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[Ipoh, Malaysia] Traditional home-cooked Cantonese flavours at Wong Koh Kee

Wong Koh Kee on Yee Lai Hong (Concubine Lane) has been operating for over 70 years. It's currently run by the 4th-generation of the Wong family who started it during the Japanese Occupation years in World War II. The restaurant is very popular among local Ipoh-ites who loved the home-cooked flavours of the cooking there - better than any I'd tasted in KL, actually.

What we had for lunch:

- Steamed tilapia with brown bean paste. Very fresh fish, with a perfectly-balanced sauce of fermented brown beans, garlic and other flavours.

- "Sam wong tan" - silky-smooth steamed egg custard which consisted of chicken egg, duck egg, century egg and minced pork.

- "Pei par kai" - superb barbecued chicken with a superb home-made plum sauce.

- Stir-fried watercress ("sai yeung choi") with roast pork. The roast pork was not crisp-skinned anymore after being stir-fried with the watercress, but the texture of the vegetables was nice & soft, not fibrous like most Chinese-style stir-fried vegies tended to be.

- "Gwoo lo yoke" - sweet-sour pork. This is one of the best-tasting I'd tried: each pork morsel was glazed with the sweet-sour sauce and was crisp on the outside, yet yieldingly soft inside.

Need to come early for lunchy (preferably before 12 noon) - the tiny space fills up pretty quickly.

Address
========
Wong Koh Kee
3, Jalan Panglima
31650 Ipoh, Perak
Malaysia
Tel: +60 5-241 9474

about 24 hours ago
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Northern Vietnamese lunch at Tuấn & Tú, Pasteur

Yes, it's very similar to Cantonese 'haam ha', though the Vietnamese shrimp paste ('mắm tôm') is stronger in smell and taste.

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Northern Vietnamese lunch at Tuấn & Tú, Pasteur

Yes, the nutty crunch and flavour complemented the turmeric-flavoured fish fillets very well.

Sorry for the bad pictures - I didn't bring my digicam, so resorted to my Blackberry's camera which produced rather poor quality pictures.

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Northern Vietnamese lunch at Tuấn & Tú, Pasteur

Tuấn & Tú Quán is a trendy eatery run by the well-known brother-and-sister team who'd successful combined their talents (brother, Tuan's a PR consultant, while sister, Tu, runs a spa) with their passion for food to conceptualise their restaurant which has become a favoured lunch spot for Saigon's trendsetters and fashionable crowd. It specialises in Ẩm Thực Miền Bắc (Northern cuisine), anchored upon recipes by Tuan & Tu's grandmother.

I understood that it used to be housed in a tastefully furnished, cosy & charming house when it started off a decade ago, but has moved to this new location along Pasteur in the middle of last year. It still *is* rather cosy, except in a vertical manner, with the seating area spread over 3-storeys in a narrow shophouse lot.

I let my Hanoi colleague do the ordering - though she seemed quite conscious that my other two Vietnamese colleagues were Southern Vietnamese, hence chose dishes with some greens to satisfy everyone's taste-buds (Northern Vietnamese cuisine tends to put vegetables *very* much in the background).

What we had:

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Saigon Breakfast 1: Cơm tấm (broken rice with meats)

Lau - you should find out more about him if/when you go back. Many returning Vietnamese are pumping $$$ into Saigon's economy and opening new, trendy eateries. Would be interesting to find out which restaurants his family owns back in Vietnam.

Bot Chien Dat Thanh in Saigon is, of course, very local - but very well-established as one of the nmost popular "bot chien" spots in the city. The other top "bot chien" places in Saigon are:

- Che Ky Dong (Est. 1981) which is actually a dessert ("che") place which happened to make a killer "bot chien", freshly-fried to order.

- The "bot chien" cart along Hai Thuong Lan, opposite the post office. It's perhaps the oldest "bot chien" place in Saigon - dating back to the 1970s. Its rice cakes are cut into long strips instead of rectangular/cubic pieces.

- A husband-and-wife "bot chien" cart at Cay Keo, near the corner with Luy Ban Cich, Dam Sen Park.

Take note that the Vietnamese regard "bot chien" as tea-time or after-dinner snacks, so these places would only open in the mid- to late-afternoons till late night.

Jun 25, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Imperial Hue lunch at Quán Ruốc

Yes, it is a foodie destination of sorts. Mind you, the infrastructure is still way behind other SE-Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand's - Ho Chi Minh City (a large city with 13 million people in the metro area) has an international airport only the size of Penang's (which has only 1.5 million people in comparison).

