Even if it’s the second-largest city in Perak after state capital Ipoh (don’t forget to visit Ipoh’s amazing cave temples and stay at one of Ipoh’s cool Airbnbs) Taiping remains a place that not too many people consider visiting — akin to the under-visited and yet stunning Lenggong Valley, serene Pangkor Island and its Kali Amman Temple, or the quaint rivertown of Kuala Kurau with its bird sanctuary at Kuala Gula. Quite a pity and a mistake, because Taiping was the capital of Perak from 1875 until the British Colonial seat was moved to Ipoh in 1937, and the legacy of that past is visible all over the town even today.
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Taiping is also a beautiful place surrounded by nature (take a stroll at Taiping Lake Gardens) and set at the foot of Maxwell Hill, colonial Malaysia’s first hill station (read our guide to Bukit Larut here). The city was also voted in 2019 as the world’s third most sustainable at the International Tourismus-Börse (ITB) travel trade show in Berlin. And Malaysia’s largest mangrove reserve at Kuala Sepetang is just 15km to the west of town.
These are all good reasons to visit: but don’t forget that Taiping food should also be counted among Malaysia, and the world’s, best. Also, if you live in Penang, taking a day trip for a food hunt in Taiping could be a great option to have a break from tourists chasing Penang Street Art, Penang food, and its Western restaurants.
This article focuses on Taiping’s best food and where to find it: there’s plenty of famous food and great restaurants in Taiping, some of which have a history almost as old as Malaya itself. We have personally visited each and every spot on this list of Taiping restaurants, kedai kopi, and hawker centers to compile what we strive to make the Internet’s most updated and ultimate guide to Taiping best food.
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If you try the following suggestions, you can’t go hungry in Taiping for days on end. Let’s get started!
Taiping Famous Food You Must Try
1Char Koay Teow and Lobak at Peace Hotel (Kopitiam Hoe Peng)
The Peace Hotel remains a tatty establishment with a shady reputation for prostitution in night hours, but the food court downstairs is possibly one of Taiping’s most central, oldest, and established.
A visit is however a must just to take a look at the building’s rare original tile work and outside columns equipped with quirky and regal golden lion heads. The Peace Hotel also has some of Taiping’s most famous food: the Char Koay Teow and lobak.
Prepared on a well-oiled metallic wok by an uncle running his modest stall at the back of the building, Peace Hotel Char Koay Teow comes in a big portion for just RM 4.50. The noodle texture is silky and oily to hit the spot, and the garnishing of prawns, bean sprouts and tofu is just perfect.
If you decide to eat here, not trying the lobak (a Chinese sausage) would be a mistake: you can get pork, pork and yem, and pork and crab meat varieties. They are all soaked in egg and flour batter, which makes for a crispy outer layer and gives that extra crunchy flavor to the meat. They are also pretty cheap at RM 2.80 each.
2Larut Matang Hawker Center
Saying that most life in town revolves around this food court is not an understatement, as some of Taiping’s most famous food is all found here. There’s quite a wide variety of foods on sale here — even during the MCO period when we visited last, with hawkers wearing masks and respecting all standard SOPs.
The Fish Ball Char Koay Teow from Stall 78, possibly one of Taiping’s most famous foods , is found at Larut Matang. It’s a big portion of perfectly charred flat noodles garnished with fish balls the size of eyeballs, and goes for only RM 5. Scrumptious and silky, this Char Koay Teow is possibly the most famous in town and tastes quite different from the one found at Peace Hotel. We believe that the portion and the ingredients just strike the perfect balance here, with a rich bed of smooth noodles topped by enough garnishings to keep you full for many hours.
There’s more of the “regular” Char Koay Teow sans the fishball at Stall 46 — but should you go for it, really? — while Stall 47 is a solid choice for pretty good chicken porridge.
If Chicken Rice is what you are after, don’t think twice and go to Stall 61. Both the portion size and the plumpy chicken chunks on offer here will be highly appreciated. Next to it, Stall 60 sells drinks, juices, and soy (gluten-free?) Ais Kacang for a nice and cooling dessert.
The Wan Tan Mee from Stall 72 is another famous Taiping food to try here. Forget Penang style Wan Tan Mee — the portion here is bigger, the texture of the noodles less silky but still smooth, and well-drenched in the black sauce that fills the bottom of the plate. Slices of pork meat are placed on top on one side, mixed with chunks of shredded chicken that enhance the mix. On the other side of the plate, a generous serving of steamed dumplings turns out to be watery and full of flavor. You won’t miss Penang here, and the taste is a bit different, too.
