Tony Johor Kaki Travels for Food · Heritage · Culture · History

Adventurous Culinary Traveler's Blog with 64 million+ reads 📧

Singapore Blog Awards 2014 - What Makes an Award Winning Blog?

At the Awards ceremony after receiving the Best Food Blog award for the second year running, the interviewer from Singapore Press Holdings asked me, "What sets your blog apart?"

The question got me stumped for quite a while. (I didn't expect to win a second time.... )

Click on picture to view video. My interview is from 2:23 onwards.

You can see my stunned, pregnant pause above.

I racked my brains in emergency mode and managed to blurt out that perhaps having a larger social purpose might have helped.

Phew... managed to wiggle out of that tight spot...

But the question, "What makes an award winning blog" set me thinking.

Two years in a row, there ought to be something that I am doing right which would be helpful to share.

Of course, I don't know what went through the judges' minds, but here is my more considered response to the question "what sets your blog apart" after I had more time to think about it.

I am sharing it here, in case other bloggers may find some of the ideas relevant or helpful.

Before I begin, let's recap on the Singapore Blog Awards' judging criteria.

50% - Inspiring and entertaining content

20% - Presentation (Visual Appeal & Ease of Navigation)
30% - Public votes.

If I were to sum up in one sentence, what made my blog different, I would say, "Think beyond yourself".

As I mentioned in the interview, having a social purpose can help set your blog apart. But, it is for more important reasons than just being different.

By focusing on making a positive contribution to others, our content will naturally be more inspiring.

In Johor Kaki blog's case, my tagline is "Put every good hawker on the World Wide Web".

By focusing on bringing benefits to others, readers too can be inspired to do their part for your blog's mission. Engaged readers can follow your recommendations, share your posts and support you in other ways as well.

During the voting process, readers told me that they are rallying their friends, family and even extended family to vote for Johor Kaki because of the blog's mission to help hawkers.

I am touched and grateful that readers expended their own personal goodwill for Johor Kaki, without any enticements. Many overseas readers voted for Johor Kaki but only Singaporeans are eligible for the voters' lucky draw.

At a personal level and unrelated to the blog awards, a goal bigger than myself has more driving force and gives me more staying power.

In blogging, there are downs as well as ups. When the chips are down, a bigger purpose will power you through the hard times.

I get chased off unceremoniously by hawkers once in a while. If it were not for the larger picture, I would have stopped blogging, a long time ago.

Be real. 

It is ok to share with readers the difficulties you face in achieving your blog's mission. Even your failures and failings.

Your perseverance will inspire your readers.

It's ok necessary to reveal a little bit about yourself. The reader wants to connect with a real person. A person who stands for something. It is ok that not all readers will agree with everything you do or about you.

In this aspect, friendship is similar between real life and virtual life. Sincerity will attract genuine friends in real life. Being genuine in virtual life will attract sincere readers who will go to the trouble of rallying their friends and family to vote for you, even when there is no personal gain for them.

Have fun.

Look out for the funny, lighthearted aspects of your subject matter. Share funny anecdotes about yourself and your subject.

Everybody enjoys a good laugh and comic relief, including bloggers. Being able to laugh at yourself and at the situation entertains the reader.

Having fun and being passionate about your blog is also infectious. I try to make my blog positive and uplifting. Whenever I am not enjoying my blogging, I will pause and check if I am heading in the wrong direction.

Hope some of the ideas are useful for you. I welcome you to comment and share your ideas :D

Live your passion and let other things (like traffic, fans and awards) follow.


31 Aug 2014

Lau Ah Tee Bak Kut Teh @ Boon Keng MRT • Teochew Peppery Pork Bone Tea 老亚弟肉骨茶


Lau Ah Tee Bak Kut Teh 老亚弟肉骨茶 is one of the pioneers of Singapore Teochew peppery BKT.

Stall name: Lau Ah Tee Bak Kut Teh 老亚弟肉骨茶 

Address: 34 Whampoa West, Singapore 330034

Nearest MRT: Steps from Boon Keng station

Tel: 9755 5250

Hours: 7:00am - 9:00pm

Tosca Italian Restaurant at DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru


I was invited to the media launch of Tosca Trattoria Italiana, the Italian Restaurant at DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru.

