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No Name Laksa and Yong Tau Foo Stall along Jalan Stulang Darat (near Hotel Zon), Johor Bahru, Malaysia (Guest Post)

I thoroughly enjoyed this informative and hilarious guest post on Johor Kaki blog by my friend and makan kaki, Kumes. I am sure you will too. My thanks to Kumes for being Johor Kaki's first guest blogger!

Johore Bahru - Nov 21st, 2012: It was a rainy Wednesday night, and I had promised my family a warming dinner of delicious Yong Tau Foo from my favourite stall in Pelangi.

What did I do to anger the Yong Tau Foo gods so much?......Was it my brief flirtation with wantan soup?” I wearily wondered to myself. “But that happened when I was a much younger and more foolish boy,” subconsciously gripping the steering wheel harder in protest. “….it was two weeks ago….I repent, I swear!” slumping back into the drivers’ seat. After 45 minutes of driving around, not only was my favourite stall closed, but so were two others that came highly recommended by my friend, Joe.
Yong Tau Foo-less, I headed home in disappointment. Speeding down the road that led to my house, a glimmer of hope appeared. I noticed a shack out the left corner of my windscreen off Jalan Stulang Darat. I vaguely recalled the sagely Johor Kaki mentioning it contained good eats. Desperate and out of options, I pulled over to investigate.

Bingo! The offerings laid out in colourful baskets looked decidedly average, but hey, average Yong Tau Foo is definitely better than no Yong Tau Foo when you’re craving it on a cold rainy night.

Based on looks alone - the aubergine was very thinly stuffed, the bitter gourd looked generic, and the tofu looked bland…. I was truly expecting a forgettable meal. I truly expected to think “Well, it’s not horrible; maybe if everywhere else is closed, or my mum steals the car I stole from her, I might buy this again since it’s so close to the house.”

Boy was I Wrong. Wrong with a capital W. This then, is a culinary version of the shabbily dressed geeky girl in the corner no one notices - except at night, she just happens to turn into Catwoman.

The camera shy Madam Lua has been a Yong Tau Foo hawker for over 20 years, since her son who now mans the furiously boiling soup pot was just knee high. Before this she was located in the car park of the nearby old 3 storey flats, where her husband used to man their stall. Her personal favourites are their very own handmade fishballs, which come in both the boiled and fried varieties. Some of the other items such as the fish roe balls and Foochow fishballs are supplied by a friend of hers.

This is where all those hidden gems are tucked away - I strongly recommend the items shown in this general picture.

This is really the most deceiving piece of the lot. Biting into what appears to be a mild mannered tofu skin wrapped fried fishball reveals a jewel like filling of flavourful caviar. Biting into this is like pressing the call button for a lift, but instead of a lift, the Space Shuttle appears. Unexpected, Interesting, Surprising. Joyful even.

The flavourful roe and associated flavours that just spurt into your mouth when you take a bite is utterly delightful, almost like how a perfectly steamed onde-onde releases its payload of gula Melaka like a sensory nuclear bomb when you bite in. The firm microbubbles of caviar pop against your tongue as you chew, the texture and flavours released are just lovely. I have a strong feeling even those who don’t usually like fish roe will love this as the flavours are well balanced. No strong fishy taste to be found here.

This delightful morsel is a minced pork dumpling with salted egg yolk wrapped in wantan skin. Delicious. The salty richness of the egg goes so well with the pork mixture that has hints of dried cuttlefish and the silky slurpy wantan skin wraps up the whole package.

This Foochow fishball was also delightful. The flavour of quality sesame oil and what I suspect is prawn or fish paste made it taste almost like a siew mai stuffed fishball. Bouncy with a succulent filling. The juice spurting out from this when you bite in is very addictive.