Most shops are *not* air-conditioned, and it's really bad in hot summer months - like now! Even the air-con in the malls that do have them don't seem very effective.

Drinks/alcohol are fairly cheap, but dining in restaurants or hotel outlets catering to foreigners are amazingly expensive.

Street foods are good, but you need to be careful as local germs/virus can cause tummy upsets and ruin your holiday.

Jun 25, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Imperial Hue lunch at Quán Ruốc

Quán Ruốc's a must-try, Lau.

Jun 25, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Saigon Breakfast 1: Cơm tấm (broken rice with meats)

Heh-heh, so your fave go-to shop in CA is called Dat Thanh, too. It means Double Prosperity. The shopowner's most probably Chinese-Vietnamese :-)

BTW, the *original* Cafe Brodard in Saigon's no more :-(

It's location is taken over by Sony, which is opening a retail store on that spot soon (see the pics I took during my 2005 and 2015 visits).

But Saigon now has Brodard bakeries all over town - it's now a chain! I was at one of the new outlets - this one's just round the corner from the old Rue Catinat (Duong Dong Khoi) location.

Jun 25, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Saigon Breakfast 2: Steamed goodies - Bánh Bao and Bánh Giò

A couple of common and very convenient breakfast food items in Saigon are the:

- Bánh giò, a delicious banana-leaf-wrapped, pyramid-shaped rice-and-tapioca-flour dumpling with minced pork, vegetables and wood-ear fungus filling. The bánh giò has a fragrant, banana leaf scent which was intoxicating.

- Bánh bao, a delicious steamed large bun with minced pork, wood-ear fungus, quail's eggs and scallions filling, which is the Vietnamese take on Chinese "dai bao" (大包).

The two items are usually sold together by the same vendors, as both items are usually displayed in multi-tiered display cases-cum-steamers, commonly seen in Chinese eateries offering dim sum items. This morning, I got my bánh bao and bánh giò from a small breakfast spot along Phạm Ngọc Thạch, near the iconic but strangely named traffic circus, Hồ Con Rùa (Turtle Lake), which is neither a lake, nor does it have any turtles. Saigonites, especially students from the nearby colleages, loved hanging out around Hồ Con Rùa, resulting in many cafes and food stalls sprouting all over the place there.

Jun 25, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Saigon Breakfast 1: Cơm tấm (broken rice with meats)

Cơm tấm is one of the quintessential must-not-miss Saigon breakfasts. Essentially a breakfast plate widely available from food kiosks along the sidewalks and streets. The one I had this morning was from a kiosk along Điện Biên Phủ, near the intersection with Hai Ba Trung in District 3.

My Cơm tấm plate consisted of:

- Chả trứng hấp, a steamed egg meatloaf with minced pork, glass noodles, black wood-ear fungus, eggs, flavoured with fish sauce.

- Xíu mại, a delicious minced pork-ball in a tomatoey sauce.

The vendor spooned over pork lard with chopped green scallions, some ground red chillis, and served the whole thing with a little saucer of nước mắm pha, a dipping sauce with fish sauce and vegetable pickles.

The rice was moist and fragrant - better than any I'd had in a while. Fab meal - this is one of the reasons I always skip hotel breakfasts when I'm in Saigon - the street eats are infinitely better.

Jun 24, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Fried Radish Cake from Bột Chiên Đạt Thành

There are many types of great food to discover in HCMC, swannee - I regret that I have a very limited time here as I need to be back in Singapore this weekend. I've yet to find time to post about the Hanoi-style lunch yesterday.

Also, I want to try the Viet take on steamed taro/yam cake, called khoai môn here.

I like exploring the city by foot, but am very, *very* much constricted by not being able to converse with the Vietnamese street-food vendors on the sidewalks in their language (except in District 5/Chinatown, where the maily Chinese-Vietnamese locals understand Teochew and/or Hokkien, my native dialects). Bột Chiên Đạt Thành (although in District 3) is actually owned by Chinese-Vietnamese, so we can communicate with each other.

Jun 24, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Fried Radish Cake from Bột Chiên Đạt Thành

I love fried radish cake (incorrectly termed fried carrot cake in Singapore) - a Hokkien street food of pale cubes of steamed pudding made from rice flour, tapioca flour and finely-grated radish, pan-fried in lard till crisp on the outside, whilst soft & moist on the inside. In Singapore, it's called "chai tow kway", whilst in Penang, it's "char koay kak".

