There are probably no more than a small handful of small restaurants in Malaysia and Singapore, the likes of century old Loke Tien Yuen in Mersing still serving authentic old school Cantonese classics. So for fans of Cantonese food, it is worth the 150km drive from JB to Mersing through windy and undulating roads for a taste of the dishes at Loke Tien Yuen.
Mersing, on Johor's east coast, is a small seaside town where seafood catches from the South China Sea are landed. It is also the ferry point for Tioman Island.
Downtown Mersing is a rustic little Malaysian town - walking down the main street, it's like a picture from a 1960s postcard. Loke Tien Yuen is at #55, Jalan Abu Bakar. If you drive around Mersing town for five minutes, you will pass by Loke Tien Yuen at least once, if not twice - so you can't miss it ;-p
I love walking around and exploring the quiet side streets.
Stepping into Loke Tien Yuen on the dot at 12:30pm on a Monday, every single one of the nine tables were already reserved. I can't say we were surprised, knowing how popular Loke Tien Yuen is. We were so glad that we had called ahead to reserve a table.
I think it is a good idea to call Margaret at least a day ahead before taking that 2 hour drive to Mersing from JB. Make sure that the restaurant is open for the day, reserve your table and book your dishes with Margaret. Loke Tien Yuen has no menu book, so you have to speak with friendly Margaret about the dishes you want :-D
This century old restaurant was founded by Margaret's parents. Margaret's grandfather brought her father to Mersing from China when her dad was 11 years old. Today, Loke Tien Yuen remains family run with Margaret at the front and brother Henry heading the kitchen.
Many local folk come here for tea and enjoy an everyday meal with friends. Many of Loke Tien Yuen's dishes are classic Cantonese comfort dishes.
We had our usual steamed grouper.
The meaty fish was ocean fresh and perfectly tender with a slight spring to the bite. The flesh was juicy and sweet. The simple sauce garnished only with spring onion was oh.. so... cleaning tasting and savoury sweet.
Loke Tien Yuen's poached chicken reminds me of Uncle's chicken in Singapore. The meat was tender, juicy and has a sweet chicken flavour.
There was no ginger or chili sauce. There is really no need. The chicken's natural flavours and the simple dressing sauce of sesame oil and light soy sauce was
Loke Tien Yuen's popular ku lo yok 咕噜肉 is a must for me.
The batter is a bit thick and it is crispy outside despite being wrapped by a thick gooey sweet sour savoury sauce. The meat inside is juicy sweet.
One of the best renditions of this iconic Cantonese restaurant staple.
This simple bitter gourd slices simply stir fried in a fermented bean paste sauce and garlic is just delightful.
The bitter gourd slices were crunchy. The taste was savoury sweet with very slight bitterness.
Our total bill came to RM68, including the pot of Chinese tea.
Actually, I have barely scratched the surface of Loke Tien Yuen's signature dishes. I need to come back with a group of maybe 10 people to taste their banquet and "hard core" old school dishes like "deep fried steamed duck stuffed with lotus seeds", "lo mai gai", "spring roll with caul fat" etc.
->> Better enjoy the good food as much as possible at Loke Tien Yuen in Mersing as such classic restaurants are a rare breed in Malaysia and Singapore. They don't make restaurants like this anymore.
Restaurant name: Loke Tien Yuen Restaurant 乐天园酒家
Address: 55, Jalan Abu Bakar, Mersing, Johor, Malaysia
GPS: 2.433029,103.838374 / 2°25'58.9"N 103°50'18.1"E
Tel: +607 799 1639
Hours: 12:30pm to 3:30pm and 6:30pm to 8:30pm (always call ahead to reserve your table)
Date visited: 24 Oct 2012
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