Surprisingly… Taiping

Lisa, Nic and I took off on a whim of a trip to Taiping before Christmas – we thought it would be fun to nose out some good eateries in that rain-soaked town.

View from the car of the beautiful old trees lining the Lake Gardens road.
We didn’t have much planned and I basically did some groundwork by googling for the best makan places in Taiping plus I could also fall back on my tattered Flavours guidebook (but then again, not every recommendation in that guidebook is accurate. Some places missed the mark all together!).
It is a one-hour leisurely drive from Penang to Taiping, and we three were looking forward to a lovely lunch of authentic Hainanese chicken chop. We followed the Flavours guidebook only to be sorely disappointed! The pork chops and chicken chop were so-so only, and I found the pork tough and tasteless.
We decided to find another popular Taiping food – popiah. But luck really wasn’t on our side that day. We found the place, a corner shop which sold popiah and soya bean drink but everything had been sold out by the time we meandered there at 4pm. The sky darkened and the threat of rain was real.
Perhaps popiah at Taiping’s market? Lisa decided to park her car near the market and we decided to nose about the market area. Of course, Taiping is not called the wettest town in Malaysia for nothing. In no time, we were running for shelter as it started its ubiquitous evening drizzle! Dreadful and no popiah in sight either!

Our barista in action….
We sat down at a coffee stall in the market to rest our tired and frustrated selves – and ordered some kopi o and tea, and since we were hungry (it’s easier to get hungry as a group!), we ordered roti bakar, a set each. A set means two slices of toasted bread with margarine and kaya.
There’s something about small town folk. In those few moments, we had started a conversation – yes, something friendly and warm about people who lead simple lives, unlike us complicated city folk. We asked about popiah but when we started sipping the coffee and tea, we were bowled over. The beverages were just right – and later we found out that these people (who are Hainanese by the way) toast their own coffee beans. No wonder the coffee was fragrant and Nic swore that it was better than any old Starbucks any day.

See that old style coffee cup in the back?
And the roti bakar. I’m a purist when it comes to toasted bread. I can’t stand the new-style, modern kopi tiam(s) which serve roti bakar which looks like the bread had been run over, all flattened and compacted. And no brown bread either – I want plain white slices, the kind we all used to eat before Gardenia and Hi-5 came along. The older I grow, the more I want things my way. Yes, dogmatic crankiness is a sign of old age, definitely!
This roti bakar was the real deal – plump slices of crisp toasted bread slathered with homemade kaya and margarine. The kaya was truly old-style – smooth, fragrant and not too sweet. It complemented the Daisy margarine well, and of course, paired well with black coffee and milky sweet tea. (You can buy the kaya – RM2 for a plastic container. Their coffee is not for sale, according to Erina of Cooking Island who is related to these people! Small world! She had to remind them of their ancestral relationship in order to wrangle us some heavenly coffee. Thanks, Erina. The coffee is like gold in our home. Only to be brought out for special occasions because it needs to be brewed the old way. None of the 3-in-1 for these Hainanese – absolutely no!)
It was pure addiction – in the end, we three had gulped down in total five cups of beverages and ate 6 sets of roti bakar. Yes, we were absolute pigs.
We promised to come back – yes, the coffee and kaya are so out of this world that they warrant a one-hour drive to Taiping.
How to get there:
Look out for the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in Taiping. When you spy the KFC outlet on your left, turn left into the market. The coffee stall (located in the market) will be on your right as you turn in.

7 thoughts on “Surprisingly… Taiping”

  1. that avenue was exactly the same picture i took..too. well, while my expectations were high for taiping fare..a tad dissapointment. but the affordability kinda made it up.

  2. Hi Keat: Long time no hear from you! Which nook have you been hibernating in? Still in BKK or back in KL? Taiping is serene and beautiful like its moniker, the food – well, my friend says we have YET to take the yummy stuff; and the weather makes for a peaceful, romantic stroll by the lake. What else is there not to like about this small town?

  3. Hi, Krista, trust you to post pix of food after your makan trips, hehe. Just to wish you a Happy New Year and let you know I still lurk around here though I don’t comment all the time.

  4. Hi Lydia: Hello dear. Yeah, I lurk around your blog too. Hehe. Yes, me and my foodie pix. Makes you drool right? Which shows what sort of things I do mostly – eat and eat and eat!

  5. Any one that drop by there, you can also go to the back of the coffee shop to buy some wan tan mee, koey teow, fishball, meat ball and one thing that we can’t get in penang is called ‘fu pei’. If you cook soup noodle, put some and it is fantastic. Never mind, the next time I and Lawrence make a makan trip to Taiping and show you around. Taiping is just a small and simple town. Nothing to be hu har about. I grow up in a small village in Taiping called Kamunting. Even at times, I go back I feel a little bit bored coz the town is too quiet. Anyone had tried fried koey teow wrapped in leafs? Trust me, only can find it in Taiping and every time I go back, will sure ta pau a few packet. Nite time go for seafood at Sepatang. Wah!!! Cheap and good leh………. Not sure the atap house is still there. Maybe, we can plan it after CNY. Apa macam leh?

  6. I am an American living in Taiping. One thing my wife and I (who is a Filipina), really like about this town is the food. It’s a lot better than what we used to get in KL, and a lot cheaper. We pay about half of what we would pay in KL, and for better food. Plus, there’s food here you can’t get in KL. We like it here, and so do our stomachs!

  7. Hi Erina: Sure. We can do a makan roadtrip!
    Hi John: Yes, Nic and I will be driving there again – just for the roti bakar and kopi. It’s one of those things we like. 😉 You have any places to recommend?


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