The Singapore one comes in two different variations: the "white" chai tow kway fried with salted radish and eggs, and the "black" chai tow kway" where sweet, dark soysauce is added. Eggs will be added to both versions, and sometimes, shrimps as well.

The Penang version is greasier than its Singapore cousin, with copious amounts of lard and dark (not sweet) soysauce, salted radish, eggs and beansprouts (which is not present in Singapore versions).

In Vietnam, the same dish is known as bột chiên, and is a very popular snack (it's never regarded as a "main meal" item) not only amongst Vietnam's Hokkien (Fujianese) populace, but with everyone.

We went to Bột Chiên Đạt Thành along Vo Van Tan this evening. It's an extremely noisy and permanently full eatery - whose waitresses seemed to have been hired solely for their loud voices. Orders are screamed across the single unit shoplot - I understood that the 30-year-old establishment used to occupy two shoplots, but the landlord of the adjoining unit decided to he wanted his premises back. Bột Chiên Đạt Thành was not in the least fazed - its dining area now spans the second floor as well, although one would prefer to occupy the ground floor where all the "action" is.

Bột chiên differs from its Singaporean and Malaysian cousins in three ways: (1) the steamed cubes of steamed rice/tapioca cakes, when pan-fried, seemed to have much chewier exteriors, (2) there's no hint of salted radish being used to flavour the dish, and (3) the dish is served with shredded green papaya and pickled carrots & white radish, to undercut the richness/greasiness of the dish. Other than that, the bột chiên is very much similar to both "chye tow kway" and "char koay kak", with lots of eggs and lard used in the frying process.

The eatery also offers a yam/taro cake version - the steamed yam/taro cake are just as soft in texture as the radish version, but a whole lot tastier and more fragrant.

Jun 24, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Nha Hang Ngon

What started off more than a decade ago as "Quan An Ngon" (Delicious Cafe) has metamorphosed into "Nha Hang Ngon" (Delicious Restaurant). This place is tourist-central, where Western visitors are more likely to outnumber anyone else as they dig into sanitised Saigon street foods set in the leafy courtyard of a colonial-era mansion.

9 out of 10 visitors to Saigon would have been here, a place where waiters with at least basic English language skills assist foreigners to bridge the communication gap and try those street foods they'd always seen being hawked in the city streets by squatting vendors, but had been unable (or unwilling) to try.

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Imperial Hue lunch at Quán Ruốc

Neither have I, swannee - all the dishes were new to me as I'd neither seen nor heard of them before. But my Hue (and Hanoi) colleagues at lunch with me mentioned that these are common Hue staples.

They're showing me Northern/Hanoi cuisine today - would be interesting to see the regional variations.

I was actually planning to go down to Cholon (District 5)/Chinatown for "bot chien" - Vietnam's answer to Singaporean "chye tow kway", or Penang "char koay kak". Apparently, it's *exactly* the same dish - I'm just curious, so seeking out a stall which has been there since the 1950s.

Jun 23, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Imperial Hue lunch at Quán Ruốc

My colleague from Hue insisted that I've not experienced *true* Vietnamese cuisine until I've had Imperial Hue cuisine, purportedly more refined than other regional cuisines in Vietnam, and whose finesse reflect the exacting demands of Tu Duc (1829-1883), the 4th Nguyen emperor and a die-hard gourmand in his time.

For lunch today, my Hue colleague brought me to Quán Ruốc, reputedly one of the top spots in Saigon to have a true taste of Imperial Hue cuisine. This very popular Hue restaurant is owned by the famous Saigon-based writer-poet-artist, Mường Mán, and is more than a decade-old.

The restaurant is named after the pungent, addictive shrimp paste from Hue: mắm ruốc. Westerners may be turned off by the salty, overwhelming fishy flavour (and heavy smell) of mắm ruốc, but to people like me who loved "belachan" (our own shrimp paste in Singapore), the smell was absolutely mouth-watering.

Jun 23, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Lunch at the Courtyard, Hotel Continental Saigon

No, swannee - can't be from the French, as Northern Vietnamese cuisine is not sweet at all, relative to the South.

I asked a couple of colleagues here in Saigon about it this morning - one is a Hanoi native, whilst the other comes from Hue. They couldn't explain either, other than to say that they aren't too enamoured with the Southern Vietnamese's predilection for sweetness either.

