I got an unexpected email and telephone call from Makansutra office asking if I would like to show Makan Guru K F Seetoh around Johor Bahru. K F Seetoh was preparing the 2013 edition of Makansutra Guide to Malaysian Food. I agreed readily because this supports my goal to promote Johor hawkers and hawker food. I was also eager to spend a day with K F Seetoh as I have long admired how he passionately promoted street food around the world, especially in Singapore.
I am writing this long overdue post now as it just dawned on me that this was actually Johor Kaki's very first food trail and that it should not go unrecorded.
Seetoh drove his MPV, and with us were the photographer (I forgot his name, so sorry :P) and staff writer, Lorraine.
As Seetoh wanted to cover some Halal food, our first stop was the food centre at the beautiful Hutan Bandar park. I introduced Seetoh to two lontong kering stalls as this dish is quite hard to find in Singapore.
We first tasted D'Rimba Corner's lontong kering. Lontong kering is traditional Malay rice cakes served with peanut gravy, spicy sambal, fried coconut shreds, tempeh and nasi padang style side dishes such as beef rendang, fried vegetables and so on.
Next, we tasted Puan Fatimah's lontong kering which is just a few stalls away, also at Hutan Bandar. Seetoh was impressed by how the stalls were able to turn common and inexpensive ingredients into affordable and delicious dishes. This affordable delicious food sumptuously enjoyed by everyone, Seetoh shared, is the essence of good street food.
After Hutan Bandar food centre, we shot up to Taman Ungku Tun Aminah where I showed Seetoh the Terrengganu Curry Mee. This unique style of curry mee eaten with fresh fish and sambal is one of my personal favourites and I wanted to let Seetoh try it.
We next proceeded to You Kee XO to taste their roast meats and signature soups. You Kee XO is one of the well established roast meats shops in Johor Bahru but there are a few other shops that also do great roast meats in JB. What I liked about You Kee XO is the nice ambiance, clean and neat environment, good service and their great soups. Pricing wise, they do not charge a premium for the nice extras, which is... nice.
Next stop was Restoran Azinur for their popular nasi padang. I wanted to show Seetoh one of the local favourites where many people have their everyday, work day meals. Queues form up outside Restoran Azinur 20 minutes before opening time at noon. Azinur closes when everything is sold out, normally about two hours later at 2:00pm.
We then stopped over at Onn Kee Jaya in Tampoi for their popular steamed fresh fish.
That done, we proceeded to nearby Angsana Plaza to burn calories, shop a little bit, and also to taste Haji Wahid's mee rebus there. Haji Wahid's mee rebus is an old name in traditional mee rebus in Johor Bahru, now with several branches around JB. The Angsana Plaza branch is one of the most popular.
After a good shopping break and a stretch, we swung eastwards towards Taman Mount Austin to check out Matang seafood porridge. Here, the Teochew style porridge is served in savoury seafood broth and we can add additional seafood ingredients according to our fancy. Shark meat is a popular add on here.
After the seafood porridge, we found a cool coffee and dessert shop in Mount Austin to cool our heels, freshen up and to get online to clear our backlog of the day's emails and messages.
Re-energised by the short break, we proceeded to the back alley stalls at Taman Century but we were slightly early and most of the stalls were not yet opened. Known as Siak Hong to the locals, the collection of alley stalls here is a popular supper haunt.
We then swung around to a 5 decades old restaurant with the quaint name "Come and Eat" serving Teochew porridge. Famous for their steamed fresh fish which Orang Asli fishermen bring in by just the handful in what is literary the "Catch of the Day". We had a bit of a heartache. The famous "Come and Eat" asam fish was available only on Thursdays, so Seetoh got to miss this one, and come and eat another day :P
We next headed down early to Meldrum Walk to indulge in JB style back alley dining. Despite the rather pretentious sounding name, Meldrum Walk is no swanky dinning street. But, it is charming, authentic back lane hawker fare - raw and unabashed. Unglam, crowded, messy, dingy, cooking fumes stick to your clothes and hair, but Meldrum Walk has one of the largest collection of hawker stalls in Johor Bahru. Some of the stalls are decades old heritage stalls. Meldrum "Walk" is a mini foodies' paradise - a place I like to explore more.
Meldrum Walk was the last stop of our one day food trail.
On hindsight, the trail could have been better, for example, I could have just kept to one area such as Skudai or Johor Jaya, instead of crisscrossing through Johor Bahru.
Still, for those intrepid foodies who want to follow our food steps (pun intended) - let the food decide where we go rather than convenience - here is the summary of our Johor Bahru one day food trail.
- Hutan Bandar Map: http://g.co/maps/g6ssk
GPS: 1.480152, 103.742974
- Terengganu curry Map: http://g.co/maps/fyu6e GPS: 1.51037,103.648335
- You Kee XO Map: http://g.co/maps/5dsth GPS: 1.516666,103.653613
- Restoran Azinur Map: http://g.co/maps/znpf4 GPS: 1.522628,103.660587
- Onn Kee Jaya Map: http://g.co/maps/9w3he GPS: 1.497854,103.701839
- Haji Wahid's Map: http://goo.gl/maps/dYkl GPS: 1.495183,103.705229
- Matang porridge Map: http://g.co/maps/j6z6r GPS: 1.561904, 103.779184
- Siak Hong alley Map: http://g.co/maps/6p2ch GPS: 1.479637,103.763718
- Come and Eat Map: http://g.co/maps/aut82 GPS: 1.47285, 103.77829
- Meldrum Walk Map: http://g.co/maps/9m437 GPS: 1.460045,103.764673