Growing up in Malaysia, the myriad of cuisines available on a daily basis is not only easily accessible, but also, tastes incredible. Since moving to Orange County, it has been difficult, to say the least, finding the exact flavors I’ve been looking for. On a recent trip to the Bay Area we try Ipoh Garden, a Malaysian restaurant which opened in the neighborhood we used to live in when my son was a baby — there is another location in San Jose.
The restaurant is bustling on a weeknight, filled with patrons of all ethnicities. There was so much on the menu I wanted, but there isn’t enough stomach space to accommodate.
We begin with Roti Canai ($4.95) an appetizer of light, airy, flaky bread served with curry dipping sauce. This is usually eaten as a snack, or breakfast, in Indian restaurants. The curry sauce is delightful, with hints of curry leaves lingering in my mouth.
Red Curry Beef ($13.95) is a good example of what the curry sauce tastes like, if you forego the roti canai. This full-bodied curry is dotted with potatoes, eggplant, okra, and green beans, which is so satisfying over some steamed rice.
The Kang Kung Belachan ($11.95) is highly impressive. Usually, this dish of water spinach with garlic, onion, and belacan (shrimp paste) tends to run overly salty, but at Ipoh Garden, you get all the pungent, umami-filled taste of the shrimp paste, without it being super salty. This is another dish which is perfect over some steamed rice.
Usually, Char Koay Teow ($10.95) is an item found at hawker stalls in Malaysia or Singapore. It is flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, squid, bean sprouts, chiles, egg and soy sauce over extremely high heat to create that charred coating over all the ingredients. The one here is good, but not perfect, as it is a touch on the soft side. However, the flavors are outstanding, evoking memories of my childhood in every bite.
I am a huge fan of Hainanese Chicken ($10.95) and I have not been able to find one I am 100% satisfied with, outside of Malaysia and Singapore. Although the steamed chicken is decent, and rivals anything I have found in southern California (not even Savoy) I would have preferred the soy sauce to be served on the side, and not with the chicken. And while the accompanying ginger sauce is good, the chile sauce is nothing more than sambal oelek from a jar.
Alas, my search continues.
Ipoh Garden is a solid spot for when that craving hits, and I will definitely be back again… laksa is up next. There is no website for the restaurant, however, Yelp has some good photos to guide you along.
100 El Camino Real
Millbrae, CA 94030