Thursday, 31 July 2014

Street Food, Street Art in Ipoh - 29 Jul 2014

Ipoh is always about eat, eat and eat. But now, we have one more reason to stay a little longer. The street art fever that started in Penang has now come to Ipoh. I don't know who commissioned the Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, but it's an excellent idea. His paintings certainly caught the spirit of the Old Town. This is my favourite 'Kopi-O Bungkus' inspired by the local coffee culture in Ipoh.

'Thean Chun', one of the coffee shops from the tin mining days and still very, very popular. At 3pm, it's still crowded with customers waiting for their Ipoh Hor Fun (chicken noodle soup). A popular figure in the Old Town, the hunchback Uncle is still very much hands on in shredding the smooth poached chicken. Now at 71 years old, he's still standing on his feet from early morning to late afternoon until the last patron leaves. I always wonder why he does not train younger helpers, and take a more relaxed pace. Other than the perfect smooth hor fun noodle, his flavourful chicken broth is just tooooo awesome. Be prepared for the wait. There're many other delicious food and snacks served here while you wait, eg. creme caramel, chee cheong fun (also my favourite), popiah, rojak, etc.

Right: The first 'Kopi-O Bungkus' mural was spotted on 26 May 2014. It's just opposite 'Thean Chun' coffee shop. Left: Ernest's 3rd mural of a yellow hummingbird on 2 June 2014.

A portrait of an old uncle drinking coffee - next to the football field.

Taking a break from our 'Food Trail'. It's not surprising to bump into many like-minded people who are chilling here while waiting for their food to digest, before they continue on the eating spree.

Looking for Talents??

Street art, Espresso & dessert cafes, 'knick knacks' shops are changing the face of Old Town. Their existence, at least, have preserved the old, heritage buildings in the area - otherwise many would suffer the fate of demolition.

Ernest captures Ipoh's tin mining history in Chinese-style painting

Near Ipoh Old Town in Pasir Pinji, we found this old, famous bakery - which is as popular as Ching Han Guan. There're always many people making a beeline for the traditional pastry such as Heong Piah, mung bean biscuits, Kaya puff, Wife's biscuits, lotus paste & pork floss biscuits, etc. And it is especially famous for its value-for-money, fresh & delicious Mooncakes.

Ming Yue's mooncakes may not be known outside Ipoh but certainly making headlines in the local neighbourhood. The prices are very reasonable, between RM4-RM7.50 each. White lotus and red bean mooncakes are available at all times but you must reserve those specialty mooncakes. 

Ming Yue pastry selling like hot cakes! Don't judge the Heong Piahs by their looks. They look underbaked but they pass with flying colours!

The good ol' days on a trishaw by Ernest 

Seeing Ipoh on a Paper Plane

Prefects' Camp at Serendah - 25-26 Jul 2014

Posted by Xian Wei

A camp for prefects with our teachers to Grace Farm at Serendah. It's an annual activity to give us time to learn life skills beyond the classroom. I was so excited that I couldn't wait any longer. We left at about 11am. We went there by vans and stopped only at KFC for lunch.

At last we're there!! The scenery was beautiful and there were many farm animals. We settled down and played some games. 

I've tried kayak and raft but this was my first time rowing a boat. 

 We had a boat race that the first boat to reach the opposite side of the pond and come back would be the winner. We rowed hard until my shoulders ached. We're 2nd. We had a great time and more fun in the outdoor than our classrooms.

Catching shrimps on the raft was not easy. I fell off the raft twice because it wasn't stable. Our first attempt failed, but this was only one of the methods. 

Mission to make a raft. My friends struggling to tie the strings properly.......SO stressful!!

 Tying the strings was not an easy job. The workers helped us to make the raft (actually they did almost everything, except for putting the barrels in place).

Cheers!!! We were finally on the rafts. The barrels were cylindrical and I almost fell. Fortunately, the water was only 4 feet deep. The raft wasn't stable so we had to hold on tight with our knees. Paddling on the raft was actually easier than on a kayak. 

The next day, we used another method to catch the shrimps. This method was easier as the water at this site was more shallow. We took turns in pairs trying it out.

My first attempt was a success. The shrimps were bred in this big pond. Every morning the workers would go round the big pond 10 times to harvest the shrimps.

Look at this tiny shrimp, SOO cute!!

Before we called it a night, we had a great CAMPFIRE party.

Many sleepyheads after staying up late at night.

The bullock cart ride was fun, though we felt sorry for the two bulls that worked so hard... :(

Turkeys, chickens, roosters, ducks and even a baby ostrich in the farm! At first I thought it was just a chick. But the legs were different than the rest. It was an ostrich! It was a lovely sight that they ate the feed till their hearts' content, not bothered by the noise we made.

