Thursday, 20 March 2014
Johor Bahru Wanton Mee 柔佛新山云吞面
I am often asked which is the best of this or that type of food in Johor Bahru. I always replied that I can answer this question fairly only when I have eaten at every stall selling a type of food in JB - which I have not. In the meantime, the best that I can do is only to share my opinion on what are my current favourites, based on the limited number of stalls that I have eaten at, so far. So, the list is subject to changes as I slowly discover more stalls that I have not tried before.
So, here's my response to the question on which are my favourite wanton noodle stalls in JB based on my personal experience and preferences.
To me, perfect wanton mee is made up of a few elements. The gently crunchy eggy noodles tossed and coated with a flavourful aromatic sauce. Topped with chunky char siew (roast pork) that is charred at the edges, caramelised outside, still moist and juicy inside. Accompanied with a savoury broth with delicious meaty wantons wrapped in slippery el dente skins. A few stalks of fresh crunchy greens complete the simple dish.
In JB, I have not come across a wanton mee shop that is strong on all of these elements together.
Generally, char siew isn't a strong point of Johor Bahru wanton mee, even at the most popular shops. The relatively dry meat is usually sliced limp and thin.
Their strength seems to be in their noodles and the most popular shops make their own. Hence, they can pay greater attention and have better control over noodle quality.
Those who had been with me on JB food trails will know that I often stop over at Chin Chin 晶晶 wanton mee in Skudai.
Chin Chin wanton mee at Jalan Kaloi, Skudai, Johor.
The star at Chin Chin is their egg noodles. Made with just wheat flour and eggs, the noodles are slender yet have a soft delightful crunch that most thicker noodles cannot match.
Chin Chin chicken wanton mee.
The char siew and the sauce isn't outstanding at Chin Chin, so my order is usually for their chicken feet noodles i.e. noodles tossed in the braising sauce with black mushrooms used to stew the chicken feet. The chicken feet were fried and then braised till the wrinkly skin was jelly soft.
Chin Chin's crunchy egg noodle with the savoury braising sauce, viscous with dissolved gelatin from the chicken feet is hard for me to resist. Chin Chin's chicken feet noodles is my personal favourite in JB, actually.
許记 wanton mee in Xuan Hua kopitiam. Junction of Jln Keris and Jln Kelewang in Tmn Sri Tebrau.
Then there is 許记 in Taman Sri Tebrau, whose boss learnt his noodle making skills from the same noodle master as Chin Chin. Only two wanton mee shops in JB, Chin Chin and 許记, have the same noodles which they both make themselves.
The rest of 許记's wanton mee is average but it saves me the drive to Skudai when I am in downtown JB and crave super crunchy noodles.
In Taman Century, there are three old name wanton mee shops, namely Ho Seng Kee 何成記, Ho Meng Kee 何明記 and Yit Foh 益和.
All three wanton mee stalwarts here make their own crunchy noodles which are comparable in quality, texture and taste.
Ho Meng Kee wanton noodles. Jalan Harimau, Taman Century, Johor Bahru.
Ho Meng Kee actually supplies their popular duck egg noodles to numerous stalls sprinkled around Johor Bahru. Ho Meng Kee and 80 year old Ho Seng Kee both have their own loyal following.
Ho Seng Kee wanton noodles. Jalan Kancil, Taman Century, Johor Bahru.
The two Hos' sauce may be a tad dry for some but this is a common style in JB. I have to vigorously toss, turn and spin the ball of noodles in the bowl over and over to make sure that most of the strands are coated with some sauce. The noodles are crunchy and the sauce is flavoursome but this style takes the phrase dry stir noodles 干撈面 literally.
Yit Foh wanton noodles. Jalan Harimau, Taman Century, Johor Bahru.
My personal favourite in Taman Century is 40 year old Yit Foh, mainly because of their lighter, drippy aromatic sesame seed oil based sauce. The result is a slurpy, slippery wet ball of crunchy fragrant egg noodles.
Yit Foh's wantons are also the largest and meatiest.
There you have it, my short list of wanton mee favourites in Johor Bahru.
A version of this article was first posted on Yahoo! Entertainment and Makansutra on 19 Mar 2014 and 20 Mar 2014 respectively.
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