The rustic, earthly yet contemporary interior at Tosca was simple yet classy. Located on the 13th floor, the windows overlook the Straits of Johor.


I like this private room - we can gawk at watch the chefs busy at work while we dine in style and comfort :D


The well stocked bar at Tosca.


There is also poolside alfresco dining which I think will be great for a romantic evening :D


Executive Chef Jaffery at DoubleTree has over 25 years of experience, that took him around the world before coming here to Johor Bahru. Chef Jaffery's philosophy is quality ingredients prepared to perfection with simple techniques. It's an approach to food that I subscribe to as well :D 


At Tosca, all pizza dough and pasta are made from scratch in the kitchen. Chef Yuzry demonstrated pasta making for us and showed us the squid ink fettuccine he made.


Tosca is equipped with this special Zesti wood fired pizza oven capable of extremely high temperatures (70C). This is the only such oven in Southeast Asia, at the moment.


We tried our hands at making pizza under the tutelage of Executive Chef Jaffery and Chef Yuzry. Xiang Yun from The Star newspaper on my left.

To round up the media event, we were hosted to lunch at Tosca.


There was a wide range of antipasti (Italian style starters) to whet our appetite.


The hearty mushroom soup was a grainy blend of a few types of mushrooms dressed with whipped cream, olive oil and sprinkles of finely chopped parsley leaves. Deliciously earthly, savoury and mushroomy.


After seeing Chef Yuzry's demonstration of pasta making, I ordered this Fettuccine Alfredo to try.

Fettuccine Alfredo is the most basic of pasta dishes, made with (flat and broad) fettuccine tossed in melted Parmesan cheese and butter. The melted cheese and butter smothered the eggy pasta with a smooth and rich coating.

Personally, the most elemental, basic way is the best way to enjoy pasta and noodles (including wanton mee 云吞面 and mee pok 面薄 :P ).

Tosca's al dente and richly flavoursome Fettuccine Alfredo was excellent.


Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and mozzarella cheese, and served with grilled vegetables and baked potato.


The tender clean tasting subtly sweet chicken breast was complemented by savoury gravy enveloping it's surface and savoury melted mozzarella cheese stuffed in it's inside. The gravy soaked spinach added to the layers of savouriness in this flavoursome dish.

I liked this too.


We rounded up our lunch with a sweet and cold Pistachio Semifreddo dessert. The frozen mousse and ice cream blend was another winner.


I enjoyed the small sampling of Tosca's food today and look forward to trying the pizzas made with that mighty Zesti wood fired pizza oven :D

Entrance driveway at DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Bahru

My thanks to Grace, Karen and Lena for the invite and hospitality.

Restaurant name: Tosca Trattoria Italiana
Address:  12 Jalan Ngee Heng, Johor Bahru
GPS: 1.465216,103.760182
Hours: Lunch | Dinner
Tel: +607 268 6868
No pork, no lard, no Halal cert

Date visited: 26 Aug 2014

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.

Lau Lee Fishball Noodles in Muar, Johor 麻坡老李鱼丸面


In the sleepy, laid back, little seaside town of Muar (in Johor), there is a household name in traditional fishball mee pok noodles simply called Lau Lee (old Lee) 老李鱼丸, named after the founder.

Today, there are two 老李鱼丸 stalls, both run by second generation owners; the son and daughter of 老李 who are already in their 50s.


One stall is run by Ah Seng 亚成, the founder 老李's son. The second stall is by 老李's daughter (which I will cover in a separate post as the dish served is slightly different).


亚成's push cart stall is at a side lane along Jalan Sayang, just a stone's throw from Muar's famous Glutton Street 贪吃街.

Till today, Ah Seng still makes the noodles from scratch with flour and eggs at home (after closing his stall for the day at 1:00pm). So, customers get freshly made egg noodles everyday with no preservatives.

