JB Food Binge

I read the news headline yesterday evening, “Slow-moving Traffic: Update as at 5pm” on the post-holiday traffic clogging all main highways and felt sorry for motorists caught in the crawl.

The crawl on the North-South Highway yesterday!
Cousin Ryan was among the drivers heading back to Kuala Lumpur after a weekend in Johor Baru and using our cousin chat, he gave us a blow-by-blow account of the horrendous traffic situation on the North-South Highway.

This was not an unusual occurrence especially at the end of a school holiday week that coincided with a public holiday plus weekend.  As Ryan patiently joined the queue, we exchanged messages to encourage him and kept his spirits up with our cousinly bantering and bashing!

I know Ryan was mentally and physically prepared for the expected heavy traffic because he chose to travel during a peak holiday for the sole purpose of indulging in his favourite food in JB.

Favourite ice-kacang in JB
At first I was not aware of his travel plan but when he jumped into our chat with a photo of a heaped bowl of ice-kacang, I replied with a question: “Ry, are you in JB?”

He answered, “Yes.”  And I told him he couldn’t escape my eagle eye because the sight of that ice-kacang was a giveaway!

Connoisseurs of good ice-kacang know that our favourite ice-kacang in JB is unlike others – topped with drizzles of a special chocolate sauce!

“I’m going to have six meals today!” Ryan volunteered and I could almost imagine his food trail to all our favourite stalls and shops here.

It’s funny how JB folks who live outside of Johor, just longed for the nostalgic taste of all that is familiar to them.  They sound like such a deprived lot because that special taste cannot be found anywhere else but from the vendors back in their old neighbourhood!

Comfort food: kway teow th'ng
Suddenly he popped up in the chat with a forlorn exclamation, “It Roo is closed!”

This was probably due to the public holiday but I knew that Ryan was resourceful enough to seek alternative choices and visit this café again for the nostalgic taste of this “Best Chicken Chop in Town.”

And I was right.  He has a list of must-eat items and certainly made good use of his time to savour favourite flavours like Teochew style, kway teow th’ng or flat rice noodles in soup.  There is something special in the rich soup stock and generous choice of ingredients that made this a wholesome and comforting meal.

Stir-fried carrot/radish cake or chai thow kway, in a special sweet dark sauce, is another hot favourite.  There is also a choice prepared without the dark sauce but it looked like the Teochew sweet dark sauce flavour remains popular with most of us!

A hearty serving of chai thow kway
I knew kway-chap was high on his must-eat list and sure enough, Ryan posted a picture of his meal complete with favourite side dishes of braised items like duck, pork belly, pork skin and large intestines.  I didn’t quiz him about how many bowls of rice noodles he had but I’m sure he had his fill of this uniquely Teochew specialty!

While I’m sharing about his food adventure in JB, I must clarify that this account is not, and I repeat, NOT in any chronological order.  I’m sure Ryan knew how to pace himself over the weekend so as to enjoy all that he wished to savour in JB. 

Aware that Ryan was visiting the regular food haunts in JB, messages started popping up from cousins in KL with requests to please tah-pau [colloquial word for “takeaway”] for them.  And he promptly replied with a gracious, “OK!”

When he shared a shot of the famous serving of Chicken Chop at It Roo, I felt relieved for his sake.  Finally, he had the satisfaction of sinking his teeth again into the familiar flavour of this unique preparation, complete with fried potato wedges.

Another must eat: kway-chap
I told him to explore Jalan Dhoby and check out some of the cool cafés nearby and the next thing I knew, he shared a photo of that café with an indoor garden – he was in Flowers in the Window.

Comments from cousins in London and Sydney elicited short replies from him so I guessed he was just too distracted.  When he next sent a series of photos of the café décor, I realized he was busy taking photos!

I gave him a brief intro to this cosy café and told him to say “Hello” to Sea Wong if he was there.  The next thing he managed to say was simply: “Coffee is really good!”

At last, Ryan was almost ready to leave JB but not before one more round of his favourite ice-kacang!

As he inched his way along the highway in heavy traffic, his tastebuds were satisfied and his stomach was full.  

Two servings of It Roo's chicken chop
He even had plenty of takeaways in his car to snack on if the need ever arose but he patiently plodded along, immune to the cousinly ribbing.

It’s a relatively “short” drive back to KL on the highway so while takeaways may not taste the same as when it was served fresh, it would still be satisfying to those who sorely missed their favourite flavours from JB.

“Five hours!” yelled Ryan’s message when he reached the NKVE, on his final stretch towards home.  He said the crawl started from Pagoh, all the way back to the capital city.

I can feel his fatigue in every bone and sinew but I’m sure it was a worthwhile trip to savour all his favourite food in JB.

Am I right, Ry?

Ground level of Flowers in the Window at Jalan Dhoby

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