Coconut Garden is a popular food court in Muar, busiest between breakfast and lunch hours. It is also here where you will find one of the best Mee Pok in town. This simple but satisfying noodle is more commonly found in Southern Malaysia and Singapore but you could find it in Klang Valley as well if you know where to look. One such restaurant that serves authentic tasting Mee Pok is Tang Pin Kitchen, which I used to be a regular customer when I was still working in PJ.
As opposed to Singaporean’s version of Mee Pok where vinegar plays an important part of the sauce that flavors the noodle, Malaysian’s version seems to omit it and focuses more on chili sauce and lard instead. My friend who recommended me to try the Mee Pok at Coconut Garden reminded me to request for extra chili, saying it will make it tastier.
Mee Bandung is one of the foods you should not miss in Muar, simply because the best ones are all concentrated here. In fact, Muar is the town where Mee Bandung is said to originate from. Anyway, there are many stalls and restaurants you could go looking for this popular local dish but I placed my bet on Abu Bakar Hanipah‘s at Wah San Kopitiam along Jalan Abdullah. The coffee shop’s name is especially catchy and easy to remember for me, since there is a clan and mountain with the same name in Chinese martial arts novels too.
This was my first time having Mee Bandung Muar and all I could say is that I was immediately hooked. Imagine a hearty serving of noodle in an egg and shrimp broth that tastes extraordinary, like a slightly sweeter and concentrated version of Chinese prawn noodle but topped with delicious beef slices and small whole shrimps instead. Each mouthful is rich and bursting with prawn flavor, there’s simply no stopping once you have started – simply delicious. Priced at RM4 per plate, no doubt this is one of the best local food we had during our short trip to Muar.
Chwee Kueh (水粿 – ‘Water Cake’) is a food that is relatively non-existent in the northern and center region of Malaysia. To get a taste of this fast-disappearing snack that is usually eaten for breakfast, you need to head south to Johor or Singapore for the best ones – where they are still commonly eaten by the locals.
There are three parts to a Chwee Kueh – steamed rice cake, minced preserved radish (‘chai po’) and chili sauce. Having tried both local and Singaporean Chwee Kueh, I could say that both countries’ versions are actually very similar. The only notable difference would be on the sweetness of the preserved radish and the spiciness of the chili sauce.
One of the few standing Chwee Kueh stalls in Muar could be found at Jalan Yahya, just in front of the Toto shop. It is only open in the morning and has been a local favorite for breakfast for many years. The price is really cheap too, 10 of these delectable morsels cost only RM2. You could opt for 5 pieces for RM1 too if you want.
The most memorable food I had in Muar was the Hainan Chicken Curry Rice at Lu San Coffee Shop. Hainan cuisine is definitely not alien to us. There’s Hainan chicken rice, Hainan coffee, Hainan bread, Hainan chicken chop and the list goes on. But Hainan curry is quite rare if you ask me.
To the casual eye, this would appear like a normal plate of ‘zhap fan’ but in fact this is already a serving of Hainan curry rice – it cost only RM3.50. So what makes up the traditional Hainan curry rice? Well for starters, it must have three main ingredients: curry (咖哩, typically chicken curry), braised sauce (滷汁) and braised meat and eggs (滷味).
Whether you mix them all up or serve the dishes separately, it’s totally up to individual preference and may vary from stall to stall. So who would have guessed that a simple mix of curry gravy and braised sauce could be so addictively delicious? The Hainanese sure did. But of course, this does not mean that by mixing any curry and soy-based sauce could produce the same flavor, there must be a proven recipe to begin with.
The main reason Lu San’s Hainan curry rice tastes better than the rest is frankly, quite simple – because the dishes are warm. When you are here, look around the humble stall and you will notice the pots of chicken curry and braised meats constantly being heated to preserve their warmth and taste. Cold food = bad food, simple as that. It is also worth mentioning that Lu San’s chicken curry is cooked using old hen (老母鸡) Since old hen has a longer life (obviously) than the average chicken, its flesh tastes sweeter naturally.