Jun 22, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] Lunch at the Courtyard, Hotel Continental Saigon

The graceful courtyard of Hotel Continental Saigon, shaded by 135-year-old frangipani trees, provided a rather attractive setting for some very competently executed renditions of local Southern Vietnamese cuisine.

Our lunch there today consisted of:

Jun 22, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] "Bánh mì Op La" from Hòa Mã

Got a dining tip on this little gem of a place from fellow CH, foodfirst (Eating Asia): Hòa Mã is a busy breakfast spot at 53 Cao Thang in District 3. It opens at around 6am and closes once everything is sold out, sometimes as early as 10.30am - so do come early if you want a taste of its popular breakfast offerings.

It's a simple breakfast of two eggs, perfectly-cooked till translucent on the outside and still deliciously runny inside, accompanied by three types of Vietnamese sausages ("chả lụa") - slivers of "xúc xích" (pork sausage), 3 wands of "chả cá" (wrinkly, spongey, deep-fried fish cake), a couple of cubes of very tasty "thịt nguội" (ham), onions and scallions. Also ordered a little side-dish of pate and mayonnaise which improved the overall flavour of the dish tremendously.

There was that requisite dish of crunchy pickled carrots, cucumber and jicama - less sweet than the ones we get in Singapore, and with an interesting, strong flavour of ginger in the marinade.

The baguette was light and crusty on the outside, and impossibly light and cottony inside. Saigon residents have been making a beeline for Hoa Ma's bread since 1960 (when founder-owner, Nguyen Thi Tinh, moved to Saigon from the North) - as I sat at my table this morning on the side-street, I could see numerous motorcyclists stopping by just to buy the plain baguettes. The baguettes here are reputedly even better than those from the iconic 40-year-old Như Lan, which supposedly sets the benchmark in town.

Everything was made in-house here - you basically get a truly artisanal Saigon breakfast :-)

Jun 22, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] Teochew Kueh Selection from Tiong Bahru

Yes, usually dip in egg-wash and pan-fried.

Jun 20, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

One lunch in Bangkok: Nahm or Gaggan?

That was how I got into L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Tokyo when it first opened. I was walking along Roppongi Hills when I saw this long line of well-coiffed Japanese women outside an eatery (I thought it was a bakery). I didn't know what they were queuing for, but was curious enough to join the back of the queue. Only realised it was a Robuchon after they seated me at the counter and gave me the menu.

Jun 19, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] Teochew Kueh Selection from Tiong Bahru

Yes, indeed. HK version vs Singapore version below.

Also, in HK, a variety of other types of "nian gao" (taro, waterchestnut, etc.) is served, which we don't do in Singapore.

Jun 18, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] Teochew Kueh Selection from Tiong Bahru

Probably because in the early days (19th-century), the Chinese immigrants in then-Malaya could not find the bamboo shoots which they needed.

Same as for many traditional Chinese cakes in this part of the world which used local ingredients as substitutes. "Nian gao" (年糕) in Malaysia/Singapore is made using local palm sugar ('Gula Melaka'), which would be unheard of in China.

Jun 18, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

Malacca, Malaysia - Teochew dinner at the 80-year-old Teo Soon Loong Chan

Back to Teo Soon Loong (they've dropped the "Chan" from their name) at their spanking new 3-month-old premises last weekend. The restaurant is now located at Kota Shahbandar, a new development outside Malacca's historic quarter, so it's not as accessible as before. However, they now have a nicer, much larger seating area, albeit still as busy and advanced reservations are a must if you want a seat.

To start, I ordered the two dishes which wowed me the last time: the oyster noodles and the braised pork-rib with bittergourd. Both were excellent - the kitchen's standards have not been affected one iota by the move.

The steamed pomfret, Teochew-style, was also perfect - superbly fresh, the quality of the fish surpassed those I'd had in similar establishments back in Singapore.

The oyster omelette was one dish which came up "average". I'd omit this from my order list the next time.

The dessert was the traditional Teochew "orh nee" - yam paste with pumpkin & lotus seeds. It was par excellence - I'd drive 300km back here again just for this. Teo Soon Loong is another one of those must-not-miss food stops on any culinary visit to Malacca.

Address
=======
Teo Soon Loong Seafood Restaurant
42 & 44, Jalan KPKS 1
Kompleks Perniagaan Kota Syahbandar
75200 Malacca, Malaysia
Tel: +60 6-288 0209

Jun 17, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] Teochew Kueh Selection from Tiong Bahru

There were 3 types: bamboo shoots, chives and purple yam.

