Food Review: Yeong Liew/Assorted Stuffed Goodies @ Tai Kar Rock, Greentown Ipoh

When speaking about yong tau foo (or yong liew as it is known in Ipoh), Tai Kar Rock is a household name, with many branches across the city. I can’t remember the last time we had it when we were in Ipoh, but it has been many, many years. We stopped by for lunch one day at its Greentown branch, located within a renovated single-storey shoplot.

The resto has the typical bamboo blinds to keep out the hot sun.

Cool and spacious interior.

How to order: Grab a plate and pick out the yong liew (assorted fried/stuffed goodies) that catches your fancy. There are fried items as well as ones that come served in a soup (fishballs, pork balls, tofu, etc.)

Back in the days it used to be old uncles/aunties doing the cooking, but these days they’ve relegated it to foreign workers.

Balls of all kinds lel.

To go with the yong liu, you can order a hot bowl of soupy noodles. Variants include kuey teow, thick yellow mee and mihun.

Assorted fried goodies. Pops likes the chilli stuffed with fish paste and also the sar kok liew  (jicama fritters, mixed with fish paste and deep fried in a beancurd skin) which is an Ipoh specialty. I liked the fried foochok, which was crispy but not too greasy.

  

Also pig skin. If done well there is no unpleasant odor at all, although some people might not like the chewy rubber-like texture. 😀

Won’t say that the yong liew here is the best (Batu 14 Puchong still wins hands down!) but its a good place to satisfy your cravings if you’re ever in town.

TAI KA ROCK (GREENTOWN) IPOH 

24, Jalan Seenivasagam, 30450 Ipoh, Perak.

Opening hours: 6.30AM – 3PM (daily)

Phone: 012-522 2067

Han Chin Pet Soo Hakka Club, Ipoh

The year was 1876.

Leong Fee, a 19-year-old from China, arrived on Malayan shores via an old freight to Penang, then a British stronghold, to seek his fortune. Having worked as a cook for six months on the island, Leong, along with 16 other Chinese immigrants, made their way to Epoh (now Ipoh), a small enclave of Malay huts between thick jungles and Perak’s Kinta River. Here, they were one of the first ‘Chinamen’, prospecting in mines for the ‘gold’ of that era – tin.

Having made it big as a tin miner, he founded the Han Chin Pet Soon Hakka Miners Club in 1893. It became an important social and cultural gathering place for the Hakka Chinese, a home away from home.

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After many years, the place was abandoned for some time and left in a dilapidated state, with termites gnawing on the wood and pigeons roosting in its attic. Thankfully, it was bought over by a heritage club and opened as a heritage museum in 2015. Many of its fixtures have been restored, including some of the elegantly curved bay windows which were removed during a small renovation in the 1960s.

Visits are by guided tours (you’re not supposed to roam around on your own). It’s fascinating to hear Leong’s story, which is an extraordinary one of rags to riches, and understand the hardships and perseverance in the face of adversity that drove many Chinese, including my ancestors, to seek better lives far away from home.

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The cream coloured exterior is elegant-looking and features beautiful decorated tiles with patterns of roses and peacocks. The colour combinations are vivid and bright.

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You’re probably wondering what Han Chin Pet Soo means. While I’m not very sure what Han Chin is (probably just the name given to the building), ‘Pat Sou’ is Hakka for ‘villa’. It somehow got translated to Pet Soo over time.

Upon entering, visitors will be greeted by the main dining area, with a long wooden table laid out as if for a meal with old style mugs, bowls and cutlery. On both sides of the room are elegantly carved wooden chairs, as well as two large mirrors. The floor tiles are original, imported from Europe as was common among the wealthy back then.

There are also portraits of Leong Fee, his son (who took over management of the club after his father died) and other prominent Hakka clansmen along another side of the wall.

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From the outside, the building looks deceptively small, but it’s actually very long and extends way out back, with several floors. Moving on to the next area, the guide tells us about the rich tin mining history of the Kinta Valley in Perak, which was full of tin deposits. Some of the more primitive tools used for prospecting include bamboo containers, sampling sieves and magnets.

