Wednesday, June 14, 2023

[Year 2023] Food Hunting- of Cafes/ Must-Eats @ Johor Bahru, Johor.

Johor Bahru, the southernmost city in the Peninsular Malaysia, is a mere 1-hour flight away from Penang. It is also the 2nd largest city in Malaysia. With its strategic location and links to Singapore, the city is often busy. For foodies, Johor Bahru has a lot to offer- from the popular Johor Laksa, Muar Otak-Otak, Koay Teow Kia to Chicken Rice or Banana Cake. The place is best explored by car as some of the good eateries/restaurants are scattered around in the city. 

We stayed in GBW Hotel for this trip as we needed to travel to Singapore for a short day trip. The stay was good and there's a link bridge right in front of the hotel which connects to the JB Sentral for Train to Woodlands CIQ (you need not hail a taxi to head there, it is just a short 5-min walk from the hotel). For folks traveling to Singapore but staying in JB, GBW Hotel is a good choice. 

1) WW Laksa House 水塘。辣沙
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Business Hours: 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Closed on Wednesdays.
Contact Number: 012- 703 2263

Johor Laksa (Rm 8/ small) with Cockles Added (Rm 4)

Wan Ton Mee (Rm 8) with Curry Broth (extra Rm 1.50)

Johor Otak-Otak (6 for Rm 7.20)

WW Laksa House is known as one of the go-to places for a bowl of good Johor Curry Laksa. This popular breakfast spot gets busy early in the morning. It runs on a very good system, diners must place their order and make payment first before seated. The food will then be served to the table. There is an option to add Cockles (for extra Rm 4), the original version does not come with Cockles so if you would like your Curry Laksa to have Cockles, you need to pay extra Rm 4. WW Laksa House's Curry Laksa is creamy, rich and slightly peppery. It is served with a handful of Curry Leaves for the extra touch. It is creamier and heavier than the Penang style Curry Mee, quite similar yet different in its own ways. 

2) Ah Meng Restaurant 阿明家乡小炒
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: Yes 6%
Business Hours: 11:30 am to 3 pm, 5 pm to 11 pm on every Monday to Thursday; 11:30 am to 11 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Closed on Tuesdays.
Contact Number: 07-334 8634

San Lou Bihun (Rm 15.10/ regular)

Steamed Red Snapper with Pickled Radish (Rm 68/ market price)

Fried Bean Curd (Rm 15)

Stir Fried Choy Dan (Rm 12)

If you wish to try the iconic Johor Bahru San Lou Bihun, try Ah Meng. The family restaurant dishes out Chinese stir fry dishes (Zhu Char place) and one of their signature dishes would be none other than the famous San Lou Bihun. The place gets very busy after 6:30 pm, even on weekdays so be there earlier if you wish to avoid the crowd. It's common to wait for more than 30 minutes here. The essencence of a good San Lou Bihun would be the Wok Hei and Ah Meng delivered it well. The San Lou Bihun has a delightful smoky hue to it, dry with a good bite. Good on its own but even better with their secret Chili dip, almost similar to Putien's. None of the dishes here disappoint and all dishes are reasonably priced. A place you should not miss when visiting Johor Bahru.

3) HW Wanton Mee 海威传统手工云吞面
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: Yes 6%
Business Hours: 6 pm to 3:30 am. Closed on Mondays.
Contact Number: 019-755 9355

White Wan Ton Mee (Rm 8.60/ small)

Black Wan Ton Mee (Rm 8.60/ small)

While Wan Ton Mee is not something unique to the region, HW Wan Ton Mee is a place where you get to find above-average Wan Ton Mee in Johor Bahru. The Wan Ton Mee specialist is relatively new- just established a few years ago but has made its name popular to the folks staying in the neighborhood. The noodles are springy and it comes in 2 different versions- white and black. The former one is tossed in light Soy sauce while the latter one is something similar to those we can find in the northern states. You can also order some Lok-Lok and Otak-Otak from the road side stalls and bring them into this place. Plus, the place is fully air-conditioned. If you do enjoy a good Wan Ton Mee, give this place a go. 

4) Woon Kiang Koay Teow Kia 汶强粿条仔
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Business Hours: 5 pm to 2:30 am. Opens Daily. 
Contact Number: 07-220 0310

Koay Teow Kia

Braised Duck

Braised Bean Curd

Braised Egg

When it comes to Koay Teow Kia, Woon Kiang is definitely one of the places that you should check out in Johor Bahru. The place gets very busy in the evenings with regular patrons returning for their braised goods. Woon Kiang is well-established and has been serving the Johor Bahru folks for decades. There are plenty of choices to choose from at Woon Kiang- braised Duck, Pork, Offals, Innards etc. Diners can also choose to enjoy the braised goods with a bowl of Koay Teow Kia, Rice or even Porridge. The business runs almost similar to a Teo Chew Porridge stall, with plenty of dishes to choose from. The proprietor may be a little impatient when you need to consider what to order and he will try to rush it through so do think carefully before approaching the order counter. The Koay Teow Kia is served in a dark broth, it may seem very salty but in actual fact, the seasoning is mild and carry a herbaceous flavor (almost like Penang-style Koay Chiap). The rest of the dishes are all good, especially the braised Duck... extremely tender and flavorful. A meal here does not come cheap, all of these for Rm 33 including a serving of Barley drink.

