Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

Mano asked if we could start a food blog page and after discussing it we have decided to intersperse our traditional style heritage photos with some food photos and invite comments on certain well-known local foods. If there is sufficient enthusiasm from our readers this will become a regular feature of ipohWorld’s World.

So what could be better than to start this new venture with the famous dish Sar Hor Fun and a picture of the most famous purveyor of this wondrous food – Spiderman.

Spiderman

We were fortunate to get this picture from Ms Ong Su-ming when she wrote her growing-up stories for our book “Ipoh, My Home Town”. As you will appreciate, like others in the book, it is a very rare picture and we are very happy to share it with you all.

But now it is your turn – Who remembers Spiderman, were his noodles really that special and where else on Kinta Valley could you get Sar Hor Fun in days gone by? Where can you find it now?

  1. sk says:

    Yes, a rare picture, indeed. I never thought someone would take picture of Spiderman . Of course I remember him. He was frying around in Fair Park. Can someone let us know why was he called Spiderman ? Hope not our sticky Marvel Comic hero.
    There are a few pictures which I would like to have it captured.
    A shirtless old man Wan ton Mee stall near the Central market
    somewhere near the crockery shops & another beef stall near the shop that sells Rolex watches in old town. We used to squat there to eat our noodles. Good, Mano that your brought up some foodie articles. Ipoh Echo has its fair share from Foodie author See Foon Chan- Koppen .Her articles makes me drool.

  2. Mano says:

    So this is him! As I was from Lim Gardens I only heard about ‘Spiderman’ from my classmates at Anderson School around ’72-73. Apparently, he was so fast, precise and focused as he went about his ‘craft’ reminiscent of a spider spinning it’s web. Hence the nickname.
    Like Spiderman’s Sar Ho Fun, great tasting food was so plentiful in Ipoh it was almost taken for granted. Unfortunately, that is so not the case now. When I was in Ipoh last, I could not find even Wan Ton Mee that tasted like those days. I certainly am not an expert but chances are Chan-Koppen could be waxing lyrical about the food at a particular place simply because the taste takes her back to her childhood in Singapore. I guess childhood experience is the point of reference in matters such as taste. That’s why no one could beat mum’s cooking!
    So I implore you readers, please point me a Wan Ton Mee stall in Ipoh for me to go to the next time. With my first mouthful, I want to hear my late mum say as she sat across me,”Careful, ‘ya. It’s very hot!” That’s what she always said whenever she took me to that very shirtless man’s Wan Ton Mee stall near the Central Market as mentioned by Sk. Life is but memories.

  3. ika says:

    Mano, the best Wan Ton Mee that my wife and I have found and use quite often is in Buntong. I know how to get there, but have no idea of the address as the roads are always dark out there/ Maybe one of our readers will be able to tell us. Next time we go I shall snap a photo.

  4. Mano says:

    Another one of my favourite is the Indian milk candy known as ‘Barfi’. I didn’t get to mention this in an earlier thread on ‘Thaipusam’. My dad used to get them and other traditional sweets from a particular shop in ‘Little India’ for that day. The ‘barfi’ was the ‘bestest’ ever especially after a vegetarian meal! My sources tell me that the best is now made by a Sikh gentleman in Buntong.
    Hopefully, we get the support especially from those in Ipoh to recommend the best spots for all the other delicacies that made Ipoh famous.
    Thank you so much for your kind efforts,ika!

  5. rosebud says:

    The late great Spider in his usual white t-shirt & baggy knee length dark shorts. Note his flat wok where he churns out his heavenly tasting & fragrant noodles over wood fire on his tricycle.Even Malays were fans of his but this was in the 60s & 70s when they were ‘different’. At night, he parks his tricycle at Fair Park x Pearl Garden junction where drivers would park near him to order to eat it fresh or take away. To eat there, one would eat it in their car seat using his porcelain plate & chopsticks. Hygiene wise by today’s standard, it was awful. After a customer have eaten, the soiled crockery were washed in a pail of water by his daughter. It is taken out & dunked into another pail of cleaner water. It is then ready to be used by the next customer.There was no taps around & his tricycle can only carry limited items. At that time, eating like this was common all over & I never heard of anyone dying because if this.