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Tin was used as currency in the 18th century in the form of various animal shapes such as crocodiles, roosters, fish and turtles. There were also coins and other geometric shapes. Must have been a hassle to carry them around !

We cramped ourselves into a tiny room to watch a black and white documentary on the tin mining industry in Malaya, produced by Hollywood (yes, it warranted that much merit!). The docu explained the process of prospecting, traditional (dulang washing) and modern (tin dredge, gravel pump) extraction methods, production and shipping.

In the 1970s, Malaysia was the largest producer of tin, amounting to about 1/3 of the world’s production.

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A scene put together showing the tools used in that era, including the gravel pumps which would shoot high energy water jets into a cliff in order to loosen up the soil. The murals are done by local art students.

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The kitchen area. Before the advent of gas and electric stoves, people used firewood for cooking by placing them in niches within a stone counter. The fire was ‘controlled’ by a fan to make the flames bigger or smaller.

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Some of the old utensils, which are no longer common in modern households – pestle and mortar, tiffin carriers, wooden rice buckets, etc.

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The last room on the ground floor has been converted into a ‘town square’, showcasing various tin-related items during the hey-day of the tin-mining era. We came to this exhibit of a mannequin wearing a traditional costume and mum smiles. “Your grandma used to wear this to work everyday,” she tells me wistfully.

Ah Dai, as I called her, was a dulang washer. Despite tin mining companies using modern equipment such as tin dredges and pumps, many Chinese women in the 60s and 70s still did the traditional method of tin extraction, or dulang washing. Using a large circular tray, they would swished soil around, leaving the heavy tin deposits at the bottom. This long and slow process often required them to stand in mine waters all day, bent over almost double. The scarf and hat, as well as the long sleeves, were to protect them from the harsh sun.

Ah Dai would cycle to the mines behind my mum’s old home, and worked from dawn til sunset. On the basket is a dulang washing ‘license’, which allows them to work in a certain area. The tin is often sold to the company owning the mine. It was hard work and didn’t bring in a  lot of money, but for many households back then, every bit counted.

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Scale used to weigh tin. The bags were heavy !

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Fine tin ‘sand’, before they are processed into actual tin products.

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The second floor had rooms dedicated to leisure.

Opium was a vice that many Chinese got addicted to. First considered a luxury for the rich, it soon became widespread even among the general population and was a serious problem in China (the Qing Dynasty fought a war with the British, who were importing in opium through their plantations in India. China lost, and were forced to open their ports to trade). When the Chinese diaspora migrated, they brought the practice over to Malaya.

Since those allowed to enter the Hakka Tin Miners Club were rich, the opium room had all the comforts – big wooden beds and cool pillows made from marble (Chinese people slept on hard pillows).

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Just like any drug, smoking opium wasn’t a good thing as it caused severe addiction. Often, addicts would spend a large amount of money, time and energy on opium, contracting health problems and wasting their lives away.

20161002_101004-tile A black and white photo of Japanese prostitutes in Malaya. The four vices back then were considered to be opium, gambling, prostitution and triads (secret societies).

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Next, we came to the VIP lounge or the Clubhouse, the most exclusive room in the building. Big and airy with whitewashed walls, the room was well lit with tall windows that let in lots of sunlight. Mannequins were posed to reenact scenes of how the rich Hakka tin miners would gather and play gambling games, such as mahjong, gin rummy, poker and more. They would be entertained by singing and dancing girls.

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The wealthy dressed in two styles – traditional (right), or Western, emulating the Europeans.

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A guessing game involving counting the number of seeds (?). Members of the club would often drink and smoke as they gambled.

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On one side of the wall, list of the wealthy and prominent club members. Notice that some of them are in traditional Qing Dynasty costumes.

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Did you know that back in the days, you had to have a license to own a TV? 

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An antique radio.

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Of course one can’t run an exclusive clubhouse without some high quality alcohol.

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Last but not least, we checked out the top floor, which was considerably smaller than the rest. The area was used for guests who wanted to stay the night. The history of the Hakka people were displayed in an exhibition space. Guests can also try on their costumes.

