“Stop asking me if I want cili padi in my food just because I’m a gwailo. Of course I want my chilli!” exclaimed Lawrence Mignogna.

Having been shuttling between his homes in Ipoh and Nashville, Tennessee for more than a decade now, the Long Island native is almost like a local Ipohite.

The 37-year-old, known as Larry among friends, first found out about Ipoh when he was in Kuala Lumpur for work. He said, “I was an audio engineer working for Alicia Keys doing a show in the capital city. That was when I met my wife, Anne, who was working for the promoter of the show at the time. She was originally from Ipoh.”

eating Ipoh chicken kway teow at Thean Chun Coffee Shop

eating Ipoh chicken kway teow at Thean Chun Coffee Shop

Now a top international sound engineer, Larry feels right at home here. “Ipoh is the perfect size. There are plenty of things to do here, but still quiet and not as packed as a city like KL. Well, as long as we stay away from AEON on a weekend! When I come back from a long tour, I like to be able to relax with friends and Ipoh is quiet enough, with plenty of good, friendly people.

“Although I have been to more than 300 cities around the globe in the course of my work, Ipoh has a strong attraction for me. Number one is obviously the food. I usually have roti telur for breakfast. As a Westerner, I still can’t take rice or noodles first thing in the morning. For lunch and dinner, I am spoilt for choice and have many favourites – among them are Bak Kut Teh, chicken tauge, redang and pork noodle soup. I do not crave for Western food when I am here.

in front of evolution wall mural by Ernest Zacharevic

in front of evolution wall mural by Ernest Zacharevic

“When I am away, I miss the food. Certain things have become comfort food for me. When I am unwell, all I want is Chinese chicken porridge. I definitely do not miss the heat!” he laughingly added.

Considering the distance between Nashville and Ipoh, Larry’s connection with Ipoh is remarkably strong as he tries to come back whenever he could. “I still work in the music industry travelling around the world but I make about five to six trips a year to Ipoh, for two to three weeks each time. It all depends on how much time off I have from work.

“I like the old world charm of Ipoh and her history, especially Old Town. I applaud the efforts of the city council to try to conserve old buildings. There are so many cities that have lost their identity to modern development, so much so that they are beginning to look the same, with all the high-rise buildings and international brand-name storefronts.

at Ipoh's snow beer wall mural

at Ipoh’s snow beer wall mural

“I also think that the limestone hills that surround Ipoh are gorgeous. I hope the people of Ipoh can preserve their beauty.”

When asked how he thinks Ipoh could be enhanced, he opined, “The first thing would be to clean up the trash and recycle it. Number two would be to improve the public parks and places for kids to play. Polo Ground is great but each neighbourhood should have a recreation area like that. Also, it would be nice to have dedicated bicycle paths here.”

Note: An edited version of this article [Of Nashville and Cili Padi] was published on 25th April, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.

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