We were hunting for good food the whole morning at Permas Jaya. After three food stops, still no luck. Our stomachs were filling up without finding anything blog worthy yet.
Passing this humble no name stall in the corner, I glanced at the customers' bitter gourd soup 苦瓜汤 and they looked good. We made a quick decision to gamble our last remaining calories on this stall. If we lose this final round, we are going home empty handed. Stomachs full, wasted calories but nothing to share :P
Happily, it turned out to be a good food find :)
Bitter gourd soup - a Hakka comfort food - is quite common in Malaysia and it seems more so in Johor than elsewhere. In Singapore, bitter gourd soup is actually quite rare. For those who are unfamiliar with bitter gourd soup, this soup is more sweet and savoury than bitter. Fresh bitter gourd has some sweetness and it's bitterness is balanced by savouriness from the pork/ chicken bones.
Mr. Chin, the stall holder has been selling bitter gourd soup for nearly 20 years - according to his sifu's recipe, he said. He is a little reserved as he is unused to outside attention. All these years, Chin's main clientele are residents living around the area 老街方, 熟客.
Everything is small scale at the stall - quite typical of hawker fare in Johor. Starts at 8:30am and closes at 2:30pm after serving the lunch crowd. So it's pretty much "home cooked" - which in my humble opinion is the best. No big ambitions, just making enough for his own three meals 求三餐.
This stall is literary a "one-man show". Mr. Chin does everything from taking orders, food preparation, cooking, serving to cleaning and washing. So, a little patience is advised especially during lunch.
The bitter gourd is sliced only on order. And, Mr. Chin did a beautiful job of it that comes with years of practise.
Mr. Chin cooks the bitter gourd just right. The texture and colour of the bitter gourd reminds me of crunchy green apples, though it is not as sweet. But actually, the taste of bitter gourd complements the savouriness of bone stock and meat better than apple (in my opinion).
The pieces of minced pork in the soup. Cooked precisely right, tender and still have the natural light flavours of fresh pork.
We also had Mr Chin's kiam chye 咸菜 (salt preserved cabbage) pork organ soup. The soup is a blend of salty, sweet, tangy and savoury flavours. The flavours were mild and easy to like. Certainly not overly salty, and the soup has quite nice body too.
This soup is pretty familiar, like an old friend - just clean, simple and fresh but funny, I like it that way :P Maybe, it's because it is so "home made", it made me felt comforted and contented, at home.
This soup reminds me of those days when kiam chye was sold in wet markets from those dark chocolate coloured clay urns. The stall holder roughly fishing out a clump of limp kiam chye from the urn, and salt water flicking and dripping onto the wet market floor.
We can have either plain white rice or yam rice to go with the kiam chye or bitter gourd soup.
While at the stall, we bumped into Stephanie, our friend. She said the wanton mee at Kim Luan is not bad too. So, I've marked that down for our next food hunt in Permas Jaya :)
Restaurant name: No name bitter gourd soup stall in Kim Luan kopitiam
Address: 7, Jalan Permas 4/4, Permas Jaya, Johor Bahru
Hours: 8:30am to 2:30pm (closed on Tuesday)
Date visited: 10 Jul 2013
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