Early this week I went on an inland motor tour, which is a family trip up north to Penang island. As I was on the front passenger seat, I get to enjoy the greenery and scenic views of palm oil plantations, limestone hills, blue mountains and tropical rainforest jungles along the PLUS highway. PLUS stands for Project Leburaya Utara Selatan or North-South Expressway. I am so glad to be far away from the concrete jungles of the city for a short while.
We were already thinking about food when we reached Ipoh town. We planned to stay the first night in Ipoh. The journey from Klang to Ipoh took us 2.5 hours for a distance of 214 km.
Whenever I come back to Ipoh for hawker food, the first place I want to go to is the Kong Heng Coffee Shop (光兴茶室). It is located at no. 75, Jalan Bandar Timah, Old Town, Ipoh, Perak.
I have come here many times, since I was a kid. I heard that this coffee shop has been around in this pre-war building since the 60s. The first generation hawkers were very fast, efficient anenthusiastic. Just as you are sitting down, many of them would come at once to your table and persuade you to order their food. It might get overwhelming sometimes. They would shout out our orders of food and drinks. They were friendly and knew their regular customers by name, sometimes joining them at their tables and chit-chatting with the patrons while they were busily enjoying the delicious food. Delivery was very very fast too. While some stalls are into the second generation proprietors now, service is still good and friendly and much of the charm remains. Nowadays, the hawkers are quite used to people taking photos and they don't mind. They are very spotting and would stop in their tracks to let you finish your photo taking session before they proceed to clear the table.
Kong Heng is popular among locals and outstation visitors who used to live near Ipoh. The place is very crowded during lunch time on a working day. It is difficult to find a parking space nearby and we usually park at a private car park a short distance away. During peak hours, we may have to stand and wait for vacant tables.
This restaurant is opened for breakfast at about 8 am in the morning and will close after lunch from around 3 pm.
We started our journey late and by the time we reached here it was almost 3pm. My favourite pork satay, Ipoh Hor Fun and Chee Cheong Fun from the Thean Chun coffee shop next door were finished! Thean Chun and Kong Heng operate like twins. We can sit at one restaurant and order food from the other, so you can imagine the variety of choices that we have here.
Luckily, some stalls are still opened. This 'kai see hor fun' (鸡丝河粉) or koay teow noodle soup with shreded chicken meat is not as famous as Thean Chun's but it is also very tasty. The soup tastes delicious with just the right amount of prawns, chicken meat and bean sprouts. Some chives and fried shallots are added as garnishing which further enhances the taste. The same seller also sells Ipoh chicken rice and beansprouts (Ngah Choy Kai).
Why is Ipoh Hor Fun (沙河粉) so special? This is because Ipoh is famous for its karst limestone mountain mineral water which is good for growing vegetables like bean sprouts and processing of noodles like koay teow. The koay teow here is thin and smooth and it kind of glides down your throat. Many ingredients are used to make the broth, e.g. chicken and pork bones, pork ribs, prawn shells, turnip, dried shrimps and of course salt, sugar and pepper. These are boiled for about 2-3 hours. The orange coloured oil floating on top of the bowl of hor fun is actually made by frying peeled prawn shells in oil until the flavour oozes out. The shreded chicken meat and prawns are made by blanching, not by boiling in water over a long period, hence their taste is retained. I like to have cut bird's eye chilli in light soya sauce to go with my Ipoh Hor Fun
In Ipoh, shar hor fun (沙河粉) is used to make soup while 'chow hor fun', which is hor fun with a thicker texture is used to cook Char Koay Teow. In many food centres in Klang Valley now, hawkers use only one type of hor fun i.e. chow hor fun which is coarse and only good for 'chows' or stir frys, hence it doesn't taste good in soups.
“Kong Heng Coffee Shop - Ipoh Stopover Day 1”, a copyrighted post, was written for Klang, Malaysia Daily Photo blog by Autumn Belle @ http://mymalaysiadailyphoto.blogspot.com/ on December 12th, 2010.
This is Rojak Buah or fruit salad with my favourite dipping sauce. Some of the ingredients used in making the sauce are toasted belacan (shrimp paste), thinly sliced fresh bird's eye chili, roasted peanuts (pounded) and sesame seeds. Their rojak sauce is really special and out of this world. Usually, the fruits are young mangoes, cucumber, sengkuang* and pineapples. There is also a piece of crispy craker. Those days, I used to order extra rojak for take away and eat to my heart's content.
* Sengkuang (Pachyrhizus erosus) is also known as sweet turnip. The English call it yam bean.
Note: you can click on the links provided for further info. from Wikipedia.
This popiah (Chinese spring rolls) goes well with their peanut chilli sauce. I prefer this white solf skin type to the fried popiah. Nowadays, they are reluctant to sell popiah in singles, so we have to order at least two rolls. This popiah stall also sells asam laksa but it was already sold out then.
Whenever I leave this coffee shop, I always wonder how many more times I can enjoy the special, delicioius food and busy, noisy but happy environment here. It is not only about the good food but it also brings back a lot of fond memories of our childhood with parents, friends and loved ones. It is like we grew up eating the food here! There is a special nostalgia many ex-Ipohlites feel and enjoy whenever we come 'home'. Ipoh is the capital of Perak, once the richest state in Malaysia. Ipoh's glory days may be over but its 'old world' charm remains because of places like this. I wonder if it will be taken over soon by some rich businessmen and converted into another tall, modern skyscrapper. By then, we would only have our archives of old photos to content with.
Do you think it is a good idea to preserve herritage buildings like this one as a legacy for our future generations?
KONG HENG RESTAURANT
75, Jalan Bandar Timah,
30000 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Opens for breakfast-late lunch daily.
Closed on Wednesdays.
GPS Coordinates : 4.596966,101.078134
Updated on 14th July 2012
The 2 storeys above Kong Heng Restaurant is now the Sekeping Kong Heng, a retreat with room rental and accomodation which opened its doors to the public early 2012. You can find out more from their website here.
This is my entry for the fun and wonderful weekly meme, Scenic Sunday #126. To participate or view other pictures around the world, click on the icon above.