Day 6 – Where Billy tells us a chilling urban myth
It’s hard to believe we’ve been traveling for barely been a week on our Food Blogger Trip and we’ve somehow managed to hit Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and the Cameron Highlands on the way to Ipoh. It’s the first time on our trip we’ve had the luxury of staying in the same city for two nights running, we’ve been doing day trips mostly but we’ve put aside 4 days for Ipoh and Penang knowing there’s a hell of a lot of food out there to eat.
Things are feeling more relaxed this morning, it’s as though things are staring to settle into a stride. We’re off in search of breakfast again and Billy taken us to Ipoh Old Town in search of a famous coffee-house. Sadly enough the coffee-house is closed so we simply default to the coffee-house next door.
Breakfast – Thean Chun Coffee Shop
The restaurant is quintessentially Asian. The tables and chairs are all plastic, orders are shouted out across the table and despite the full tables surrounding us our food is on the table in moments. Breakfast in Ipoh is simple, bowls of noodle soup for everyone and a healthy number of sides to munch on!
I feel like I say this every time I write a post, but I really love soup, so having noodle soup for breakfast is my idea of heaven. I’m in love with Kai Si Hor Fun. These tiny bowls of Ipoh noodle soup are made with fresh noodles and refreshingly hot prawn broth that makes me sweat first thing in the morning and are just so damn good. Add an extra soup bowl filled with various tofu, fishball and fish paste goodness and you have a table of very content and very quiet eaters.
Once again I’m encountering these bite-sized satay sticks, there’s the usual selection of chicken, chicken liver, gizzards etc. and none of us are shy about digging in. There’s enough on the plate that I’m a little worried about finishing off the plate and I’m halfway through a bite when one of the serving staff suddenly drops off another handful of satay sticks onto our plate.
“Don’t worry! They charge you on the number of sticks you eat!”, Billy reassures us. All of a sudden I’m a little queasy realizing our initial plate has most likely been sitting on another table before our arrival and those sticks aren’t looking so appetizing anymore! Billy laughs at my expression before telling us that with the previous management there had been rumours that even the satay peanut sauce was recycled, any remaining sauce simply dumped back into the communal pot awaiting the next customers. YUM YUM (not).
Despite the lovely stories being told by Billy, breakfast is rather enjoyable and we wander out onto the streets to check out a bit of the architecture of Ipoh Old Town. It’s a strange fusion of almost colonial style buildings with modern factory fittings. It’s also here that I make an astounding discovery about Helen.
She jump kicks like a pro!
Sadly despite many attempts my jump kicks remain abysmal.
Pit Stop – Funny Mountain Soya Bean
There’s one thing I’ve learnt about myself on this trip – I’m a glutton for punishment. So when Billy asks if we want to check out a Drive-Through soy milk stand I’m saying yes even before I realize what I’ve agreed to.
Funny Mountain is a tiny stand tucked away into the wall, things are busy at the stand and we end up parking around the corner and coming by to order in person. There’s a simple choice of straight Soy Milk or Black & White, a Grass Jelly and Soy Milk mixture. I’m a purist at heart and the plain sweet flavour of the straight Soy Milk (0.80MYR – 0.28cAU!!!) is chilled with a natural sweetness totally unlike Soy Milk in Australia, it soothes my soul. I’m not sure how on earth the others finish so quickly but within moments we’re back at the stand ready for round 2!
There’s a huge barrel of Tau Fu Fah (Soybean Curd – 0.80MYR), the sweetened tofu dessert I so associate with breakfast sessions at Yum Cha. The tofu is carefully carved out into small bowls, quivering in my hands and is delicately ginger-y and sweet. I somehow find myself sharing bowls with both Helen and Billy and between the 3 of us 2 bowls are demolished in moments.
Happy Mountain is obviously popular, even as we sit around eating there’s a line of cars on the road waiting for their orders, a wall of media coverage shows we’re not the first to discover this local favourite. It’s a fantastic example of the hidden gems in Malaysia and since coming back home I haven’t been able to drink Soy Milk without remembering how good it was!
Insanely the others are at ANOTHER Soy Milk stand only a half hour later. My bladder and I refuse to join in the insanity and I can only watch in awe as another straight Soy and a Ginger Soy Milk are consumed.