Ah Seng makes the egg noodles by hand with the aid of a noodle machine that his father bought in Singapore in the 1960s. The old, rattling noodle machine still works today, if a little quirky and cranky. During those days, Ah Seng said, "If we needed any thing of high quality, we go to Singapore". Well, the noodle machine did stood the test of time, feeding 2 to 3 generations of Muarens 麻坡人 (as Muar people call themselves).


My blogger friend Yuki tried her hand as a noodle maker's assistant for a day at Ah Seng's home "factory". It was hard, strenuous work that requires a lot of heavy lifting and attention to details.

The effort is well worth it. Few simple pleasures compare with the smell and taste of freshly made egg noodles.


The fish balls are also made at home by another of the founder 老李's daughters who hand delivers the freshly made fish balls by motorbike to Ah Seng's stall everyday.

I had the privilege to visit Lau Lee Fishball Noodles 老李鱼丸面 in Muar with my blogger friend Tiffany, the founder 老李's granddaughter.

Whenever Tiffany is away from Muar and family, she misses the taste and smell of her hometown fishball noodles.

Let's take a closer look at Lau Lee's famous fishball noodles.


The simple bowl of mee pok noodles topped with fish cake slices, fish balls, char siew slices, crispy lard crackers and a sprinkling of blanched minced pork - everything is home made. A few leaves of fresh lettuce complete the dish.


The tender al dente mee pok 面薄 (flat egg noodles) are tossed in a old style sauce of mainly lard and fish sauce. Customers have the option of adding dark soy sauce or chili sauce.


The handmade fish balls are thumb nail size and come in various shapes but never perfectly round.

Made with 100% fish meat and a pinch of salt, the fish balls are bouncy but never like ping pong balls. The fish flavour is mild and delicate.


Lau Lee's fish balls are made with these fresh sea eels which is pretty unusual as fish balls are commonly made with Ikan Parang, Sweet Potato fish 番薯鱼, Yellowtail fish or Mackerel fish.


The char siew slices look average but they were sliced in small batches to retain their juiciness. The tender char siew, which Ah Seng roasts everyday at home with charcoal, was a tasty blend of savoury and sweet. 


I liked the piping hot, tasty clear soup that come with the noodles. The soup is made mainly with anchovies and soy beans with a sprinkle of dried seaweed.


Yuki enjoyed the soup too.


"Huh? You want to eat some more noodles? Sure, sure" uttered Ah Seng's friendly wife in surprise.

Whenever I asked hawkers if they eat their own food, most said that they don't as they ate too much of their own food already.

老李鱼丸面 is the only stall I know so far where the owners, 35 years in the business, still gladly enjoy their own food.

I gladly joined in. My third round in 1 hour. Yes, I am crazy..... very tam chiak 貪吃 (greedy eater).


Lau Lee Fishball Noodles is at the side lane, off Jalan Sayang, just beside Cheong Heng wanton mee shop. 

When you are in Muar, make sure you try Lau Lee Fishball Noodles 老李鱼丸面.

Restaurant name: Lau Lee Fishball Noodles 老李鱼丸面
Address: 13, Jalan Sayang, Muar, Johor
GPS: 2.045262,102.568410
Hours: 6:30am to 2:00pm (Closed on Mon & Tues)
Non Halal

Date visited: 23 August 2014

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.

Kway Teow Soup and Fish Soup Stall at Hong Yee Kopitiam 宏艺 in Taman Desa Tebrau, Johor Bahru


Tony invited me to visit his kway teow and fish soup stall at Hong Yee Kopitiam 宏艺 in Taman Desa Tebrau.


Hong Yee 宏艺 in Taman Desa Tebrau is a typical bustling kopitiam with many busy food stalls.


Tony and his wife Sally run the (no name) fish soup and kway teow soup stall here at Hong Yee 宏艺. Tony had been a chef for many years - a profession that took him to Neptune at the old Clifford Pier in Singapore and Pine Court in Mandarin Singapore. Tony and Sally also lived a few years in Taipei where Tony worked in a restaurant specializing in Malaysian food.


