Best of Johor at Makan Kitchen

For two whole months, from August to end September 2018, Makan Kitchen in DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru, presents a daily buffet in the theme, Best of Johor that feature dishes with a distinct identity of the southern-most state of the Malaysian Peninsular.

Makan Kitchen is at the lobby level of
DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru
Johor cuisine has a unique blend of ingredients that are not found in other parts of our country as it is influenced by Arab, Bugis and Javanese settlers as well as the nations around the Malay Archipelago.

The Javanese who settled here over the centuries have particularly influenced the Malay cuisine in Johor with flavours that are distinctly sour, sweet and spicy.

This is the inspiration for the culinary team led by Chef Mahathir Mokhtar in the Malay kitchen within the Makan Kitchen, to create a mouthwatering menu of dishes which they consider as the Best of Johor.

Chef Mahathir Mokhtar is busy in the Malay kitchen
I glance at the spread and spot cardboard cut-outs shaped like the profile of a horse that closely resembles the traditional kuda kepang horse, used as labels on the various dishes.

Hotel general manager, Daniel Alcaraz, who warmly welcomes me to the food preview, is also getting acquainted with the range of dishes presented in the Best of Johor buffet.

While the kuda kepang has long been associated with Johor, I’m happy to share with Daniel, a further insight into this tradition here.

Then it’s time to taste and I shall start from the appetizer section.

Urap Pucik Ubi
There is ulam or tender shoots also called pucuk, young leaves of wild plants that are usually found in the countryside.

Ulam is a traditional salad and its taste varies, depending on the different types of shoots. It’s like a local fresh salad and is consumed because of its taste and nutritional value as it adds variety and flavours to the diet.

The Malay folks in Johor have creatively incorporated fruits and vegetables into their ulam and two of the popular traditional salads featured in this buffet are the Javanese inspired Urap Pucuk Ubi (tender shoots of the tapioca plant) and Urap Jantung Pisang (banana blossom).

Kacang Pol with a side of toast and fresh vegetables
Urap is the Javanese preparation by blanching or steaming the fruit or vegetable before tossing it with grated coconut, dried prawns, seasoning and chilli padi or bird’s eye chilli.

Another popular dish in Johor is Kacang Pol, a dish with a Middle-Eastern origin.

This is a bean-based beef stew enjoyed as a dip to savour with toasted bread and a variety of fresh vegetables like kacang botol or four-angled beans.

Then it’s time to warm my stomach with a bowl of hot soup. I’m heading to the buffet when Chef Mahathir approaches and asks if he could be of any help.

Sup Ayam Berempah
When I tell him about what I’m after, he responds by dishing up a bowl of Johor-style Chicken Soup with a rich dark broth filled with chunks of chicken, potato and carrot.

He serves me a bowl, full to the brim but I’m not complaining because I like the comforting taste of Sup Ayam Berempah.

With my stomach comfortably warmed, I’m ready for a taste of the main course items.

While there is a range of Indian and Chinese dishes at the Indian and Chinese kitchens in Makan Kitchen, I’m focused on enjoying a taste of the Malay offerings, especially the items presented in the Best of Johor.

I’m familiar with Johor cuisine and am pleasantly surprised to see how the chefs have given a special Makan Kitchen touch to the menu.

Instead of the usual Ayam Percik, they are serving Puyuh Percik, substituting chicken with quail.

Assam Pedas Ekor Lembu
And instead of Assam Pedas which is usually prepared with fish, they are serving Assam Pedas Ekor Lembu, oxtail.

This sounds so good that I cannot wait to have a taste of assam (tangy) pedas (spicy) yummy with oxtail.

So I help myself to a generous chunk of tender oxtail, dripping in Assam Pedas gravy.

I’m pleased with the tender fall-off-the-bone meat and its collagen-rich flavour is simply…mmm… satisfying and very agreeable.

Besides the beef cooked in Nasi Briyani Gam Johor, other meat choices in the buffet include Rendang Tulang Rusuk (Beef Ribs Rendang), Ayam Ungkap (Javanese style fried chicken) and Kambing Kuzi (Lamb marinated in Kuzi spices).

At the grill section, in addition to Puyuh Percik, there are choices of Johor-style grilled meats and fish like Pais Ikan Tenggiri, Pepes Ayam and Paru Sambal on skewers.

Among the Best of Johor noodles are of course, Laksa Johor, a uniquely Johorean dish with a royal origin – which is made with spaghetti instead of noodles. There is also Mee Rebus or stewed noodles that are served with tulang or meaty bones.

As always, I must keep some space for dessert.

Kueh Lopes with Gula Melaka
With the durian season at its peak, the Best of Johor desserts offers two durian inspired items – a Durian cream cake and Cendol Pulut Durian.

The latter is a chilled cendol dessert with additional ingredients like glutinous rice and delicious durian, swimming in a rich coconut milk gravy.

Among the range of local desserts in the buffet, I see two particular sweet items that are the favourite of my grandmother – Kueh Lopes to savour with Gula Melaka (caramelized palm sugar) – and my grandfather, who preferred Kueh Koleh Kacang!

It’s funny how the sight of these two familiar desserts brought on a sudden pang of sentimental feelings for my late grandparents.

Maybe because I’m writing about them in my book sequel. It’s a strange connection but maybe it’s also because we used to live just across the road from this hotel.

The buffet comes with a choice of coffee or tea. And when my order is served, I sip it slowly while I reminisce about my grandparents and how they would also enjoy these two types of Malay kueh.

A typically Johor way to enjoy fried sweet potato [Left]
and fried bananas [Right] with a spicy dark sauce dip!
As I nibble on my Kueh Lopes and Kueh Koleh Kacang, I cannot help but reflect on how very Johorean we are.

The best way to end my Best of Johor buffet must be in the typically Johor way, to enjoy Tempe Goreng (fried fermented soya beans), Keledek Goreng (fried sweet potato) and Pisang Goreng (fried bananas) with Sambal Kicap (Spicy dark sauce dip).

The Best of Johor buffet at Makan Kitchen is from Aug 1 to Sept 30, Monday to Thursday, from 6pm to 10pm and on Sunday from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.

Rate at RM102 nett per adult and RM51 per child.

At the Makan Kitchen, diners at the daily buffet can also enjoy a range of dishes from the Chinese and Indian kitchens as well as popular items in International cuisine.

The Makan Kitchen is on the lobby level of DoubleTree by Hilton JB, at 12 Jalan Ngee Heng, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor.  

For enquiries and reservations: Tel: 607 – 268 6868 or email:  Website:

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