Pit Stop – Kek Look Tong
With eating scratched off our itinerary we’re moving onto a spot of sightseeing. Having shown us one of Ipoh’s cave temples yesterday, Billy decides to bring us to Ipoh’s other major cave temple – Kek Look Tong. The Temple is an awe-inspiring sight, a huge cavernous opening with stalactites reaching down from the roof and a smooth vast marble floor all leading into a pitch dark cave. On this humid and sunny day the caves are coolly inviting and we’re practically running for the cool air emanating through the caves.
There’s a strange collection of miniature landscapes set up on the staircase leading up into the temple, along with the typical Chinese Garden style miniatures I also spot a Pyramid, mini Dragons and even a replica Eiffel Tower… I’ve no idea what their purpose is, but I do enjoy the whimsy of these strange statues in an otherwise calm environment.
The Temple itself isn’t dedicated to any one Buddhist deity, a number of statues are scattered through the cave gaining it the nickname, “The Cave Temple of Bronze Buddhas”.
The darkness of the caves is surprising, at once point turning a corner we’re left in almost pure darkness guided only by the light at the end of the (literal) tunnel. I enjoy the natural touch of leaving the cave to light itself, knowing that if this cave was in Australia I’d most likely be walking along a roped off path with lights to guide my every step – it’s a bit of a contradiction wanting a tourist attraction to be more natural but there’s something gorgeous about the natural lighting.
Walking through the cave we’re greeted by the sight of a huge garden built around a lake, I’m sure that usually it’s an amazing view but today the lake is mostly dried up and vegetation suffering somewhat in the heat. Billy spots a monkey in the distance and I’m out of there!
Dinner – Mun Choong Seafood Restaurant
It’s one thing knowing that Billy’s family is in Ipoh and that they’ve been amazing enough to invite us to join them in their family dinner, but it’s a whole another experience walking into a room and being confronted by… a family of Billys (the family resemblance really is startling). The moment we step into the restaurant it’s immediately apparent that Billy and his family are very close, within seconds he’s swamped by eager nieces and nephews as well as grinning older sisters and of course, his parents.
I’m a little envious of the sight for a moment. I’m lucky enough to have all of my immediately family in Australia, however the last few years have seen about half of my family move up north to Queensland and big family gatherings have become a yearly, rather than weekly event for us. It’s a little awkward at first, but his family are more than curious about this motley crew he’s dragged up to Ipoh with him and they’re eager to chat, despite our language barriers.
We’re eating at Mun Choon Seafood Restaurant tonight, and in very Asian style we’re going for the banquet. The presented menu is entirely in Chinese, but it’s nice to know that Chinese banquets… really are the same everywhere you go! We’re starting off with a giant platter of various fried Seafood bits, but the only thing that really catches my eye is the neon-green horse riding a wave of parsley. Truly inspired.
The menu moves along smoothly with the promised whole suckling pig, Billy’s been on the phone with his sister over the last few days confirming the menu choices and we’ve been tormented by the knowledge that an entire pig is on the menu. The pork is accompanied by puffy pieces of bread and we sandwich crispy pieces of skin with the soft almost oily meat. Bliss.
Sadly the seafood dishes aren’t as impressive, with some not so fresh product resulting in prawns sticking to their shells and almost leather-tough fish requiring some saw like action to separate flesh from bone.
Next up on the menu is Crispy Chicken served with some not so crispy prawn crackers (best avoided) and a very much-needed steamed vegetable wrap. The vegetable are served wrapped in a thin tofu-like layer which is quickly ripped apart revealing the vegetables hiding inside, after so many fried dishes the vegetables are a welcome respite – steamed just enough to still have a bite to them, all swimming in a mini pool of cornstarch.
The night ends appropriately enough with a photo of the entire family, then much to my embarrassment we’re being called by the family to come join them all for a photo too! Many thanks to Billy, for introducing us to his family and for their amazing hospitality.
We’re ending things a little early tonight, in the morning we’re headed off to Penang for the next two days and we just so happen to have the newest episode of Glee on Billy’s laptop… Not even supper can stand in the path of Rachel Berry!
Check out the rest of the Malaysia Monday’s series here!
Thean Chun Coffee Shop
73, Jalan Bandar Timah
Ipoh Old Town,
30000 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Funny Mountain Soya Bean & Taufu Fa Traditional
Along Jalan Dato Tahwil Azar,
30300 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Ph: 05 546 9968
Mun Choong Seafood Restaurant (Pusing Public Seafood Restaurant)
57-65 Jalan Verasamy,
Ipoh, Perak, Perak, Malaysia
Ph: 605 241 9348