And Sam Tet 1978ers dinner dates have trickled to.....ZERO, in recent times!
Time we did something about this......
Szechuan Restaurant @ Fair Park, IpohJ2Kfm | September 13, 2009
Szechuan-style Stir Fried French Beans with Dried shrimps & Chopped ‘Choy Pou’ (Preserved Radish) aka “Four Seasons Beans”
Szechuan style of cooking encompasses an impressive variety of styles, ranging from the usual stir-frying and steaming, to the scarcely seen smoking and even ‘water-boiled’ (shui zhu); a prominent method of cooking fish (and other meats, to a considerably lesser extent) in China.
But the string that binds the Szechuan cuisine, the one category that most (if not all) Szechuan dishes fall into; is that they are all bold in flavours, pungent in taste, and fiery in nature. Though take note that I used the word ‘MOST’ in my last sentence, not ‘ALL.’
The liberal use of peppers, chillies and garlic lend an overall stronger flavour to most of the dishes, in contrast to the other simple, and bland Chinese dishes served in the other parts of China. Good thing we’re not served with the fiery Szechuan peppercorns from the Sichuan province, else we’ll be breathing fire before we can even reach for a glass of water. There are several restaurants in Kuala Lumpur that I know of, that serves the REAL deal, meaning to say they really incorporate the most authentic peppers and spices into their dishes. Word of warning; DO NOT order iced drinks to counter the spiciness, they’ll only make it worse.
Ma Po Tofu
In Ipoh, to a lack of fanfare, stands this restaurant in Fair Park that has seen better days but still up and running for more than 20 years now. Szechuan Restaurant is even on the map (!!), to our surprise. We witnessed the lady owner’s equally-shocked expression when a table of Japanese tourists brandishing cameras and map arriving in a cab, proudly explaining to her that the restaurant’s printed in their Ipoh guide! Though I’ve no idea the map is locally printed, or a product of Japan, or the embassy’s.
Dung Bo Yuk aka Braised FATTY Pork Belly
Back in the 80’s, when my late grandfather was around, our family used to patronize this restaurant periodically. A long wait for an empty table was the norm back then, especially come dinner hours on weekends. I still vaguely remembered the delightful dishes we sampled, especially the Four Seasons Beans aka “Sei Gwai Dau”, a Szechuan specialty that Szechuan Restaurant cooked with such skills.
Many years on, and this restaurant has clearly lost its novelty and its loyal following. With the emergence of various fusion style restaurants, countless Chinese ‘Dai Chow’ outlets, and even Chinese diners offering meal packages at a fraction of the prices they used to charge for wedding dinners, the foodie community of Ipoh marked Fair Park as more of a residential area, or maybe a street populated with medical clinics. And not the desired location to hunt for food.
Our dinner at Szechuan Restaurant was a heart-warming affair. Arriving rather early for dinner, they were in the midst of preparing the kitchen for the dinner crowd. IF there ever was one. The wait for our food was slightly longer than expected, therefore highly recommended to go at a later hour (7pm+ would be fine).
The stir fried French beans was spot on delicious. The aromatic smoky flavour of the beans shone through, with charred marks evident on the beans; a sign of fiery wok’s heat. And the crunchy mix of dried shrimps, ‘choy pou’ (Chinese preserved radish), chopped scallions and minced garlic completed the ensemble, resulting in a most balanced flavour. If you ever visit this restaurant, this dish is a MUST order.
The other dishes paled in comparison though. The Ma Po Tofu (Beancurd cooked in a spicy chilli and bean sauce with minced pork) is another staple of Szechuan cuisine, but the version being dished out here was a mediocre affair. Bright red in colour, with a faint layer of chilli oil but without the much-relished fiery kick. The Dung Bo Yuk or Braised Pork Belly with Dark Soy Sauce lacked the melt-in-mouth texture, usually owing to skillful stewing of the meat with a generous (yet artery-clogging!) layer of fat. Even the leaner portion of the meat was a little tough, deviating from its usual tender texture.
Szechuan Restaurant serves various other specialty dishes, such as Pei Pa Duck, and Szechuan Prawns. They’re actually moving to a new premise soon, somewhere in the township of Tasek in Ipoh.
30, Jalan Kamaruddin Isa,
31400 Ipoh, Perak.
Tel No : 605-546 9788, 6016-531 1666.
Opening Hours : 10.30am – 3.00pm, and 5pm – 10pm.
Closed on one Wednesday per month, randomly.
Here’s a GOOGLE MAP to the place.