When we say Ipoh, everyone thinks of Ipoh hor fun and bean sprouts but in reality, Ipoh has so much more to offer in terms of food. If you ask me to rank, I would say Ipoh is one of the top Malaysian city for food before Penang and Malacca. The fastest way to get to Ipoh is by flight and it is 1 hour 30 mins away. You can also choose to drive but it will take almost 1 full day to reach Ipoh from Singapore. Since Ipoh is very near to Cameron Highlands, we decided to do a 5D4N trip covering Cameron Highlands as well.
We found a very charming unique hotel to stay in Ipoh called M Boutique hotel. Every corner of the hotel is good for Instagram pictures. The check in counter resembles an old medicinal hall counter with antique small cupboards which was used to store medicinal herbs. The tone of the hotel is mainly in sepia and provides very soft background for your photos. The hotel is only 5 mins drive from town and 10 mins from the airport.
Connected to the hotel at the grand floor is the Old town Grand which is very different from the usual old town coffee that we know. The café has a polished black and white classy outlook with industrial styled lighting. The entire atmosphere reminded me of P.S Café in Singapore. We did not have a chance to try the café as we were always out in town till late but if you had more time in Ipoh, this would be a fantastic place to just chill with a cup of coffee.
The hotel defines their style as Straits Eclectic Architecture but I feel it is more of an up class industrial luxurious design with black metal furnishings and tungsten chandeliers and wall lights. The corridor of the rooms and the rooms itself has very interesting design staging. Even the room number is presented in a olden polished Kingsmen manner.
The room is of an average size with sufficient area for luggage and shopping. There is also sufficient seats to have a couple of friends over for late night chats and snacks. The furnishings are well staged while the bathroom is clean yet basic.
There is also a restaurant where you can have your breakfast and meals which is located just next to the lobby. The restaurant carries the same theme but with a very interesting wall design using recycled wood panelled windows.
After settling down, we start our food tour with the first stop at Hong Kee Confectionery. We arrived pretty late and there was only certain items left. Luckily they still had egg tarts left as we were there mainly for it. We read that the other pastry were very good as well. We managed to buy the handmade sachima ( honey malt flour biscuit) which we subsequently tried at home. The taste of the Sashima was very authentic and traditional and it is not as sweet as the ones sold outside. Personally, I like my Sachima very sweet so this was a little bland for me. As for the egg tarts, I do agree it is indeed a very good tart with crispy layers for the crust and a good custard middle. The tarts would have tasted better if we had bought it when it is warm. In terms of my egg tart rank, it is better than the Hong Kong Tai Cheong but still behind Tong Heng.
Address: No. 14, Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar, Perak, 30300 Ipoh, Malaysia
Operating hours: 7.30 am to 6.00 pm ( closed on Monday)
The next stop is a famous coffee shop called Restoran Thean Chun that has multiple stalls selling different items. You can’t miss the place as the signboard has a huge picture of the famous caramel pudding. The shop is very popular and is crowded at all times. Getting a table here is a great challenge and we had to resort to our hawker centre table hunting skills. Some of the famous items include caramel pudding, chee cheong fun, shredded chicken hor fun soup and pork satay. We ordered a plate each of the famous items from the different stores.
The shredded chicken hor fun is smooth and the soup was very light yet sweet, the winner of the stall is definitely the bean sprouts. The bean sprouts are so juicy and plump that they taste so sweet and unlike the ones we have here. The reason as explained by many Ipohians is that the water used to grow the bean sprouts is more pure and sweet resulting in the sweet crop. The pork satay is also very delicious but I feel that they have a bit too much fatty parts. The chee cheong fun looks very simple but is very satisfying. You can choose the different fillings of the chee cheong fun. Most of the stall owners can speak Chinese but if you can speak cantonese, you will have an edge over others. Last but not least the pudding, it is very eggy and sweet with caramel sauce bottom. Some of my friends found it too sweet but it is something I absolutely love.