Best Breakfast in Taiping
3Pusat Penjaja Taiping
This central and yet overlooked food court is perfect at any time of the day, but we believe it particularly shines for breakfast.
the pick of the lot is the Chee Cheong fun served at Stall C37. Silky and smooth, it comes topped with a generous portion of fried shallots and soaked in spicy chili sauce. It only costs RM 3.20 for a regular serving, which is definitely enough to keep you going until lunch.
Another recommended stall — beyond “Plane Naan”, which is so special it had to get its own listing down the page — is C40 or Cham Ewe Boon. Only opened in the evenings, it serves big glasses of fresh and chilly sugarcane juice beyond the occasional round of beers.
A popular and long-standing Taiping restaurant along Market Street (Jalan Pasar) famous for its chicken koay teow soup (Kai Si Hor Fan), some of the best breakfast in Taiping. The name of this kedai kopi is actually “Jia Jia” (meaning ‘Every Family’), but it’s translated as “Kakak” (’sister’ in Malay) even though this is a Chinese family-run shop.
The plastic bowls on sale here contain excellent, slippery smooth Hor Fun noodles and bean sprouts in broth garnished with fried shallots and chopped scallions — something that reminds of Penang’s Koay Teow Th’ng.
The locally-made sambal is something you shouldn’t leave on the table. Order a plate of chicken feet if you are extremely hungry, and remember that Kakak only opens from 5.30 am to 1 pm and is closed on Mondays.
5Hor Ga Sai
This must be Taiping’s most original signature drink, a quirky local creation that not only tastes good — it sounds good too! Hor Ga Sai literally means “tiger bites lion”, or 虎咬獅 — in Hokkien language, it’s a way of saying “mixed things”. The mix in question is coffee — usually Nescafe — with Milo, a local chocolate powder that becomes a drink when mixed with hot water.
Hor Ga Sai, however, is served cold and is available pretty much at every kedai kopi in and around Taiping. Locals think it’s somewhat of an “energy booster” — think of a sweet and caffeinated Jager Bomb without the alcohol. It’s delicious and a must-try once in Taiping, but don’t exaggerate, as this concoction seems to not be that good for health in the long run.
6Taiping PSL Goreng Pisang
Straight in the center of town, this old-world shop has been frying up all sorts of fritters for decades, still goes strong, and it’s definitely one of Taiping’s most famous foods. If you get a kopi somewhere else and take away any of the fritters on sale here — voila! — you can made yourself one of the best and cheapest DIY breakfasts in Taiping.
Pisang Goreng — Banana fritters — are not the only item on sale here, as the place operates with all sorts of seasonal fruits. When we visited last time, PSL Goreng Pisang had a nice stack of fried cempedak balls, sweet potato fritters, and was about to refill a tray with its famous Taiping fried banana sticks. Probably not the healthiest choice in town, but a very famous Taiping food to try.
7Hua Soon Firework Char Koay Teow
Set in Taiping’s Simpang district, mister Loh Hua Soon’s stall has been dishing up delicious fried koay teow since 1972. The specialty here is that Mr. Loh still cooks over a charcoal fire, giving the noodles that indistinguishable taste that only firewood can infuse into a sizzling wok. The stall got its surname of “fireworks koay teow” because Mr. Loh uses a makeshift rotary fan to keep the fire going, thus creating a flying-embers effect that’s very photogenic. The food, served on classic banana leaves, is equally stunning.
8Kok Beng Chicken Rice
This shop made it big as it was featured in 2007 in an NTV7 and Guang Ming Daily’s hunt for the best chicken rice in Malaysia. Fame usually makes it hard to keep dishing up good food, but Kedai Kopi Kok Beng still has some of central Taiping’s juiciest chicken cuts over rice — without forgetting their barbecued and marinated char siew pork.
Their homemade chili sauce blended with ginger and garlic is perfect to spice up your plates and keep vampires away for the rest of the day. Bring mints if you are in company of partners or friends.
It’s open daily from 11 am to about 3 pm or until the food finishes, but close on Monday every fortnight.
If there’s one place to try for nasi kandar in Taiping that’s Bismillah — not to be confounded with the cendol shop of the same name.
