Eating, food and steamboat in Cameron Highlands

Steamboat-in-Cameron-Highlands

“Makan!” that’s what the local says when going for a meal. Looking for a meal in Cameron Highlands is simply easy. With so many available choices, you can never savor them all at once. Good food, it is a celebration of life! Our penchant for eating and trying out new cuisine give rise to the many varieties of style and ethnicity.

Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western, take your pick! We have the ever popular steamboat, nasi lemak, roti chanai, satay… Uh, if you are not from around here, you’ll be asking, what kind of food are these?

Let’s see if I can explain. Of course pictures are worth a thousand words, but can never replace the culinary experience of trying it out first hand!

Chinese and Malay Steamboat

Let’s start with steamboat; this is not your riverboat variety, rather it is a pot of boiling soup heated constantly by gas stove fire, or for a rare one of kind, heated by charcoal fire. Uncooked chicken, fish, prawn, various kinds of meatballs, fish balls, crabsticks, variety of vegetables, tofu, noodles, beehun and eggs are served on plates to the patron.

The patron will then proceed with putting some portion of the above into the boiling cauldron of soup till it is full. If there is a cover for the pot, use it, as it will cook the dishes faster. For the uninitiated, here’s a rough guide: normally, the meat dishes goes into the pot first as they take longer to cook. Prawns cook real fast so a quick dip till it turns red and it can be taken out to eat. Tofus thrown in tend to break to pieces while rummaging for grub, this is normal, just eat the pieces whenever you scoop it out.

Two types of Steamboat Pots

Oh, the restaurant should pass out two types of ladle, one with holes in it and one without. The ladle with holes is to scoop out the grub without scooping out the soup thereby flooding your tiny bowl with soup. Soup is to be savored midway or later as it would be most tasty after boiling countless meat and vegetables.

Vegetables are usually thrown in sometimes halfway through your meal but there is no fix rule, you can throw them in anytime you feel like it. Noodles, beehun and eggs are usually the last to go in. Noodles and beehun get cooked really fast, all it needs is just a dip for a minute and you are good to go. Scoop some soup to your bowl of noodles or beehun to complete the dish. For variety, some restaurant serves what they call “Ying Yong” steamboat, where there is a partition in the pot separating it into two halves. The reason for that is to have two different kinds of soup to make your steamboat experience more interesting. Depending on the restaurant, there is a choice of usual plain soup, herbal soup, or for those who like a kick, the spicy tom yam soup!

Varieties of Soup Base

Wait a minute! I listed three types of soup, and there is only two halves! Yeah, you can only choose any two out of three choices.

One popular steamboat is the charcoal steamboat. It is only available in Highland Restaurant located at Brinchang. The charcoal gives it an interesting smoked aroma to the dish. Only one choice of soup though. If you got the chance, try it soon. Heard the owners are planning to retire from the restaurant business. No one else is using the charcoal for steamboat. I guess it is troublesome to use charcoal for steamboat.

Indian Cuisine

For Indian cuisine, there is the ever popular Banana Leaf Rice consisting of plain white rice with a mix of vegetables variety and papadams placed on banana leaf standing in as a plate, hence the name.

A variety of meat dishes can be chosen to complete the meal. Choices include chicken, mutton, beef, fish cooked in various styles of curry or deep fried with spices added.

If you happen to come a across a kiln in an Indian restaurant, those are for making tandori chicken and naan. And not to forget the ever popular Indian bread known as roti chanai that goes very well with a cup of pulled tea what we call it as teh tarik.

For good value Southern Indian food, try the Restaurant No. 14 in Tanah Rata.

Malay and Halal Food

There are many variety of Malay food that can be found in Cameron Highlands. Hop over to the food stalls opposite the main row of shops in Jalan Besar. They are usually inexpensive. Some of the more popular Malay food includes the Nasi Lemak, and Satay.

Nasi Lemak translated literally means oily rice! Actually it is not oil but rather santan – derived from coconut milk – which gives the nice aroma fragrance to the rice. Nasi Lemak is sometimes packed in a pyramid shaped packing using banana leaf and oilskin paper. The rice is sprinkled with fried peanuts, “ikan bilis” (anchovies), cucumbers, and completed with curry and sambal gravy.

Depending on the shop, some meat like chicken or “sotong” (squid) may be added to make a complete simple meal.

Of course there are much more varieties of food that I have not mentioned. So roam around the towns of Cameron Highlands, you just might find something intriguing!

How to choose the best Restaurants

Where there be good food you can be assured there will be a crowd. That’s how we spot a good outlet from a poor one. Given the penchant that we all like to eat, you would not find a shortage of restaurants and eateries in Cameron Highlands. With so many of them, which one should we make a bee line to whet our appetites? Some restaurants that are good is worth revisiting while some would be wiser to re-consider when there are no other alternatives to consider.