The old town of Ipoh has very interesting alleys with a lot of stories. For example the first picture is Big wife lane and the 3rd picture is concubine lane and the street with the red umbrellas is 3rd wife lane ( translated from Cantonese ) . All the streets are as old as 1800s and I gather it is where the rich business men used to keep their many wifes so that they do not quarrel with each other. Today the streets are full of wall murals, new modern cafes, quirky souvenir shops and modern clothing stores.
Other than Penang, Ipoh has very interesting wall murals as well although some of them are not as well-kept as the ones in Penang. Some of these murals are so hard to find and the locals really do not pay any attention to them.
After almost walking all the alleys in the old town, we decided to stop by a famous coffee shop for our tea break. Nam Heong is the originator of old town white coffee so the standards of the coffee is fabulous. The coffee is foamy at the top with a good balance of milk and roasted coffee. We heard the egg tart here is very good as well but we were still full and could not stomach any more food.
Address: 2, Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Negeri Perak, Malaysia
Operating hours: 7.00 am to 5.30 pm ( closed on Monday )
We read in all reviews that this next stall is a MUST try so we travelled here to order some takeaway to bring back to the hotel. This is located in the new town area and is called Funny mountain soya bean which is loosely translated from their Cantonese name Kei Feng Dou Fu Fa. Eager to try, I ordered 1 small bowl on the spot to share and yes we hit a goldmine! This bean curd dessert is to die for ! The texture is so smooth and silky and the bean fragrance is so strong that you can taste the natural goodness of the bean curd instead of just sugar syrup like the ones in Singapore. The soya milk is just as nice that I can drink it the whole day.
Address: 50, Jalan Mustapa Al-bakri, Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh, Negeri Perak, Malaysia
Operating hours: 10.00 am to 7.30 pm ( closed on Tuesday)
There is one dish you must try in Ipoh and that is the Salted Baked Chicken and since this Aun Kheng Lim restaurant is very near to the bean curd shop, we walked over and ordered a take away as well. The chicken is well-flavoured and still very tender and juicy despite being baked with a dry crispy skin. There are many salt baked chicken in Ipoh but this is one of the more popular ones. It looks like herbal chicken but there is no herbal taste to it instead the chicken is bathed in salty natural juices from the chicken itself. The only pity is we had it when it was cold in the room, it would be much better if we could heat it up before eating it.
Address: Ayam Garam Aun Kheng Lim, 24, Jalan Theatre, Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Operating hours: 9.00 am to 7.00 pm
After pigging out on salt baked chicken and bean curd in the room and recuperating our energy after being on the flight and out the whole day, we headed out to dinner again at the new town area. We headed to Onn Kee Restoran which specialises in Bean Sprouts chicken. This is basically a restaurant that serves Chinese stir fry dishes as well as blanched white chicken with bean sprouts and your choice of rice or soup hor fun. As usual the Ipoh bean sprouts do not disappoint, it is the same juicy plump goodness. The hor fun was silky and smooth although the soup was quite bland. The chicken is quite general in my opinion with lots of sauce on it so it is slightly salty. I found the natural chicken fragrant missing in the chicken and the meat was bland if not for the sauces. ( I still think the Malacca Chung Wah chicken rice ball store has a better chicken taste but a pity they closed down) In this case, I feel the bean sprouts is a bigger star than the chicken.
Address: no 48, 51/53, Jalan Yau Tet Shin, Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Operating hours: 10.00 am to 2.00 am
We rested early that night to prepare for our journey to Cameron Highland the next day. Something to note: we took Grab /Uber to get around Ipoh and many of the drivers do not really know the actual locations of the restaurants or cafes even with the in-app maps. Many times, we had to call the drivers and advise them our locations. This is the tricky part as some of the Malay drivers can only speak Malay and it will be tough to explain to them your location. Our lesson learnt is that we should have included the first day in our car rental as well even though the cost might be slightly higher.