Burning Hot Szechuan Feast @ Zi Long Restaurant (Purple Dragon), IpohJuly 28, 2012 | 5,507 views
A potpourri of robust flavours; slivers of filleted black tilapia fish, pickled cabbage, dried red and green chillies from China and fragrant cloves of garlic boiled in a broth that was savoury, tangy and slightly spicy at the same time.
Ever since the ‘demise’ of the last remaining Szechuan restaurant in Ipoh, this city built from the glory days of tin mining has since been left in the lurch; a town devoid of authentic, ethnic Chinese cuisine that stretches far beyond the Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew categories.
After a relatively satiating dinner at Canton Palace the night before, we spied with our little glutton eyes a striking red signboard of a restaurant named Zi Long Restaurant (translated to Purple Dragon … but sadly, not “Barney” as we all know it! ).
Their specialty? Szechuan cuisine. And VERY close to the real feast served in China. Read on to know why.
A menu that captivated my attention with the dozens of dishes NOT heard of or seen before in any of the Chinese restaurants in Ipoh. I spent a good 15 minutes or so pondering upon pages after pages of sheer delightful shots.
The dining environment will remind you of any typical Chinese diners; well-suited for banquets and celebrations more than a casual dinner. Yet, one cannot help but noticed the sheer number of steel pots bubbling with an overflowing oily broth perched in the middle of every table. Wait, could that be the legendary “Sui Zhu Yue” (direct translation of “Water-cooked Fish”, but in reality is a dish of fish cooked in oil and chillies; the deadly Sichuan peppercorns?!)?
Szechuan Steamed Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetables (Mui Choy) @ RM22/USD7 – “Kau Yuk” (pork belly) stewed to a tender bite, laid atop a bed of “Mui Choy” (chopped preserved vegetables). The difference? The faint kick from the chillies.
Yes. The moment we were seated on the round table fit for 8 pax (though there were only 5 of us), the encyclopedia (menu bound into a large, A3 sized pages) of all things Szechuan and indigenously-China dishes came assaulting the senses. Eyes opened wide and salivary gland started working into overdrive from the sight of startling shots of food presented in an entrancing manner. Since the English descriptions will tickle your funny bones (think Google Translate and you’re somewhere there), better let the pictures assist you in ordering, alright?
The Bridge Tofu @ RM20/USD6.80 – Soft white beancurd, pork paste and two eggs steamed then garnished with chopped scallions.
The lineup of mostly Szechuan-inspired dishes was nothing short of spectacular. And by the end of the meal, the captain (sheepishly admitted that he’s a friend, and merely helping them out) gleefully attended to our barrage of questions. Typical nature of Motormouth and his band of merry-men.
Most of the ingredients; including condiments, sauces and seasonings are imported from China. Even the soy sauce and especially the dried chillies! For the locals, they usually hold back and throw in a sympathetic handful of less-spicy variety of red chillies. Not the torch-your-tongue with no remorse Sichuan peppercorns. But for Chinese expats, or based from special requests, you can experience the REAL DEAL (really fiery stuff that I have tasted before in Beijing and also in a restaurant in Pudu)! Just prepare to sweat a lot.
Superior Stock “Nai Bak” with ham, century egg and ginger @ RM15/USD5
Since we came with the elderly, we refrained from ordering extremely fiery stuff. I had to somewhat reluctantly forego the opportunity to order the fish swimming in oil and chillies dish, and instead replaced with boiled fish with pickled cabbage and red chillies depicted below. A milder interpretation of the “Sui Zhu Yue” dish, this was actually a pretty wholesome and hearty dish that combined generous fillets of black African (tilapia) fish (but with bones left in some cuts, so be cautious), lots of pickled cabbages and red/green chillies that provided a fair bit of spiciness to the otherwise pretty safe dish. The broth can be doubled up as soup, and the pleasant addition of glass noodles beneath the pile ensured that you’ll be full with this portion alone. Even then, both grandma’s were profusely downing cups of “Po Lei” (pu-erh) Chinese tea to offset the fiery kick!
Boiled Fish with Pickled Cabbage and Red Chillies (RM48/USD16)
The rest of the dishes paled in comparison, with the Bridge Tofu presented in an aesthetically-striking manner yet pretty bland in execution and the Nai Bak in superior soup was sweet, crunchy and juicy and the soup being neither too overwhelming nor bland. The Szechuan steamed pork belly was fabulous, yet coming across as a bit too salty for our liking. The “Mui Choy” piled underneath the meat, apparently, lent the dish an extra salty flavour.
The hiccups were also present in the pace of the dishes being served; the first dish came at least more than 7 minutes before the second, and the last one arrived at several minutes after we finished the other dishes. We were warm prior to the meal, and almost sweating after that not because of the food but because of the lack of air-conditioning and number of spotlights across the ceiling; generating heat upon the diners. Service was passable, yet they could be slightly under-staffed at the moment. We wanted desserts but could not grab their attention as the half a dozen or so of waiters were zipping to and fro from the kitchen to the tables.
And anyway, they have run out of desserts that evening; when usually they would have boiled hasma in papaya.
The overall experience was still mildly positive in my opinion, as the immense number of Szechuan dishes whipped up by the 5 chefs brought in from China was more than enough of a reason to keep coming back for more. Think interesting creations like Diced Rabbit Meat with Chillies, Cold platters of pork and offals, Beef jerky salted and cooked with red chillies, the quintessential “Ma Lat” dishes with a variety of meat or vegetables, and so much more. Trust me, you’ll be having a whale of a time going through the menu!
This is their first venture in Malaysia apparently. The young head chef from China in his 30’s has won numerous awards and created all of the dishes in the menu. Established in Fuo Shan in 2008, Purple Dragon Restaurant already has 5 branches before coming to Malaysia. Expansion plans are in the pipeline, since the Chinese expat community in Ipoh amounted to realms of thousands and with nary a Szechuan/Hunan restaurant in sight, Zi Long can really go the distance.
ZI LONG RESTAURANT (PURPLE DRAGON) (non-Halal)
33, Jalan Medan Ipoh 7,
Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh,
31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Tel No : +605-546 9233, +6016-233 4478
Business Hours : 10.30am to 10.30pm daily
GPS Coordinates : 4.616165,101.121029
Location : Corner of the row of shops opposite of K10 Claypot Chicken Rice
*Btw, do you know that K-Kai Corner (steamboat and BBQ buffet) has moved to a premise next to K10? Or is this a branch?