  6. Ignatius Chiew says:

    I remember his kway teow and I was staying in Fair Park in the ’60s. I think it was 30 cents or 40 cents per plate, without or with egg. You could bring your own egg and he would fry that with the kway teow or mee – no extra charge for that.
    It seemed that he did not have any off days or holidays, except for the Chinese New Year period. Once I heard him told a customer that he could play mah jong non-stop during CNY for a few days!

  7. Merrill Leong says:

    I wasn’t a fan of the Spider-Man, having patronized his stall perhaps only twice in my life. I remember that his offering of fried kwayteow as being delectable, but not necessarily outstanding.

    What was interesting about Spider’s cooking was his posture when he was frying… his two arms would be raised up to his shoulders making him look like a spider posturing for a fight… hence his nickname.

      • Merrill Leong says:

        I wasn’t passing judgment, merely stating a fact, and that fact is that I have visited Spider’s stall only twice in my life time. OK, you may think that his kwaeteow is great, but for me, after 2 visits, well… it was not outstanding, unlike some others which had the oomph at first bite. Anyway, taste is a personal matter, and as someone had said, “One man’s meat is another’s poison.”

        • rosebud says:

          Merrill-maybe you all can come to a compromise that one man’s meat can be another’s option. In the 60s, I have a few options for my ‘chow see hum fun’ fix. If I cant find Spider who is the no. 1 on my list, I look my other fave. It is the twin brothers at Theatre St outside the stationary shop next to Kok Chong Kee toyshop . They open only at night & have watch out for swifts on the overhanging wire above. They have awful toilet habits.

  8. DavidY says:

    You are right Rosebud he parks his tricycle at the Fair Park/ Pearl Garden junction. We used to stay at the corner house of this junction. Very often on weekends my father would have his mahjong sessions. When it was supper time we would shout our orders to him over the fence. I would say his fried kwayteow was one of the best around then.

  9. mengfai says:

    Haha! So, he was the spiderman without the mask. I remembered my father used to take me for supper during my primary school days in the 1970s. Yes, the taste was good and the place was usually packed. Nowadays, I will go to the famous ‘Seng Loong’ near Stadium for his delicious fried koay teow.

  10. Merrill Leong says:

    In those days when Spider was doing his frying in Fair Park, next to him was the “Shouting” couple famous for their ice kachang. In the day time, they were selling their ware at the main bus station.

    It was quite entertaining watching the husband and wife shouting and arguing over the orders made and delivered to customers. What is incredible was that they were able to this shouting without getting hoarse, all night long.

    The last I heard, their business shifted to Menglembu… and that was a long time ago.

  11. rosebud says:

    This colour photo of him was taken for a ST article about him in early 70s. He was already very old by then. My late mum remembered eating his ‘see hum chow fun’ as early as in the early 50s when she was a teen growing up in Greentown.Spider is a man of few words & he never smiles. Once you give him your order, he looks at you with his beady eyes & keep quiet. Sometimes one wonders whether he hears you but he always delivered & he has good memory.He always looks down at his wok when he cooks & seems to make every plate he fries a piece of art.He looks serious but could be cheeky if he wants to. In the late 60s, my aunt who is now in her 70s once got a dose of his wry humour.She ordered from him & ask for more towgay.He cooks her order & my aunt made this mistake of repeating her request for more towgay. He looked up from his wok & gave my aunt a nasty stare. The result, he cooked her chow fun with three quarters towgay.

