I have often been asked where to take friends from overseas or other parts of Malaysia on a day trip to JB to showcase uniquely Johor food or a uniquely Johor dining experience. With suggestions from members of Johor Sedap (Halal) food Group, I selected the following food and places to represent Johor food. Everyone's list will differ, of course, so this is just for reference.
Number One on the list is of course, Laksa Johor. Tasty fish based spicy and savoury gravy blanketing a bed of boiled spaghetti. You may find this unique fusion of East and West cuisine elsewhere but this special dish was invented right here in Johor :)
Laksa Johor even has a nice story behind it. During the reign of Sultan Sir Abu Bakar in the late 1800s, the Sultan travelled to Europe and when in Italy he fell in love with spaghetti. When Sultan Sir Abu Bakar returned to Johor, he directed the Palace Chef to create a dish using spaghetti and traditional fish spicy gravy. And, hence the uniquely Johor dish of Laksa Johor was born.
If I have only one dish to show my guests, Laksa Johor will be the dish I choose to represent Johor.
Click on this picture to see the places that I would bring my guests to for Laksa Johor.
Next is Kacang Pool. Originally an Egyptian dish but Kacang Pool has become very popular in JB. More a snack, so Kacang Pool is ideal for tucking in between meals. The thick slice of buttered toast goes very well with the sunny side up egg, and the bean and beef based gravy. Couple this with a foaming teh tarik and it is perfect.
My favourite place for Kacang Pool is Kacang Pool Haji at the Bomba Larkin food centre.
Mee Rebus is also a common dish in Malaysia and Singapore but only in Johor is it served with tulang or lamb shank bones. The lamb shank bones are slow boiled with herbs and spices in slow charcoal fire. The rich jelly like marrow is infused with herbs and spices, and sucked out with a large straw provided.
And, the best place to try this dish is at Restoran ZZ, not just because it is the signature dish here but also because of its unique kampung ambiance.
In my opinion, a makan trip to Johor would be incomplete without a visit to Warong Saga. Warong Saga offers a wide range of tasty local staples including Laksa Johor, Nasi Lemak, Tauhu Goreng, Lontong Kering and many more. But the charm of Warong Saga is in its ambiance which will catch your eye the moment you step into the street side warong. Every available flat surface in Warong Saga is plastered with heritage photos and memorabilia of old Johor, transforming the otherwise typical street side warong into a favourite makan hub.
Warong Saga is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so it is easy to fit a visit to this uniquely Johor warong into the day's plan.
Pisang Goreng is common in our region but only in Johor is Pisang Goreng eaten with with sambal kicap. Just a small twist and the whole experience is different.
So I will bring my guest to the famous Pisang Goreng Mawar to experience the Johor way of eating this common snack and also feel the pulse at one of JB's favourite tea time hang outs.
So, there we are, one day day trip and makan trail of unique Johor hawker fare and dining experience to remember Johor by. Nothing extravagant, just pleasant memories of the unique food culture of Johor.