Ipoh - A Food Diary: Xin Guan Fang Curry Mee

Thursday, March 15, 2012

This is how it looks if you order the garnishes and meat separately
The "Don't Hurry Me Curry Mee"

Wait and take your turn...
We started our second day in Ipoh with curry mee.

Will you wait 45 minutes or more for a bowl of this?

Judging by the wait and queue at Xin Guan Fang Curry Mee, it seems like many won't mind. It is located near the new police station at Jalan Sultan Iskandar. It is known by locals a "ma ta liu min" and reputed as one of the best curry mee here.

One reasons for the wait is the limited no of tables. This tells you that the owner has been at this for a long time and not about to introduce any changes. He is only cooking a certain amount each day and it will all be finished by late morning.

He is not in a rush. "Take your time" and this seems to be the way of life in this city.

You just sit and wait at your table. When the time comes, he will come and take your orders. It is actually all done in orderly fashion. In fact, if you hassle and ask for his attention before that, he will glare at you.

Big, Extra, Special...Specialist?
"If you want curry mee, please don't hurry me", the glare seems to say.
So you sit there in the curry-permeated air and look longingly  at your neighbours slurping their noodles. After half an hour, the anticipation, smells and sights will build up your appetite. You can be sure that there will be no 'curry wars' here as everyone there love the smells.

Sniff. Sniff. Wait. Stare. Sniff. Wait. Sniff some more.

Finally he appears. You know the end bowl  is in sight. By now, your nostrils are so currified that it feels like a pair of chillies have been stuffed into it. You place your order. Five to ten minutes later, the bowls arrive. 

The chili oil dip
Remember, curry mee is not laksa. There is no santan or coconut milk in this version. Just a good stock with fragrant chili oil and spices. And you need not say "mai hum" (cockles) as they do not serve it with any. And they don't speak Hokkien either.

The mee and bee hoon is cooked just right along with some tauge. The siu bak (roast pork) is the perfect accompaniment, along with some other "lieu" like prawns and pig ears. The smell of the soup is very fragrant and I can see why some can get addicted to this. They also give you a bowl of special chilli oil if you order extra 'lieu.' The curry is spicy hot but not overly so, and you can tell that the cook wants to achieve a good balance and leaves you with the option of spicing it up yourself if you like.

The "lieu"
So, how good can a bowl of curry mee get? What do we mean by 'good'? Adding huge large prawns? Adding slices of abalone? More lard? More chilli padi oomph? More santan?

Good street food is about good balance and proportion, using ordinary ingredients and letting the taste come through. One refrains from using expensive ingredients to camouflage the lack of technique and attention to details. This bowl of curry mee illustrates simple and good cooking.

There is a real sense of order in this place and it is also reflected in the cooking. You can be assured of a consistently good and satisfying bowl of curry mee, morning after morning in this city where time seems to stand still.

The waiting routine adds to the experience. Don't be in a hurry here.

Xin Guan Fang Restaurant
174 Jalan Sultan Iskandar Shah.
Open from 7.30am to lunch. 

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