With no lack of food options, Ipoh’s best dishes are steeped in history and packed with generations of stories and flavour.
Weekend road trips to Ipoh are just the ticket for a quick unwind and recharge, especially with numerous delicious things to indulge in the former tin mining town. With a surge of 21st-century hipster cafes and IG-worthy restaurants, Ipoh has no shortage of food options. However, regular out-of-town visitors to Ipoh will tell you to skip the trendy spots and get your fill of the popular local dishes that Ipoh is so well-known for.
Not sure where to start? Here are six delicious local foods you simply must have the next time you’re in Ipoh.
1. SALT-BAKED CHICKEN
This dish employs an unusual technique by baking the whole bird in scorching-hot coarse salt. After coating the chicken with aromatic spices and stuffed with Chinese herbs like angelica root, the bird is then wrapped in parchment paper and buried in a wok full of hot coarse salt. The salt itself does not impart a hefty saltiness to the meat but instead, it retains the heat and cooks the bird evenly as if in an oven, locking in all the flavours and basting the bird in its own juice. This results in a truly succulent chicken that falls off the bone.
2. BEAN SPROUTS CHICKEN
One of Ipoh’s renowned signature foods is poached chicken with bean sprouts, also known as nga choi kai or nga choy kai. The poached chicken is seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce, crisp, fresh garnishing, and served alongside stir-fried bean sprouts that have a wonderful, savoury crunch to them. The dish can be enjoyed with rice or hor fun which is flat rice noodles
What keeps the chicken juicy and tender is its method of cooking which involves poaching it in a water bath, then swiftly immersing it in cold water to halt the cooking process. This is similar to how Hainanese chicken is prepared. What gives this dish an extra kick of flavour is the garlic chilli sauce that enhances the delicious flavours with every bite!
3. IPOH WHITE COFFEE
Local coffee lovers will shout this from the rooftops: You cannot miss having a foamy cup of Ipoh white coffee from the place it was born. The coffee beans used to produce the prominent Ipoh white coffee are roasted with palm oil and margarine, contributing to a lighter roast than black coffee. It is usually served with condensed milk and can be enjoyed either cold or hot.
Kickstart your day of foodie activities at a classic kopitiam with Ipoh white coffee accompanied by heavenly egg tarts, soft-boiled eggs on buttered toast, kaya toast, wanton mee, and chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll) with curry or mushroom sauce.
4. KAI SEE HOR FUN
A must during your visit! Ipoh kai see hor fun is a humble bowl of soup made with chicken and prawn shells, topped with fragrant prawn oil and garnished with chopped scallions on smooth and silky rice noodles. Commonly, it consists of shredded chicken, prawns, and hor fun noodles.
This dish’s popularity stems from the glassy and exceptional silky textured rice noodles swimming in a savory broth that has been simmered overnight with chicken carcasses, creating a flavourful and aromatic broth that’s good to the last drop!
5. DIM SUM
Visitors to Ipoh simply cannot leave without partaking in a dim sum feast! With selections of steamed or deep-fried sweet and savoury bites, there’s something for everyone at the dim sum table.
If you’re not sure what to order, begin with classic dishes such as siew mai (meat filled dumplings), chee cheong fun, century eggs and pork congee, and loh mai kai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken and mushrooms).
Usually, the various choices of Hong Kong-style dim sum are freshly made and not overly salty or greasy. Some must-try dim sum include loh mai kai, char siew pao, chee cheong fun, wu kok (yam croquettes), siew mai, har gao (Chinese dumpling with shrimp), and fried or steamed lo bak go (radish cake)!
Popiah’s soft and translucent wheat flour wrappers with mixed ingredients like shredded jicama, bean curd, lettuce leaves, bean sprouts, and chili with sweet sauce is also recognized as one of the popular dishes in Ipoh.
These fresh spring rolls also contain ground peanuts and crunchy deep-fried shallots. They come in soft, thin wrappers and deep-fried varieties that satisfy your cravings with the crisp texture and flavors of the tightly wrapped popiah.
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