Where to eat and drink: Ipoh

Ipoh: Where to eat and drink

Ipoh is often described as a “new Georgetown”, and while that is stretching things, the food scene is still none too shabby.

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Start your day by skipping the hostel or hotel breakfast and head for dim sum (under 2.50 ringgit a pop) at Chang Keong Dim Sum. With over a dozen choices to select from, this is a spot where it is hard to go wrong. Combine with a steaming hot coffee and you’ll be good to go.

Is there a better way to start the day? : Stuart McDonald.
Is there a better way to start the day? Photo: Stuart McDonald

If you’re heading out to tour the caves, the oddly named Restoran New Hollywood works. About as far from the hills behind LA as you can get, this covered hawker centre is deservedly popular. Try the Chee Cheong Fun (5 ringgit)—a Cantonese steamed rice noodle roll with a prawn filling and dipped in sauce. Delish.

Back in town, an easy lunch spot is Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice, which serves up, you guessed it, chicken rice (7 ringgit). We went with roast chicken, paired with an iced lemon juice, and could easily have had a second helping.

At Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice. : Stuart McDonald.
At Ipoh Hainan Chicken Rice. Photo: Stuart McDonald

For coffee, in the heart of the “old town” we sought solace from the heat at the retro Aud’s Cafe. Combine a latte (10 ringgit) with a brownie and scoop of ice cream (10 ringgit) for a mid afternoon splurge. While we didn’t try it, Neli’s Deli nextdoor also looked tempting.

In the same area, Plan B is a modern chain coffee outlet with a couple of branches in KL. Their Ipoh outlet is sprawling and comfortable—ideal if you need a corner to catch up on your emails. We just had a flat white (9 ringgit) but the comprehensive menu is international in flavour. Think everything from eggs benedict (22 ringgit) to laksa (26 ringgit) and salted egg carbonara (28 ringgit).

Pit stop at Plan B. : Stuart McDonald.
Pit stop at Plan B. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Sticking in the same area, Plan B almost backs onto Wharong a newish hawker centre. A good option if you want to eat but Plan B is a bit too pricey. There are also plenty of stalls selling souvenirs around here if you want to work up an appetite.

For afternoon grazing, make your way to the southern end of the historic part of town to Kedai Kopi Sun Yuan Foong. Known for Ipoh egg tarts (2 ringgit a pop), grab a few for takeaway, or sit down in the old shophouse building and wash them down with more coffee.

Throw-downs. : Stuart McDonald.
Throw-downs. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Sticking with a sweet tooth, consider Funny Mountain Soya Beancurd over in the new town. Closes around 15:00, so don’t leave it too late.

For dinner, many will point you to Lou Wong, which sits at the junction of what we’re calling “chicken corner”. Lou Wong is known for its bean sprout chicken, but our guide turned their nose up at it, saying it was a tourist trap. Instead we ate at kitty corner Ong Kee, which does the same dish, but in a more down market (and slapdash) style. A simple serving will set you back 10 ringgit before rice. The night market is right by here, so this is another good eating and shopping combination.

At Sun Tuck Kee. : Stuart McDonald.
At Sun Tuck Kee. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Also in the area, is Sun Tuck Kee, which is famous for its charcoal brasiers. Be warned the serving sizes here, even a supposed single portion, are large. Hokkien fried mixed noodles will set you back 6.80 ringgit.

If you’d prefer a splash out Indian meal, Pakeeza, over near the bar district, is excellent. Mains float around the 20 to 30 ringgit mark which is fair given the comfortable setting. Servings are large and the complimentary extra dish caught us by surprise.

A light dinner at Pakeeza. : Stuart McDonald.
A light dinner at Pakeeza. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Not far from Pakeeza is Ipoh’s primary bar district. St Patrick’s Irish Bar stands on a corner, but many other international-style pubs line the road behind. Names like Speakeasy, History, and Sober, set the theme. Look for happy hour deals to keep your budget under control!

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Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.