This stall is just full of surprises. Nothing is as it seems. The rich sambal looks like your average home made dried prawn sambal, but she adds ground curry spices to it. This may be an acquired taste as I personally felt normal sambal would have gone better with some of the pieces I chose. I have a faint suspicion if I were to boil a dollop of that sambal with coconut milk I’d end up with a bowl of curry laksa. It has all the elements of a curry laksa base, the lemongrass and galangal flavour, along with the dried prawns and curry spices. My mum loved it so much she mixed a whole packet of that sambal into her soup before dunking more bee hoon in. As I also discovered after trying her soup, this was a rather good way of enjoying the sambal, almost like getting two different soup bases in one meal. It tasted like the curry mee you get in some places up north, where the soup is clear, with either none or very little coconut milk, but all the flavour of curry. The umami laden soup helped give it that "full" mouthfeel, without coconut milk as a thickener.

Speaking of the soup, notice how Ah Hui was proudly showing me the generous amounts of pig skin he added to the soup? I happen to know from my own soup making efforts that boiling pig skin takes a lot of time and patience, having to skim off loads of oil from the melting subcutaneous fat that is impossible to remove completely before cooking. At this point in time, some readers might have noticed food writers sometimes use the word “umami” rather a lot in their scribbles, but what is it exactly, and what does it have to do with pig skin?

Let’s start with the basics - Umami is a term coined up by some Japanese dude called Kikunae Ikeda, a Professor at Tokyo Imperial University to describe the taste when L-glutamate receptors on your tongue are activated by foods that well….contain L-glutamate and members of its happy family known as 5’ribonucleotides such as inosine monophosphate and guanosine monophosphate.

In plain English, this means our good friend MSG and foods such as seaweed, tomato, mushrooms, dried oysters, and shrimp among other natural ingredients contain chemicals similar to MSG that will have a similar effect on your taste as MSG.

But another thing that can give you that umami mouthfeel, albeit without triggering these specific tastebuds are skin, bones, and tendon. Boil them long enough and the complex three dimensional protein strains within called collagen that women love to see on the ingredient list of their cosmetics, unwind into a less tight form known as gelatin. Yes gelatin, the same thing you use to make gummy bears and mentos. Why does this make soup taste more umami? It’s because it tricks your tongue into thinking you’re eating fat, and back when we were cavemen who had to hunt for our food, fat was good. Now you know. Also, just in case you were wondering, boiling your girlfriend’s makeup will not result in better soup. Rather it would probably result in her unwinding into an entity known as ‘the ex-girlfriend’.

I honestly think some of these items might have come from a dim sum menu. They are just so delectable you could eat them on their own, or with a dab of Kampung Koh style chili sauce - but when matched with that umami laden soup it just takes things to a whole new level. I have never come across another Yong Tau Foo stall which made me go “Wow” at every bite. Not just because it was delicious, but because it’s so different and unexpected. Every first bite was a process of discovery. I thank the Yong Tau Foo gods for this blessing in disguise. To borrow some words from Optimus Prime; there is certainly more than meets the eye at this humble stall.
Restaurant name: No name makeshift stall in a shack
Address: Along Jalan Stulang Darat (near Hotel Zon)
GPS: 1.472092,103.777295
Hours: 6:00pm to sold out
Non Halal
Date visited: 21 Nov 2012

About the Guest Blogger

Kumes is an ardent foodie born a Johorian, but spent most of his teenage and young adult life as a Londoner. He is currently located in Singapore, however, the whereabouts of his mind are unknown and probably couldn’t be found on any map.

Closed - Western Food at Jitterbug Café in Plentong, Masai near Tesco Extra in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

I received an email from Sharifah Mun, the owner of Jitterbug Café to visit her newly opened restaurant in Plentong, Johor Bahru. Checking out Jitterbug's Facebook page, I was excited to visit the hip looking restaurant and try the dishes in their interesting menu.

Jitterbug is run by Sharifah supported by her staff and Chef Chin.

Sharifah let me try a few of Jitterbug's popular dishes.

Sharifah started us off with Jitterbug's mushroom soup. Well, mushroom soups made with fresh mushroom are fairly common in good mid price restaurants but at Jitterbug, the soup had a certain body and taste that set it apart. Chef Chin added barley in the mushroom soup which gave it a refreshing, sweet twist that blended well with the fresh mushrooms. We liked it.