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Our guide explained that the top floor was in disrepair when the building was handed over to the heritage organization to be converted into a museum. Now, the rooms have been reconstructed to resemble the 1930s and 1960s era , with beds, washing basins, mirrors, dressing table and oil lamps.

The Han Chin Pet Soon museum is a must visit for travellers to Ipoh. It’s educational and offers an interesting insight into the lives of Chinese immigrants, their success stories and their contributions to building Ipoh and the country as a whole. 10/10!

Entrance to the museum is free, but visitors must join a guided tour. On less busy days they might allow you to walk-in but to be safe, try booking online at http://www.ipohworld.org.

HAN CHIN PET SOO MUSEUM

3, Jalan Bijeh Timah, 30100 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Phone: +60 5-241 4541

Opening hours: 930AM – 5PM (closed on Monday)

Hakka Food in Puchong @ Hakka Passion, Bandar Puteri Puchong

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Hakka Passion first opened at a corner shoplot in Bandar Puteri, but they picked the worst location to do so coz that spot is notorious for bad ‘fengshui’ (ie it’s in a busy area but people seem to walk right past it for some reason. Several shops have opened and closed down in the same spot). So it was a good thing that they moved a couple of blocks away to a nicer location. Business seems to be booming here, judging from the full-house dinner crowd.

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Our food took a long time to arrive, so I nibbled on condiments. Sambal belacan is a mix of chilli paste and prawn roe + dried shrimps. Super addictive, but also loaded with cholesterol.

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Tofu in pumpkin sauce. Looked yucky and sad, but tasted amazing. The tofu, which was lightly fried on the outside, was soft and silky on the inside. The pumpkin sauce was thick, almost like creamy pumpkin soup, and it was mixed with generous bits of minced pork and mushrooms for added texture. Easily best dish of the night.

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They messed up one of our orders and gave us this lotus root with carrots, green peas and cashews. We gave it back coz mum cant eat lotus root, but since it looked nice I took a pic anyway.

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Deep fried Hakka pork. Well flavoured with five spice powder, crunchy and tender. Felt it could use a bit more fat, coz it was very lean even though they used pork belly.

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Chicken in rice wine and fermented bean paste, which gave it that distinct red colouring. The chicken was just right – not tough nor too tender with a nice bite, and the sauce had a slightly bitter but aromatic tang from the wine. Overall, quite tasty!

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Claypot mixed veggies. I don’t like cabbage so I didn’t really eat much. It also had woodear fungus, vermicilli and beancurd.

The quality of food at Hakka Passion was consistent throughout, and showcased the variety of Hakka cuisine. A little on the pricey side, but I guess it’s alright to splurge on a dinner out now and then.

HAKKA PASSION 

18, Jalan Puteri 2/5,Bandar Puteri, Puchong, Selangor, 47100, Malaysia

Opening hours: 10am – 10pm

Leong Meng Fatt – Homemade Yong Tau Foo

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Yong Tao Foo consists of ground meat and fish paste stuffed into beancurd and vegetables, which is then added to a soup or deep fried. Since it is a Hakka Chinese cuisine, it is commonly found in places where there is a large Hakka Chinese community. One of these places is at the Seri Kembangan New Village, where traditional wooden homes often double as a shop in the front.

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Pi brought us here for lunch. The place was surprisingly cool despite the hot weather outside. The kitchen area is on the left, while diners sit on the right. At the entrance, all sorts of yong tau foo that have been fried or boiled are laid out on a counter. You pick the stuff you want in a plate and they’ll serve it to your table.

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Stuffed tofu and fishballs. The fishballs were sizable and springy. Good balls. Lol.

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Ordered a buttload of fried stuff. There was fried foochok (beancurd) which was thin and crispy with a small sheet of fish meat on the inside. I liked the fried wantans and suigao (long dumplings), but the fried crullers were hard to the bite. The items weren’t very fresh though since they were fried earlier and had been lying around on the display counter for some time. Not bad, but not very good either. But then again, they open in the morning so it might taste better if they’re freshly fried from the wok.