Blowpipes!! It was the first time I've used one. It was so cool!! We also did archery, which was my favourite, and throwing darts.

'Get ready... Pull back the string...Aim....Twang!! Off goes the arrow'.

 It was certainly a memorable trip. I wish I could go there again with my friends.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Discovering Pasir Pinji's Comfort Food - 29 June 2014

Pasir Pinji Road in Ipoh is like a living heritage town. If you google this place, you will see a long list of local delicacies you must try - the famous yong tau foo, chee cheong fun, cendol, roast pork, traditional mooncakes, pastry, etc. On a Sunday, we saw the idyllic lifestyle of the local people - watching the days go by, sipping tea and catching up with friends along the corridor of shophouses, waiting for the takeaway of their favourite food or desserts from the roadside hawkers, sitting in coffee shops and dipping Hainanese buns into their kopi-O or Milo... it's like a walk to my childhood years in the 80s. 

Ban Guan Foong Bakery has been around for more than 50 years. One of the very few remaining bakeries producing traditional Hainanese bread and buns using wood-fired oven. 

A family-run business by the Goh family and some old and loyal workers.

Getting ready the wood-fired brick oven

 Removing the ashes from the heated oven

 Trays of doughs to be loaded into oven

After a while, the whole 'Hah' clan in Ipoh joined us at the bakery. Surprisingly, the bakery staff did not mind the curious visitors that crowded the place to see the process.

Hainanese white bread, coconut buns, kaya buns and plain buns are the favourites. The coconut and kaya fillings are made in-house. They are sold to coffee shops and wholesalers around town.

 Putting trays into heated oven. 

 Baking time is less than 10 minutes.

A nice aroma of fresh-baked buns filled the place.

Fresh-baked buns!

Getting ready to pack the buns for the waiting customers.

This is the hard-crust bread, only available in limited quantity per day. It resembles the French breads and very tasty and cheap at RM1.70 per loaf. This was the last batch to be baked so we didn't wait for it. A staff from the bakery went round the village to look for us to pass me these - fresh from the oven! Such warm people here.

I do not normally eat coconut buns but this will transport you to the good old days of waiting for the 'rotiman' in his bike full of buns, sweets and snacks. Hainanese breads are pillowy soft, more dense yet airy with the smoky flavour from the brown crusts. Sometimes, we dip into the kopi-O or Milo - full of flavour.

Many of the success stories in food start from humble beginnings under a Big Tree in Pasar Pinji. Another local delicacies here are the 'Hong Kee' peanut paste and mua chee. If I am not mistaken, this is the 3rd generation running the business. It was passed down from their grandfather since 1950s.

The stall is set up just in front of a house, and under a Big Tree. While most people have mechanised their processes, the Lee family is still using the stone grinder to crush the peanut. 

An unassuming stall that attracts both the locals as well as tourists.

Can you believe we have 4 families of the 'Hah' clan here!!

I love the creamy and smooth texture of the peanut paste. Though it's expensive (RM2.50) and some locals commented that the standard is different now as compared to the grandfather's time, I still love it. It's really hard to come by a dessert still made in the old fashioned way.

The boys love the chewy glutinous rice balls - mua chee, also RM2.50 for a small portion. Some people eat the mua chee  by dunking it into the peanut paste. We'll definitely come back for more next time!

Another success story under a Big Tree in Pasar Pinji - the Sagu Ice dessert (Sek Lau Zhi). Growing up in KL, I've never ever heard of this dessert. I love cendol ice, and this is like a cousin to cendol. Business was brisk, and we saw many young people queuing for the dessert.

The stall is only open on weekends and public holidays from 1-6pm only. Currently, the daughter Ah Ngan is running it, taking over from the mother who had been selling this dessert since the 70s. I understand there're only one or two stalls in Ipoh selling this dessert. 

The red rubies are made from tapioca flour and they're not sago (Sek Lau Zhi), the colourful wriggly strands made from rice flour (like cendol) served with shaved ice concoction, coconut milk and syrup. The stall was swarmed by tiny bees, and it's really amazing to see the locals braving the stinging bees to queue for the dessert. 

Busy with take aways. The chewy bites of the red rubies are the stars of this dessert. There's a more appetising version served without the coconut milk, ie. ice shavings with jelly, sour plum and the red rubies. However, I still prefer cendol and ABC ais kacang than the ais sagu. 

A local tradition, ais sagu is a cool, refreshing dessert to beat the unbearable heat.

After our day trip, we think that there're more gems waiting to be discovered in this small, quiet town of Pasar Pinji. It's truly an unassuming, food haven in Ipoh.
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