Classic Nyonya and my book


Whenever our family friends, Mr & Mrs L H Wang, visit us in Johor Baru, it gives us an opportunity to host them to a leisurely dinner, usually on a Saturday evening.

Dinner with the Wang's at Classic Nyonya recently;
Note the empty plates!
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of introducing the Wang’s to interesting cafés and restaurants here and was pleased with their positive comments about the new and exciting offerings in JB now.

The Wang’s lived in JB for many years (three of their children were born here!) before the family moved back to Kuala Lumpur and they often say that coming back to familiar JB was like coming home.

Aware that they will be visiting again during the weekend, I extended an invitation to the Wang’s to join us for dinner after church. When Mrs Wang accepted my invite, she also said that their daughter, Eunice, will be coming along too.

Then I asked my foodie friend, Florence, to propose where we should dine with the Wang’s.

Florence, who often joins me for food-tasting events, is familiar with the various options and from her proposed list, we finally decided on Classic Nyonya, a restaurant that serves Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine.

Last March, we had a delightful dining experience here.

I remember how Florence said that even though she is not a fan of cendol, a popular iced dessert, she thought that the cendol served at Classic Nyonya was super because it has the right balance of fresh coconut milk and quality Gula Melaka (palm sugar)!

Of course, this is not the only item to return for because the menu of Peranakan cuisine at Classic Nyonya is as authentic as any home-cooked flavours in a range of popular nyonya dishes.

As we considered the mouth-watering taste of Assam Pedas Fish and Lemak Nanas Prawns, we felt confident that the Wang’s would also enjoy this meal.

A special dessert presented with best compliment!
Taking into consideration the evening traffic from JB city to Taman Sutera Utama, I made a reservation for 7.30pm with a request to bear with any delay that may arise due to the unpredictable weekend road conditions.

The proprietress, Pang Siew Yen, graciously confirmed my reservation and in her reply, she said, “See you tonight!”

It crossed my mind that her response was just spontaneous or automatic because in the few times I was back at the restaurant, I did not meet her there.

Later that day, some time after 3pm in the afternoon, Pang sent me a WhatsApp photograph showing a jelly setting in a mould with the message: “Special dessert for you.”

Pleasantly surprised, I thanked Pang for her generosity.

I’m ever grateful for the friendship of café and restaurant owners who are happy to bless me and my guests with a little extra something to round off our meal.
. . .

As expected, the evening traffic on the Skudai Highway was heavy, especially around the bottleneck near Paradigm Mall so I chose to drive through the B-roads to bypass the congestion.

By the time I arrived at Classic Nyonya with mum and the Wang’s, Florence and the others were already seated and selecting dishes from the menu.

Happy to autograph my book for Pang Siew Yen!
She wisely picked all our favourites and ordered mostly in large portions for everyone to have plenty to enjoy.

A meal at Classic Nyonya is not complete without an appetizer of Pai Tee, crispy top hats filled with vegetables and topped with a whole prawn. Florence had ordered a double portion so that we have enough to go around, some even with second helping!

The dishes were served promptly for us to savour the hot and spicy items with white steamed rice.

Our round dining table was fitted with a Lazy Suzy rotating turntable so we could conveniently shift the dishes around and help ourselves to the items within easy reach.

Mrs Wang confessed that she liked the rich taste of Lemak Nanas Prawns, very much.

I was both amused and pleased when she said that each time the Lazy Suzy turned and this dish stopped in front of her, she would help herself to yet another spoonful of its tasty gravy!

[Please view full video on
Instagram: My Johor Stories]
It was interesting how we enjoyed the meal in such convivial mood that nobody thought about taking a photo memento of our meal together while the dishes were still full!

Mid-way through our meal, Pang arrived at the restaurant and she stopped by to say “Hello” before heading into the kitchen, maybe (I thought!) to arrange for the staff to serve the jelly dessert she prepared.

Instead, Pang returned to our table holding two of my books, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, with a request to please autograph them for her!

It was my pleasure to do so.

Eunice, who was happy with both the meal and the pleasant ambience in the restaurant, volunteered to be the videographer while Florence was the photographer to capture the moments while I signed my books for Pang.

Pang said that she has one more book at home and having read it, she realized that both our grandfathers used to live at Jalan Ngee Heng. In fact, she too lived with her grandparents there until she was about age 15.

Her grandfather had a business selling beancurd from a pushcart and I imagined how he would have pushed the mobile stall from the top of Jalan Ngee Heng, near the Jalan Kebun Teh Lama area, all the way to the pasak-kia, JB’s first Chinese food court, at Jalan Ungku Puan.

In those days, her grandfather’s beancurd stall must pass the front of our grandfather’s house at No. 154 before it reached Jalan Trus and onwards to the pasak-kia, every evening!

I'm with Pang Siew Yen [Left] and
my books at Classic Nyonya
My aunts may even have stopped his stall to buy beancurd (as we used to buy takeaways from passing mobile stalls in front of our house!) when it was on its way to the pasak-kia!

Back then, Jalan Ngee Heng spanned a longer distance, from the junction of Jalan Kebun Teh Lama to the Jalan Gereja junction, unlike now when the road has been reduced to only the length between Wisma Maria and the Jalan Gereja junction.

[The former length of Jalan Ngee Heng has since been transformed into part of Jalan Tun Abdul Razak in a dual-carriageway.]

Pang told me that she will display my books in her restaurant, not only to complement the vintage-style décor but also for diners take a closer look and interest them to its contents.

In addition to our dessert orders for icy cendol, Pang also served us her specially made ring of Gula Melaka & Coconut jelly, with her best compliments.

Thanks, Pang for your kind hospitality at Classic Nyonya and for your interest in my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage. Happy Reading!

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