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Iced soya bean to wash it down 🙂

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Leong Meng Fatt Yong tao Foo stall 

18A Jalan 7/1
43300 Seri Kembangan
Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: 6016-2640 335
Opening Hours: 10.00am – 5.00pm
Closed on Mondays

Paris Restaurant Hakka Mee @ Hugh Low Street, Ipoh

Hey, guys! I apologise for my absence over the weekend – I was in Penang to take part in the Penang Bridge International Marathon. It was my first time joining a ‘marathon’ (even though it was only the 7km), but it was definitely an exhilarating experience. Now I know why the running movement has gained so much popularity all over the world lately. More on that later though!

We set off from KL in the morning and stopped by Ipoh for lunch at a famous Hakka Mee stall in Paris Restaurant, along Jalan Sultan Iskandar (formerly Hugh Low Street). In a bid to boost nationalism, all the pre-independence English street names were changed to local Malay names, but that doesn’t stop the older generation and most of the locals (like my parents) from referring to them by their original names.

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Paris Restaurant is located at a busy intersection. Like most Chinese kopitiams(coffee shops)  in Malaysia, it is packed to the brim with round plastic tables and chairs, and has a central stall selling noodles while the back kitchen does the drinks. We immediately ordered a few bowls of Hakka Mee – springy yellow noodles tossed in lard, and topped with a dark minced pork sweet and savoury sauce.

The soy sauce and lard makes for a smooth, silky texture as the noodles slip down the throat. Some local versions also differ according to region and the Hakka community in each state – some, for example, make do with a light-coloured minced pork and even have boiled vegetables served on top, and others have charsiu(barbecued meat) and fish cake slices.

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The one in Ipoh has a touch of the town’s flavour, as it comes served with yong liu or yong tau foo (also a Hakka specialty!), various snacks of meat and fish paste in tofu.

The dish is a specialty of the Hakka people – a Chinese clan (currently numbering about 80mil worldwide) originating from the Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan and Fujian provinces. In Malaysia, Hakka people are the second largest subethnic group (making up 20% of the 7 mil ethnic Chinese here), so their influences in the local cuisine are prevalent.

After Googling for ‘Hakka noodles’, I noticed that the versions in the West differ from what we have here, so I don’t know if it’s a Malaysian-Hakka exclusive dish.

The noodles were decent, but the real winner (in my opinion) was the deliciously juicy pork balls. Generous in portions and springy to the bite, munching on them were quite addictive. Perfect snack to go along with the noodles.

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The shop is run by three brothers and was handed down by their grandfather. The brothers are all pretty old themselves, so this shop has a legacy dating back more than 50 years.

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For small eaters, opt for the mini portions at only RM2.60. The one half mee was already sufficient for me, but if you’re a Hakka mee addict, go for the bigger Double Mee at RM4 (Still cheaper than KL!)

After our filling meal, we hopped into the car again for another two hour-drive to Penang. Headed straight to the base of Penang bridge 2, where they had the race pack collection counters open throughout the day. It was jam packed with a sea of humans and the wait took close to an hour because somehow, the line that we ended up queueing up in was super slow. I saw runners from all over the world, including a few African runners who looked like they were built for the Olympic triathlons .__. Mum, bro, aunt and I joined the shortest ‘Fun Run’ category of 7km, while my cousin did the full 42km race which started at 1.30am.

The collection took longer than expected, and the hotel where we stayed in – Bayview Hotel – was fully booked. Apparently it was the same at most hotels on Penang island, and the staff had their hands full cleaning out rooms and checking people in. The room was only available at 3pm, and we were starving by then.

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Had lunch at a random shop nearby,(forgot what it’s called, but it was opposite a KFC)which served belacan chicken rice – deep fried chicken with rice topped with a fluffy fried egg and belacan sauce (spicy chilli sauce) that tasted very much like Indian fish curry. It was the best meal I had that day since I was starving lol. It’s true  what they say about food tasting better when you’re hungry.

Stay tuned for my next post on the marathon!