Nostalgia – In Shades of Pig’s Brain Soup & Steamed Rice @ Hung Kee Rice ShopMarch 17, 2013 | 1,797 views
Coming back to Ipoh this time around evoked a myriad of different emotions. And reactions.
First of all, the dastardly-warm weather had me soaked the very next minute after stepping out from the shower. And any sign of rain or storm (let the thunder roared and ripped through the skies …) was a dream-shattered as the very next moment, the sun peeked from beyond the horizons … and exhibited its most glorious warmth.
Pig’s Brain Soup & Watercress Soup @ Hung Kee Rice Shop
Secondly, this particular Discover Perak episode was having a whale of a time being recycled on AFC throughout the weekend. And hence, the explanations that ensued. By the way, this was filmed 3 years ago and I still love my day job, TQVM.
There’s not much of a food excursion this time though (largely due to a pretty obvious reason which I will touch on in my future post), but still managed to squeeze in a dinner at Hung Kee Rice Shop; a more than 60 years old historical establishment next to the now-demolished Pasar Bulat (Octagon Market?) or “Pat Kok Ting” on Cowan Street.
Nowadays, this legendary ‘rice shop’ (also known as ‘fan tim’) at a corner of Cowan Street (Jalan Raja Ekram) and Clare Street (Jalan Mustapha al-Bakri) is almost non-existent to the typical youngsters born in this new century. Nor come recommended in food guides, travel books or media coverage.
Hung Kee Rice Shop is a landmark in every sense of the word. Perched on a relatively strategic location; a stone’s throw away from the tourists hot spot of bean sprouts chicken, confectioneries and more, the aged-but-still-loved premise is run by a trio of stalwarts.
The two sisters and their cousin (the chef) whom have definitely basked in the glory days when Chee Seng restaurant was their main source of friendly rivalry from across the street, and the octagon-shaped, double storey market was still in its heydays. I remember vividly how Mum brought us there to pick our school bags and uniforms. Now? It’s a ground primed for a mixed commercial development.
Still doing it the old school way – White rice steamed in the iconic porcelain steamers, good quality Chinese tea poured into small plastic cups, the deliciously-simple Steamed “Ma Yau” (threadfin) with salted fish and Stir-fried Leeks with Roast Pork
The rice shop (still refuse to call this a ‘restaurant’, albeit printed as such on their name cards) does not jump at you for attention. They don’t need to.
One half of the sister explained to us about their plans in running the family business; to survive and as a measure to pass time. The children and the generations beyond are already working professionals; apparently. The cousin (head chef) comes at around 5.30pm daily; setting the wok ablaze and whipping up classic creations that only the older generations will be able to relate to.
My palate ages at a pace that trespasses the norms. I love old school cooking and the works that go along with it. In short? The passion behind the brand.
Sweet & Sour Pork @ Hung Kee is a different rendition that the conventional ‘dai chow’ place you frequent; a chunkier and more toothsome bite of thinly-coated pork cooked in a relatively mild tomato and chili-based sauce
However, you need to be warned of the waiting time. Patience is a virtue as your old man says, but at Hung Kee, patience is a pre-requisite.
The kitchen is manned by ONE single man in his 60′s. Or 70′s, I did not bother to ask. He was deep in his elements; washing, chopping, stir-frying and dishing out his brilliant dishes.
The two ladies took orders, did the washing up, clear tables and acted as cashiers. There’s nary an idle time in spite of the 20% occupancy this Sunday evening.
As for what to order, do NOT miss their stewed soups. We sampled their signature Pig’s Brain with Chicken Feet Soup and Watercress Soup with Spare Ribs. Both were exemplary in their own rights, with the former being something of an acquired taste. A somewhat pungent and very carnivorous attempt of a soup, the mushy pig’s brains actually tasted like a cross between pig’s liver and blood jelly. And maybe you can describe the creamy (very, very rich) texture as a poor man’s interpretation of foie gras. They also serve Ham Choy (Salted Vegetables) with Duck Soup and a very seldom heard-of Beef Shin Soup.
We completed the feast with a serving of their famed Sweet and Sour Pork; really crunchy stuff coated with a sweet and sour sauce, a plate of Stir Fried Leeks with Roasted Pork and a portion of Steamed Ma Yau (Threadfin) with Salted Fish.
I especially adored the fish; succulent cut of fresh threadfin steamed with slivers of ginger and salted fish on top. The light, soy sauce base was not overwhelming, and the fish went extremely well with diced cili padi (if you insist) or on its own.
Other recommended dishes include Steamed Fish Head, a Spare Ribs dish that we gave a miss, Stir Fried soft blocks of beancurd with prawns, etc. Just think of the most traditional dish your Grandma had ever cooked for you that you manage to scout from the deepest, hidden corners of your brain, and there’s a 50% chance of them still serving that here at Hung Kee.
And doing it oh-so -well.
*The meal for four came to RM89/USD22, including rice and Chinese tea. Not the cheapest Chinese food you can find in Ipoh; yet worth a visit for the rich legacy of dishes it carries from over the decades.
I posed a rather difficult question to the ladies before we left:
“So, who will take over the business after your generation?”
To which they answered, somewhat in a predictably-sombre mood ….
“No one. The young ones are happy with their lives now, and Hung Kee Rice Shop is but the only thing left for us to manage here.”
HUNG KEE RESTAURANT (non-Halal)
No. 1, Jalan Raja Ekram,
30450 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Tel No : +605-241 0105
Business Hours : 11.30am – 8.30pm daily.
Closed on Thursdays.
*Steamed soups and cooked dishes only available from 5.30pm onwards.
In the afternoon, they serve rice with roasted meats.
GPS Coordinates : 4.594825,101.085207
Google Map to Hung Kee Rice Shop
*Walk across the main road from Sin Eng Heong Kaya Puffs and you shall see Hung Kee Rice Shop at the corner.