What to Eat in Ipoh, Malaysia

What to Eat in Ipoh, Malaysia

Foodies, delight in some of Ipoh’s tastiest dishes on your next visit to this quaint town.

It’s safe to say that in any discussion regarding great foodie destinations in Malaysia, Ipoh is a constant presence. This charming city in the state of Perak has long been one of the top destinations in the country for day trips and weekend getaways. And, as you might have guessed it, the main reason behind it is the city’s scintillating food scene. Indeed, one of the questions every visitor eventually asks themselves is: what to eat in Ipoh?

From delicious hawker fare steeped in years of tradition to quirky Malaysian-style fusion cuisine, food in Ipoh is a truly mesmerising affair. If you consider yourself a true-blue culinary connoisseur, then this list is just for you. Here are 19 things to eat in Ipoh for a taste of foodie heaven!

1. Bean Sprouts Chicken

Image credit: Cecil Lee

Ipoh’s most famous dish consists of two of the most common ingredients around: chicken and bean sprouts. As the name suggests, this popular dish consists of crunchy bean sprouts and tender chicken, usually steamed and drizzled with light soy sauce and garnish.

Also known as nga choy kai, it is often served with either rice or hor fun (flat rice noodles). The fragrant chicken and juicy bean sprouts combine well in terms of flavour and texture, easily cementing it as Ipoh’s most iconic culinary gem.

2. Gai Si Hor Fun

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While Penang has its famous koay teow th’ng, Ipoh certain has its own popular noodle dish in the form of gai si hor fun. Loosely translated, it means chicken slices with flat rice noodles. It is usually eaten as a breakfast dish although, in true Malaysian fashion, gai si hor fun is also enjoyed during lunch, dinner, and supper.

Gai si hor fun is served in a piping hot bowl of prawn shell-infused chicken broth. The savoury broth blends well with the springy rice noodles topped with shredded chicken, shrimp, and chives. If you’re looking for a less soupy meal, you can choose to go for a dry version of the dish as well.

3. Hor Hee Noodles

Another breakfast staple in Ipoh is hor hee noodles. Despite sounding like a toothless toddler’s failed attempt of trying to say “horsey”, hor hee noodles make for an exceptionally hearty meal. Served in a flavoursome fish-based broth and topped with various fish-based ingredients, hor hee is almost exclusively only found in Ipoh.

It comes in a variety of noodles and the usual accompanying ingredients include springy fish balls, sliced fish cakes, fried shallots, and spring onions. The star of the dish is the fish dumping: minced fish paste wrapped in chewy dumpling skin. An excellent start to the day if I dare say so myself.  

4. Dim Sum (Fish balls/Yu Mai)

Image credit: Claire

While dim sum is perceived as a Hong Kong kind of thing, it is also particularly famous in Ipoh. In fact, I’ve personally driven down to Ipoh on occasion just to have a good dim sum breakfast. You’ll find the usual assortment of dumplings, chinese buns, and side dishes. What makes dim sum in Ipoh stand out is the fish dumplings, or yu mai.

Most dim sum dumplings contain fillings of pork or shrimp, so fish paste dumplings are quite the rarity. In addition, in Ipoh, you’ll also find these juicy, springy garlic fish balls that are steamed to perfection.

And just because some people might not be aware of this, having siew mai with sweet chilli sauce is a strictly Malaysian/Singaporean thing. Do NOT ask for chilli sauce with your dim sum in Hong Kong. Trust me…the condescending looks they give you…*shivers*

5. Chee Cheong Fun

Image credit: Ipoh Eat Sleep Play

Chee Cheong Fun in Chinese means pig intestine noodles (well, directly translated anyway). But don’t worry, this is not some twisted Malaysian version of haggis. It is named such because of the way the steamed rice rolls resemble pig intestines. In most parts of Malaysia, these silky smooth rolls are topped with a generous serving of various thick sauces.

In Ipoh, the dish takes on a lighter touch. Drizzled with some soy sauce and sesame oil, chee cheong fun here is topped with sliced green chilies, sesame seeds, and fried shallots. It is delectably simple and makes for a good snack suited for any time of the day. According to the locals, the best chee cheong fun in Ipoh can be found at a hawker stall in Canning Garden.

