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IPOH, May 24 — One of the most popular things to eat in Ipoh is a simple bowl of noodles called kai see hor fun consisting of super smooth flat rice noodles (kuey teow) produced in Ipoh, shredded/sliced poached chicken, chopped spring onions, boiled shrimps, and garnished with chopped red chillies and sometimes fried shallots.
This ensemble is usually served in a clear, savoury stock made from boiling together chicken bones and prawn shells. You can also opt for the dry version where the noodles are simply tossed in a dark soy sauce mix with a dash of white pepper.
Not to be mistaken with Ipoh’s trademark nga choy gai or bean sprouts chicken, whereby the rice noodles are served separately from the platter of poached chicken and serving of bean sprouts, a bowl of kai see hor fun is an example of an all-in-one individual meal; making this a quick and easy choice even for single diners.
Many have linked the magical properties of the water from the limestone hills around Ipoh to the famous plump and crunchy Buntong bean sprouts. The water is also the contributing factor to the unbelievably smooth quality of the kuey teow.
I am not no water expert, but I daresay that Ipoh’s kuey teow is still the best thus far.
In terms of popularity and media coverage, there is just no beating Thean Chun; also widely known as “Hall of Mirrors” in Old Town, adjacent to Kong Heng; hands down the most iconic classic kopitiam in all of Ipoh, maybe even Malaysia! (This was also the kopitiam featured in one of Lat’s comics way back in the ‘80s).
Thean Chun’s kai see hor fun stall is easily the most renowned and recognisable one in all of Ipoh; it sells out fast especially on weekends and public holidays.
The secret lies in the incredibly flavoursome soup with that vivid layer of orange oil that comes from boiling the prawn heads. Throw in a handful of shredded tender poached chicken, halved shrimps and chopped spring onions, and served with a small saucer of chopped bird’s-eye chillies in soy sauce, you may find yourself downing a bowl in record time; slurping up every strand of the noodles and drinking up every drop of soup.
The catch here is that it can be relatively challenging to grab a seat especially on Sunday mornings or extended public holidays, and you may need to wait for a while before you get served due to the sheer popularity of the stall.
However, salvation comes in the form of other equally mind-blowing hawker stalls here: the chee cheong fun, pork satay, popiah and rojak from Kong Heng and even Thean Chun’s caramel egg custard (also a MUST-try) are all noteworthy distractions to keep your spirits up while you wait for your bowl of noodles.
Halfway across Ipoh, nearer to the quieter neighbourhood of Mirindy Park in Simee is a corner kopitiam named Moon De Moon.
I discovered and fell in love with Moon De Moon more for their delicious curry noodles, but actually, their kai see hor fun is also reputedly one of the best in Ipoh. And even an ex-MP from Canning Garden area echoed the same sentiments!
Another case of slow food (and you know slow food is always better than fast food), the wait may even stretch to half an hour and beyond on weekend mornings.
The kai see hor fun at Moon De Moon has a better presentation; garnished generously with chopped spring onions and fried shallots, and also presenting that enticing orange layer of shrimp oil floating on the surface.
I am often torn when I find myself here; wondering whether to order the curry noodles (which is excellent and also one of the better ones this side of town) or the kai see hor fun for breakfast. If you only can afford one visit, I urge you to order BOTH, since the portions are not super huge anyway, and you would not want to miss either of their signature noodles.
Lastly, taking you all the way to Pasir Puteh (the area where I was born and grew up in), we will find this kai see hor fun stall named Ah Tiong parked at the front of Pulau Sembilan Restaurant along Jalan Bunga Raya 5. This man used to sell his famous noodles from a coffee shop now named Jen Jen behind Tow Boo Keong temple.
After a brief hiatus, he decided that nothing is more satisfying than seeing the joyful faces of happy customers slurping up his version of kai see hor fun, and thus restarted his business but now within the neighbourhood of Taman Boon Bak.
His popularity soared, and the noodles are usually sold out by 10am. So you would really need to come as early as possible, and book yourself a seat and wait patiently. You see the trend here?
About 20 plus minutes of wait is usually warranted, but you will be rewarded with a bowl of absolutely lip-smacking kai see hor fun. Even the dry version (unlike the other stalls, his dry kai see hor fun has a spoonful or two of thickened gravy which is redolent with flavours from the chicken and the shrimps) is a winner in my books.
And so, I covered three of my favourite kai see hor fun stalls in Ipoh. You might be wondering if there are more? I would say yes, definitely. But in terms of personal preference and popularity, these three stalls are way up there amongst the league of legends, but I would be more than happy to explore new finds should you want to share with me.
Tricycle Chicken & Prawn Kuey Teow @ Thean Chun Coffee Shop
73, Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Moon De Moon Restaurant
148, Hala Wah Keong, (corner of Hala Wah Keong – Selasar Tebing Kinta 5)
31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Business Hours: 7.30am – 12.30pm, Closed on Mondays
Ipoh Ah Tiong Chicken Kuey Teow @ Pulau Sembilan Restaurant
2, Jalan Bunga Raya 5, Taman Boon Bak, Pasir Puteh 31650 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Business Hours: early morning until sold out (usually by 10 am)
James Tan loves good food and blogs at Motormouth From Ipoh (www.j2kfm.com)