I loved the julienned bamboo shoot ones - in Singapore, we usully have shredded jicama/Chinese turnips as a substitute for the harder-to-procure bamboo shoots, although we still retain the original name "soon kueh" (meaning "bamboo shot cake"). In Bangkok, they stuck to the cake's origins more steadfastly.

Jun 17, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] Teochew Kueh Selection from Tiong Bahru

I have not, although you can be sure I'll make a beeline for it on my next trip to HK.

I had some good Teochew steamed cakes in Bangkok's Sam Yan market last Dec.

Jun 17, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] Teochew Kueh Selection from Tiong Bahru

They are good, but still far from the best in Singapore. For Teochew "p'ng kueh", I still go for Yong's (like makanputra's rec above), whereas for "soon kueh", it's Poh Cheu:
http://www.pohcheu.com/contact-us.html

Jun 16, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Malacca, Malaysia] Best "Cendol" at Aunty Koh's, Bukit Rambai

For a taste of the milkiest, richest "cendol" in Malacca, make a beeline for Aunty Koh's, a small zinc-roofed, ramshackle dessert spot along Jalan Batang Tiga, off Jalan Klebang, roughly 15 minutes' drive out of Malacca's town centre.

Aunty Koh opens *only* on Saturday and Sunday each week, from 12 noon for about an hour or so. On busy days, she sells out by 12.30pm!!

You have to get to this almost nondescript spot before 12 noon and join a long queue - Aunty Koh works single-handedly and at a very, Malaccan-style laidback pace, often stopping to smile and banter with her regulars, never mind that there is a half-hour-long queue snaking behind.

What makes Aunty Koh's "cendol" that special, seeing that Malacca town, and especially Jonkers Street (its tourist epicentre) is replete with dozens of places offering "cendol"? Well, for one, everything's very artisanal - see that huge green pandan grove surrounding the stall? That's where Aunty Koh plucks her pandan leaves, to pound and squeeze out the juices that scent & colour her short, squiggly green "cendol" noodles.

Aunty Koh's wakes up at 3am to hand-squeeze coconut milk from the freshly-grated flesh of 40 coconuts on the Saturdays & Sundays when her stall opens.

Aunty Koh's "Gula Melaka" (thick, dark palm sugar syrup) is not as rich or fragrant as those used in the "cendol" of other eateries like Aunty Lee in Ujong Pasir - her emphasis seems to be on the freshness of her coconut milk.

When we were there yesterday, Aunty Koh's "cendol" also did not include any stewed red beans, unlike what we'd seen in some earlier pictures of her "cendol". That didn't seem to faze her legion of fans, more than half of whom are holidaymakers from Singapore.

Aunty Koh piles generous amounts of her "cendol" noodles into each bowl (priced at MYR4 or US$1 for a single serving, which is rather expensive and more than twice the price charged elsewhere), then use an old-fashioned electric ice-shaver to top up each bowl up with snowy-white, finely-shaved ice. She then ladles on the "Gula Melaka" and creamy coconut milk. That's all there is to it. But, oh boy, just look at the hungry crowds - those waiting anxiously in line (praying that Aunty Koh's limited amount of "cendol" ingredients don't run out) eyeing those who're enjoying their precious bowls of "cendol".

You also do your own washing up! Customers will bring their empty metal bowls to the sink where detergent and sponges are provided - so you line up to get your own "cendol", pay for the most expensive bowl of "cendol" in Malacca, and do your own washing up! Heh-heh.

Jun 14, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] Best Fried "Sotong Bee Hoon" in Town

swannee: Coincidentally (this is back in Singapore), my mum made some Teochew'Chiuchow-style rice congee which incorporated *both* dried, finely-julienned cuttlefish and fresh squid.

Jun 12, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] "Lontong" from Kampung Glam Cafe

Lontong from Depot Sari Rasa, another well-known spot for lontong in East Java:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8180...

Jun 12, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia

[Singapore] "Lontong" from Kampung Glam Cafe

Not part of the standard serving for Singaporean lontong, but you can opt for it to be added as an extra.

I did notice hard-boiled eggs being ever-present in Indonesian lontong, like in this "Lontong CapgoMeh" which I had from Depot HTS in Lawang, East Java:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8178...

Jun 12, 2015
klyeoh in China & Southeast Asia