Ipoh is renowned as the culinary capital of Perak. Some even say it’s one of the best places in Malaysia to enjoy a vast diversity of street food. In this former tin-mining town, a vibrant foodie scene is booming. Mouth-watering servings of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines can practically be found in every corner. To add to the allure, prices aren’t high either; you can get a decent meal inclusive of drinks for less than RM10.
We’ve decided to put these delicious theories to the test. Come join us in a drive up north from Kuala Lumpur to Perak’s main city. Let’s leave on a Saturday morning, spend the night in town, and depart the next day after savouring all that Ipoh has to offer. We’ll also pinpoint interesting local spots worth visiting while we’re there. Let the quest begin!
SATURDAY, 9.00 am
Start your road trip early, as there’s so much to do and so little time. Be sure to have some breakfast first to soothe that ‘hangry’ epicure in you. After 3 hours’ journey, the famous Ipoh hilltop sign will greet you, signalling that you’re approaching your destination. Brace yourself for a gastronomic exploration!
Not familiar with Ipoh? Turn on your GPS map or travel app to guide you through every nook and cranny of this charming city.
SATURDAY, 1.00 pm
Now it’s time for our first stop. On the agenda: Lunch. On the menu: Nasi Ganja. Who would’ve guessed that this rustic and unassuming Chinese coffee shop would house the best Nasi Kandar in town? The name (ganja is the local term for marijuana) is a testament to the addictive nature of this dish! Come early to avoid the lunch crowd. You’ve been warned.
The meal, like the venue, is deceptively simple. A standard plate costs around RM6. For that price you’ll get a heaping plateful of rice, juicy ayam merah (chicken coated in spices and fried till crispy), marinated spices, salted egg, cucumber slices for that refreshing crunch and thick curry gravy doused all over your rice. Besides chicken, there’s prawn, squid, beef or mutton. For dessert, feast on their utterly heavenly caramel pudding.
The queue is only for takeaways or tapau, as Malaysians call it. If you’re planning to dine in, just make a beeline for a table and stake your spot.
This is the one and only Nasi Ganja in the entire city. There’s no franchise or branch and therefore, luckily for us, no danger of imitations.
Where: Rumah Tumpangan dan Kedai Kopi Yong Suan, 2, Jalan Yang Kalsom 30250 Ipoh, Perak
Opening hours: 10.00 am–7.00 pm daily
SATURDAY, 3.00 pm
There’s no shortage of places to stay in Ipoh. With an abundance of options that will suit a whole spectrum of budgets, from themed hotels to 5-star establishments, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Preferably, select somewhere near the heart of town so that it’s easier to move around. Now that you’ve got accommodation sorted out, you can start exploring the city’s many gems.
Our suggested activities for spending a Saturday evening in Ipoh:
• Visit Yasmin at Kong Heng to celebrate the creative genius and cinematic legacy of the legendary director, the late Yasmin Ahmad.
• Get brain freeze courtesy of ais kepal or ice ball from Bits & Bobs.
• Take a stroll along Concubine Lane for a historical adventure.
• Find all 8 murals by Ernest Zacharevic called ‘The Art of Old Town’ painted on the walls of heritage buildings scattered all around the old town of Ipoh.
• Sip a cup of coffee at any one (or two) of Ipoh’s multitude of hipster cafés. The stars include Burps & Giggles, Konda Kondi, Thumbs Café and El Negra Distro + Studio.
SATURDAY, 8.00 pm
As night approaches, dinner would surely be on everyone’s mind. Vegas Restaurant is high on our recommendation list. Formerly known as Restoran Sin Hoong Fatt, the space consists of a number of hawker stalls offering Asian and Western fare. Satay, Wan Tan Hor (containing chicken, prawn and vegetables) and Char Koay Teow (served dry with prawns and cockles) are definite winners. This might seem like an ordinary selection but the taste is far from the norm. And we mean that in a good way.
Honourable mentions: Chicken Rice, Dim Sum and Fried Rice
Where: 1, Lorong Cecil Rae, Canning Garden, 31400 Ipoh, Perak
Opening hours: 4.00 pm–10.00 pm daily
SUNDAY, 8.00 am
We know Sundays are for sleeping in but since we’re in Ipoh, it’s time to rise and shine. We’re heading to New Hollywood! The eatery is located right across Vegas Restaurant and provides similar food but New Hollywood caters more to the breakfast clientele. One of their signature edibles is Chee Cheong Fun or rice noodle roll with prawn or chicken dumplings and sweet soysauce. The softness of the hand-rolled noodle is unbelievable. This treat will simply melt in your mouth. Next on the must-try list is toasted bread with soft-boiled egg or Roti Telur Goyang. Two eggs with wobbly yolks are served on buttered toasts, with a side of dark soy sauce and pepper. The verdict: Perfection on a plate.
Honourable mentions: Fried Yong Tau Foo, Char Koay Teow, Red Bean Cakoi and Kopi Tarik
Where: New Hollywood Restaurant, 38, Jalan Lee Kwee Foh, Canning Garden, 31400 Ipoh, Perak
Opening hours: 7.00 am–5.00 pm daily
Take a walk at the Pasar Karat or Pasar Loken, a marketplace where people sell just about anything, from antique radios to things you didn’t know existed. Before we bid Ipoh goodbye, there’s still time to drop by at Funny Mountain, Ipoh’s onestop soya bean shop. This family business has been around for more than 60 years and is deemed among the earliest shops to embrace a drivethrough concept. Visitors and Ipoh residents flock here to satisfy their craving for soya goodness. Tau Fu Fah, Soya Bean Milk and Cincau are the notable attractions. A bowl of Tau Fu Fah only costs RM1, so you can absolutely indulge in the silky smooth texture of this trademark Ipoh dessert with no reservations. Customers who choose the drive-through service would be assigned a runner to take their order, whether it’s dine-in or takeaway. If you’d like to eat on-site, simply find a seat and dig in!
Where: Funny Mountain Soya Bean, 49, Jalan Theatre, 30300 Ipoh, Perak
Opening hours: 10.30 am till stock lasts