This long post is dedicated to readers who take day trips using public buses from Singapore to JB and wish to explore JB food on foot.
Many Singaporean day trippers spend their day shopping and dining inside City Square Shopping Centre which is directly connected to the Malaysian Immigration building. If you like to explore JB food beyond City Square, here is my list of interesting places for food and drinks within 10 minutes walking distance from City Square that you might want to try out.
Use this sketch to help you navigate. The numbers 1 to 12 refer to the mentioned food places. Note that the sketch is not drawn to scale and is meant only as a guide.
After clearing immigration, walk through City Square, and head for Jalan Wong Ah Fook which is the busy main street in JB downtown.
When on Jalan Wong Ah Fook, walk in the direction of Singapore and look out for this Hindu temple across the road from City Square. You can use this Hindu temple as the point of reference.
If you want to have a nice kaya toast and coffee breakfast, I suggest you try Kin Wah or Hua Mui kopitiams. Both are popular Hainanese kopitiams that have been around for decades.
|Kin Wah kopitiam is usually packed like this.|
Hua Mui is an institution here in old JB but the premises and menu have been modernised. Sipping Hainanese coffee and having toast bread is a ritual for many of Hua Mui’s regular customers.
For lunch, you can try out Kin Wah’s famous nasi padang. Kin Wah is always jam packed with office workers during lunch who find their fresh home cooked nasi padang dishes irresistible. I especially like their flavourful beef rendang and refreshing fried bean sprouts.
If you want to try traditional Teochew kway teow, then walk over to Ah Hua kway teow. Ah Hua is one of the oldest kway teow soup shops in JB. Ah Hua even still uses charcoal to boil its pork bone soup – something that I have not seen anywhere else anymore. Spend RM16 and you will get a bowl chock full of luxuries like abalone, fresh oysters, liver, kidney and more.
Nearby is another traditional Teochew kway teow shop – Sang Heng run by an elderly gentleman just beside the OCBC bank. Waiting time here is long here due to the number of customers but it has a certain rustic charm that keeps drawing people back, including many from Singapore.
If you want to have a vegetarian meal, then Annalakshmi is the place for you. Delicious traditional Indian vegetarian meals lovingly cooked by volunteers, many of whom are mothers who are experienced in home cooking. Uniquely, there is no fixed price for your meal at Annalakshmi. Annalakshmi operates on the principle of “eat to your heart’s content, pay as your heart feels”.
If you want to have a hearty Western meal, you can go back to Hua Mui for their Hainanese style Western food. Their classic chicken chop is especially popular. They also have local staples like mee goreng and fried hor fun.
Alternatively, you can try IT Roo Café – another traditional Hainanese café. IT Roo is renowned for its chunky fried chicken chop and fresh mushroom sauce – I love it.
For the information of Muslim readers, both Hua Mui and IT Roo are certified Halal.
Along the main street, Jalan Wong Ah Fook is Kam Long fish head curry. The secret of Kam Long’s success? It makes its popular curry fish head with the freshest fish and vegetables – that’s it. Try it. Many people rave about Kam Long’s curry fish head as the lunch time crowd testifies.
When you feel the afternoon heat, pop by the 100 year old Kok Yow Yong herbal tea shop for a quick thirst quencher. If you need an extra energy boost or to fight off a cold, you can even ask for a "special".
RECOMMENDED TAKE AWAYS
Before you return home, remember to drop by the two traditional bakeries in JB downtown. Hiap Joo and Salahuddin make a wide range of traditional cakes and pastries. Both Hiap Joo and Salahuddin bakeries still use their decades old wood fired ovens! Dropping in to watch them use these ancient ovens is an education in itself.
I especially love Hiap Joo’s fluffy, soft and moist banana cakes made only with fresh natural ingredients.
Salahuddin makes those giant sized Bengali curry puffs that bring back memories of my school days in 1970s Singapore.
If you stay for dinner, check out Meldrum Walk. This is a row of back lane push cart stalls that slowly come to life starting from around 5:30pm before coming to full bloom at around 7:00pm.
There is a bewildering range of choices to suit every palate. I have yet to try most of the stalls but these I liked.
The BBQ chicken is outstanding. It is very basic, just a simple marinade and the sweetness of the fresh BBQ chicken’s own juices!
There are several kambing soup stalls. This kambing soup I've tried is hefty and loaded with chunky pieces of lamb.
The tender and tasty oh chien is thick with eggs and huge fresh oysters.
There is a Tandoori chicken stall that cooks the chicken and naan with a traditional tandoor oven.
There are many BBQ seafood stalls in Meldrum Walk both in the Halal and non Halal sections. I’ve tried Kak Long’s stingray and catfish, and I liked it.
There you have it. If you want to try some things new or experiences not available in Singapore, these are all within a short leisurely walk away from City Square.
Just a word of caution. JB is generally a safe place but please do be alert and take the usual precautions to have an enjoyable outing e.g. move away when approached by “Scratch and Win” scammers.