I’ve had Ipoh Sar Hor Fun back when I was growing up in Seremban, but I was more familiar with the “dry-style” ie. “kon-loh” version from this particular kopitiam in my hometown, as opposed to the soupy variety. (Funnily enough I have yet to encounter the kon-loh version in Ipoh itself, so I’m not sure if it was an evolution of sorts that came about outside of its city of origin).
Anyhow the soupy variety never figured that prominently on my restaurant’s radar, and part of the reason is that it bears a passing resemblance to Har Meen (Prawn Noodle Soup) which I already had on my menu. They both use essentially the same ingredients for the soup base, with the main difference being that Ipoh Sar Hor Fun has a less prawn-y and more chicken-y (alright, it’s late and I’m sick in bed as I write this, but you get the gist) broth whilst the reverse is true of Har Meen.
Because of the subtle prawn infusion, you really need to use very fresh prawns for this dish. Before I get to the recipe however, I’d like to point out this Malaysian trip I just returned from was when I got to taste Ipoh Sar Hor Fun in Ipoh itself. Which is a big deal, clearly.
My difficulty with hunting down this dish was the fact that not being local, I didn’t know which place did it well (I know taste is subjective etc. but you know what I mean). So I held off on ordering it when we were doing a tour of the market in neighbouring Taiping.
By the time I came down for breakfast the morning after checking into M Boutique Hotel (they hosted my stay in Ipoh), I had fully resigned myself to missing out on Ipoh’s most famous dish since I was due to travel to KL that same day. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to see it on their breakfast menu, so I ordered it without hesitation – pictured here is what arrived at my table. It was fabulous.
Very glad I got to experience what is clearly a deluxe version of this dish in the beautiful kopitiam (Chinese for coffeeshop) attached to the hotel, and it left me inspired to post my take on the recipe here.
I’ve made it for personal consumption in the past – picture top of post – I like my homemade fried shallots so I was pretty liberal with it, though the version I had at the hotel was fried shallots-free.
I came away from my previous trip to Ipoh last year for the filming of NTV7’s Seekers with the impression that hotels there may have a bit of the small town feel to them – a little tired and dated, perhaps. This time around, I stayed at M Boutique Hotel and was stunned as soon as I stepped inside (I really didn’t know what to expect), at how funky, modern and tastefully decorated it is. Service was impeccable too.
2 chicken carcasses or 4kg chicken bones
1kg prawns, shells removed and set aside; tails intact, prawns halved along spine and deveined
1kg chicken breast, poached and shredded
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp chicken stock granules (adjust to taste)
1 cup oil (I use Carotino)
1 tsp salt
To serve –
Fresh rice noodles, thin-cut (pho noodles are ideal, since we can’t get Ipoh’s softer-textured noodles here in Australia) – blanched for a few seconds
Chives, cut into 5cm lengths
Beansprouts – blanched for a few seconds
Sliced green birds’ eye chillies in light soy (or fish sauce)
Fried shallots (optional)
1. Clean the chicken carcasses/bones under cold running water, then transfer into a stock pot, add water and bring to a boil. Simmer on low/medium heat for at least an hour.
2. Fry prawn shells inc. heads in oil until fragrant – about 2 minutes. Set oil aside; add prawn shells to stock and simmer another 30 minutes. Remove bones and prawn shells; add seasoning ingredients and adjust to taste.
3. Toss the shredded chicken in prawn oil and salt.
4. To serve, place about a cup of blanched noodles along with beansprouts, prawns, chicken and chives into a soup bowl. Top with chicken/prawn broth and serve with sliced chillies in light soy.