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?
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.
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.
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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