Malay street food : Kaya puffs & white coffee, Ipoh.

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We previously got acquainted with kaya in Singapore, eating kaya toast for breakfast and we have to say, were pleased to find it in abundance in Ipoh.

Ipoh, in general did everything it could to help increase our waistlines and we really enjoyed the food experiences here.

Kaya, as we’ve previously posted is a kind of coconut spread, which is thickened and emulsified with egg to give it a more custardy texture. It’s gloopy and creamy and pretty indulgent. The lady half can’t get enough of it and I’m quite pleased when I hear her kaya squeal, too.

six bites of joy

six bites of joy

The puff is a really quite a decadent little treat, the pastry is buttery and sweet, but with plenty of flake and a golden eggwash. The Kaya paste filling is rich, thick and creamy, not too sweet but enough so, to know you’re contented after chomping through one.
The sweet snack is famous in Ipoh, perhaps even revered and bakers are craftsmen – one local and well known shop continues to make them by hand every day the same way they have for over fifty years.

The perfect mid-afternoon treat for us, was a kaya puff and a Ipoh white coffee. In Ipoh, they  make their coffee slightly differently; by roasting the beans in a palm oil margarine and serving (like most of Malaysia) with condensed milk. The resulting taste is a bit lighter on the palate and a bit perhaps a bit nutty? It’s one of those things where you know it’s different but you can’t quite work out how.
From reading online it seems coffee in other parts of Malaysia is roasted with caramel and wheat whereas in Ipoh style no additional sugars are added.

Pastry is seemingly everywhere in Ipoh’s Chinatown, it’s really quite hard not to find kaya puffs or mooncakes & lor por peng, known as wife biscuits and at around one ringgit a piece,  Kaya puffs are fast becoming favourites.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Malay street food : Kangkong belecan (water spinach stirfried with shrimp paste)

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Sometimes you discover awesome foods by accident.

For example when you feel like you’ve eaten your body weight in rice and just want any veggies, so you order whatever the  throw-up restaurant has and a deliciously spicy, pungent moreish kangkong belecan is presented to you.

Kangkong is a type of green leaf, widely eaten across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and many other parts of South East Asia. It’s sometimes referred to as morning glory which is a different plant – It’s correct name is water convolvulus. It’s has a fairly similar taste to Chinese broccoli (known in Malaysia as Kailan).

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The other main ingredient, belecan, or sometimes ‘belechan’ is a far more complex ingredient, which can be commonly described as shrimp paste. A dried, fermented shrimp paste that is pressed into dark blocks that look a bit like black pudding and smell very strong – not quite durian strong, but it’s got some tang –  The hard paste is cooked off with roasted chilli and garlic to create Sambal belecan a spicy, fishy, pungently flavoursome dressing for the kangkong. Dried shrimp can also be added to increase the fishy intensity.

A story I read recently in the AirAsia 3Sixty magazine stated that a popular tale in Malaysia is that in the times of Hang Tuah, a legendary warrior from Melaka who visited the emperor. In the emperor’s court visitors were forbidden from looking directly at the emperor and at meal times Hang Tuah would ask for fresh, whole (stalk and all) kangkong so that as he ate the stalk with the vegetable hovering above his mouth he could steal a peak at the emperor!

It’s a great way to sneak some greens into your diet, as a side with some meat and rice and something we can never get enough of.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Malay street food :tau fu fah & how I conquered the funny mountain (sweet soy pudding)

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Puddings aren’t really my thing. Although, the older I get the more inclined I am towards dessert – which is alarming my waistline.

I do however like soy products (except tempeh – you can keep that, Indonesia) the more time we spend in Asia eating, the more I appreciate the merits of tofu as a textural component. Europeans will often turn their nose up at tofu; vegetarians struggle to use it well. I think, quite simply tofu in Europe is mass produced and a bit rubbish, which is a shame.

Tau fu fah is a type of treated soy milk using gypsum as a coagulant to thicken and bind it. The result is a fairly solid, jelly like tofu which is easy to break apart

Tau fu fah, as it is known in Ipoh and perhaps other areas of Malaysia, is known in China as dofuhua or dohua. Tau fu fah is the Cantonese name for the pudding. Penang follows the Hokkein name for the same dish is ‘tau hua’ whereas apparently, Singaporeans refer to it as tau hauy.

Confused? It’s all just soft set tofu.

Funny Mountain tau fu fah is pretty iconic in Ipoh – the shop has been around a long while, it’s popularity is well known so I figured, here is as good a place as any to get stuck into one of the most Asian of puddings.

It is served pretty much as it comes, with a sweet, syrupy liquid to give it additional flavour. Personally, I quite enjoyed the slightly nutty pudding, texturally similar to a crème caramel but without the richness. However, I felt the syrup was too sweet – I would have happily scoffed my way through two, or three tubs if it weren’t for the sugar syrup, which had me running for the dentist before I had even finished! Malays I’ve noticed are fond of the sweeter things in life, condensed milk tea, kuih, and cendol or ABC to name a few.

The dessert is worth checking out for the sweet lovers and generally curious and, at only around one ringgit it’s a steal.

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Malay street food : Chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll with chilli)

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Street cart food is often about simplicity, getting a combination of a few ingredients and maximising their potential or pairing to create good tastes, textures and flavours.

