Friday, 6 May 2016

Senai Bitter Gourd Soup at Makanan Hakka 士乃大众 JK1480


For some time, I have been taste testing different bitter gourd soup shops as it is one of the unique delicious dishes of Johor, seldom found outside the state. Thanks to Johor Kaki readers' suggestions, I came to Makanan Hakka 士乃大众 in Senai and tasted the best bitter gourd soup that I have eaten so far.

士乃大众苦瓜汤是柔佛创建这道菜第一家. 苦瓜脆脆的, 清新甜美. 这家的客家炸肉也很不错。喜爱苦瓜汤的朋友们一定要试试.


Looking at the bowl of bitter gourd soup, the first thing that struck me was the big slices of pork kidney. The fresh and well cleaned kidney was softly tenderly springy to the bite, clean tasting and have the taste which I like. The liver slices done medium, tender lean pork slices and stubby chewy pork intestines were all equally well prepared and delicious.


Then, there is the star - that green clump of bitter gourd slices sitting in the soup, peeking out from underneath the pork kidney and liver.


One bite and I was delighted by the crunch of the bitter gourd slices. The thin hand sliced bitter gourd looked like slices of green apple and have the same crunch. There was little bitterness, but mostly sweetish green taste.

士乃大众's bitter gourd slices are extra crunchy as they are cooked bowl by bowl, never in bulk.


The soup was a simple pork broth with mild porcine and sweet flavours. There was no cloudy coagulate in the nearly clear broth.


Many people must eat their bitter gourd soup with a plate of Hakka style fried pork 客家炸肉. Me too :-p


We can choose either lean meat or pork belly layered with fat. We opted for the fatty version :-D (needless to say, right?) The pork was marinated with a blend of fermented bean curd and spices. The crispy golden brown outside was mildly savoury while the juicy inside was sweet with porcine flavours.


Simple crunchy fried long beans with minced pork.

Next time, I would also order their signature bean curd with fermented bean curd sauce.


Mdm Chong runs 士乃大众 with her son and daughter.  士乃大众 is originally a street side mobile stall in Senai started by Mdm Chong's father-in-law in 1970. It originally sells pork organ soup with choy sum or cabbage. Mdm Chong's late husband Ah Nam later experimented with bitter gourd.

Public response was lukewarm at first as the Chinese word for bitter gourd 苦瓜 sounds inauspicious. But, the deliciousness of 士乃大众's bitter gourd soup eventually won customers over. It even led to a bitter gourd soup craze and boom in the 1990s, and many bitter gourd soup shops and stalls sprung up throughout Johor. 


士乃大众苦瓜汤 moved from Senai to Johor Jaya to Taman Pelangi before coming full circle back to their hometown in their own shophouse restaurant in Senai.


Working side by side with Mdm Chong is son Dominic in the kitchen and daughter who heads customer service at the front.

All these delicious food for a grand total of RM30

->> There are many bitter gourd soup shops dotted across Johor, especially in JB. It's been 5 years and I finally came full circle to the original shop that created the dish synonymous with Johor. I strongly recommend 士乃大众 in Senai. It's worth the hour drive from JB.

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Restaurant name: Makanan Hakka 士乃大众
Address: 292, Jalan Utama 2, Taman Bintang Utama, 81400 Senai, Johor, Malaysia
GPS1.612629, 103.656551 / 1°36'45.5"N 103°39'23.6"E
Tel: +6012 799 6391
Hours: 9:00am to 4:00pm (Closed on Weds)

Non Halal

Date visited: 6 May 2016

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  2. This family founded the bitter gourd soup?

    1. Yes, based on interview of Ah Nam by Malaysian food host Ah Xian (TV programme in 2014).


I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

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