Treasures under the big old tree

GOING home to visit grandma in Ipoh has always been a favourite jaunt for my two sons as this usually means visits to their favourite food stalls. 

Grandma stays in Ipoh Garden East and as soon as we come off the highway at the Ipoh (S) exit, we would, not without guilt, drive past grandma’s place and head straight for this place we fondly named Tai Shue Kiok – which literally means under the big tree – along Jalan King, off Jalan Kampar. 

Nestled under a huge tree is a stall selling, easily the best deep-fried yong tau foo in town (if not the peninsula). 

This stall, which is located in a hawker square, ladles out at least 20 types of fried stuffed yong tau foo like bean curd sheets, yau chau kuai, fish cakes of various kinds, stuffed chilli, brinjal and bitter gourd, fresh from the kuali all day from 9am to about 4pm, daily. 

To get there can be quite tricky because it is not a normal tourist destination. If you get onto Jalan Kampar heading towards Ipoh town, Jalan King is a junction away from The Store department store. If you are lost, just ask for directions to the Pasir Putih market. 

The best time to arrive is around 11am when the whole selection is ready for the lunch crowd – but minus the lunch crowd. 

You are able to take your time piling on the deep-fried stuff in small plastic bowls. Here’s a tip on piling: make sure the fish balls and fish cakes stay at the bottom so that they don’t crush the sheets of crispy fried bean curd.  

Then stuff brinjal, chilli and so forth on top of them, before topping off with the crispy bean curd sheets!  

My younger son will go for only the stuffed egg. My elder boy scoops up virtually everything he can lay his eyes on. 

I would strongly recommend the sar kok, which means mengkuang in Cantonese, only that it’s not really mengkuang per se. 

It’s deep-fried slices of dough with bits of mengkuang. The dough is rolled up in bean curd sheets before it is sliced up and deep-fried.  

It’s crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. This goes really well with the assortment of succulent fish cakes, stuffed chilli and brinjal, and the legendary smooth and soft stuffed tau foo and a plate of dried curry kway teow with fat crunchy bean sprouts.  

You would usually have a choice of curry, assam laksa or dried noodles to go with the yong tau foo

There are about 10 other stalls here and you may want to try the fried “lo bak ko” (radish cake).  

The fried radish cake omelette is fluffy and not heavily soaked in oil like those we usually get in the pasar malam

We always walk away from the place with a tar pau because we always take more than we could eat.  

You just have to eat to believe! 

Tan Ju Eng is a true believer in the goodness of Ipoh’s water and that it is solely responsible for the smoothness of its tau foo, kway teow and Ipoh women’s fair and smooth complexion. 

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