6. Ipoh White Coffee

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Is there anything more iconic about Ipoh then the famous Ipoh White Coffee? I mean, when your coffee becomes a brand of its own, you know you’ve got something amazing brewing. Ipoh white coffee is arguably the city’s most popular beverage and loved by both young and old.

The creamy taste of the coffee would appease many a coffeeholic and is definitely one of the best cuppas you can find in town. It is often paired with roti goyang, buttered toast (sometimes with kaya jam) with runny poached eggs on top. The pairing is a gastronomic pairing unlike any other.

7. Baked Pastries

Image credit: Claire

Kaya puffs and egg tarts are some of the most popular snacks in Ipoh. You can find these delicious traditional pastries almost anywhere in the city, from bakeries to hawker stalls and even dim sum restaurants. While I personally prefer kaya puffs, egg tarts are often the crescendo of freshly baked goods in Ipoh.

Featuring a crispy, crumbly exterior and a smooth, almost custard-like eggy centre, egg tarts in Ipoh are to die for. These sweet, savoury snacks are even said to be just as good as the ones in Hong Kong and Macau. And for less than half the price for that matter! You definitely wouldn’t want to miss out on these pockets of flavour when you’re in Ipoh.

8. Hainanese (Dry) Curry Mee

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While I prefer the familiar taste of Penang White Curry Mee, I must concede that Ipoh’s Hainanese curry mee is pretty awesome as well. Extremely spicy, Hainanese curry mee broth tastes and smells strongly of cardamom and Sichuan pepper. The noodles (choose between yellow egg noodles, rice vermicelli and flat rice noodles) are often topped with different succulent roast meats and some mint.

You can even find dry versions of the dish where the curry sauce is a lot thicker (and yummier if you ask me) and more savoury. One of the curry mee stalls in Ipoh, Sin Seng Fatt, even exports their noodles to Hong Kong!

9. Nasi Ganja

Image credit: Zol m

Despite the name, you actually won’t find any illegal substances mixed in with the rice. That being said, the flavours on the plate alone are enough to make this one of the most addictive dishes in the city (hence its name). Operating out of Yong Suan Kopitiam, the nasi ganja stall is often packed during lunch hours and long queues are to be expected on most days.

The key ingredient of nasi ganja (apart from the fluffy rice) is the ayam masak merah, fried chicken braised in a spicy tomato sauce. Make sure to also ask for “kuah campur” (mixed gravy) for that extra kick in flavour!

10. Hainanese Chop Rice

While Hainanese chop rice is pretty common throughout Malaysia, it is even more well-loved in Ipoh. For the uninitiated, this fusion dish usually contains a piece of fried meat (usually pork, chicken, or fish) drizzled with a sweet sauce and frozen vegetables, a sunny side up egg and rice.

This filling comfort food-esque dish is especially popular among children and students but even adults can’t resist its simple pleasures. For the best chop rice, most Ipohans flock to Super Kinta for their fix of East meets West.

11. Yong Tau Foo

Image credit: Lyrical Lemongrass

Yong tau foo is a classic Malaysian favourite, and the best yong tau foo might just be found in Ipoh. Central to the dish is a meat paste made of pork and fish. The paste is stuffed into various vegetables and ingredients, such as eggplant, okra, and bean curd skin. The vegetables are then boiled and served in a clear stock while the stuffed bean curd is deep fried.

Of course, there’s also a ton of other ingredients to choose from as well, such as tofu, fish cakes, hot dogs, loh bak (meat spring rolls) and more. Yong tau foo usually comes with either rice or noodles and a spicy-sweet dipping sauce. You can also choose to have your yong tau foo in spicy laksa instead of the usual clear soup.

12. Salt-Baked Chicken

Salt-baked chicken (called yim kok gai) is a true delicacy. For this uniquely Ipohan dish, free-range chickens are marinated with the aromatic flavours of chinese herbs and angelica (known as dong quai in Cantonese) in a greaseproof paper and then baked in massive woks filled with heaps of salt.

Despite this, the chicken doesn’t turn out to be overly salty. Just like how salt-crusting works, the salt actually helps lock in the moisture of the chicken, ensuring that the finished product remains juicy, tender and flavoursome. The dish can be eaten on its own or with some rice. Some speciality shops in Ipoh also sell these birds in vacuum packages, making them perfect gifts to bring home.

