While Ipoh is generally regarded as one of the better towns for hawker food (perhaps second only to Penang), if you look closer, the town also offers some hidden gems outside of hawker & traditional Chinese food. Case in point – Maiale Japanese style Italian Restaurant.
Maiale Japanese style Italian Restaurant at Ipoh
If the overly long name isn’t clear, the restaurant actually offers Italian cuisine, cook by one Japanese chef, and interestingly, also served by only one local server. If you’re looking for Japanese food here, you won’t find it, but if you want Italian food with a bit of a Japanese influence & ingredients, you’re at the right place.
The restaurant itself is converted from an old colonial style house with very limited seats (perhaps 20 pax max?) and offers an ambiance that is as cozy as it is unique in its staffing. Reservation is a must since space is severely limited.
There’s no real ala carte menu here, instead, you choose from a combination of 3-course menu with 1 selection of appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. Prices range from RM 45 to RM 80 for the set, but sometimes they do have specials, such as Japanese wagyu grade A5 which can fetch quite a pretty penny.
bread & breadstick with olive oil & vinegar, appetizer platter
For our dinner, we chose the appetizer platter, pan fried sakura pork loin, and yuzu sorbet for the first set. For second set, we had the same appetizer platter, slow cooked lamb shoulder, and tiramisu.
Like most “almost fine dine” place, we started off with some warm bread, bread stick, with olive oil & vinegar prior to the arrival of appetizer, nothing out of the ordinary.
When the appetizer came, it turned out to be quite a delight. I didn’t care much about the glass plate, or the plating itself, but here’s what we had on it:
spinach and tomato mousse
Each had a unique taste and tasted rather not any less than some of the more fancy places. I’d be kicking myself if I chose the Caesar salad or mushroom soup in place of this platter for RM 5 less.
scallops, pan fried sakura pork loin with red wine balsamic sauce
Oh, we also ordered a small plate of scallops (3 pieces) as additional appetizer. They were decent, and definitely worth the RM 8 asking price.
For my main, the pan fried sakura pork loin with red wine balsamic sauce turned out to be a a winner. The meat was cooked to the right doneness, retaining natural flavor of pork as well as its tenderness. Furthermore, the sauce, made from reduction of red wine, balsamic, onion, and beef oil was so flavorful it made me question my own method of preparing pork chop at home. I need to replicate this!
slow cooked lamb shoulder, tiramisu, ice cream
For the second set, the slow cooked lamb shoulder was a decent dish in itself, with the sauce (red wine, homemade beef stock, tomato sauce) that tasted a bit richer but perhaps lack the excitement of stronger acidity compared to the sauce from pork loin. It was good, but perhaps not the same level as the pork loin.
The sides were potato, tomato, and broccoli for both dishes, they were adequate.
The 3rd course of tiramisu & yuzu sorbet were pretty good choices as well. Overall I thought this is a place worthy for special occasions (perhaps a romantic one) if you’re in Ipoh, and loves pork. I should check out their beef or pasta dishes next time.
Some of the most famous dishes in Ipoh revolves around chicken, isn’t it? There’s many chicken rice places such as Pak Kong, kai si hor fun which features chicken at Thean Chun, honey chicken wings at Menglembu, and salt baked chicken at Aun Kheng Lim.
Well, to add to this list, today we’re going to talk about one of local’s favorite bean sprout chicken hor fun place at Ipoh – Restaurant Cowan Street.
Cowan Street Chicken & Horfun, Ipoh
Restoran Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau is the full name of the place, and despite the name, is located at Jalan Raja Ekram in Ipoh New Town, a stone’s throw away from other popular eateries such as Ming Court dimsum.
The restaurant has a reputation of having erratic opening hours, and has 3 rest days per week. They’re serve dinner for quite a limiting hours of 6-9:30pm, do call ahead and check if they’re opened to avoid disappointment.
dinner for two – chicken, bean sprouts, chicken feet, offal
We ordered chicken for two, a plate of bean sprouts (always a must!), chicken feet, and added a plate of chicken offal to go with two bowls of hor fun, there’s no rice served at Cowan Street.
Ordering was very quick, and service was even quicker, it took only a couple minutes before everything was served, I was quite impressed.
The review of the food is simple.. everything here was absolutely on point!
The chicken was cooked just right, smooth, flavorful, and absolutely delicious. The bean sprouts did not disappoint, and even the chicken feet and chicken offal were all just spot on.
I absolutely love the texture of everything here, those meat, fats, and innards’ soft and tender texture in contrast with those crunchy bean sprouts, perfect. If one would to nitpick, you could perhaps say that the dishes are just very slightly to the salty side, but they do balance out with the hor fun.
when in Ipoh, one must always order bean sprouts
Dinner came to be RM 45 including two drinks, perhaps a little pricey according to some, but I’m more than happy to pay for the quality and will certainly be back here again when I have another chance.
When it comes to Ipoh food, kai si hor fun & chicken rice usually comes to mind, and if you along down the list, eventually you may.. or most likely, not going to end up with mee goreng.. I mean, it’s Ipoh, right?