‘Ipoh style’ Chee cheong fun is a prime example of delicious simplicity. The locals attribute the quality of their noodles, and also the local delicacy tauge (beansprouts) to the hard water of the area due to large amounts of limestone. Another local dish, which uses the local noodles is kai see hor fun.

Chee cheong fun, the literal translation I’ve read is pig intestine noodles, not the most attractive thing to want to eat, but no offal was harmed in the making of this dinner. I can only imagine it refers to the length and slipperiness of the noodles. Delicious, right?

Ipoh chee cheong fun

I referred to it as ‘Ipoh style’ previously, as like many dishes in Malaysia it’s made differently in different states. Ipohians are keen on a simple chee cheong fun which consists of the silky, slippery flat rice noodles, served up with a sauce, or dressing or sesame and chilli oil and garnished with crispy fried shallots and sesame seeds.

That’s it.

Pinang (or Penang) style chee cheong fun differs in both taste and appearance. In Ipoh, the fun, or noodle has a conventional, tagliatelle-like appearance, whereas in Penang the sheets of fun are rolled up, almost like a swiss roll and cut into bitsize pieces and served with a sweet prawn paste, as well as sesame seeds.

Penang style chee cheong fun

Ipoh is an interesting city often overlooked on the backpacker trail, many of whom skip it in favour of heading straight from KL to Penang & Langkawi. It’s got some interesting architecture, history and food. Moreover, it’s doesn’t seem in the slightest bit interested in tourism so its pleasing to observe and enjoy a city without the trendification, and gentrified historical areas ( I’m looking at you, Melaka) that can become a bit too accessible, too focused on tourism and perhaps even descend into a parody of it’s former, potentially interesting self.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Malay street food :Kai see hor fun, Ipoh (clear chicken noodle soup)

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We took a trip to Ipoh based on it being rich in two areas we tend to like to find on our travels. Food and heritage.

Ipoh didn’t disappoint, it’s got an amazing wealth of local food – several of the most well-known local dishes include kai see hor fun, popiah and chee cheong fun to name a few. One of the most ubiquitous is tauge ayam, the Ipohian variation of chicken rice which includes beanspouts. Beansprouts are legendary in Ipoh and on inspection they seem overly plump and juicy – Unfortunately, there are not many vegetables I want to eat less than beansprouts.

Kai see hor fun – a local favourite in Ipoh, a hearty noodle soup.

Kai see hor fun

The base is a rich clear prawn stock soup, a bit salty perhaps, but packed full of flavour. To this shredded chicken, small prawns, spring onions and flat rice noodles are added. Noodles are a big deal in Ipoh, I’m not sure I’ve eaten them this silky before – they have a super smooth texture, fresh and slippery, but in a good way.  Ipohians claim that the limestone in the local water is the reason behind both the quality of the beansprouts & also the silkiness of their noodles – Hor fun is a type of wide, white flat rice noodle.

It’s simple, honest and enjoyable.

Any visit to Ipoh should include a trip to the old town, include a visit to at least one of the two traditional kopitams in town, Thean Chun & Kong Heng. They are seemingly pretty legendary in the town and always busy. They are not hard to find and located next door to each other.

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Malay street food : Popiah (fresh spring roll)

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Popiah are a becoming a favourite with us, mostly because flavourwise they’re can be a bit of a lottery and we just don’t know what we’re going to get, sometimes this results in the lady half of our eating team going ‘oooo’.

So far in Malaysia we’ve tested popiah in Ipoh, Penang and Melaka – all a bit different but all very nice.

They are prepared using a steamed pancake which acts as the skin, or outside layer. In our experience it’s varied from a wet, chewier texture (I thought it was a soy product the first time we ate them) to a more omlettey, thicker texture. The contents vary from stall to stall and also from state to state but will always include plenty of vegetables, including Jicama, a type of turnip; beansprouts, Julienne carrots, some herbs, potentially some shrimp and often some crunch – we found popiah with crispy fried onions and also ground pork crackling to give it the textural variation.

They can be served as a fresh, raw popiah or deep fried and golden.  Our popiah experience in Ipoh had a delicious, sweet chilli spiked glaze brushed on the top.

Popiah originate from the Fujian province of China, but have travelled all over South East Asia along with Chinese migration over the last century – They share similarities with the traditional image of spring rolls (but bigger), available in Chinese restaurants all over the world as well as we know them and also other spring roll like products we’ve found on our travels.  Deep fried vegetable rolls are advertised as lumphia on Indonesia streetcarts, and according to Wikipedia the Hokkein dialect the word “lun-BEE-a”(潤餅仔), means ‘thin wafer’. They are also called lumpia in The Philippines. Popiah, are also popular in Taiwan.

Thailand has variations on deep fried rolls, and Vietnamese also present a similar finger food, sometimes anglicised as a Vietnamese spring roll, or a rice paper roll. On our trip to Vietnam last year we feasted on the delicious Bánh cuộn. as well as gỏi cuốn  & nem ran.

In ipoh, it’s absolutely worth checking out a couple of old kopitams which have been going for generations –  Thean Chun & Kong Heng. Two great places (who happen to be next door to each other) to get local favourites like kai see hor fun, Popiah and chee cheong fun.

They’re available all over in simple street cart eateries and foodcourts. Don’t expect to pay more than four, or five ringgit – unless you’re in KL’s Food Republic where we saw one at an outrageous nine ringgits.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

 

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