Today we will introduce a Malaysian city Ipoh where we spent two days on the way to Penang. Ipoh is the capital of Perak state and located two hours north of Kuala Lumpur. It might not be the most famous destination in Malaysia but has gained more and more popularity after the city got listed among the best Asian destinations in 2016 by Lonely Planet.
We would have probably missed Ipoh if our local friend hadn’t invited us to her family’s home for a two-day very delicious visit. Almost half of the residents in Perak are Chinese Malaysian which is also visible in the food culture. During two days, we managed to try at least 30 different dishes. Quite an achievement! The food in Ipoh is definitely worth its reputation.
Ipoh has also other attractions that are worth visiting besides all the eating. At the foot of the gorgeous lime stone hills, there are a bunch of beautiful temples. On the streets of the small but sympathetic old town, you can spot street art and browse the selection of souvenir stalls.
This is what we saw and ate in Ipoh during two days!
Ipoh temples and old town
We made a sightseeing tour to the most famous temples of Ipoh that are located next to the limestone hills. Many temples were actually built inside the hills in caves. The most memorable place for us was the tortoise temple Sam Poh Tong. The inner yard of the temple was a home to tens of turtles in different sizes. The biggest ones were more than half meter long and who knows how old. We kept watching the turtles for almost an hour and it was hard to get Jarkko away from the place. We were wondering about the living conditions though as there was only a small dirty pond besides the stone floor for the turtles…
The other temples were gorgeous and colorful too and we even saw monkeys that were jumping from tree to tree on the steep hills.
In the old town, you can find some tourist shops and stalls as well as street art. There is not that much stuff to see but that means you can happily head to the next restaurant after strolling around and try some Ipoh delicacies.
In the evening we went to see the railway station and the night view on Weil hotel’s rooftop terrace. The waiters were not that excited when we sneaked in to take pictures without ordering anything but they didn’t throw us out either.
The food paradise of Ipoh
According to our friend, Ipoh is especially famous for its food (well which place in Malaysia isn’t…). The price level is lower than in Kuala Lumpur as well. We started our food tour already on the way to Ipoh when we stopped to eat Chinese dumplings, Malaysian national dish nasi lemak and fried noodles for lunch. Luckily we were four people sharing the portions as it ended up being many lots of them after two days.
Before we got to Ipoh, we had time for a second lunch (hehe). This time we ordered deep-fried vegetables and tofu and got to try laksa for the first time. Laksa is an aromatic noodle soup with a strong fish taste. As a drink, we had a Chinese sweet red bean drink.
After taking a rest from eating we headed to Ipoh night market that changes the location every night. The night market is a perfect place to try different street foods on a cheap and walk – or roll – from stall to stall. We started our round with stinky tofu that might sound unpleasant but was, to our surprise, tasty and nicely crispy!
Next we moved to order fresh spring rolls, chai tow kway, lok lok skewers and peanut mochi. Eating lok lok is lots of fun as you first put the skewers into boiling water and then eat them with sambal peanut sauce. There is everything from tofu to fish balls, pig ears and seafood you can choose from.
As our friend was born in Ipoh, she brought us to the best food places and ordered foods in Chinese that we had never heard of. In the next morning, we went to Thean Chun Chicken & Prawn Kuey Teow to drink the famous Ipoh white coffee and eat satay skewers, many kinds of noodles and caramel pudding. The food coma was guaranteed already after the first meal of the day.
Our lunch was chicken, bean sprouts and chicken feet in a Chinese style. Chicken feet are very popular also in Vietnam but we have somehow missed them before. Long-cooked toes were so tender that they melted in the mouth but it was a lot of work to spit all the small bones out. Because lunch is nothing without a dessert, we headed to Funny Mountain stall that sells popular soy bean pudding and fresh soy milk. There was a big bustle around the stall when the locals queued for the delicacies.
Later on, our day included a fancy homemade dinner and more ais kacang. We were offered everything possible from duck and fish to prawns and stinky peas at the dinner. Yes, stinky peas are literally peas with a strong smell and taste that grow in big legumes. The taste splits people’s opinions but they were better when cooked in a spicy tomato sauce that eaten raw.
Before we left Ipoh, we still had time for a breakfast in Restoran Chooi Ye Dim Sum that is popular among locals. Again, a small light breakfast subtly changed to a food overdose. This time we had at least dim sum, rice noodles, rice with meat and other things we cannot even name, on the table. From the sweet side, we tried egg tarts, custard filled liu sha bao buns as well as rice noodles with coconut and sugar. Our stomachs full, we traveled two hours to Penang where the eating was not going to stop during the next days, vice versa.
Ipoh and whole Malaysia are food traveler’s paradises and very affordable too, even though some guy tried to frighten us in Hanoi by telling that Malaysia is twice more expensive than Vietnam. We paid altogether only $10 each for our two-day food fiesta so you definitely cannot claim that the price level is high. Almost everything we tried was heavenly and we would do this food trip again anytime!
Have you ever been to Ipoh?