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Archive for July 5th, 2012

I am sure anyone who has been to Ipoh will instantly recognize this majestic white building facing the junction of Clare Street and Osbourne Street.

Foh San Dim Sum Restaurant used to serve their famous Hong Kong dim sum at the ground floor of this building for more than five decades before finally moving to their own premise at Leong Sin Nam Street some three years ago.

In those good old days, this is the place people went for some of the best dim sum in Ipoh. Their mouth-watering fares are served in an old-fashioned way – in small rattan baskets, still piping hot and came in trolleys pushed by grumpy looking aunties with a ” take it or leave it” look on their faces. Sorry, no pretty cheongsam clad waitresses to serve dim sum here.

To eat dim sum at Foh San, you can go as early as four o’clock in the morning and by seven, most of their favorites were sold out, especially their much sought after “Foh San Tai Pau” – the big white dumpling with delicious steamed chicken, sweet turnips, eggs and mushroom as fillings. This dumpling came in extra big size and you will feel full just by eating this alone.

At Foh San, you have to look for a table on your own and many used to stand around to wait for a table. Many customers who had finished eating their food do not vacate their seats immediately to make way for others. Instead, they will linger on to down cups and cups of Chinese tea. Some even read their newspapers to their heart’s content before taking their leave. So to see some customers fighting among themselves for a table is not something unusual in this dim sum restaurant. This is especially true during public holidays and weekends.

Although eating dim sum is something to be taken for granted by many, for my family, it was a luxury we could only think of but could not afford. Dim sum does not come cheap.

My father was always struggling to make ends meet and thus, I only got to eat here after I have finally finished my studies and got myself a steady job! The memory of bringing my parents here for the first time in 1988 to celebrate Mother’s Day remained vivid in my mind. I ordered so much dim sum we could not finished them and have to pack the remaining to bring home. We spent the next two days eating them. Speak of taking revenge on food!

Foh San is not only famous for its Hong Kong dim sum but its mooncakes too. Each year, you have to buy them early to avoid appointments as Foh San’s mooncakes made excellent gifts to friends and relatives during the Mooncake Festival.

In 1959, my maternal grandfather was accidentally hit by fireworks hung from the window on the second floor of this building as he was on his way to play mahjong at the Perak Dramatic Association. It happened one night on the second day of Chinese New Year and as a result of this unfortunate event, he was blinded on both eyes.

It was outside this white building too, many years later, that my father used to bring me on some nights  to watch those monkeys and snakes performed for the roadside medicine men. This is part of Durian Street which I wrote about on Father’s Day.

No, I have not been to the new Foh San at Leong Sin Nam Street. According to my sister, the dim sum at this new place is not so tasty anymore and getting more expensive too, so I did not bother to try. I still missed the experience of eating dim sum at the old place.

The second picture here is another famous eating place – Hung Kee Rice Shop near Cowan Street and Clare Street. This is the side entrance to the shop.

Note its old-fashioned signboard. I think this is the only one left in the whole city! Just below the signboard were bougainvilleas plants growing abundantly.

Hung Kee still serves its famous roasted chicken and roasted pork rice with salted vegetable and duck soup but it was closed for a few days when I was back, so we could not get to eat here. I remember one time my mother packed roasted char siew and siew yoke rice for me  from this shop but it was so long ago that I have forgotten the taste.

This is the front portion of the shop. Still oozing with old world charm and refusing to yield to modernization!

Do you have happy memories of eating either at Foh San or Hung Kee or both to share too?

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