All About Ipoh’s Dim Sum Restaurants – 10 of the BestMay 15, 2011 | 58,540 views
The previous post on 15 of the best curry noodle stalls in Ipoh spurred me on in this renewed interest of writing about some of the signature foods that Ipoh has become famous for. Not sure if this is a purely impulsive reaction to being away from home for so long (okay, barely 2 months … but the cravings’ been killing me!), but might as well do everyone good by shortlisting good finds in one post.
This time around, let’s review 10 of the top dim sum outlets in Ipoh. In no particular order, here they are :
1. Foh San Restaurant @ Leong Sin Nam Road (aka “Dim Sum Street” of Ipoh)
Foh San moved to its new location sometime back in 2009. And there has been no turning back ever since. Albeit the unfavorable reviews occasionally (from those whom have grown accustomed to what they have been serving back in their old premise, and newbies confused; wondering what the big hoo-ha was regarding Foh San), no one can take away the sheer magnetism this gigantic dim sum powerhouse has over its competitors.
Hints/Tips : Come early, like REALLY early (6-7am?) on weekends/public holidays. Or very late, since they open until late afternoon. But you will risk losing out on some of the better dim sum in the morning. Stand around like vultures; since they do not give queue numbers. Go for the traditional items like Har Gau (prawn dumplings), Ma Lai Gou (steamed fluffy cakes; pic above), Char Siew Bao. Skip the claypot chee cheong fun with duck/beef. Funky creation, but faltered miserably.
Read on for the other 9 dim sum restaurants on the list …..
Naturally, when we talk about dim sum, we can’t escape mentioning Ming Court in the same breath as Foh San. Just ain’t right, you know? Like how Lou Wong and Onn Kee have been at each others throat for years, yet they’re both complementing one another to some degree.
Hints/Tips : Forget about getting a whole table to yourself if you’re not there in a large group. Sharing is caring seems to be the motto here, as sometimes three groups of strangers might be digging in at the same table without even acknowledging each other. Ming Court might be the only place that’s equally famous for their sweet soups (tong sui) as much as their dim sum, and they still serve a killer of a sweet and sour minced pork rolls in beancurd sheets. Setback? The sheer smaller portions of their dim sum. You can literally swallow three Siu Mai’s in one mouthful, really.
Further up the same road as Foh San and Ming Court, you can find Yoke Fook Moon; another household name. So you can imagine the congestion on weekends/public holidays. Yoke Fook Moon is but one of the very few dim sum outlets that extend their hours beyond breakfast. Until late at night, actually. So you can escape the wrath of the morning crowd, and enjoy your steaming hot, fluffy Char Siew Bao for dinner.
Hints/Tips : Never miss the various ‘Bao’ (fluffy steamed buns) from YFM. BEST in Ipoh, in my opinion. Good thing also that they’re steaming their dim sum freshly before serving them to you. The whole restaurant is blasted with air-conditioning though, so you’d better be fast. Oh, order the fish paste noodles with pig’s offal in soup, if you’re seeking for something different. Slightly pricier than the other dim sum outlets.
In case you’re going Ying … WHAT?! Can’t blame you. Me too, before I was introduced to this half a century’s old establishment seated inconspicuously at one end of old town. Don’t expect busloads of tourists to come over, nor this appearing in food guides. But what you can expect is good old dim sum still being made the way they should be.
Hints/Tips : The lotus leaf-wrapped glutinous rice is a must-try. But try coming earlier, since they run out pretty fast. The ‘Lor Mai Gai’ (glutinous rice with chicken) is good too, as well as their appetizing sweet and sour rolls. The staples like Har Gau and Siu Mai however, fared not as well compared to the others. By the way, you can find various noodle dishes served on different days here. (Click on the post for more information)
Why is this place so prominent? Because Kok Kee USED to be my absolute favourite place for dim sum back in my earlier days. Yes, I was somewhat introduced to dim sum NOT through Foh San, but here at Kok Kee when they were still on Hugh Low Street. Then they went out of business (or so I thought), and a decade or two later, I rediscovered the same old taste in Bercham.
