Best Food Gifts from Ipoh
Trivia question No. 1 – what is the most important thing to do when one is in Ipoh? The answer is EAT, of course!
Trivia question No. 2 – what is the second most important thing to do when one is about to leave Ipoh? Ta-pau, or takeaway of course!
So you’ve had a gastronomically packed weekend in Ipoh and now you’re faced with the deliciously agonising task of choosing what food gifts to buy back. Fret not, here are our choices of the best must-buys/takeaway food from Ipoh that will taste just as fresh for the next few days. Buy them as delicious pressies for family and friends, and some extras to stock up the fridge!
Egg Tarts from Choy Kee
Most Ipoh folks would agree that Choy Kee makes the best egg tarts in the whole city.
Choy Kee’s signature egg tarts
Each time we make a trip back, a box of Choy Kee’s egg tarts would be waiting for us at my in-law’s house. Knowing how much I crave for them, my mother-in-law would faithfully go to the Kampung Simee market early in the morning and join the perpetual queue (sometimes for up to 45 minutes) just to get a box of these freshly made, wonderfully fragrant babies for our enjoyment.
The stall is located in the pastry section in the Simee market
Unlike mass-produced tarts churned out by supermarket or chain bakeries with that typical pressed down crust and artificial yellow-coloured centre, Choy Kee’s egg tarts has that delicately flaky crust with a light buttery aroma. The centre consists of a thick layer of wobbly, creamy egg custard that is both rich yet light, sweet yet not cloying. The best way to enjoy these golden treats is with a cup of hot and frothy, or iced Ipoh old town white coffee.
Bite into a glstening, thick centre of wobbly creamy egg custard – pure bliss!
In this day and age of cost-cutting and increasing raw material prices, it is heartening to note that the quality of their egg tarts have been well-maintained over the years. Choy Kee also has two other branches – one in Bercham and the other in Menglembu, both with regular operating hours (good news for those who are not early-risers).
Kaya Puffs from Sin Eng Heong
From a humble confectionary in Pasir Pinji to a double shoplot in the heart of Ipoh town, Sin Eng Heong’s famous kaya puffs get snapped up by the tens of boxes.
Best to call ahead to pre-order or else join this long and slow queue
What makes Sin Eng Heong’s kaya puffs so popular is its crust and the inner kaya paste. The top crust is baked to a crispy, golden brown perfection with a slight burnt aroma, whilst the kaya paste is rich and sweet, with that wonderfully intoxicating aroma of coconut milk and pandan leaves. Each box costs RM8, and contains eight palm-sized puffs.
Golden brown puffs encasing a filling of aromatic and rich kaya paste
Uninformed customers would queue up for at least 30 minutes to buy these precious bites whilst those seasoned regulars would pre-order by phone at least one day ahead. It is a norm to find customers buying at least 10-20 boxes each, sometimes up to 40 boxes at one go.
One box of Sin Eng Heong’s fragrant kaya puffs is never enough!
Tambun Pomelos from Gerai Buah Ah Sai
There are two things that Ipoh is synonymous with – nga choi kai (bean sprouts chicken rice)and Tambun pomelos. No trip to Ipoh is complete without sampling both items. The small town of Tambun in Ipoh is famous for its juicy pomelos, where mass cultivation of this citrus fruit takes place.
There are two varieties of pomelos – the off white, beige-coloured flesh which is the sweet variety; and the pink, sour variety. The sweet variety is naturally best eaten as it is, while the pink variety is popularly used in salads and blended juices.
Plump and juicy sacs – best eaten chilled
The best place to buy these football-sized citrus fruits is not at those tourist-trap stalls along Simpang Pulai road, but the fruit shops-cum-dealers in Tambun town itself. There are several such shops, Gerai Buah Ah Sai being one of the bigger dealers.
Gerai Buah Ah Sai is one of the bigger pomelo dealers along the main Tambun road
Prices here are cheaper than those found in Ipoh town or the Simpang Pulai stalls and it’s generally unnecessary to bargain. Nevertheless, ask politely and the boss might even reduce the price by RM1 per fruit, or offer a better price for bulk buy.
Different sizes for different prices
Don’t get tempted by the size of the fruit – go for the medium-sized ones instead of the big boys. Choose those with a soft, smooth bottom, with the skin showing yellowish patches. These ones will ripen nicely in about 2-3 days. They will turn almost uniformly yellow when fully ripened. Stay away from those with wrinkled skin or dented patches.
Tambun pomelos are a must-buy!
Salt-baked chicken from Aun Kheng Lim
There are salt-baked chicken shops in Ipoh, and then there is Aun Kheng Lim salt-baked chicken.
The king of salt-baked chicken
Yes, the one and only Aun Kheng Lim – the undisputed king of salt-baked chicken since 1987. You can’t miss the corner shop painted with red and white stripes standing glaringly out of place amongst its neighbours.
A multitude of red boxes – each consisting of a paper-wrapped chicken, freshly baked and thus still warm to the touch – all neatly stacked up for customers to place order, pay, grab their box and be on their way – all in under a minute.
Brisk business throughout the day
Aun Kheng Lim’s business is so good that they do not wait for customers to walk in before they pack those saliva-drooling, insanely aromatic spring chickens into boxes. The well-oiled production line just keeps on churning out paper-wrapped chickens, all ready for that steady stream of customers throughout the day.
The free-range chicken is firstly stuffed with herbs such as female ginseng and goji berries, then wrapped in parchment paper and baked under a mound of rock salt. Loyalists swear by its amazingly juicy meat that practically falls off the bone, infused with a heady flavour of salt, meat juices, and herbs.
Tender and juicy meat, practically falling off the bone. Best way to eat it is with your fingers
Each box costs RM18, barely sufficient for two hungry adults. If you are thinking of buying extra to freeze, they also come in a vacuum-packed version. The price is the same as the boxed ones.