Hoong Tho Restaurant @ Old Town, Ipoh – Transcending GenerationsSeptember 23, 2009 | 15,110 views
Hoong Tho Restaurant in Ipoh Old Town is a ‘Lau Zhi Hau’‘ (Chinese for traditional/trademark) Chinese diner that has been serving delicious noodle dishes, fish paste (yue wat), fried wantons (dumplings), and such, for a good 4-5 decades now. Aside from the savouries, Hoong Tho is also famous for its own production of pastries and confectioneries eg. egg tarts, traditional biscuits, and of course, ‘milking the cow dry’ (so to speak); with its current promotion of various types of mooncakes, including some ‘funkier’ versions not found elsewhere. More on that at the end of the post.
Quaintly charming, Hoong Tho is but one of the few eateries in Ipoh that still preserve the pre-war nostalgic ambience, although supposedly, Hoong Tho started sometime in the 60’s. And their pickled green chillies is a good accompaniment to their noodles.
On the evening we patronized the restaurant, the place was packed with people from all over. Probably owing to the long Raya holidays, the locals as well as the tourists from other states were flocking to the one-shoplot Chinese diner, with most customers eagerly anticipating their servings of the signature noodle dishes. Arriving early is almost compulsory on weekends and public holidays, for the restaurant may not be able to cater to the large capacity crowd. And to add salt to the wounds, the staff might be in a slightly foul mood when the orders run awry (which was evident on that evening, with darkened expressions and mumblings short of curse words!).
Crunchy and delightful fried wantons (dumplings) @ RM10 (BIG) served with Hoong Tho’s selfmade sweet, sour and spicy sauce
But credits to be given where they’re due, the foods served at Hoong Tho were still reminiscent of the olden days. No fuss, no fusions, no glorified salted egg yolk with whatever, no butter mantis prawns or Guiness ribs, nor cheese-baked dishes. Only the authentic Hoong Tho signatures from days of yore still on the menu. Wait, there was NOT even a menu in the first place! So either you’re ordering through your own experience, or ask for recommendations. Which may lead to some subtle groans, if you get what I mean.
Sui Kow (Dumplings in Soup)
If you’re going in a large group of diners, forget about ordering single portions to be shared. I was duly reminded that I should NOT go for a variety of dishes at smaller portions, for the reason being “If you want to order more dishes at smaller portions, this will seriously slow the kitchen down! Hence order large servings and be contented!” But of course, this only held true on extremely busy evenings, not necessarily on most days.
The perennial favourite of mine, and many others I believe, is their fried wantons served with their specially-concocted sauce. The crispy skin makes a fine snack, though you’ll be wondering where is the filling?! The minced meat (or fish?) was but a mere dimple-sized portion, but the accompanying dipping sauce complemented the crunchy wonders very well. A little sweet and sour, with a light tinge of spiciness, the sauce was almost stealing the limelight from the dumplings themselves!
The Sui Kow was passable, although of not uniformed sizes. So one may be getting a gigantic (ok, slight exaggeration here) Sui Kow, while another may be nibbling on what may seems like half a Sui Kow. The fillings of minced pork meat, julienned carrots and wood ear fungus (ok, this was served after ONE HOUR’s wait, so I threw the whole morsel into my mouth … hence I was not sure whether prawns were detected or not. Sorry!) rendered the Sui Kow with a slight crunch, with the transluscent skins folded into a creased pocket.
Sang Har Meen – Fried egg noodles (yee mee) with Freshwater Prawns (RM20)
One of their must-order (it seemed) is the Sang Har Meen, or noodles with mixed vegetables and freshwater prawns. A single portion at RM10, larger one at RM20. At least 6-7 prawns were served atop the braised fried noodles, with the gravy redolent of the prawn’s sweetness. Though in comparison to the other Sang Har Meen dishes I’ve tasted elsewhere, the one at Hoong Tho was but a mere contender. Still, comparatively cheap, especially when going head to head with the ones from Klang Valley. Though the freshwater prawns were not of the most well-endowed sizes.
Wat Tan Hor – Braised Flat Rice Noodles or Hor Fun, with mixed meats and vegetables (RM10)
The other noodle dishes at Hoong Tho are reasonably-priced as well. Single portion for RM5, double for RM10. And I can assure you, a single portion is more than enough for a person’s consumption. The Wat Tan Hor is a safe dish of choice, which caters to all tastebuds. Children would love the soupy noodles with lots of egg whites (and streaks of golden yolks), while the elderly ones (like yours truly) will be admiring the wonderfully charred and skillfully fried Hor Fun, and the generous serving of their very own fish pastes (yue wat).
Personal opinion? I prefer the Wat Tan Hor at Hoong Tho than the one at Tuck Kee in town (Ipohans will know about this place), for I find Tuck Kee’s Wat Tan Hor drowned in too much gravy (which some may like), and without sufficient ‘wok hei’ (the heat of the wok). And pricier to boot.
Hoong Tho Meen – Yee Mee (springy egg noodles) cooked with vegetables, eggs, shrimps and pork, with the special ingredient of cuttlefish powder! (RM5)
And we requested for a single serving of the evergreen, one and only, Hoong Tho Meen. A bowl of hearty noodles with thick, egg-y gravy, and lots of other ingredients, served with an optional dash of dark vinegar. A winning combination perfected with some sprinkling of cuttlefish powder (someone please confirm this, as the fishy, pepper-like powder had a very distinctive cuttlefish taste), which may be a good alternative to MSG for its umami taste. This bowl of noodles can easily feed two, and had my vote as BEST dish of the evening.
They did not even change the furnitures, or the decor. Only added the glass panels and air-conditioner.
Glistening golden morsels of goodness, to usher the Mooncake Festival with a twist
I mentioned in the beginning of my post, that Hoong Tho not only serves savoury dishes, but they do some mean pastries as well. All year round, you can buy traditional homemade biscuits from the front portion of the shop. But given the mooncake rush as of now, Hoong Tho makes their own mooncakes (pre-order is necessary), and some ambitious creations such as Cempedak (jackfruit) mooncakes and a very awkward version with dried oysters (!!) etc.
The Cempedak Mooncake with Red Bean Paste (RM6.50)
The Cempedak mooncake is one of their special creation, with the pastry resembling the traditional Shanghai Mooncakes’. The filling of red bean with pulps from jackfruits and ‘kuaci’ (melon seeds) offers a fresh, distinct flavour not commonly found in the commercialized mooncakes in the market nowadays. They even offer you a slice as sample, as the lady at the counter proudly proclaimed; “I’m very sure you’ll like this, so I am ever so willing to let everyone have a slice as sample!”
Such strong confidence, but in the end, we bought two of them home. My weakness for the tropical fruit certainly had the better of me. But to no regrets, mind you. Try them, but I’m still keeping my distance from the dried oysters (hou see) version!!!! Yikes.
And they did not even bother to light up the signboard. Yup, they’re THAT well-known already in Ipoh ….
Hoong Tho Restaurant
20, Jalan Bandar Timah,
30000 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Tel No : 605-254 9673, or 6016-555 8858 (Yuen Chin Onn)
Closed on Tuesdays. From 10am until 9.30pm.
Here’s a GOOGLE MAP TO HOONG THO RESTAURANT for easy reference.