Opened in 1900, this restaurant has been cooking up some excellent rice with curries for well over a century. They are renowned for getting their peculiar flavors by peppering their curries and food with kaskas seeds (or “poppy seeds” from the opium poppy), but no worries — you will just get addicted to their crunchy fried chicken breast, and juicy, smooth as silk rice and curry concoctions.
Pay attention to the inner partition wall once you are here: the clock you see hanging has been tickling for the past 120 years.
10Drink Coffee at Antong Coffee Mill
If you want to mix history with a free coffee degustation — and also buy some fresh beans or kopi campur mixtures — the Antong Coffee Mill, just behind Taiping KTM Train Station in Assam Kumbang, is a must-visit local attraction.
The main reason to come here is the Aun Tong House: the building next to modern-day Antong’s Coffee Mill was the former Taiping home of Sun Yat-sen, first provisional President of the Republic of China and first leader of the Kuomintang, and his partner Chen Cuifen.
The Aun Tong House today functions as an office, but still preserves some old furniture, images of Sun Yat-sen, and a beautifully carved wooden partition separating the home’s two main rooms. You can access it from Antong Coffee Mill’s main shop area, where you’ll also find a free flow of the local coffee products to coy visitors into purchasing the local beans. Don’t be greedy and buy at least a pack of the excellent coffee on sale here.
Next to this building is the Antong Coffee Mill itself, where you can pay a visit to see workers prepare the beans for drying and roasting. If you have never been to a Malaysian coffee factory, this is a great place to learn how things are made.
11Yut Sun Chicken Chop
Another famous central Taiping restaurant on Jalan Pasar, which recently opened a second outlet. People come here to enjoy the pork-free Hainanese cuisine, and especially, the signature Hainanese Chicken Chop — a most classic southern Chinese dish.
There’s more food to try though, such as the Fried Rice with Ginger Chicken, and the Rice with Beef Ginger. Consider that often the place is packed, especially on weekends, when the town fills up with tourists who always prefer to eat at the usual “famous” Taiping restaurants. Not bad, but you can certainly try something else less packed on this list.
12Taiping Famous Cendol
When Taiping gets hot — and that happens a lot — there’s nothing better than a yummy thirst quencher like cendol, a quintessential Malaysian dessert. It’s a mix of shaved ice, green jelly vermicelli, kacang (beans), and traditional sweetener gula Melaka. In Taiping, cendol is a synonym of two very close and competing shops: Bismillah and Ansari.
Both places have been churning shaved ice for decades and are just around the corner of Jalan Barrack from each other. Some locals believe that Ansari is the oldest and more authentic: expect a small room packed with tables and fronted by an old-school ice shaving machine manned by two fast-moving Indians who keep dishing up a cendol after the other.
Bismillah has expanded to a second room adjacent to the original single-store premises, and for that reason feels all the more spacious and safe in these times of coronavirus. But overall, the taste of the cendol is quite similar at both establishments, possibly Bismillah ‘s having a sweeter taste as they tend to go heavy with the doses of gula melaka.
Ansari Cendol Location:
Bismillah Cendol Location:
13Kedai Tai Chien
This is another famous place to eat in Taiping. We love the fact it’s still an old-world Kopitiam with original decorations — fancy hand-drawn fruit juice menus painted on the wall? This is the place to come see and photograph them, as you can see above.
Kedai Tai Chien is most famous in Taiping for its delicious signature Popiah stall. Forget all the other popiah you had before, especially in Penang, as this famous Taiping popiah is very different and lighter tasting, more similar to a Vietnamese spring roll than the popiah you have elsewhere. In other words, it’s stuffed with a galore of fresh vegetables, eggs, and the likes, and it’s a great snack for any time of the day.
If you come here, you may want to try other good food such as Pan Mee, Curry Mee, Chicken Rice, and wan tan mee. There’s also a stall serving some tasty nasi lemak which you can garnish with a lot of extra toppings such as orange-scented chicken.
Lesser-Known but Still Delicious Taiping Food
14“Plane Naan” Pakistan
OK, we don’t want to make fun of this great stall because of the spellings used on their menu — but that also makes for a unique distinction point. The food you can get at “Plane Naan”, opened only in the evenings and situated in the right-hand corner of the Circus Ground Food Court (Pusat Penjaja Taiping) right opposite Taiping’s Cititel, is pure Pakistani-style tandoori delicacies such as naan bread and chicken. It’s all cooked up as authentically as possible by a friendly Pakistani man who’s been living in Taiping for quite a while.