While in Taipei, Tony was invited to demonstrate how to cook bak kut teh and assam fish on a Taiwanese TV show.


Tony makes his broth the old way, with big socket bones, pork trotter, ti poh (dried sole fish) and soy bean.

Tony's 4 year old stall is a small operation. He gets most of his ingredients at the Johor Jaya wet market, just like we do :D


RM8 got us this fully loaded bowl of kway teow soup with fried "chicken fish" (leather jacket fish 鸡鱼), tau ki, fish balls, lean pork slices, liver slices, a shell fish slice, a good size prawn and lettuce. 


Other than the shell fish which is canned and the fish balls which were commercially supplied, all the rest of the ingredients like this good size prawn were market bought.


The broth was tasty with savouriness and sweetness from pork bones and seafood. The soup was medium bodied and relatively clear .


We also had this fish head bee hoon soup RM7.50.


There was a generous amount of chunky tender pieces of fresh snapper fish meat in the broth.


The broth was heavy bodied, savoury and naturally sweet. (Tony uses a separate and different broth for his kway teow soup and fish soup.) The broth was tasty though my personal preference is for a clearer looking 清 broth. Tony added fried shallot oil to the broth, so it had that 葱油香 (shallot oil aroma and flavour).


If you are a chili lover, remember to try Tony's homemade sambal chili. It's very spicy hot with savoury notes from belacan (fermented shrimp paste).


If you are around the Taman Desa Tebrau area during breakfast or lunch time, Tony's Kway Teow and Fish Soup Stall is a good option.

Tony declined payment for our meal.

Restaurant name: Kway Teow and Fish Soup Stall at Hong Yee Kopitiam 宏艺
Address: No. 2, Jalan Harmonium 10, Taman Desa Tebrau, Johor Bahru
GPS: 1.564434,103.795110
Hours: 6:30am to 2:00pm (Closed on Monday)
Non Halal

Date visited: 22 Aug 2014

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.

MyOri Penang White Curry Noodle Original 馬來西亞正宗原味檳城白咖哩麵


Just when I thought the Penang White Curry Instant Noodle craze has finally run it's course, yet another brand jumps on the bandwagon.

This time from MyOri, another Penang White Curry Instant Noodle brand from from Penang.

Actually, there must be at least 20 brands of Penang White Curry Instant Noodle in the market now. I have about 10 brands of Penang White Curry Instant Noodle spread across my table now, waiting for me to review. Friends brought me a couple to a dozen local brands of instant noodles for me to taste, whenever they go overseas. 

Thanks buddies and no more please :D 


The usual suspects inside the MyOri Original flavour 原味 packaging. A noodle block, a sachet of seasoning powder and a sachet of curry paste.


When I snipped open the sachet, the dark red curry paste let off a slight spice, lemongrass and chili aroma.


Even though these were the steamed and fried type of instant noodles, the noodles were clean and not greasy.


My hot bowl of orange red colour curry mee was ready to eat within 5 minutes.

There was the aroma of curry spices rising from the bowl of instant noodles. Come to think of it, are you always able to detect curry spice aroma from hawker or food court stalls?

Sometimes I can't, especially at food courts.


The noodles were tender, slightly springy, but not spongy or mushy. They were clean tasting with a slight wheat flavour. 


The broth was light bodied yet the flavour was quite robust. Only mildly spicy but the spice flavours from lemongrass, chili and herbs were nice with the taste of hae bee (dried shrimps) clearly present.

Artificial flavour enhancers were used but it felt quite sparing and did not bother me.


And now, for Johor Kaki's signature dip stick test.


Moderate amount of grease. Made me cautious about drinking up the broth but it was tasty enough for me to finish almost of all it, except for the bottom most, visibly greasy bit.

I found MyOri Penang White Curry Noodle (Original flavour 原味) very similar to MyKuali's version.

MyOri Penang White Curry Noodle (Original flavour 原味) is certified Halal.

Rating: 6.5/10 based on Johor Kaki standardised instant noodle rating system.

Join the Instant Noodle Facebook group for more fun with instant noodle fans.