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.
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!
When it comes to Ipoh, none is more famous than their chicken rice and those sweet, crunchy bean sprouts. While many places offers the same dish all over town, tourists and locals alike will often congregate around middle of new town for this dish over lunch.
ipoh pak kong chicken rice
One of such place that is favored by the locals is none other than Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong, a stone’s throw away from the more famous Ong Kee (often packed with tourists).
The shop offers quite a good selection of dishes you’d often associate with chicken rice – roast chicken, steamed chicken, roast pork, bbq pork, bean sprouts, and some of the other dishes you don’t usually find at these sort of establishments, such as sambal petai, acar, spicy sour vege, and more.
chicken, pork, and most importantly, petai side dish
Prices at Pak Kong is more “local friendly” compared to the more touristy shops at the intersections, dishes here are very good as well, I particularly love their chicken (either version), and really lovely charsiu (bbq pork), the wild card here is their sambal petai, if you like them pungent and full of aroma, this is is not one you’d want to miss.
Roast pork and spicy sour vege would be something I skip the next time around and perhaps order a big plate of bean sprout instead. (and more of those petai!)
It is a bit of a custom to bring back some food whenever you travel, right? And none better than those type that can be kept for a week or three before consuming, when it comes to Ipoh, the default for such item would be these Ching Han Guan pork floss biscuits.
Ching Han Guan biscuit shop, Ipoh
The shop is located at the epicenter of Ipoh town, in fact, just a stone’s throw away from the Aun Kheng Lim salt baked chicken that I penned just a couple entries ago on this blog. Ching Han Guan can command quite a queue especially on weekends, so bring your mask and prepare to wait if you don’t call ahead. If you can call in advance, you’ll have your order prepared to be picked up without having to line up, so do that.
pork floss biscuit from top left – original, pandan, bakwa, salted egg yolk
These biscuits aren’t exactly biscuits, but pork floss wrapped in thin, fluffy layer of pastry that oozes a mixture of umami and porky goodness, they are savory and sweet at the same time, and goes super well with a cup of black coffee. The biscuits come in four different flavors – original (with only pork floss), pandan, bakwa (sweetened dried pork), and salted egg yolk.
My favorites are between the bakwa and salted egg yolk, and I suppose it is due to them carrying a slight saltiness that brings out the sweetness of pork floss even more.
Ching Han Guan biscuits are individually packed
If you’re in Ipoh and look to bring back some handy food gifts, be sure not to miss this.