The first thing I heard as I stepped out of my car in front of the legendary Kedai Makanan Canning Garden was this resonant voice projected from the depths of the diaphram. The owner of the voice stood over a plastic chopping board, a plastic chopper in his hand. Resolutely cutting pages of white chee cheong fun into strips. This was the man whose chee cheong fun stall I had been looking for that morning to satisfy my craving for some good Ipoh-style chee cheong fun. Ok, for the less-informed chee cheong fun is literally translated into pig's intestine noodles although that part of the pig's anatomy is not used in the preparation of this quintessential Ipoh-ite breakfast food. Ok, back to the man. He was swearing in Cantonese that would make a Triad hitman blush. It appeared that was part of his charm because none of the queue of customers seemed to take any notice of his reference to parts of their parents anatomy liberally spiced with descriptions of what they could do with their orders for "less soya sauce", "more chili, less sweet sauce", "no shalllots" and the list did indeed go on to an extent that it would test Job's patience. But his swearing seemed to concentrate on how busy he was and that he didn't have the capacity to listen to everybody at the same time.
I went and stood next to him. And when there was a pause in his rants I slipped in saying, "Excuse me, can you tell me when you have time for me to tell you what I want? I can see you're busy so I am asking you to tell me when I can speak to you." That seemed to shock him. He paused his chops of the oily noodles. Took a long look at me and then...SURPRISE! He asked me for my order despite the fact that there were at least 4 customers ahead of me. A minute later his assistant shoved a large metal plate of chee cheong fun at me and barked "Sarm kao yee!" 3 Ringgit 20 sen. I took the plate, sat down at a nearby table and enjoyed my breakfast while watching the next customer curse when told that I had taken the last order of chee cheong fun available for the day.
The famous Canning Garden chee cheong fun. It is more chewy than the factory-produced variety that we KL folks are used to but definitely more tasty. I like mine with just soya sauce and oil although you can order it with a variety of other toppings. Curry pigskin, mushroom sauce or even (gasp!) a thick gravy of prawn paste.
The guru of chee cheong fun, Ipoh-style. Depending on whom you speak to this fler has been selling his chee cheong fun on the same corner of the kedai makanan for 30, 40, 50 years. But looking at him I would say 40 is the closest. He looked like in his early 60's. Quite trim which meant he probably never ate his own oily cooking. Tobacco-stained teeth. And an attitude. When I spoke with him later he informed me that Ipoh people were the most difficult, fussy customers in the world. More of that, less of this, don't cut it too thick, don't sprinkle sesame seeds...if I get gastric from your pickled green chili you pay for my doctor's bills ah? I forgot to ask his name. But I am sure that I shall visit his stall again. And maybe even introduce him to.......