13. Rendang Tok

While Ipoh is a predominantly Chinese majority city, it certainly has its fair share of scrumptious Malay cuisine. One traditional Malay dish that is famous in Ipoh is rendang tok, a slow-cooked dry beef curry packed with various herbs, spices and coconut milk.

This firecracker of a dish used to be served exclusively to the royalty in Perak. So, if you’re in Ipoh and you want to eat like royalty, then make sure to give this awesome dish a try.

14. Caramel Egg Custard

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You’ve heard of creme brulee, but do you know about Ipoh’s tantalising version of the famous French dessert? Caramel egg custard is the dessert of choice in Ipoh and it can be found quite easily in most places. The most popular place for this smooth, creamy delight however, has to be Thean Chun Kopitiam.

The caramel is sweet yet not sickeningly so and the silky custard almost melts the moment it lands on your tongue. This impressive combination makes it an unbelievably soothing experience for your palette, especially when you dig in when it is still cold. Ah, what a way to stave off the heat in Ipoh!

15. Muaci

Despite sounding, looking and tasting like mochi, I can assure you, muaci in Ipoh (and Malaysia) is quite different from its Japanese and Taiwanese counterparts. Malaysian muaci is a lot rougher around the edges, coming in different shapes and sizes. The casually cut glutinous rice “balls” are topped with crushed peanuts and sugar to produce this sweet, nutty Malaysian favourite.

In Ipoh, you have the added option of topping muaci with a creamy peanut paste that is thick, gooey and sweet. When mixed together, it is a sinfully delicious dessert/snack. It’s no wonder people keep coming back for more.

16. Tau Foo Fah

If you’re looking for a dessert that won’t instantly increase your waistline, go for Ipoh’s famous tau foo fah (soybean pudding). To be more precise, you’d want to visit the tau foo fah shop at Funny Mountain. Utilising the finest soybeans, the tau foo fah here is silky smooth and almost instantly melts in your mouth.

If you’re looking for an extra bit of sweetness, top the tau foo fah with a bit of sweet syrup and let the flavours explode. Apart from tau foo fah, you can also buy a variety of different soy-based products here.

17. Ais Kepal

The hype surrounding ais kepal has more to do with the nostalgia factor than the taste. After all, this dessert is just an incredibly simple combination of shaved ice and syrup. Ah, I know what you’re thinking: this sounds a lot like ais kacang. In a way, it is, but it’s not. While ais kacang is always served in a bowl, the traditional way of eating ais kepal is by holding it in your hand with a piece of paper.

This ball-shaped dessert used to be all the rage just a few decades ago but are now quite rare in Malaysia. Thankfully, you can still find ais kepal in Ipoh, especially in its Old Town region. For a true Malaysian experience, I recommend going for the Milo ais kepal!

18. Pomelo

Image credit: Udi h Bauman

Ever since I was a kid, the one thing my family never forgot to bring back from a trip to Ipoh was pomelo. The best way to describe this native citrus fruit in Ipoh would be like this: it’s a giant grapefruit. Getting to the actual flesh of the fruit takes a fair amount of work, but the sweet, jelly-like fruit makes it all worth it in the end.

Available all year round, pomelos make for wonderful souvenirs from Ipoh. In fact, you can buy these off fruit stalls at rest stops by the North-South Expressway.

19. Heong Peng

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Heong peng is the decadent Ipoh equivalent of Penang’s tau sar piah. Traditionally baked in coconut husks, these pastries are the most sought-after gifts from Ipoh. The filling is a sweet paste made of malt and shallots while the crusty exterior is garnished with toasted sesame seeds.

True traditionalists bake heong peng in a kiln, giving it a distinctive smoky aroma which permeates the interior. Needless to say, if you’re ever in Ipoh, don’t forget to stock up on these wonderful biscuits!

Next stop: Foodie Heaven

And there you have it, 19 types of food in Ipoh that are sure to keep you coming back for more. How many of these have you already tried? Did we miss anything out? Let us know and stay tuned for the next instalment of the Malaysia Foodie Bucket List Series!

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.

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