Holiday Foodsteps: Ipoh - Operation Curry Mee

Two things you have to remember when visiting one of the most popular breakfast spots in Ipoh:

- Patience is the name of the game
- One never messes with the system

Located along Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah (Hugh Low Street)

Competition can get pretty heated up at a place like this - trying to get a seat is a bit like running special ops. You do a quick scan of the area upon arrival and potential tables are locked down as targets. You gesture to your troops to spread out, all the while keeping an eye out for lesser competitors who decide to give up and leave. At this point, you make eye contact with the customers seated at your potential table - mentally hurrying them up or giving them the evil eye for daring to chit chat as they finish their last few drops of iced coffee. As soon as the woman at the table reaches for her handbag, you zone in on her seat, call out to the rest of the troops and settle down at the table before anyone else can.

It's a bit like clockwork, the way they work - food orders are taken only after drinks are served and bowls of sambal arriving at your table is a sign that your noodles are on the way. I suppose it's comforting in a way, the same way counting down to your number at the bank is.

The curry noodles are of a different style here - the gravy is clearer than your usual fare with little or no coconut milk in it. It's simple, just noodles, beansprouts and bits of spring onion in a less-than-normal amount of gravy.

This is probably what really sets it apart from the rest - the meat is served seperately. A big bowl of roast pork, barbecued pork, shrimp, steamed chicken and pork innards or spare parts, as it is more fondly known as is placed on the table to be shared. Dunked into the sambal, the chicken, pork or shrimp is a complement to the noodles. It's a pretty good idea to serve them seperately as it keeps the pork crispy and ensures that the flavour of the meat is not overpowered by the curry.

I have to admit, I found the whole experience pretty interesting - everything from the hovering over tables (something I hadn't done for a long time) to the system, and of course to the different style of curry noodles. The noodles are a bit of an acquired taste, I think, and like most Malaysian favourites, curry noodles is a matter of personal preference. While this one was definitely worth trying, I'm still partial to my curry noodle shop by the beach back home in Kuantan.

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