The best thing to do in Ipoh is … eat! and the top 5 places to eat around Ipoh are …

06 August 2015

The recent revival of Ipoh as a quirky city with arrays of hipster cafes and artsy hangouts is too much for us to ignore. Bored of the same sceneries of our daily eateries (and diet!) in Kuala Lumpur, we filled up our tanks and drove up north. “We must eat everything, try everything!” was the theme for our two-day adventure.

We waltzed through the midsized city, admired the well-preserved colonial architecture, exchanged pleasantries with the friendly folks, and wolfed down some of the best meals we’ve ever tasted. We came back to KL feeling bloated and heavy, but it was all worth it.

With the help from our Sherpa (read: Waze), we drove around Ipoh (and Chemor!) to follow the trails of savoury delights. Here’s our verdict (insert drum rolls!):

#1. Nasi Ganja Yong Suan.

They don’t call this nasi ganja for nothing.

Don’t be alarmed by the name. There’s nothing illegal about this must-have Ipoh staple, and nobody actually whispered for an order of nasi kandar ayam merah from the waiters!

We’ve heard of this nasi ganja for the longest time, and the pessimists among us thought, “Well, it can’t be that great, can it?” We mean, we can throw a rock in any areas in the Klang Valley and it will hit one of the a-plenty nasi kandar joints. No big deal. We've tasted it all.

Wrong. As soon as we parked near the place, we were in awe of the long queue in front of the restaurant. You know what they say: 50 people standing patiently in line can’t be wrong. And another thing that boggled our minds: This is an old school Chinese restaurant (Rumah Tumpangan & Kedai Kopi Yong Suan) that also serves as a motel upstairs. So where’s the nasi kandar connection? We soon found out that the owners rent out a space in the restaurant for the Sidek brothers to run the nasi ganja business. It is an ideal business venture.

Verdict? Yes. This was the real thing. We can’t get anything like this in KL. The curry is simply to die for, if you can handle a bit of spice in your life. The ayam merah is spicy, succulent and juicy. The service is top class, despite the place being packed like sardines in a can. We get it now, nasi ganja.

But that’s not all. Yong Suan also offers what could be the best dessert in Ipoh: caramel pudding. We wolfed this down in two minutes!

Yong Suan’s caramel pudding. Sharing is not recommended.

#2 Samy Banana Leaf, Chemor.

Seriously not for weight watchers.

Okay this is not exactly in Ipoh but what’s an adventure if you’re not willing to drive an extra mile for good food? Okay maybe not a mile. Chemor is a sleepy yet charming small town 25 km outside of Ipoh.

Zigzagging through the Perak small town landscapes, we just couldn’t wait to have a try. In the Klang Valley, we’ve had our fair share of banana leaf rice – Nirwana Maju in Bangsar, Kanna and Raju in PJ, etc; so we did know what to expect. Maybe Samy could tickle our senses in a different way? There’s only one way to find out.

We walked into Samy with a craving for rasam, vegetables, crab curry and a mountain of hot rice served on a banana leaf. It was full inside, and we scrambled our way to find a table. We ordered everything– fish curry, fried fish, fish cutlet, masala chicken, chicken tikka and of course, crab curry.

Verdict? Samy’s crab curry is awesome! The crabs are fresh, and the curry is cooked with perfection. No wonder we passed by a street seller selling live crabs just a few doors away!

As icing on the cake, we had the signature dessert – the Gulap jamun. They were sweet as poetry, delicious as life!

Gulap jamun – India’s favourite dessert. 

#3. New Hollywood, Canning Garden.

Always packed, you’d have to sneak your way to find an empty table at Ipoh’s New Hollywood.

There’s nothing like having a big breakfast in another city. So we went to Hollywood. In Canning Garden, Ipoh, that is. This restaurant is actually a coffee shop, with rows of stalls serving halal Chinese food. From the looks of it, we were pretty sure that everyone in Ipoh comes here for breakfast. We spent the first ten minutes walking around looking for an empty table!

When we finally found a table, we had trouble picking what to eat. There’s lor bak, char koay teow, chee cheong fun, wantan mee and a lot more! We did what any curious tourist would do: try everything out.

New Hollywood is an awesome place to have breakfast and catch up with friends. We’ll make sure that we’d drop by next time!

Simple, delicious and filling: The obligatory roti goyang at New Hollywood.

#4. Vegas Restaurant, Canning Garden.

Try this delicious kerang char koay teow at Vegas!

Vegas, or its formal name Restoran Sin Hoong Fatt, is just around the corner from New Hollywood. We went back to Canning Garden that evening to savour another taste of Ipoh. Vegas does not differ much from New Hollywood, it is a restaurant with hawkers offering selections of food. The only difference is that you could also find Indian and western food here.

There was also a hawker selling kuih muih such as jemput-jemput if you find the other stuff too big for your tummy. We had chapatti (with sambal sardin!), sizzling noodles, laksa, chicken chop, gravy chicken rice and char koay teow. To quench your thirst after all that walking and wondering, we recommend their ice cream float!

Quench your thirst with Vegas’ wonderful ice cream float while trying out everything offered here!

#5. Pakeeza

Served hot: Pakeeza’s fluffy puff of bread, puri. Have one or two, or maybe three!

On our final night in Ipoh, we decided to have Indian food and drove around Ipoh to find Pakeeza, a considerably old and famous restaurant serving north Indian cuisines. We loved the place so much that it’s number 5 in our list.

We were told that we’d have trouble looking for a table, and sure enough, we did. After around ten minutes of waiting, we were seated deep inside the nice but a bit cramped restaurant. Pakeeza is famous for their selection of breads, so we asked for puri and nan – both garlic and cheese.

Not into roti? Don’t worry. Pakeeza also offers a wide selection of rice to accompany your curry orders. From plain steamed rice to plain, vegetables, chicken, mutton or beef biryani, you would be spoilt for choices here.

To spice up our roti and rice, we had the buttered boneless chicken, prawn masala, mutton vindaloo, beef kimma, fish curry and the ever-wonderful palak paneer!

Yes, Pakeeza, we would definitely come again!

Serves us right: We just had to try everything at Pakeeza!

This article is related to FOOD IPOH TOP 5