Ipoh was a mixed bag of hit and misses. Part of the problem was time - we didn't have enough and, since I was on assignment, it wasn't entirely our own. We blew town knowing we'd barely scratched its surface. (We did, however visit that tree; a former colleague of Dave's even tells us he appeared on the evening news hanging with some politicos).
This place (like Lou Wong Tauge Ayam, apparently) gets mixed reviews. I don't know if we hit Foh San on an unusually good day (or detractors have hit it on off days), or if the fact that we were sharing a table with one of the owners and a demanding regular was doing the ordering had anything to do with it, but our breakfast amounted to some of the best dim sum we've eaten in a long time.
The prawn and scallop dumplings were a highlight, the wrappers lacking any gummyness and the seafood so fresh that one bite flooded our mouths with its briny juices.
Stir-fried radish cake (above, 3 o'clock) was surprisingly delicate and as light on grease as an absorbent cake fried in lots of oil can possibly be. The dish's bean sprouts were plenty crunchy and the cook added just the right amount of Foh San's housemade chili sauce.
Bean curd skin-wrapped prawn rolls (9 o'clock) were another hit, extremely crunchy and packed with not only prawn but large chunks of firm white-fleshed fish. I didn't even contemplate dipping into the mayo on the side.
spinach dumplings filled with minced pork, mushrooms, and water chestnuts
I'm a huge fan of lotus seed paste which, paired with salted egg, is common filling for mooncakes. Foh San makes its own paste, and its perfect - smooth, not too stiff, and only slightly sweet. The predominant flavor here is lotus seeds. As it should be.
Foh San puts the paste inside chewy glutinous rice flour wrappers, coats them with sesame seeds, and deep-fries the lot. They're tasty, but they can't hold a candle to the lin yoong bao (opening photo), the lotus paste-salted egg mooncake filling inside a steamed bao. Check out the beautiful layers on that bao
We loved Foh San, but to tell the truth we're not sure if we'll go back. Located on the ground floor of the Perak Chinese Amateur Drama Association, the restaurant is quite a classic scene - whirring ceiling fans, steamer-laden carts whizzing here and there, tables crowded with mostly regulars who keep the volume pretty high.
But around the beginning of May Foh San will look very different; the restaurant is moving to a brand-new four-story building with a roof garden. Out will go the old tablecloths, chopsticks, steamer baskets (round baskets will be replaced with square), and tea pots (except the blue-flowered pots, in which cha wang - the 'king of teas' - is served). There will be no more carts; patrons will have to order their dim sum. Everything will be new and spiffy and smart. Presumably, the food will be as good as on the morning we dined there.
But we just can't imagine it being the same.
Restoran Foh San, G/F Perak Chinese Amateur Dramatic Association, corner Jalans Mustapha Al-Bazri and Dato Thawil Azar, Ipoh. Mornings.
As of the beginning of May (estimated): No. 51 Jalan Leong Nam, Ipoh.
An aside: this will be the last time - for a while - that I plug Dave's new photo blog, but the opening photo of this post is my favorite from our recent sojourn in northern Thailand. This lady really touched us.