Buntong Wan Tan Noodle @ Cheong KeeNovember 17, 2009 | 9,600 views
Almost clockwork-like, the camera-shy (or maybe I was a little intrusive?) owner of Cheong Kee dishing out plates after plates, and bowls after bowls of what could possibly be Ipoh’s MOST famous Wan Tan Noodle ………..
Buntong is a small community to the west of Ipoh, with a sizable Indian and Chinese community that are distributed almost evenly, with vibrant Indian temples lining the main street of Buntong, and Chinese schools scattered in the vicinity. Back when I was still a novice when it came to food-hunting of any nature, (read : before this blog was born) I had only the vaguest impression of Buntong; dismissing the town as a rural village with potentially unruly citizens. For which I apologize profusely now, and ate my words and a slice of the humble pie.
Then came the unabashedly-grateful virginal tour around Buntong, which had me downing some smooth “Kai See Hor Fun” (Shredded or Slices of Poached Chicken Meat served with Koay Teow/Flat Rice Noodles Soup) at Buntong Ayam Tauke, and a second excursion which had me eating inside some residents’ compound, relishing the bowl of beef noodles soup and stuffed fish paste (which we Ipohans proudly name them as “Liew” instead of the more common Yong Tau Foo).
With over 40 years of history in its bag, Cheong Kee Wan Tan Noodle is still going strong come rain or shine. Wait, scratch the latter, for the shop is only opened at night. So come rain, or under the moonlight?
But what some of you might not realized is that, during all those mini detours to Buntong, ALL of them were in fact my vain search for a taste of the famed, almost legendary, Buntong Famous Wan Tan Noodle. Or Wan Tan Mee, whichever term you prefer. A street food of Cantonese origin, the thin & springy egg noodles can be served in a stomach-warming soup base, or tossed in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, and dark soy sauce. But the common focal point between the two, and what gave rise to the name ‘Wan Tan’ Noodle is the Wantan/Wonton themselves, or meat dumplings (fillings of minced pork or shrimp).
The “Kon Loh Meen”, or Dry Wan Tan Noodle @ Cheong Kee
After failing in my attempts of tasting the humble yet immensely popular Wan Tan Noodle at Cheong Kee in Buntong, I gave up and only went back to Buntong once in a blue moon to replenish my “Kacang Putih” supplies. If you’re thinking what a wimp, for I shuddered at the slight hint of failure, let me clarify this. I actually went for not one, not Two, but THREE miserable attempts mind you. The first was when we went on a weekday evening but the stall was closed for renovation, and to be opened the following night. Second attempt was on a Sunday night, but as luck would have it, that was Cheong Kee’s rest day. And the final straw that broke the camel’s back, the third attempt was all it took to break my spirits. And I can’t even remember for the life of me, the reason why Cheong Kee was closed on the third try. Yeah, with tails between our legs, we scampered off on the third attempt to oblivion, stuffing ourselves with some other grubs. (And I even forgot what we ate after that!)
A funny remark here; The man helping around was actually stunned by my presence, holding a camera and all. Which prompted him to quickly rushed over and arranged the plates and ‘tools of the trade’ in an orderly manner, before I could snap my shot!
After a hiatus of 3 months or so, my courage returned to its full glory. Arriving at a rather late hour of 8.00pm (you’ll know why soon enough), the corner lot of Cheong Kee on Jalan Sekolah in Buntong was packed to the brim! And it did not help one bit that the weather was none too accommodating that evening, with light drizzles eliminating any hopes of being seated at the tables set up at the front portion of the shop. But we persevered, and soldiered on, for I was in no mood to return home empty-handed. Or should that be, with an empty stomach!
So the situation got slightly ugly, almost reminiscence of the Foh San’s vultures-by-the-tables scenario. You get my drift. And thanks be to the good Samaritans of Buntong’s, a table was vacated within minutes, and voila! The rest was history. Hehehe ……
Toss ‘em up REAL good, for the gravy to coat every single strand thoroughly, before slurping them into your mouth …..
A glance around the shop revealed that the majority of diners that evening were locals, most probably residents around Buntong area. For none of them was decked in shirts or suits (duh), and everyone looked so much at home (except us maybe). You know the feeling of eating at your favourite roadside hawker stall, when you know what to order without looking at the menu or price list, and you know exactly how you want your serving of Wan Tan Noodle to be; Single, One-Half or Double Mee. Wet or Dry. And additional bean sprouts, or sans the plump, crunchy ‘Tauge’. Or even with extra portion of soup.
With no prior idea on how the Wan Tan Mee at Cheong Kee is served, we ordered both the dry and soup versions, without asking for Char Siew (Barbecued Marinated Pork) or pork and/or prawn Wantan. And gladly so, for Cheong Kee does NOT serve Char Siew with their noodles, unlike the usual servings at other hawker stalls in Ipoh. And only minced pork meat wantan is served (correct me if I’m wrong though).
The springy, homemade egg noodles bears the torch for Cheong Kee, a testament of their classic recipe with emphasis on quality control, the man himself overseeing the whole process, to the extent of being partly involved (manually) in the process of making the egg noodles. Unlike the average wantan noodles, Cheong Kee’s version is stained with a lighter hue of yellow, smoother in texture and devoid (or minimal, as my dining companions claimed their noodles reeked of alkaline/lye water at first bites) of unpleasant, metallic lye water taste. At least my noodles in soup tasted nothing like slurping on alkaline materials.
The broth with a darker shade of brown was redolent with flavours, which may lead one to a false assumption of thinking that MSG (monosodium glutamate/flavour-enhancer) was added
The toppings of braised pork bits/slices with soy sauce, bean sprouts and garnished with chopped scallions completed the ensemble; a most simple combination to be paired with the dumplings in soup by the side, and of course not forgetting the pickled green chillies for that extra zest. The sweet, umami-flavoured soup was a joy to be slurped, or even drunk. And no hoarse voice nor thirsty spell thereafter, indicating the lack of MSG.
All in all, the wan tan noodles at Cheong Kee may not be the BEST Wan Tan Noodle I have ever tasted (for I prefer mine with decadent chunks of caramelized Char Siew!), and far from the worst. Above average I would say, for the QQ-texture of the egg noodles excelled, while the pork dumpling was somewhat lacking.
Be here early, or else ……..
The noodles come in three portions (the usual orders, but of course you can go for triple, or even quadruple portions!), being SINGLE @ RM2.90, ONE-HALF/MEDIUM @ RM3.70, and DOUBLE @ RM4.40. Extra order of ‘wantan’s is of course permissible.
Do arrive early for dinner, as the place can get really, REALLY packed during the peak hours. And since they cook at a slower pace than you might have expected, you may end up waiting for close to one hour for your serving of wan tan noodles !!!! But thankfully, we got ours within 20 minutes.
Address & Contact Numbers :
Cheong Kee Wan Tan Noodle
542, Jalan Sekolah,
Buntong, 30100 Ipoh,
Tel No : +605-2550789 or +6019-5166781/+6016-5111282
(Contact numbers from the owner’s son’s blog HERE)
Opens daily from 7.00pm until 12.00 midnight, or until the noodle is sold off.
Closed on Sundays.
## For the other views on Cheong Kee, hop over to Simple Girl’s who claimed it to be Ipoh best, Joz Chan (the owner’s filial son) who gave an insight into his father’s 40+ years of legacy, and even WikiStreetFood‘s. ##
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