Sharifah was eager to let us try Jitterbug's Ugly Duckling (RM22). Jitterbug's Ugly Duckling was anything but ugly. Between the nice buns were slices of tender juicy savoury lean smoked duck. The orange juice in the sauce and the slice of fresh green apple made this burger a stand out for me. This is my favourite dish of the day :)

Pardon me as I indulge in another picture of Jitterbug's delectable, beautiful Ugly Duckling. A Must Try, definitely.

Meet Johnny Bravo, Jitterbug's version of Beef Sliders (RM25.90). The beef burger made with a thick chunky piece of fresh beef patty. Pleasant beefy flavour and not overly salty which is a common fault of average beef burgers. Jitterbug's Johnny Bravo was likable and similar to beef burgers of better mid price restaurants. Johnny Bravo is a good choice for people who like meaty beef.

I love Jitterbug's chicken chop (RM27). The chicken was crispy outside. Inside it was tender and juicy. The chicken chop was drenched with a gravy that was savoury and had a refreshing, subtly tangy twist. The pieces of chicken were drippy and redolent with generous amount of subtly perky gravy. My friends know my preference for drippy gravy. I recommend this chicken chop, if you are looking for a satisfying, tasty meal.

We had Truffle Fries (RM16) to go along with our meal. It's regular French fries drizzled with truffle oil to give it that subtle earthly aroma associated with truffles. Trendy and a minor craze in Singapore now. Personally, I am not a big fan of fries and truffles didn't change that for me :P 

After our meal, Jitterbug had a good stock of fresh fruits for freshly squeezed and blended fruit juices to wash it all down.

Jitterbug Café is a cool, well appointed place to chill with friends and family over soothing retro music and delicious food.

The walls at Jitterbug are adorned with cool pictures and art work. This picture I thought captures the spirit of Jitterbug well - hip, bold, innovative, energised yet relaxed, and welcoming. Sharifah welcome artists to showcase their work in Jitterbug by calling her at 019-906-3609.

Getting to Jitterbug Café from downtown JB or CIQ is a breeze with the EDL (Eastern Dispersal Link). Just 15 minutes driving, toll free! :)

Restaurant name: Jitterbug Café
Address: #G-33, Jalan Masai Jaya 1, Plentong, Masai, Johor Bahru (Next to Tesco Extra Plentong)
GPS: 1.522122, 103.813650
Hours: 11:30am to 10:00pm (Closed on Monday)
Not certified Halal, no pork, no lard served

Date visited: 29 Nov 2012

Star Chef Restaurant in Gelang Patah (near Legoland) in Johor, Malaysia


Alex the boss of Star Chef restaurant in Gelang Patah (near Legoland) invited me to visit his family's seafood farm in Pontian which supplies his restaurant. The seafood farm in Pontian uses sea water with modern machinery and technology to rear wild caught crabs and lobsters, and fish.

Laksa Johor 🍝 History of Uniquely Johor Tradition & Heritage Food

Laksa Johor is a truly unique and delicious style of laksa created in Johor. Legend has it that Sultan Sir Abu Bakar of Johor (1833 - 1895) was visiting Europe, and when in Italy, he fell in love with spaghetti 🍝

Zhuang Yuan Steam Song Fish Head in Senai, Johor, Malaysia 壮源 陈秀莲蒸松鱼头


Last week, my friend Bryan brought me to his favourite steam fish head shop, Zhuang Yuan 壮源 Restaurant, in Senai, Johor.

When I realised that this shop specialises in steam Song fish head (carp) 蒸松鱼头, I immediately thought of the Chan Sow Lin Jalan Tiga steam Song fish head stall 陈秀莲蒸松鱼头 in Kuala Lumpur.

Cendol House in Kampung Malayu, Johor Bahru, Malaysia


I first came to Cendol House in Kampung Malayu with my foodie friend Joe who knows a lot about Johor food. Joe who used to live in nearby Taman Suria, wanted to show me Cendol House's cendol and nasi ambang. Cendol House left a favourable impression and I had been back a few more times.

Sin Kee Ikan Bakar BBQ Seafood at Cedar Point Near Hotel Grand Paragon in Taman Century, Johor Bahru

Sin Kee Ikan Bakar BBQ Seafood at Cedar Point Near Hotel Grand Paragon in Taman Century, Johor Bahru

Updated 2018. Back at Sin Kee Ikan Bakar (spicy grilled fish) after 6 years. Chopped and double confirmed that quality and price are maintained and Sin Kee 新记海咪铁板烧鱼 remains one of my favourite ikan bakar stalls in Johor and Singapore.

