Food tripping is a real thing. It combines all the elements for those who love travel and food. But when we think of food tripping in Malaysia, the first thing that comes to mind is the Penang via Ipoh trail. It’s time now to change gears and head down to Malaysia’s southernmost state to discover what’s cooking down south in its capital city of Johor Bahru.
First things first, you can’t possibly sample all of JB’s delicacies in a day trip. That’s why you’ll need a comfortable place to call home for a few days to make the most of Johor’s culinary delights while discovering how much of it you can stomach. Tune Hotel, located in the heart of Danga Bay Waterfront City Development, is only 12.9 km away from the Woodlands Checkpoint, making it an ideal choice to stay at for our neighbours in Singapore. While it might not be the heart of foodie central, it’s nothing short of interesting. Just check out these 5 Best Things to Do in Danga Bay and you’ll find out why. That said, there’s parking on site and all your gastronomic adventures are just a short drive away. You’ll surely find something that’s all in tune with your taste buds.
One simply does not go to Johor without eating Laksa Johor. This unique dish is a cross of east meets west with its spaghetti base creamy fish broth. It is believed that the story of Laksa Johor came about when the “Founder of Modern Johor”, Sultan Abu Bakar, instructed his chefs to use spaghetti instead of the traditional rice noodles. Apparently, the Sultan had acquired a love for the pasta during his travels to Italy.
What really completes the dish are the garnishings such as cucumber, bean sprouts, long beans, and Thai basil just to name a few. It is also labour intensive to make which makes it even more special to eat.
Funnily enough, as synonymous as it is to the state, it is also mostly served during Raya and is not commonly found in food stalls or restaurants. But fret not, get your fix right in Danga Bay itself! Bumbu Asli, located on Jalan Skudai Batur 4 ½, serves a range of the finest Laksa Johor.
Middle Eastern influences, Johorean touch
Another typical Johorean dish you’ll want to be on the lookout for is Kacang Pool. It is inspired by foul mudammas, an Arab dish that is centered on its delicious gravy made of beans, herbs and spices.
Johor native Makpol Kairon is said to have introduced this treat to his fellowmen close to 30 years ago in which he modified it to suit the Malaysian palate. For one, Malaysians love their meat so it’s a must to incorporate. Aside from minced meat, Kacang Pool’s main ingredients are broad beans, fried eggs, green chilies, a zest of lime, and served with a toasted bread for dipping. And like most Malaysian dishes, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, tea, and even dinner.
Oh Lodeh, it’s Lontong
Lontong is compressed rice wrapped in a banana leaf cylinder, then cut up into pieces to eat with a soupy base prepared from vegetables in coconut milk called Lodeh. The broth’s roots trace back to the Javanese and was an essential part of a ceremony to ward off possible danger and disaster.
Although the dish is vegetarian, it can also be eaten with different meats like salted fish, beef floss, or a spicy shrimp paste for that extra kick. To get your fix of this delicious combination, look no further then Warung Saga on Jalan Mahamoodiah. You know it’s good when it’s hard to locate yet numerous people on the food blogosphere seem to rave about it. For one, look for a shop that has no signboard, but peep inside and you will find a wall of photographs to indicate you’ve reached the right place.
Terus! To Mee Rebus!
In at number 27 on CNN Travel’s list of Malaysia’s Top 40 Foods is none other than “boiled noodles”, better known as mee rebus. While the name only describes the noodles, it’s actually the curry that makes this dish so uniquely flavourful. What sets Johor’s mee rebus apart is its thick, brownish gravy with a savoury touch that’s nutty, sweet and spicy. Even more unique to the state is the tulang version which comes with a lamb shank bone.
The most famous is Restoran ZZ Sup Tulang. And as their name suggests, its claim to fame is their Mee Rebus Tulang which comes with two large lamb shank bones on a bed of yellow noodles and bean sprouts in the famous broth that is also distinctively Johorean. To prove just how delicious this dish is, a straw is provided so you can suck all the goodness from the bones. I guess you could literally say it’s good to the bone.