Hints/Tips : The stir-fried Lor Bak Gou (radish cake as pictured above) with lots of chives, eggs and bean sprouts is still as memorable as ever. The size of the dim sum here beats the others to a pulp. Just see the various Yong Tau Foo (stuffed fish paste) being served, and you’ll know why. Not the best place for new age dim sum creations, since they have pretty much stick to the same old ‘If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ agenda. To some extent, it has been working so far.
Further away from the largely tourist-y areas of Ipoh, you will find Kao Lee doing brisk business on Sunday mornings, where people tuck in to their leisure breakfast/brunch sessions with gusto. Parking’s not a major hassle, but waiting for a table might be. Still, not as crazily packed like those on Dim Sum Street.
Hints/Tips : Kao Lee serves dim sum in a more comfortable environment, fully air-conditioned. And do try their porridge, or even satay. Yes, they DO serve satay (grilled skewered meats with peanut sauce). Usually I’d settle for the egg tart from here too. And appease that obnoxious small child in the family by getting him/her a caramel egg custard. Kao Lee serves steamboat too, so you can come for dinner.
Hands down the BEST looking of them all; aesthetically pleasant ambience with a very elegant, refined touch is Royal China Restaurant. Previously known as Tai Thong at Heritage Hotel, this restaurant looks exactly like your ‘zhau lau’ (Chinese diner) in TVB dramas. Where people sip on Chinese tea and pick on their morsels of steamed goodness in a milder manner, compared to the ‘warzone’ that you can bear witness on ‘dim sum street’.
Hints/Tips : Try not to come in your shorts and sandals. After all, this is a cut above the others. Price-wise, definitely a notch above too. Tastewise, nothing that’s exceptionally great, but the sheer delight in knowing that no one is hovering over your shoulder more or less seals the deal for this one. You can park at the multi-level carpark in the same building, so that’s one worry off your chest.
One of the newer additions to the pool of dim sum eateries in Ipoh; Qi Yuan combines flavours from both Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine into one rather extensive menu. Unlike the other purely dim sum restaurants in the list, Qi Yuan serves noodle dishes as well, and did them justice.
Hints/Tips : Parking’s a mess on weekdays, since this area’s bustling with banks and offices. Come on weekends instead, but still keep your fingers crossed that the small, one lot premise is not packed with the morning crowd. Try the various ‘la mian’ (Chinese style of pulled noodles), aside from their Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai style of steamed dumpling with soup), and other creations. Especially sinful was the egg yolk custard bun (pic above) that was oozing with the golden elixir.
Relatively unnoticed was this dim sum outlet tucked in the middle of a row of shops in Ipoh Garden South. In business for a few years now, surprisingly. The concept’s different from the others, since you order from a menu instead of having them pushed to you in the usual manner.
Hints/Tips : Come here for lunch if you want, since they serve various value-for-money sets. And the “Kwai fah Gou”; a sweet jelly-like snack with bits of wolfberries within was something you can’t find that easily in Ipoh. The other dim sum being mediocre though, but the creamy custard bun though was not as good as Qi Yuan’s, was still worthy of a try. Forget about the Xiao Long Bao though, far from the best.
10. The OLD Foh San Dim Sum … (relocated)
Wait, this cannot be on the list, right? WRONG. Technically, you can’t visit this place anymore since Foh San has closed and moved to the new location on Leong Sin Nam Road.
But on a personal level, this was THE dim sum restaurant to beat. Both in terms of the food, the Sunday morning crowd, the aunties pushing their trolleys around, the ambience, the timeless facade, and the memories.
To me, the old Foh San epitomized everything that Ipoh’s dim sum ever was, and will be.
“So where is YOUR favourite spot for dim sum in Ipoh?”
(*Notable exclusions from this list include Chef Fatt Dim Sum and Chang Keong on Cowan Street, Sun Kim Aik on Jalan Lahat, and the new dim sum place in Greentown)