Restoran Selera Selatan in Rosmerah, Taman Johor Jaya, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

This roti canai (prata) at Restoran Selera  Selatan in the Rosmerah area of Taman Johor Jaya was recommended by my friend Sally Wong on Johor Yummy Facebook group.

This is the most balanced roti canai stall that I have come across, so far. Frequently, roti canai stalls either have good roti or good curry. Seldom are both the roti and curry equally good. Some of my favourites have great roti but would have been perfect, if their curry was just as good.

Selera Selatan is one of the rare roti canai shops where the great roti is matched with an equally great curry.

The roti was crispy outside and inside it still retained a slight stretchy softness.

Selera Selatan serves a fragrant curry made with lots of vegetables and spices. I have not seen another stall putting so much ingredients in their curry.

The sambal was tasty too with robust anchovy flavour which I liked.

Enche Loy had been making roti canai for over 20 years. Selera Selatan has many regulars of all communities. Many regulars were more like friends of Enche Loy.

The two of us had 3 pieces of kosong which I feel is the best way to taste test a roti :) This was excellent as the charred marks on the skin and the soft insides attest. There was also very little oil on or in the roti.

Look how big Enche Loy spreaded that dough. You can imagine how crispy and fluffy that roti will be when the dough is folded and fried.

We added this "plaster" which was roti kosong topped with a fried egg.

This was nice too - the egg yolk and white gave the roti a nice eggy note. But, I wish they had given this tasty version of roti canai a more attractive name. I just can't associate the word "plaster" with delicious food :)

This is the roti with egg and bawang (chopped onions) which is a popular choice at Selera Selatan besides the kosong.

Selera Selatan opens at 7:00am and closes at 3:00pm but the roti canai is usually sold out by 10:30am, and sometimes as early as 9:00am. The rest of the day, Selera Selatan sells nasi campur.

Restaurant name: Restoran Selera Selatan
Address: Jalan Rosmerah 2/13 (opposite Ang's Laksa), Taman Johor Jaya, Johor Bahru
GPS: 1.534345,103.795089
Hours: 7:00am to sold out (usually about 10:30am but sometimes by 9:00am). Closed on Sunday.

Date visited: 21 Nov 2012

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Oldest Dim Sum in Johor Bahru · Hock Chiang Hin · Old Downtown Near City Square, JB, Malaysia 福振兴餐室


My friends from Singapore often asked me, where can they find traditional dim sum within walking distance from City Square in JB.

Recently (2012), I stumbled upon Hock Chiang Hin 福振兴餐室, one of the oldest kopitiams in JB and it serves traditional dim sum 😄 There used to be at least three dim sum shops in JB downtown, but now, Hock Chiang Hin is the only one left.

Cupcakes at Sienna Patisserie (Online Cake Shop) in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Cupcakes Johor BahruFirst, a disclaimer. I am not a fan of cupcakes. The cakes are too sweet, and the cream and candy on top only make cupcakes way, way too sweet for my liking :P  But don't take my word for it, I am middle aged, diabetic and male :P

But, cupcakes are so, so pretty and I just can't resist that. They are the sweetest of sweetest eye candy.

Cupcakes Johor Bahru

So, I tagged along to this tasting session of cupcakes by Sienna Patisserie. Don't ask me how I liked the taste -  I was preoccupied with taking these pictures. Ask the ladies in the party who went gu gu and ga ga over the cupcakes and took them away by the (pretty) boxes full  :))

Here are the eye candies oops.. cupcakes to feast your eyes.
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru
Cupcakes Johor Bahru

Sienna Patisserie cupcakes come in this beautiful, highly presentable gift boxes. Someone said pretty cupcakes in a beautiful box is sure to melt a lady's heart.

If these eye candy make your mouth water, call Sienna at +60197771570 to order cupcakes :)

Restaurant name: Sienna Patisserie (online bakeshop)
Contact: Sienna at +60197771570