However, since we like to be a bit off the mainstream, mee goreng (and mee rebus) in Ipoh is what we’re going to talk about today.
legit mee goreng
The particular hawker spot is called Cathay Mee Stall, manned by an Indian couple at the ground floor of “New Beauty Hotel” in Ipoh town. Searching by the name “Cathay Mee Stall” will also get you to the same place.
The set up is simple, and they offer 3 choices to choose from – mee goreng, mee rebus, and rojak (which is similar to mee rebus without the mee, essentially).
For our after-hike refueling exercise, we ordered a plate of mee goreng with a plate of mee rebus.
mee rebus (would have been jawa mee if you’re Chinese?)
The mee rebus came within minutes as it requires a lot simpler assembly, while mee goreng took 30 minutes as the stall does get quite busy even during MCO with a lot of takeaways & delivery orders.
Both versions came with generous amount of ingredients – including egg (boiled in rebus, fried in mee goreng), prawn fritter, potato, tofu, and such. The noodle used here is also a little thinner than usual, giving it more surface area to soak up those yummy sauce.
Cathay Mee Stall, Ipoh
The mee goreng is said to be the best in Ipoh, and I must say that it is indeed very well fried & a rather delicious rendition of the dish. However, I do feel that their mee rebus is perhaps even more superior, if you’re a fan of mee rebus or jawa mee, don’t miss this version as their sauce & ingredient paring hits the right spots for me (and perhaps you!).
Kai Si Hor Fun (kuih teow with shredded chicken) to Ipoh is pretty much char kuih teow or asam laksa to Penang, if there’s one hawker dish you should not miss when in Ipoh, it should be this.
And when it comes to kai si hor fun, the most famous of it all is arguably the Tricycle Chicken & Prawn Noodle at Restoran Thean Chun.
Thean Chun kopitiam at Ipoh Old Town
Restoran Thean Chun is located at Ipoh Old Town, and on “normal” days, commands quite a long queue and wait time. Thankfully, due to Covid-19 and being somewhat early in the morning (before 10am), there wasn’t a crowd.
P/S: yes, we did have to obtain police permission for interstate traveling with valid reason.
The kai si hor fun is a dish that has elements of prawns as well as poultry. Shredded steamed chicken & sliced prawn on top, a soup base that’s enhanced by prawn oil, and along those yummy Ipoh bean sprouts and chives, makes for quite a unique taste. This dish outside Ipoh usually can capture some of these elements but falls short when it comes to quality of bean sprouts.
Also, speaking of bean sprouts, they are offered as a side dish as well, which I recommend 100%.
kai si hor fun with bean sprouts
Other than the excellent kai si hor fun, another stall worth checking out would be the pork satay at the rear. We tried their pork meat satay as well as intestine (actually pig fallopian tubes, or “sang cheong”) and they were definitely yummy, especially those intestine, soft and crunchy at the same time and goes super well with satay sauce.
pork satay with intestine too
If you know anywhere else serving this “intestine” in satay format, let me know!
On my trip to Ipoh when we were in this period of “Recovery CMO” back in August 2020 (yes, 2020 is a strange year), I was introduced to one of the more famous Ipoh hawker offerings by the name of “liu fun” at Choong Kee, or commonly also known as Big Tree, at Pasir Pinji, Ipoh – 忠记大树头炸料粉.
Choong Kee “Big Tree” at Ipoh
As it turns out, liu fun is almost entirely exactly like yong tau foo – with stuffed tofu, red chili, bitter gourd, long beans, tofu, and so forth. These comes both in deep fried as well as soup version. The only difference here is that instead of serving with chee cheong fun or rice like most yong tau foo places, in Ipoh, you get to choose your choice of noodle (meehun, yellow noodle, kuih teow etc) instead.
The ingredients (or yong tau foo in this case) = liu 料, noodle = fun 粉. Hence, liu fun 料粉.
Choong Kee is located under a big tree, and hence the name. While there maybe others that claim to be of same origin, this is apparently the one and only Choong Kee in the whole of Ipoh or anywhere else.
do you call it yong tau foo or liu fun?
There’s close to a dozen different ingredients to choose from, with the price clearly stated on the billboard atop the stall. The SOP is simple, take your pick and place them in a basket, and the operators will re-fry or put them in hot soup prior to serving.
The must-order here is their excellent fried turnip. Imagine a very good, crunchy & sweet version of fried radish, but better.
Pasir Pinji chee cheong fun, tapao only
To kick it up a notch, instead of their “noodle”, we actually stopped by the famous Pasir Pinji chee cheong fun and tapao a couple packs of these delicious carbs to go with the liu fun.
The chee cheong fun is super soft and carries an excellent texture that is just right, they also come with pickled green chili and a chili sauce that’s spicy and slightly sweetish. It is a must-try if you’re into chee cheong fun.
chee cheong fun, liu fun, and roast pork
Pairing the yong tau foo/liu fun with the chee cheong fun proved to be an excellent combination, and if you’re a fan of siu yok (roast pork), there’s a stall at Choong Kee offering that as well, get some!