Of All Things Hakka, Delicious & Obscure @ Kedai Kopi Chong Chew, Kanthan Baru, ChemorJuly 26, 2011 | 7,168 views
Traditional Hakka Yong Tau Foo from Chong Chew Coffee Shop @ Kanthan Baru, Chemor – 600 pieces per day ain’t a walk in the park, that’s for sure. Sometimes up to 2000 (!) pieces.
Why is it that good eateries are usually not found in the most strategic of places? For instance, you have Ipoh’s best chee cheong fun served in the compound of someone’s house, secluded from public view and without a signboard to boot.
Then this resilient uncle peddles his way to a back alley (of all places) and sets up his stall to sell popiah only on weekends. Or how about having delicious fresh-from-the-wok yong tau foo while being seated under the shades of BIG trees?
Had a whale of a time sweating it out while watching in pure astonishment how the “heong peng” specialists bake their most esteemed biscuits from Gunung Rapat; in a huge clay oven? Or fancy a touch of magic from the hands of this kacang puteh maker for a good two decades now?
It all depends on how adamant you are in seeking for these gems in the most secluded of corners around Ipoh. For one, I would not have imagined going to extremes back then before I developed this penchant for writing. But oh my … how things have changed since.
The 3rd generation deep in the heart of the action. Pays to have the children interested to continue the legacy.
I was brought to attention of this coffee shop in Kanthan Baru; a new village (not literally, but as in ‘kampung baru’ that was established in 1992) in Chemor about 20km away from Ipoh. First they appeared on Taste With Jason (Axian) show on AEC, when he was doing a very informative coverage on yong tau foo (Stuffed fish paste) in Malaysia.
I felt a tinge of shame, for this Ipoh-born and bred child has no awareness whatsoever of this authentic Hakka YTF place, let alone memories. But then again …. I highly doubt many peers of my age do, since Chemor’s a distance away from home. Moreover, we were led to believe that Ipoh’s best yong tau foo still is the version served freshly deep-fried from the wok (good examples being Big Tree Foot’s, Gunung Rapat’s Kwong Hong, Pasir Pinji’s, Falim’s) or at the occasional fishball noodle stalls parked in most coffee shops around town.
Not for the faint-hearted? WRONG. Lui Cha Rice should be enjoyed by both vegetarians (by the way, they include dried shrimps in the mix, so if you’re one, you’d better inform them not to), health freaks, and the laymen alike.
But what essentially is TRUE Hakka Yong Tau Foo? Seemingly, the fillings for the paste need not to include fish paste (mackerel, wolf herring, etc) after all. Soft minced pork mixed with salted fish (optional?) would be the telltale of a true YTF. And as the name suggests, obviously a beancurd would be in the mix. (Tau Foo = Beancurd in Chinese).
You might have noticed the irregular shapes, the brownish/not as perfectly bleached appearance of the minced pork and fish paste. But therein lies the charm and natural flavours of REAL YTF.
Hence, we Ipohans always call the stuffed items as ‘Yong Liew’ (‘liew’ being fillings, ‘yong’ meaning stuffed) since it’s ludicrous to call stuffed brinjal or bitter gourd as yong tau foo.
The moment we arrived at this corner coffee shop along the main road of Kampung Kanthan Baru; comprising of two lots and an impossibly hard to resist al fresco seating area shaded by tall trees, I was smiling from ear to ear. This place fits all the right criteria for a homely, neighbourhood kopitiam with a heart.
See the fennel seeds embedded within? Now THAT’S something you can’t easily find off the streets.
While tucking in into the delicious Hakka fares, I mumbled to Jason (the hungry partner in crime) about how the quiet streets reminded me of Sungkai; with motorcyclists riding without crash helmets, the aged generation sipping tea, reading papers and sharing life stories over a mouthful of savoury snacks (the pink-coloured dumplings stuffed with various ingredients; so-named ‘Cha Guo’ or Hakka kuih, if you will).
Having a whale of a time tucking in into his bowl of Lui Cha Rice
Lui Cha Rice (Pounded Tea Rice) arrived topped with a myriad of finely-chopped ingredients in various shades of green. A classic He Po (Ho Poh)’s delight, the version served here might not be as excellent as Jeram’s but still heads and shoulders above the rest …. especially if you’re comparing this to the half-hearted attempts in some stalls around Ipoh.
“Cha Guo” or Hakka style of dumplings dyed in a light pink hue, and filled with various savoury ingredients.
But the YTF here sets a different standard for the others to match. A delectable pinkish mix of pork and fish paste; with the obvious omission of chemicals to bleach the paste or to produce an unnatural bouncy texture, Chong Chew‘s version took things further by the addition of fennel seeds.
Fennel seed is commonly used as an after-meal mint in Indian cuisine, a refreshing minty taste that lingers in the palate if chewed in a reasonable quantity. Some might not like the flavour of the spice in their YTF, but it was partly a revelation as the generic YTF never tasted this way. And yes, the combination was good.
Chee Cheong Fun for something not as Hakka, yet perfect to complement the pieces of stuffed marvels.
Four types of ‘yong liew’ are available here; stuffed beancurd, green chillies, bitter gourd and brinjal. They do not serve rice or noodles to go along with those, but you can have opt for a serving of the ‘lui cha’ rice on weekends, or Chee Cheong Fun (steamed rice noodles) served with either curry pig’s skin, curry wild boar, mushroom gravy, or the classic chili + sweet sauce combination.
And if you’ve gone all bonkers for all things Hakka (like us) go crazy with the orders and have a piece or two of the pink-coloured dumplings filled with either;
- Finely-chopped yambean in a peppery sauce
- Mui Choy (preserved vegetables)
- Ground peanuts
- Dried shrimps
- Chinese chives (ku chai)
I had a bit too much from breakfast and only tried the one with ‘ku chai’ which was exactly how I envisioned the taste to be. The others were walloped by the other famished blogger … so wait for his masterpiece …..
Chong Chew Kedai Kopi - In the map of your GPS, this might be listed as Kanthan Baru Coffee Shop. But once you’re on the main street of Kampung Kanthan Baru, you can’t be too far off.
If you have never ventured to Kanthan or Chemor for food, or the faintest idea on what Hakka Yong Tau Foo or Lui Cha Rice really is, then it’s about time you pack your bag, embrace your wilder and adventurous side, tag along a bunch of (un)willing friends and embark on a north-bound trip from Ipoh to Chemor/Kanthan, Sungai Siput, Kuala Kangsar/Sauk and finally calling it a day at Taiping. Trust me, this might be a road less travelled (not fully on a highway) but you’d be glad you made the decision.
CHONG CHEW KEDAI KOPI (non-Halal)
282, Kanthan Baru,
31200 Chemor, Perak, Malaysia.
Tel No : 605-201 7616/6012-518 3382
Opens for breakfast – lunch. Not sure about dinner though.
*Directions : From Ipoh, go towards Tasek and then Chemor using Jalan Kuala Kangsar. Once you passed Chemor town, go along the road until you reach Kanthan where you passed by shops on both sides of the main road. Slow down, and as you are able to see the archway written with “Kampung Kanthan” on your RIGHT, turn in into the new village. Take the first turning on your LEFT (the road’s name is Kanthan Baru), and go until the last corner shop on your RIGHT. That’s the shop, number 282.
*Here’s the link to the story published in The Star recently.