Good Morning! We are now at Sin Yoon Loong Coffee for some great Ipoh White Coffee, half boiled eggs and toast… Done Ipoh style….
"Here they make gulai tempoyak like grandma used to make"
As a Perak-born girl, the predilection for tempoyak seems to be ingrained. I never really touched it as a child but somehow one day finding myself on a mat in a friend’s house in Sitiawan I was honing in to the sourish edgy gravy with the keenness of a heat seeking missile. And yes, patin is the perfect fish for this, soft flesh yielding hidden depths of flavour within the gulai. Corny, but to me gulai tempoyak tastes like coming home.
However, outside the realm of homecooks, gulai tempoyak is not necessarily well executed in eating shops. Until one day, I was driving to Grik for a hike in Belum and discovered Restaurant Tasik Raban, literally a restaurant in the middle of nowhere perched at the banks of a lake (that would be Lake Raban). Here they make gulai tempoyak like grandma used to make. All you need folks, is hot white rice slightly on the lembik (soft and squishy) side, lashings of gravy and a side of tongue tingling sambal belacan. And then to complete this, a light afternoon rain drumming across the lake during the meal.
Imagine my delight when they opened an Ipoh branch some time ago near the stadium. Pak Teh, the same guy who started the original shop, transported the same formula here- a specialisation in freshwater fishes and ancestral recipes. Forget about asking for the recipes here, it’s all strictly family only and even then you need talent to make it taste the same. Other than tempoyak, they have a huge ikan bakar counter, again with an emphasis on freshwater fishes like catfish, terubuk and temoleh (a rare fish but my dad will drop everything he’s doing and pop over here when they have it a supply). Apparently this is a nostalgic fish for those who grew up near Sungai Perak before the Japanese Occupation. Tasik Raban also do sea fishes like stingray and mackerel very, very well.
This is one place that has really delicious tau foo fah and soya bean. It’s made fresh everyday and so delicious, it’s not even funny….
"The ABC is good with Maraschino cherries on top"
No one likes to wait in line when paying telephone bills or dealing with telco issues. Somehow you always find yourself paying bills at the hottest time of the day, feeling murderous, with no parking and having to deal with things beyond your control. However, next time get yourselves to the Titiwangsa branch and cool off with a superb bowl of rojak.
So the thing that makes this rojak addictive is the gravy. It's smooth and not chunky but don't be fooled by first appearances. The gravy is a dark golden colour and heavy with chilli and finely ground nuts. Now we know peanut loving people are in two camps, the smooth as butter camp and the chunky with texture camp. However we find both are in agreement with this rojak. There is such a thing as a near perfect rojak sauce, not too thick nor runny and filled with the essence of nuts and everything tasty. Hence the gravy-sauce here is smooth but with the depth and soul of a chunky diva.
But that is not all. Gravy alone does not merit a great rojak. Your plate will arrive with the usual freshly julienne cucumbers and jicama, deep fried tofu, whole boiled egg and the kueh. Kueh in a mamak rojak is the pasembur. At the very base level, kueh is a concoction of flour and onions. However the kueh here has coconut in it and they fry it crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Infact, it tastes like deep-fried meatballs, dense and so scrumptious when soaked in gravy. For a more satisfying bowl, ask for sotong (squid) on top.
"The cencaru is perfectly fried and really crispy outside"
Furniture shop? Restaurant? Furniture for sale? Cafe? These are the usual questions first timers have when they enter this place. But unmistakeably during dinner time, it is a restaurant and a busy buzzing one at that. The crowds that flock in are usually in search of good food, similar to what Mum used to make.
With a mixed fare of Malaysian, Nyonya and Portuguese dishes, the mere flicker of images in the menu can easily trigger your drool reflex. A well known favourite that everyone must have a go at is their Black Pepper Terung (Aubergines). These morsels are meticulously seared with black pepper, yet it is still very moist and succulent with every bite. The sweetness of the well cooked flesh of the terung is enhanced by the subtle deep spiciness of the grounded black pepper. Absolutely fabulous! Or it can just be the fact that aubergines are a favourite of mine. What comes next can definitely settle your sniffles in a licking. At first, the Deep Fried Cencaru (Torpedo Scad) with Chilli Padi (birds-eye chilli) Paste & Petai doesn't really look like it offers much. And here we are reminded of the phrase 'don't judge a book by it's cover' for it certainly blew our minds!
"Every bite of the pandan chicken was a juicy crunch"
As Malaysians, we all enjoy the usual Thai fare. But after awhile you realise that most Thai dishes loose its zing(!) when it arrives in Malaysia. However, ever so often you will find a place that still has its Thai roots in place while inserting a Malaysian twist to it. Ayuthai has been opened for over ten years, but only known to those who live nearby due to the nature of its location. It has a loyal following with their original customers now bringing their children here.
The setting does not differ all that much from any other Thai eatery. It has a makeshift bamboo roof over the counter and many hanging pictures showing Thai dishes (some of which you can't really pronounce). It’s a rule of thumb to try out a few signature dishes that deem a Thai place worthy of their name. Usually it's their Tom Yam and Pandan Chicken with an emphasis on their fish dishes such as Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa.
For starters their Tom Yam is excellent! Really delicious thick sauce not made with the store bought Tom Yam paste. You can actually taste the lemongrass, juicy sourness of the tangy lime, the bite of the kaffir lime leaves, heat from the chillies and some unidentified pounded spices. Why bother figuring it out? The soup itself is so good! And for those who are counting the floating prawns in the dish, well, I can assure you it is more than most places will willingly toss in there. And then the Pandan chicken arrived.
"Their nasi lemak is a fan favourite!"
Damansara Uptown is well known to be a food hub for foodies. There's something good to eat on almost every corner and Village Park is a rising star. The reason for their fame is their Nasi Lemak, simple and plain nasi lemak that'll make your day.
The exterior of the place is pretty much calm and cooling but once you step in the reality of the famous lunch spot comes to attention. The ambience is boisterous and aromatic- a kaleidoscope of food food food! The thing about Village Park is that the food is laid wide open for you to stare and drool dumbfoundedly at. Just picture a whole fish head sitting in a pool of deliciously sour assam pedas gravy and topped with a bouquet of ingredients. Then next to that you have a whole array of dishes from spicy to sweet, soft to crunchy and all just sitting pretty and enticing you to take a bite.
Undoubtedly the main star attraction is their Nasi Lemak. Like proud parents, articles, newspaper clippings and pictures of this Nasi Lemak are hung and stuck on each wall, casing and even the glass windows. Even if you were having doubts on what to choose, the Nasi Lemak would command your attention. What gets every visitor is that this Nasi Lemak doesn't clump together. They fall on your plate grain by grain while releasing beautiful rich aromatic scents of coconut milk, pandan (pandanus leaves) and some secret ingredient that makes your world all that brighter. But the deliciousness doesn't just end there.