A shout-out goes of course to the plain naan set: the man will cook a juicy chunk of chicken directly over the tandoori oven while he bakes your naan bread inside. The result is a golden-hued, juicy, and perfectly roasted cut of meat that will melt in your mouth. The naan bread is made Pakistani style: thicker than the usual mamak naan, with a soft, round crust and well-baked at the center, friable and tasting hot and crunchy. We tried the chapatis and parathas, too, and we must commend “Plane Naan” for the authentic South Asian taste and the moderate use of oil. To us, this is really an understated gem in the Taiping food scene you must absolutely try.
15The New Club
Walking into this charming wooden building is like going back to colonial Malaya — very few things have changed, if any, here. Reserved to members only, the New Club is one of Taiping’s oldest gentlemen clubs, and keeps receiving patrons thanks to its nice and modern swimming pool and other sports facilities. But if a member friend can take you in for a meal, don’t miss the New Club’s restaurant: you can have great Chinese and some Western food at very affordable prices here. The last time we ate here we only spent about RM 60 for 6 people — and oh boy if we stuffed our faces.
The variety of chicken dishes is recommended, so are the tofu and vegetable choices — among which we love the sambal with eggplant, always a great dish.
If you really want to get yourself stuffed or impress friends, don’t forget to order the New Club’s Air Batu Campur Ais Kacang — it only costs RM 4, but it’s served in a bowl so big it will even satisfy Godzilla. Remember: if you are a member of any other club in Malaysia, such as Penang’s, you can also use the facilities at the New Club in Taiping.
16Lin Ling Restaurant @ the Chinese Chamber of Commerce
Tucked under Taiping Chamber of Commerce, this open hall filled with a no-frills cluster of large tables and an open kitchen is as down to earth as the local family who runs it. Don’t get mislead by the simple, yet airy and comfy, premises: Lin Ling Restaurant may as well be the best Chinese food you’ll ever have in Taiping.
Everything here is lovingly prepared by the owners, who offer a wide range of incredibly good priced noodle dishes and silky, strong local coffee. This is more of a Cantonese/Hakka type of joints, with noodle dish staples like wan tan mee, Dry Pan Mee and Curry Bee Hoon cooked to the nines.
Among the dishes we tried, the Dry Pan Mee was truly a highlight, doused in a thick sauce, and as flavorsome as the curry bee hoon, which comes garnished with big chunks of chicken meat. Your tongue will curl in awe once it’ll get in contact with the silky white curry, nicely enriched with a pinch of milky spiciness that will stay in your mouth for a long time. Seriously addictive.
This is as close as Taiping gets to a Penang-influenced cafe housed inside of an upholstered heritage building. This enormous shophouse, shared with an antique shop next door, was the residency of Kapitan Chung Keng Quee, leader of the Chinese Hai San Society, who was also a well-known and important figure in Penang.
Yinn’s Cafe has taken over the spot by reinstating an old mansion feel with wooden decorations that include an original Chinese four-poster bed frame used as archways, large and airy air-conditioned dining rooms, and abundant use of flowing water. The menu definitely verges on the Western side of food — think coffees, pizzas, chicken chops, pasta, and the likes.
A special mention goes to the home-made cakes: the Cempedak cheesecake (RM 9.90) is their signature dish, made with a thick layer of cream cheese that really carries the cempedak’s fragrance. Engineered to be savored and melted in your mouth, it stands out among other international cakes such as Tiramisu and chocolate cake. A solid choice to experience another side of Taiping’s very hawker-centered cuisine.
18Chui Chui Yuan Economy Rice
This spacious economy rice place along Jalan Manecksha may only be known to locals, but it shouldn’t be overlooked when in Taiping. From meats to vegetables and fish, the choice of dishes here is quite impressive: everything is cooked fresh and makes for a perfect and very filling home-cooked styled lunch choice at competitive prices. It’s also easier to park here that in the ever-busy roads of Taiping’s center.
A special thanks go to Neal Nirmal Ariyapala and his wife Joyce, who have been great hosts and companions on more than one Taiping food hunt. Many thanks for sharing your food knowledge, the flavors, and the good times.