Saturday, 9 March 2013
JK Half Day Johor Bahru Food Trail for Overseas Guests
My friend Littlekoh asked me if I could help show her friend Niki from Hong Kong some recommended food stalls in Johor Bahru. Niki from Hong Kong's V Publications was working on a magazine introducing Johor food to Hong Kong readers. I agreed readily as I love showing overseas friends the best of Johor food.
Niki, Benny the photographer and I met early at 7:00am this morning near City Square Mall and proceeded right away on our half day JB food trail.
Our first stop was Warung Saga. I chose Warung Saga because I liked its unique ambiance and the many traditional Malay dishes at the shop.
Warung Saga's nasi lemak had the honour of being the first meal of the day for our overseas guests, and rightly so. Simple and pleasing, good nasi lemak is probably the best way to start overseas guests on Johor food. Warung Saga's version more than did justice to this iconic dish.
Warung Saga's Laksa Johor gave me the opportunity to share with my Hong Kong guests the origins of this uniquely Johor dish. The origins of Laksa Johor reflected the innovativeness and cosmopolitan outlook that had long been the trait of Johoreans.
This is Niki interviewing the boss, Enche Ismail and his son at Warung Saga.
Our second stop was Restoran G Cheong Fun in Taman Ungku Tun Aminah. Chee cheong fun (CCF) is a Cantonese staple and CCF stalls are everywhere in Hong Kong. However, I wanted to show my Hong Kong guests the Malaysian style of chee cheong fun which is not found in Hong Kong. G Cheong Fun is one of my favourite CCF shops in Johor Bahru.
I haven't been back to Restoran G Cheong Fun for a few months and am seeing that shiny metallic contraption for the first time. It looked like a large mouse trap. That gleaming steel cuts through stacks of chee cheong fun fast and efficiently, but was no where nearly as charming as the old way of chopping the chee cheong fun by hand. I missed that "tuk, tuk, tuk" music of chopping chee cheong fun the old way, Kampar style.
Niki interviewing Restoran G Cheong Fun's boss, Mr. Wong. Mr. Wong originally from Ipoh landed in Johor Bahru over twenty years ago following his wife, who is a Johorean. The couple started a chee cheong fun stall, that became a two shoplot restaurant specialising in CCF. Restoran G Cheong Fun may well be the largest chee cheong fun shop in the whole of Malaysia.
My favourite Kampar style chee cheong fun. Cut into thin strips like kway teow and eaten with a mild curry gravy. This is uniquely Malaysia.
Kampar style is my favourite way to eat the Cantonese staple chee cheong fun because there are a lot of side dishes to choose from.
Side dishes include items in a steamer like fried tofu skin, braised chicken claws, fish balls and more.
I especially love eating this chewy steamed fried pork skin and crunchy long beans with my chee cheong fun.
My Hong Kong guests were impressed with this char siew chee cheong fun. They shared that this was better than those in many Hong Kong restaurants.
Teluk Anson style chee cheong fun is something also not found in Hong Kong.
When you are at Restoran G Cheong Fun, please remember to order this. This not very photogenic sambal is loaded with cockles (see ham) and it was so, so delicious. Mildly spicy, savoury and had that soft, slimy mouth feel and taste that make see ham lovers go crazy. Definitely a Must Try if you are a see ham person.
Niki asking one of G Cheong Fun's regular customers about what kept him coming back for this chee cheong fun.
After confirming with my guests that they were game to try durian, I brought them to Wah Cai's shop which is along the same street as G Cheong Fun. We were lucky as we arrived just in time to catch Wah Cai preparing the day's fried durian.
Wah Cai bringing the frozen durian out from the cold room. Yes, this fried snack stall actually has a large sized cold room!
Benny photographing Wah Cai's sister preparing the frozen durian for frying.
Wah Cai's famous fried durian puff made with D24 durian. Crispy on the outside, rich, creamy durian inside. My Hong Kong guests had no difficulty appreciating this.
Wah Cai's bananas are fried whole, not sliced. Personally, I prefer my fried bananas whole as the pulp literally melts and become creamy from the high heat.
My Hong Kong guests liked this fried cempedak even more than Wah Cai's claim to fame, his fried durian.
The all-important shot with the hawkers at the shop front before departing for the next food stop.
Our fourth and final food stop was Restoran ZZ. I wanted my guests to try the uniquely Johor style of mee rebus served with lamb bone shanks and also to experience the kampung ambiance.
Benny enjoyed this sup tulang while Niki wasn't used to the gamey mutton flavour. Benny especially liked the gelatinous shreds around the joints.
Today's mee rebus tulang gearbox was spot on! That rich gamey mutton flavour was strongly evident in the gravy. Lip smacking good! This is my top mee rebus in Johor now.
Restoran ZZ's Laksa Johor is one of the better renditions of this Johor classic. Fresh ingredients with plenty of minced fish in the gravy.
Niki and Benny working hard to show off the best of Johor food to Hong Kong audiences.
So, that was our whirlwind tour of Johor food in half a day. I am glad that Niki and Benny were impressed with Johor food and said that they would be coming back for more.
Niki and Benny will be on their way to KL for the next leg of their Malaysia food hunt.
Bon Voyage and happy eating my friends.
Click on these links to read more about the restaurants in this half day Johor food trail.
G Cheong Fun