil and friendly place that you might be planning your retirement here before the afternoon rolls around.
Make your way straight to the fire station (there’s only one in town). The hawker center next to it is known to locals as Circus Ground and it’s got the best breakfast grub by far. Enclosing a little courtyard, many families head there in the mornings to have a quiet meal and linger over coffee while their children play. But what to order?
If you only order one thing, let it be chee cheong fun from stall #37. Sweet and silky, it goes down the hatch like a smooth ribbon. The sauce is light in flavor, so if you like it hot, get it with a bit of the chilli sauce too.
Also good here is the breakfast of Taiping, chicken soup noodles. Every family has their favorite stall; we liked the one from stall #48. Wash it down with some white coffee from stall #47 next to it.
Bismillah is said to be the oldest mamak restaurant in the country, founded in 1900. They still serve up favorites that were probably there right from the start, like murtabak, beriyani and good old roti canai. Tables are usually shared in this tiny restaurant, so have a story on tap and you’ll get along with the locals famously. As for food, get some roti and dip it in their interesting gravy that tastes like leftover kuah beriyani - very tasty!
For dessert, head to Bismillah cendol, less than 5 minutes away on foot. To be perfectly honest, I don’t usually like cendol as I find it too slimy and sweet. But the ones they serve here had me at first slurp. Thin scraggly cendol bits swimming in a not-too-sweet icy base was just what I needed to perk me up. Get it with the works (kacang merah and pulut) for a substantial mid-morning snack.
The hotels are where the kids hang out, and our pick is Panorama Hotel. Teenagers were gossiping over milkshakes and families popped in and out for quick lunches. This cosy establishment serves up excellent fried rice dishes.
Wanting a little spice kick, we ordered their nasi goreng belacan and wolfed it down in record time. (Next time we’re in town, we’re trying out their seafood fried rice)
Still in town? Still hungry? Head on over to Casual Market. A buzzing, crowded food court, it’s got everything from wan tan mee to chicken rice to curry mee. We tried out wan tan mee from stall #80, yumminess drenched in soy sauce and topped with slices of char siu.
As we were heading back to KL right after this, we went to stall #90 and loaded up on takeaway nyonya kueh. Their kueh talam, kueh ketayap, kueh koci and pulut panggang are winners, sustaining us on the drive back.
With such gems as these, a simple drive up north will never be the same (or as short) again. We’ve fallen in love with Taiping for sure. Such a shame that we still have 30 years to go til retirement...
One more for the road...