Ipoh Kai See Hor Fun (Dry Version)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I love the food in Ipoh.

I was born and bred in Petaling Jaya and she does have some great hawker stall dishes.

But Ipoh is quite something else.

Many say that it has to do with the surrounding lime hills which affects the alkalinity of the water. This in turn may explain why Ipoh's bean sprouts, bean curd and hor fun (flat rice noodles) are so unique that they are named after the city. The Chinese populace is predominantly Cantonese (if not in dialect group, certainly in terms of cooking culture) and famed for their cooking. And with fresh fish, crabs and prawns coming from rivers in the region and the slower pace of life, you have some of the factors which makes Ipoh's cuisine special.

I have met a maker of Bee Chang Kueh (Peanut Kuih) who have been at it for over twenty years. She still uses charcoal fire. I have not tasted anything in Singapore that even comes close. The Cantonese are masters at stir fried dishes. There is a restaurant where I was transfixed just watching the way they use their woks. And this particular restaurant sells an amazing 'cheesy hai'- crab cooked with cheese and salted eggs. Freshwater prawns is commonly found here. I have already blogged a recipe involving that.

This is not the only post where you will hear me raving about Ipoh cuisine. Stay tuned.

Ipoh Hor Fun (Flat Rice Noodle). When it comes to hor fun, there are two types: one for frying (i.e Char Kuay Teow),
the other for soup. For this recipe, use the latter.
When my brother from Ipoh visited me recently, he brought along a few kilos of Hor Fun. Normally, we would make 'Kai See Hor Fun' with this. This is a soup version with hor fun in a chicken and prawn broth, with chicken strips, sliced prawns, fried onions and chives for the garnishing. This sweet and tasty broth complements the 'springy' Ipoh hor fun perfectly.

If you are an "Ipohan", you would have been to Kong Heng Coffeeshop. The Kai See Hor Fun there is the best in Ipoh and we can assume, has no other worthy challenger on planet earth. I cannot imagine how I can match the way they do it there. The hor fun they use has the perfect texture. They serve a broth which tastes like a hundred chickens have gone into it. And we can only guess what else. 

I will blog the home-made soup version one day. If you live in Ipoh, you have no reason to cook this at home. Just hop over to Kong Heng. 

This recipe is for the rest of us.

What I will blog here is a dry version of Kai See Hor Fun (which you can also get at Kong Heng). It cuts down the need to prepare a huge pot of broth and instead, relies on the mix of bottled sauces as a base. By the way, this is definitely an Auntie Ruby dish but I will not pre-fix the name of the dish with it.

Ipoh Kai See Hor Fun Recipe 


1 kilo of Ipoh Hor Fun (you can get this locally in S'pore) 
Some Bean Sprouts (optional) 

For Stock and Garnishing
Half a chicken (Cut into 3-4 pieces)
1 kilo of peeled medium sized grey prawns

Preparing the Sauce (Pic: L to R)
Light Soy Sauce
Fish Sauce
Sesame oil
Dark Soy Sauce 

Note: As this dish is sauce-dependent, get the best sauces you can lay your hands on.   

Chicken strips
Sliced prawns (boiled)
Fried Onions
Chopped Spring Onions
Cut Fresh Red Chilli
Some green veg (boiled)
Green veg...
Preparing the sauce and 'saucing' the plate

"Kai Si" - Chicken meat strips
Peeled and boiled prawns
Boiling Prawn Shells to enhance the stock

  1. Heat up some water in a pot
  2. Add the chicken pieces and boil for 20 minutes in low flame. 
  3. Remove chicken pieces. When it is cold, peel the meat into strips. Discard the bones.
  4. Now, add the prawns shells and boil for another 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the prawn shells.
  6. Boil the peeled prawns for about 1-2 minutes. Remove and set aside. when cold, slice your prawns length wise.

    You have boiled your chicken, prawns shells and meat. In the process, you are also making your broth. Efficient.
  7. Now, boil another batch of water in a pot. You will use this for the hor fun (to wash away the oil and soften it up). But first, boil the veg for about 1 min or so. Remove and set aside. 
  8. Sauce Preparation: As in the photo above, just splash the oil, sauces and pepper onto the plate. I think this defies measurement. Or maybe, this is just beyond me. You have to go with agar-ration. If you are not sure, balance the sauces first in a separate bowl. If you like, you can add some kecap manis, though I prefer the sweetness of the stock. Don't overdo the fish sauce and sesame oil as small amounts will go a long way.
    Softening and heating up the Hor Fun - a quick 20 secs will do
  9. Place a serving of beansprouts and hor fun into a colander and stick it into the pot of boiling water (the water needs to be boiling for it to quickly soften the hor fun) for about 20 secs. Use a chopstick to stir. The hor fun will get limp and soft very quickly. Then, put it onto the plate with the sauces. Add a few teaspoons of broth. Stir and mix the hor fun, sauces and broth.
  10. Then garnish with chicken strips, sliced prawns, fried onions and spring onions. Put the boiled veg on the side. 
Serve immediately.

It seems like there are many steps to work on but actually it is easy to do. You will quickly get the hang of it as the methods are intuitive. When you next queue up at the hawker noodle stall, just observe. They are basically doing the same thing. With some practice, you will get into the 'flow.' And once you become comfortable with this way of cooking, it is easier to work on other type of noodles.

Spring Onions. A week old but they spring back to life when soaked in water
Sliced shallots being fried to perfection. Stock it up for regular daily use.
The oil leftover is fragrant and can be used for other dishes.
Now, if you use the oil left over from frying the onions, it will add some fragrance to the dish. As you can see, if you plan it well, this dish can be very 'efficient.' But nothing wrong in making life easier for yourself and getting those fried onions off the shelf.

Ipoh Hor Fun sold in supermarts here
So, how will you get Ipoh Hor fun if you have no runners doing that for you? These days, you can buy Ipoh Hor Fun from the local wet markets. Some supermarts also sell them but the wet markets ones should be better.

Traditionally, this hawker dish does not come with a generous serving of prawns. These days, with prawn farming, the cost of grey prawns have come down. And since you are treating yourself at home, there is no reason why you should not pile up the prawns.

This method can be used for other type of noodles as well. Just experiment and improvise.

Soup version of Kai See Hor Fun

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  1. I love Ipoh Hor Fun!!! These days, nothing come close to one stall that I used to patronise when young (at Marine Parade). They decided to close shop years ago.

    Looking at your post, I am beginning to miss it all over again. How?

  2. Indeed nothing comes close here, in part b'cos it is hard to to get Ipoh Hor Fun here. I will blog the soup version when I next get my hands on the hor fun. The broth is quite easy to make. Just chicken and prawns. For a temp fix, try out Old Town Coffee version.

  3. Nice photos but I always prefer the soup version, especially in winter.