5) Lai Kee Fish Ball Noodles 来记西刀鱼圆
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Business Hours: 7 am to 4:30 pm. Closed on Wednesdays.
Contact Number: 019-715 9866

Fish Ball Noodles- Soup (Rm 8/ small)

Fish Ball Noodles- Dry (Rm 8/ small)

Fried Fish Cake (Rm 9)

Fried Fish Bean Curd (Rm 6)

Probably the busiest breakfast place in the Skudai neighborhood, Lai Kee Fish Ball Noodles occupies two prominent shop lots in the Skudai business district. The place is often very busy on weekends or public holidays, its not uncommon to wait for more than 30 minutes here. Like what suggested by the name, Lai Kee is famous for its Fish Balls and the clear soup noodles (like our Koay Teow Th'ng). On top of the noodles, Lai Kee also offers extra condiments like Fried Fish Cake or Fried Fish Bean Curd to go with the noodles. The Fish Balls are indeed good, with firm and bouncy texture but the noodles/broth are nothing out of the ordinary. It is something that one can eat on a regular basis but would I want to wait for 30 mins just to get my hands on a bowl of their Fish Ball Noodles? Probably not.

6) Wah Cai 3-In-1 Chinese Cake 華仔三合一招牌炸年糕
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Business Hours: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Closed on Wednesdays.
Contact Number: 019-570 5616

Deep Fried Cempedak (Rm 4)

3-In-1 Fried Cake (Rm 2.50)/ Deep Fried Yam (Rm 1.50)/ Deep Fried Durian (Rm 5)

Right next to Lai Kee Fish Ball Noodles is Wah Cai Chinese Cake, it is common for diners at Lai Kee to head over to Wah Cai for grab some Fried Fritters while waiting for the Fish Ball noodles. The Fried Fritters at Wah Cai are freshly made on the spot. Classics like the 3-in-1 Fried Fritters (Yam and Sweet Potato sandwiching a slice of Chinese Nian Gao), Fried Banana are available; some unique ones are Fried Cempedak, Fried Durian and Fried Yam Ring. The batter is addictively crunchy. The 3-in-1 Fried Fritter is a popular choice, the Nian Gao is thickly sliced and hence, the distinctive sweetness and flavor. The Durian is a popular choice too, especially for those who enjoy the exotic tropical fruit. 

7) Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory 协裕面包
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Business Hours: 7:30 am to 4:30 pm. Closed on Sundays.
Contact Number: 07-223 1703

Banana Cake (Rm 12)

Otak-Otak Bun (Rm 5)

Found right smack in the old town of Johor Bahru, Hiap Joo Bakery is a hundred year old bakery in Johor and has been churning out delicious Buns and Cakes. The place is famous for its freshly baked Banana Cakes. It is easy to spot Hiap Joo- simply look for the long snaking queues. Many visitors, particularly Singaporeans, would join the queue to purchase the Banana Cake. For RM 12, you will get 10 pieces. The Banana Cake is soft and airy, not overly sweet with a nice, mellow but discernible Banana aroma. The Banana Cake is best consumed within 3-4 days. For something exquisite, try their Otak-Otak Bun... with Johor Otak-Otak as filling. Not bad for a change but not something that one would want to eat on a regular basis. The texture of the Bun is good though. 

8) Triple K 牛肉面家
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Address: 48, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000, Johor Bahru, Johor.
Business Hours: 8:30 am to 4 pm. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Contact Number: 012-787 1811

Beef Brisket Noodles (Rm 15)

Braised Lamb Noodles- Dry (Rm 15)

A short walk from Hiap Joo Bakery is Triple K Beef Noodle House, a well-established brand in Johor Bahru, known for its Beef Noodles. The place gets very busy on weekends, many would visit the place for a bowl of rich, flavorful Beef Noodles. The proprietor is infamous for being cranky and the serving speed is slow, but the servers are all seniors so it's understandable. The Beef Brisket broth is amazingly rich with a burst of flavors, the beef flavor is intense and definitely tummy-comforting. A pity that the meat is cut finely, affecting the texture (overly soft and tender). The Braised Lamb Noodle is another popular choice here, diners can enjoy it both dry or soup. The texture of the noodles is good and the broth is beyond amazing. The distinctive lamb flavor (some say gamey) is very strong though. Worth exploring for those who enjoy a good bowl of Chinese Beef Noodles.

9) Swee Kee Hainan Chicken Rice 瑞记海南鸡饭
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Address: 98, Jalan Bintang, Taman Bintang, 81400, Senai, Johor.
Business Hours: 10:30 am to 7 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: 07-598 4231

Chicken Rice Set for 2 pax (Rm 28)

Swee Kee Hainan Chicken Rice is probably the nearest Chicken Rice from the Senai International Airport. By car, the place is merely 5-min drive away from the airport. This Chicken Rice joint is also popular in the neighborhood as the go-to place for a quick meal fix. Apart from the Chicken, the place is also famous for its Char Siew (BBQ Pork) and Sio Bak (Roasted Pork). The Chicken is nicely cooked with a smooth texture, best enjoyed with their home-made Chili sauce. A good option for a quick, inexpensive fix before your travel. 

Have Fun Exploring Johor Bahru! 

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