    • Ronnie Foo says:

      Rosebud, you are correct. In the 50/60s, I live in Jln Abidin Greentown. He was nicknamed Spiderman because of the way he fries the see hum choy fun with his 2 arms sideways like a spider. He name is Ah Tow, and lives in Fair Park. I was in my teens in 50/60s, waiting for him in the evening as he arrives in his tricycle. I give him my own eggs, and ask for chille sauce. His bean shoots are always very fresh. If I can’t wait, I would travel to Fair Park where he eventually stop going to Green town. I now reside in Australia, and would give a million to try Spider See Hum Chow Fun. Will travel to Ipoh (my home town) on my next holiday.

      • rosebud says:

        Sorry Ronnie, your million cant get you Spider chow fun anymore for he had gone to his maker. None of his family took over the business so a great Ipoh treasure is lost forever. One mistake people nowadays tend to call him Spiderman cos of that comic superhero. His old fans like me just addressed him simply as Spider.

  12. hwUS says:

    Ah, the good old days of simple pleasures – no worries of health problems. Yes hawker food in Ipoh are the BEST. How about the Yeong Tau Fu man who sells his wares in front of HKSB at the corner of Belfield Street and “the lawyers’ row?” (pardon me if I have misquoted the exact location.) This was just “outside” the fenced Ipoh Padang. Every afternoon one would see a crowd around his tricycle waiting to be served his delicious steaming stuffed peppers, egg plant, bitter melon, “tow pok,” and kang kung topped with his special sauce. Wonder where that gentleman is now.

  13. felicia says:

    Hello hwUS, I didn’t know about this Yong Tau Foo seller. I wonder if someone can shed some light on this – am also wondering what’s happened to him.

  14. Mano says:

    Thank you, Cy. Here in Master Chef, Aussieland, 2009, Poh Ling Yeow, originally from KL, was runner up. She went on to have her own series, Poh’s Kitchen.
    In fact, whenever a contestant cooks up Malaysian dishes, you can rest assured they’ll progress on to the final rounds. My wife says, with a Malaysian dish, the other contestants are disadvantaged!

  15. StevenK says:

    How about the tong Sui stalls in old town opposite the Hakka clan association and the remaining stalls. Used to patronise them after library hours from SMI…ON DUTY NOT STUDYING..sorry to disappoint therefore I am a consultant now….

  16. K.C. Lai says:

    My 4 brothers and I and all our friends in Fair Park knew Spider personally. He lived in Kepayang and he worked 7 days a week. He and his wife had about 12 children so he supported 14 people with his stall. The wonderful smell of his chow kweh thiou still lingers in my nostrils after 43 years!

    • Yeng Cho Lai says:

      We 5 Lai bros. grew up in Fair Park. in the 60s..with friends from Kepayang where SPIDER and not Spiderman btw. lives..he operates his business from 12 noon from his hse .taking his own sweet time to as far as Green lane in Green Town. and restart his business at 7.00pm at the junction between Jln. Sybil Kathigasu[where we live..the hse. with a PEACE SIGN] and Pearl Garden. till 12 mid night.Spider CKT was so well know during those days that friends ,relatives and ordinary ppl from the north to the south as far as Singapore. have heard of him. He feels the whole area with his magical aroma, the moment he starts his business even before he reaches your hse. One wonders what was his secret recipe and the art of frying that makes it taste so extraordinary. Unfortunately by the time I came back from Europe in the early 80s. he has passed away. The memories of him as an ordinary trader still lingers in my mind. Not to forget the best CKT I have ever eaten in my life.

  17. Ronnie Foo says:

    Thanks for your response rosebud. I may know your mother since she lived in Green town in the 60’s. My address was Jalan Abidin, living amongst the government quarters.

    • rosebud says:

      My late mother was living there since the early 50s.She ever mentioned there were lots of young British soldiers stationed at the nearby army bases as the Malayan emergency was still on. Whenever she & her friends rode by on their bicycles, they will get teased by these soldiers. I wonder if a certain young Scotsman[you know who]was among the lot. LOL!

