Concubine Lane in Ipoh, Malaysia

by Samantha Bacchus McLeod

Walking through an ancient alley in Ipoh will, with every step forward, push one gently back into a different time…

Concubine Lane. Just the name paints a picture of ancient-ness. Of soft pleasing women, by night, awaiting their lovers’ embrace. The smell of lanterns filled with oil, brocaded curtains shimmering in the flickering flames. Sweet smells of soaps and incense. Haunting string music and the melodious warbling of feminine voices.

As one meanders through the alleyway of Concubine Lane, the melody and aromas of their daytime lives materialize…strident voices bartering over the freshest fish, sacks of overflowing rice grains, metal cup measuring meticulous pints into little bags. Trinkets of jade and gold displayed in shop windows, gem-laden trinkets jingling on the wrists of the concubines.

Look up and see the barred windows holding their secrets…while other secrets flap in the breeze from lines strung across the narrow alleyway of the concubines.

And the food…oh the foods of Ipoh as one walks through Concubine Lane…the scents of herbs simmered in meaty broths, and that special earthy aroma of rice puffing out its just-cooked steam.

The smell of smoky charred vegetables. And the spicy burnt chillies-oil so thick in the air I can almost taste it. You will hear the sizzle of woks, and the slaps of pancakes being flipped on griddles.

Thick fragrant smoke in the air, and bright coloured bowls stacked on tables, while delicate wrists with chopsticks attached to slender fingers, deftly pick up choice morsels to feed to their lovers.

The crash of a pot, the sound of English voices as tourist go by will drag you back to the present day…but oh the food, nothing has changed, the foods that are a part of the concubines’s stories, still thrives today.

The foods of Ipoh keeps the past so alive that one can taste and see the days of yore.

Malaysia is truly a beautiful place to visit, there are so many places steeped in history, and so many foods marinated in cultures. Ipoh rates high in my books when it comes to best foods. The night markets sizzling and smoky until morning caters to every culinary craving one can imagine. Malaysia, especially Ipoh, is a country of amazing food.

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