Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lunch in old Ipoh Town: Loke Wooi Kee Coffee Shop

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When I was in Ipohon my way back from KL one day, I was wondering about this old place where my dad used to bring us when we were kids for a stopover lunch in the old town when someone mentioned the word 'lunch in Ipoh' in the car.
It has indeed been a very long time since we stopped over in Ipoh for lunch or any meal, for that matter ever since the barrier was constructed to split the road to KL and into Ipoh; causing inconveniences to most road travelers and although I used to drop by Ipoh for breakfast in the past.
Besides, I do have memories of dropping by Ipoh during my childhood as we used to travel to Penang (northern region) to visit grandmother and then occasionally stopping by the old town of Ipoh for lunch or dinner; depending on the time of arrival at the state.

Ipoh is the capital of the state of Perak; a state located between the north and south of Peninsular Malaysia; although slightly towards the northern part and is one of the larger states on the map. Having several counties or small cities under its wing, Ipoh is still the most prominent name uttered by most locals; from both the state and even other state dwellers.
The development in Ipoh may not be as rapid as it is in the metropolitan capital city of Kuala Lumpur, but it certainly has its own uniqueness and exotic offers through its age-old heritage and charm.
Besides temples and natural limestone caves, Ipoh is the other food capital of Malaysia; rivaling that of the island of Penang with its entirely separate menu and culinary delights made famous from the old-timers who have survived the ages of change and evolution.

Driving into the old town of Ipoh, everything seems like it was preserved from its yesteryears; although of course, that does not mean there is no development at all in this charming city.
There are a few modern shops/outlets taking over the pre-war shophouses lining the streets; blending in with the memories of yesterday in the backdrop.

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While navigating my way through the busy streets during the mid hours of noon, I placed an immediate call to dear old daddy to ask for the name of the old coffee shop he used to bring us for a round of old town culinary delights whenever we stopover in Ipoh.
Thankfully dad's memory still serves him good (although he complains of being forgetful sometimes) and he gave me the name of the place in an instant and coincidentally, we were just around the corner and found the shop just a few feet away from us.

Parking coupons are required here in Ipoh, and one can easily get a book from the nearest shop; usually these mobile/cell phone or even photo shops are selling them.
Scratch off the date and time and place them on the car's dashboard; stating the duration you will be parking based on the amount you have scratched off and you are good to go.

Ahhh, the old school Loke Wooi Kee coffee shop does not seem to be that old school anymore considering the fresh facelift it has been given with a new coat of paint and a brand new signboard.
There used to be a department store across this shop and now, it's no longer there.
It is no wonder that I cannot find the coffee shop earlier for I was focused on looking for the department store and an old school and rustic coffee shop.

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Spot the coffee shop at the end; with the green board and a truck parked in front of it.

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It may have changed on the outside, but once I stepped inside the shop, it seemed like it was almost the same as yesterday though of course, they repainted the walls and also re-arranged some of the tables.

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The reason we are here in this coffee shop...
A bowl of Chicken Hor Fun (Flat rice noodles) cooked with chicken broth; aka Kai See Hor Fun (in Cantonese)

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At a glance, it may look not seem like it is anything special and one may even wonder the extent of making a stopover in the middle of a trip down the highway for a bowl of flat rice noodles?
Now, that's where the specialty comes in; not the broth, nor the chicken or the prawns you could see in the picture above.
The drawing factor lies in the smooth and silky texture of the hor fun; or the flat rice noodles produced in Ipoh which seemed to surpass that of the other versions found all over Malaysia.
Yes, the hor fun is smooth and seems to slide right through the tongue into the throat! No kidding...

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The locals attributed the silkiness of the rice noodles; which are handmade by the way, to the ingredients and perhaps, one of the secret power ingredient lies in the source of the water which flows from the natural limestone caves. Well, that was what rumors say anyway, and the state is famous for its bean sprouts which are exceptionally juicy and fat in size and also soy beans among many other things.
Myth or fact? I think it is more like something which everyone believed in until today :-)

Another one that I used to remember from my childhood days was this; that I introduced to hubby.

The Pop Soda with Ice Cream 

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It is basically a fizzy drink; usually a 7-Up (I call it the old-school drink) with rose syrup sugar and an ice cream.

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Pour in the fizzy drink and the ice cream will just float; yes, it is a science experiment in food ;-)

Fishballs and fish cake with glass noodles

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Ipoh Popiah; a slightly dry version compared to the Penang popiah and this is stuffed with minced pork as well (Penang ones are usually with seafood; shrimps/crab meat/mantis prawns)

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We tried a plate of the Teluk Intan Chee Cheong Fun available in the shop (Teluk Intan is another town in the same state)

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Hmmmm, mixing the different types of sauces seem to taste a little weird and we just could not get used to the taste of this chee cheong fun; preferring the Penang version and even the original Ipoh version which hopefully I would get to blog about sometime.

The place may be the same and the memories of the place would remain in me as part of my childhood for many more years to come. Much has changed in the coffee shop; although most of the old vendors are still around but I guess, it's best that way for the good things never change, don't they?

*I must plan a road trip to Ipoh someday again, it's been a while since my last trip!*


  1. I think is true that a different source of water will create very different hor fun. =)

  2. Eek, fish balls - I've never been able to enjoy these. That chicken broth and noodles looks wonderful though... I'd be all over that!

  3. Smitten ByFood, yeah, guess it's proven in Malaysia at least!
    Seems like only Ipoh can boast of their signature hor fun and not in any other states!:-P

  4. Charles, hahaha, then I am the total opposite of you..I am a huge fan of fishballs!:-P
    Oh, the broth and noodles are the signature dishes in the state, so you
    'd be right to be all over that when you are there ;-)

  5. Sure learned so much here today; not sure about fishballs though.

  6. It's fascinating to see how our experiences as adults actually compare with childhood memories.

  7. It's fascinating to see how our experiences as adults actually compare with childhood memories.

  8. Oh i hope can find this place as I'm heading to Ipoh this Tues ! :D

  9. Rita, LOL, something new to you perhaps?:-P

  10. The Yum List, true...:-)

  11. Rebecca Saw, oh, you should be able to, it's a small and easy to get around town! Otherwise you can contact me?;-)

  12. Rebecca, I hope to read about your Ipoh culinary adventures soon too yeah ;-)