It is good to have many choices since eating the same food day in day out would just make you sick and tired of the same food even if it was really tasty. I have quite the same dilemma around my office since the choice available was rather limited. It was more a case of eating to live than living to eat. In the highlands on the other hand you could find many good ones and not so good ones around.

The listing here is by no means complete but based on what I had tried and also by recommendations by others. Some were excellent while some were mediocre and yet there were some you should very give it a wide berth as though it was the plague. I will not mention the bad ones unless I truly dislike it lest the owners come after me with a hatchet and bar me entry to the highlands.

The list here is by no means exhaustive and inclusions will be added if I ever do try out the eateries or perhaps through recommendations or suggestions by readers like your good self.

So here goes in no particular order:

Tanah Rata

    • Restaurant No. 14
    • The Malay stalls along Tanah Rata main road
    • Schwabing Haus Inn – German style foods
    • Uncle Chow Kopitiam – Home cooked Nyonya foods
      Second review of Uncle Chow’s Kopitiam Restaurant
    • Starbucks Coffee Shops in Cameron Highlands
    • Marrybrown Restaurant
    • Jasmine Cafe House Restaurant

Brinchang

    • Highland Restaurant and its charcoal steamboat
    • You Hoo Restaurant
    • OK Tuck Restaurant
    • Strawberry Moment Dessert Cafe
    • Organic Charcoal Steamboat meals – Ho Organic Farm Restaurant and Cameron Organic Produce Restaurant
    • Oldies and Goodies Roasted Restaurant
    • Kentucky Fried Chicken aka KFC

Here and there

  • Smokehouse hotel and restaurant
  • Charcoal Steamboat in Strawberry Park Resort Hotel
  • YTL Cameron Highlands Resort – main restaurant + Gonbei Japanese Restaurant
  • The Strawberry View Restaurant at Kea Farm
  • Green View Garden Cafe

Oh, yea, there are franchise outlets like Merry Brown, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), and even StarBucks! If you can’t think of anything else to eat or lepak you can go for these…

Best Tea and Scones for Breakfast or Tea Time

Love it or hate it, well that’s what I found at some of the forums and travel destinations web sites. Personally, I like scones. And it certainly goes well with tea. And my wife likes it so much she actually pack back some from the various establishment to bring back for her friends and family to try it out! But it is not quite the same having tea and scones back in Kuala Lumpur without the English Tudor style settings and country home feeling. I still enjoy it more when I am at Cameron Highlands.

Scones are typically English. And is traditionally served during the afternoon when the English are having their afternoon tea break. Times have change and you can now have it anytime of the day.

And of course Cameron Highlands was set up by the British, there is definitely lots of English flavour in this highland and this tea and scone afternoon tea break regiment was brought in by the English and remains as one of their legacy to Cameron Highlands.

If you miss the balmy weather of England and feeling homesick for good old British Isle, Cameron Highlands became close substitute for those longing for a bit of their homeland. Enough of my banter and let’s see where we can find the best tea and scone eateries in this travel destination.

I have not tried all the tea and scones with the list I compiled here, still you can get a fair idea where to head for having your typical English tea and scones top up with Devonshire cream if you must.

Here goes in no particular order:

  1. Cameron Highlands Resort (YTL)
  2. The Lakehouse Cameron Highlands Hotel
  3. The Smokehouse Hotel and Restaurant
  4. T-Café in Tanah Rata
  5. Bala’s Holiday Chalet
  6. Cameron Valley
  7. Cameronian Inn Tea and Homemade Scones [Recommended!]
  8. Cluny Lodge (not for public unfortunately, private booking only)
  9. Boh Tea Shop at the tea plantation

I’m sure there are many more hidden around Cameron Highlands, but it is not quite possible to go on a tea and scones eating spree! Personally, I like the scones served at The Lakehouse Hotel and The Smokehouse Hotel. Their scones are really soft and fluffy but of course there is a price to pay for eating at such luxurious setting. For lower cost alternative you could try T-Café which comes quite highly recommended.

And for those who want to make their own scones, I’ve managed to get a scones recipe which you can download it. After you have perfected your baking skills, don’t forget to invite me to savour your perfectly baked scones, ok?

As for me? I don’t know much about cooking and baking. But I do know how to make some pancakes using instant pancake mix. Even my wife says I’m quite good at frying up a pile and doing it better than she can!

A tip for best scones, they have to be soft and light, and if the establishment didn’t get their technique right, badly made scones are heavy, dense and tough. That’s why the scones that I buy off the rack from supermarkets are hard and rough, very much pale in comparison with good scones found in Cameron Highlands.

If you check out the scones recipe, you can find the technique for making those deliciously soft and light scones. So head on over to the scones recipe download page and get your scones recipe today!