  18. TToh says:

    If both of you are ever in Melbourne or living there , don’t forget to visit the Jade Kingdom Restaurant , Wairoa Rd , Rosanna , Vic. Its ” Fried Koay Teow ” is the next thing closest to ” Spider ” . With plenty of good quality ingredients . Its about 1/2 km away from La Trobe University. By the way , I used to reside in Jalan Sir Chulan, Greentown in the 60s and early 70s, in one of the government houses.

    • Ronnie says:

      Hi TToh,
      So you reside in Jln Chulan, and I’m in Jln Abidin, both Govt houses during the 60s. It’s quite close. Do we know each other?

      • Chuah TC says:

        If I may ask, where about is Jalan Abidin, in OLD Greentown?

        I have seen Spider before at Jalan Club while waiting for my sister near the Main Convent back gate, I think around 1976.

  19. Ronnie says:

    Jalan Abidin is in old Greentown. I have many lost freinds around Greentown which I’m trying to contact. As you are aware Greentown is gone forever.

    • Chuah TC says:

      From what I could see, only the Off Tambun Road Greentown is left; and most of the brick houses are empty with some in sorry state. The last remaining row of wooden Govt quarters (near the old mosque at Green Lane/Jalan Idris T-junction) were torn down about 3 months ago.

  20. TToh says:

    Hi Ronnie,
    We could have known each other. I left Greentown in 1974. I attended the Cator Avenue Primary School and Anderson Secondary School. At present residing permanently in Melbourne. Ng Boon Bee ( Badminton player ) was my neighbour in the early sixties. I can remember him as a meter reader ( electricity ) and playing football for Kilat club. As for Spider ” Fried Koay Teow ” , it was a decent feed for 40 cents a plate.

  21. Sybil says:

    Hi Yeng Cho, We also lived in Jalan Sybil Kathigesu in the 60s while waiting for Govt. quarters after our stay in Kota Bahru. I remember the house next to the one we rented in Fair Park. They neighbours had a lot of orchids but what stayed in my memory to this day was the wooden house opposite our rented house. It was the only wooden house there and I learnt how unkind life could be. I was born with a silver spoon but the girl who was in the same Form as I (I think she was called Mary), came home after school everyday and had to do household chores (their kitchen faced our front lawn) and at least 3 or 4 times a week was seen washing closhes in a big aluminium pail. The teachers treated her often with disdain as she had no time to revise her lessons. We were constrained by our maids who kept the front garden gate locked whilst we played in the garden drive and the lawn and she was restrained from playing afte school although there was no fence or gate to her house. Such is the cruelty of life!

  22. Ronnie says:

    Hi TToh, Chuah TC,
    After reading your responses, I believe we may not know each other, but neighbouring Greentown people. I attended the Anglo Chinese School, and left Greentown in 1961 to KL. In 1965 to Sydney to further my education. At present residing permanently in Sydney. I often visit Malaysia – KL most times but will try to visit my hometown (Ipoh) hopefully next year.
    All the best to Ipoh residents/people – you are very lucky to have such good food!

  23. Yap Teong Aun says:

    Hi Ronnie Foo,
    My father moved to 2087 Jalan Sir Chulan in the old Greentown in 1954 and we were the second house on that road. Our house faced the “padang” and right across was the bungalow which still stands today on Jalan Abdul Jalil. The road behind my house, if I am not mistaken, was Jalan Abidin and my good friend and buddy Lim Chee Seng lived on that road. We used to cycle together to ACS Ipoh in Lahat Road from 1954-1964! Another friend Yeap Chye Sing who used to live opposite Ng Boon Bee house on the same road!
    I used to play badminton in Boon Bee’s house. My brothers and I used to play badminton with Boon Cheng, Boon Hock, Boon Oh! Boon Bee was far too good for us in badminton and football. However, he was our gang leader whenever we go raiding for rambutans and other fruits in the surrounding areas!

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