Yeh Lai Ong
Ipoh Garden, Ipoh.
My brother has a theory about restaurants: easily bendable cutlery and plates that look like they've been too close to fire means that you're almost guaranteed a good meal. This is the place that proves his theory time and time again. No trip to Ipoh would be complete without a visit (or two) to our favourite restaurant, at least not for us anyway. It's one of those things that we talk about even before we get to Ipoh, a sort of centre piece to our holiday. The thing is, they recognise us, even if we only pay them a visit twice a year - and that's always nice, isn't it?
Claiming that no other place does steamed clams better than this place, this is where my brother gets his clam fix. Steamed in Chinese wine and ginger, this dish always has a wonderful aroma. He consumes his clams with all seriousness, treating it like an Olympic sport. There's a method to all of it apparently - one has to get the right amount of gravy into the shell before slurping everything up and adding the empty shell to the growing tower on the side plate.
I've yet to come find a place that makes a sweet and sour sauce as good as this one. There's a fantastic quality to the taste - a little garlicky, a little sweet, a little sour, a little magic. It's so good, it's almost addictive. I was tempted to order a bowl of gravy just to go with the fried mantou that was crisp and golden on the outside and deliciously soft on the inside. I think it's the authencity of the sauce, how you just know that it's the natural flavours of the ingredients coming together that makes you want to lick every bit of gravy off the crab (and of your fingers!).
Fried squid, something I can never resist. They do a mean fried squid - crispy, tasty and with the squid cooked just long enough. It was a last minute addition to the meal, and an addition that we definitely did not regret.
Deep fried pomfret. This is another one of our favourites as the fish is always fresh and the soy sauce gravy makes an excellent complement to the fish. This time, it was a little low on the soy sauce gravy, much to my disappointment though the fish was still well fried. Perhaps a better option would have been the steamed fish Teochew style, something that we had on the second visit to the restaurant that trip. Steamed with salted vegetables, the salty-sour gravy was extremely appetising.
It's funny how coming from the east cost, we look forward to seafood in Ipoh but really, it's the sort of meal that puts you in the best of moods even if the rain threatens to put a dampener on your holiday (and trust me, this trip, it did try).