An outing to a northern Ipoh suburb takes Alan Teh Leam Seng to an antique gallery that cooks up a good selection of northern treats.
NESTLED among posh landed properties in Kampung Dato Ahmad Said Tambahan 2 is a rather unassuming food outlet but looks, however, can be deceiving.
It definitely pays not to judge a book by its cover in this instance as stepping inside reveals that Cafe Pak Abu is not only a place for good wholesome food but also houses a treasure trove of interesting yesteryear memorabilia.
Telling a compelling story of the nation's interesting past, the collection was lovingly accumulated over the past two decades by owner Halim Mustafa Albakri from flea market and garage sale purchases made during his travels in Perak as well the neighbouring states.
Among the collection is a functional juke box complete with music records that traces the evolution of local music trends over the past seven decades.
Also catching my attention is a collection of pristine jute bags that were once used to transport tin ore, the precious mineral that has brought fabulous wealth to Malaya since the early 19th century.
Coupled with displays of historic photographs that depict various social scenes like weddings and communal gatherings, the gallery's large and varied crockery collection brings back a flood of memories related to those commonly seen in Malaysian households in the past.
Witnesses to many intimate conversations at gatherings held over tantalising meals, these distinctly colourful teapots, plates, cups and saucers surely have great tales to narrate if only they could talk.
This impressive collection makes Cafe Pak Abu both absorbing as well as informative.
A NORTH-WEST FUSION
Thoughts of tantalising food quickly bring to surface hunger pangs which are further accentuated by wafts of tantalising aroma from the kitchen area.
Manned by Halim's wife, Nor Maria Said, who hails from Kedah, the food served at Cafe Pak Abu represents a delightful fusion of various dishes renowned in the north-western part of our country.
Growing up in a village within the suburbs of the Kedah capital, Nor Maria honed cooking skills with the guidance of family members and relatives.
Her ingrained habit of using only the freshest local produce is as plain as day. She ensures her choice of garden-harvested herbs and recently prepared spice mixtures are within easy reach, and she prominently features Thai influences in her cooking.
Among menu favourites are various tom yum dishes as well as steamed Indian Mackerel. While main ingredient options for the former include prawns, squid, chicken and fish, the latter is a delicacy seldom available this far south. Known locally as Ikan Kembung Rebus, it pairs perfectly with Nasi Goreng Kampung.
Equally popular are Cafe Pak Abu's homemade satay which are prepared fresh daily.
While emphasising on health benefits through the usage of mainly lean meat with minimal fat inclusions, taste and texture of its satay are not compromised.
Each skewered meat is grilled with specially prepared marinade and time tested cooking technique to ensure Pak Abu's satay is consistently head and shoulders above the competition. Grilled over hot coals only when orders come in and served piping hot, the chicken and beef choices come with Nasi Impit, onion slices and savoury peanut sauce.
Washed down with Cafe Pak Abu's signature iced milk tea, the delicious meal and visual treat of interesting antique displays nearby help ensure a dining experience that will be remembered for a long time to come.
Cafe Pak Abu
Lot 64883, Jalan Bangsa
Kampung Dato Ahmad Said Tambahan 2
30020 Ipoh, Perak.
TEL 012-348 4766
HOURS Daily 5pm to midnight except Tuesdays. During Ramadhan, business starts an hour earlier and closes at 10 pm.
EAT An interesting kampung-styled dining experience serving typical northern dishes that will bring one back home at first bite. Try its Portuguese styled ikan bakar which is available at dinner time.
PICK Try the Cucur Udang which is a popular teatime snack as well as appetiser. Prepared with crustaceans freshly caught from nearby streams and fried in light batter until golden brown, this delectable prawn fritter is served with a tangy homemade chilli sauce. Those keen on noodles can check out selections like Mee Kari which comes with generous yellow noodle portions and a thick spicy broth filled with choice chicken pieces, bean sprouts, long beans and chives.
PAY Basic selection starts from 70 cent per stick of satay and RM5 for Cucur Udang.
MOOD With the open sided seating area constantly ventilated by gentle breezes blowing in from surrounding clumps of coconut palms, the setup exudes an overwhelming feeling of spaciousness and gives a truly cosy and laid back ambience feel.
SERVICE Courteous and efficient.
I SAY Definitely must try!