scratching a seven-year itch
Seven years ago, I met a woman who would change my life forever.
Okay, okay. So maybe our encounter wasn't quite as life-changing as I put it, but she did introduce me to what she considered the best Chee Cheong Fun in the world. "It's so popular, you actually have to take a number," Favourite used to tell me. Favourite was a bit of a tease. She'd tell me all about it but never ever offered to buy some back, or even to take me to the place. And so I waited for the day that I would indeed savour the finest Chee Cheong Fun on the planet.
After seven years or longing and waiting, that day finally came.
Thanks to our Ipoh guide, MaiLing, we got there quickly enough and true to Favourite's words, we had to take a number. "You're 25, we're serving 19," the old lady snapped. "If you can't wait, don't eat," she added. I had waited 7 bloody years. An hour or two wasn't gonna hurt. And so to kill some time, I explored around the place. The first photo is the price list. You pay only RM 1.30 for a small plate. A large was RM 1.80 and an extra large would set you back only RM 2.20. Cheap! The place was bustling with people and the ladies were putting together a takeaway order. Some crazy guy was buying some 25 packets of the stuff.
Elsie and I went round to the kitchen. There we found an old gentleman making his delicious Chee Cheong Fun. "You're not the press, are you?" Uncle asked. "I don't want this coming out in any newspaper," he said. We assumed he didn't want to have to deal with a surge in patronage that might come with a press report. I assured him we weren't the press but I never promised I wouldn't promote his place. Good food was meant to be shared, and if I had to suffer doing it then suffer, I will!!!
The process looked simple enough. Just like he'd always done in the last 55 years, Uncle spreads a sheet of cotton over a steamer. He then brushes off any crease and proceeds to pour a rice flour batter over the thing.
He then sprinkles bits of cooked dried shrimps on the Chee Cheong Fun, after which he closes the lid and let the rice sheets steam. When it was done, he takes out the entire cotton sheet and scrapes off the Chee Cheong Fun on to a metal table. There, he sprinkles a little oil over the Chee Cheong Fun and proceeds to cut them into smaller sheets of six.
From here on, his wife takes over. She chops the sheets up into thing strips (like fettucini), drizzles a little oil over it. She then tops up the thing with sesame, fried shallots and pickled green chillies. The dish is finally served with a combination of a sweet and a hot sauce. I tasted a little curry oil in the dish, which I must say lends a nice, spicy aftertaste. The noodle is smooth and tender, and the cooked dried shrimps provides a nice contrast to the texture. Excellent stuff! Definitely worth the one and one half hour we had to wait.
I can't really direct you to the exact spot, since I don't know Ipoh very well. The place operates in the front porch of the proprietor's house, and it's at 1456 Pasir Pinji 5, Ipoh. This is gonna be a bit of a dilemma when I need to go back for more. *sigh* Anyway, if you're anywhere in Ipoh, do make the trip. But please, don't tell them I sent you. ;)