with Kennard, Ken, Alice
We found ourselves in Johor Bahru, a grand diversion with multiple stops, but actually the excuse to go try out a few eating places. Our first choice was a Teochew restaurant near Pelangi, reputed for their Ohr Nee. But we were a bit late in arriving...about 3pm, and we settled for an air-conless restaurant a short drive away. Ken, the native Johorian recommended this Cze Char shop.
Their signature dish is a flat, dry fried bee hoon...some say this is the chow tar bee hoon, some simplly call it flat bee hoon...I call it delicious.
The bee hoon must have been fried with a rich stock, imbuing some magical taste powers to the strands of rice noodles. Chives, some vegetables, chicken, eggs make up this interesting dish.
The noodles were soft, slightly flattened in the wok and slightly charred by the immense heat of the wok. Wok hei is there in spades. Shiok.
We also had the pork rib curry.
Some regular readers might know that my mom cooks a mean Nyona curry, be it chicken, fish head, squid (real power curry! Really to die for), and pork rib. But Ah Meng's version is not too far behind...I loved the rich, coconut gravy. If they used curry powder, it was not evident...no powdery taste this one. The rich shallots, lovingly tumis to fragrant golden brown form the backbone for such flavoursome gravy.
The potatoes are first fried to slightly crisp/charred/caramelised before being inserted into the curry. The pork rib is from succulent ribs, and floating ribs - rendering the meat soft and tender, and the cartilage almost edible. (indeed they were crunchy and good bite).
Steam fish, with chye por was next.
The fish was fresh. Steaming done just right. Bits of fish around the backbone remain just slightly rare to require a small amount of force to seperate it from the bone...the meat was tender, and sweet. The chye por added crunch and punch.
We also ordered the ngor hiang.
Innocent looking enough. The skin was translucent, and this was the first hint that this ngor hiang was going to be special. Pick up a slice, and the roughly chopped ingredients gives the second hint. This was not mass processed ngor hiang. This was bodering on artisanal.
The ingredients are quite ordinary for a ngor hiang. A quick fry in hot fat seals in the taste, the outside is golden brown crispy, the vegetables inside still slightly rare and crunchy. Each mouthful is full of flavour - the crunch of the crispy skin intermingled with the carrots, meat, seafood (I think there is some seafood...prawns in the mix).
Of course, the must have vegetable...polisang choi (hmmm how do you spell this?) was lightly blanched and drizzled with some oil. Al dente to the bite, the cook demonstrated great precision in his cooking.
For dessert, Ohr nee.
This is a signature dish of a Teochew restaurant. Made with fragrant yam, steamed, mashed, stirred with generous amounts of pork lard, and served with boiled, smashed pumpkin and ginko nuts. Ah Meng's version is not as fine as those typically found in the great Singapore Teochew restaurants like Hang Kang. The yam was discernable as bits, offering a rough-ish texture...not quite rough enough to feel individual bits, but not quite a smooth paste. The dish was not greasy...perhaps lack of pork lard caused it to lack something in full flavour.
Total price for 4 persons: RM90.
Restoran Ah Meng
38 Jalan Sultan Aminah
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Photonotes: no theaterics were attempted. Usual equipment, typical workflow. Shot inside the restaurant on a wet rainy day. No flash, no tripod.