It’s well-known that Malaysia is a foodie’s paradise, and we all know how we’ll all travel far and wide just to get a plate of delicious local dishes. So pack your bags and join me on a road trip to the South of Malaysia as we travel from Melacca to Johor looking for the most authentic Malaysian food we can find!
1. SATAY (BREAKFAST)
Satay for breakfast? Yes, please! Here in the city of Muar, Johor having beef & chicken satay as main breakfast staple is a standard norm. And what better way to enjoy satay than having it alongside my favorite classic Malaysian breakfast items, including nasi lemak, roti baker and tahu lentok to name a few.
The satay here is mildly sweet with a subtle spicy marinade, grilled to juicy tenderness with a bit of char on the edges. Plus, it goes well with their excellent sweet peaunty satay sauce that’s bursting with aromatic spices.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the King of Thailand frequents this place when he is in Johor?
R & H Cafe, Satay Maharani
No 204 Jalan Abdullah, 84000 Muar , Johor
84000 Bandar Maharani, Johor, Malaysia
Hours: 7:30am to 12:30pm (Closed on Friday)
2. MEE REBUS TULANG & GEAR BOX ( Boiled Noodles with Lamb Shank Bone)
Mee Rebus, translated as boiled noodles, is a popular dish in Johor. The noodles are literally swimming in a bright thick gravy that mainly consists of mashed sweet potato and dried shrimps then topped with bean sprouts, hard boiled egg and chopped chilies. I prefer to add a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice for zest.
But what makes their Mee Rebus so extraordinary? It’s the huge cholesterol-laden lamb shank aka gearbox filled with oh so good bone marrow that you can sip using a straw! This is my fave part!
Restoran ZZ Sup Tulang
Jalan Petri 5/1 Kampung Bahru
80100 Johor Bahru
Telephone: +607 224 0417
3. ONDE-ONDE (Pandan-Flavored Glutinous Rice Balls with Palm Sugar)
Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake produces many delicious types of homemade nyonya kuih (cakes), but they’re specially famous for their chewy onde-onde dessert.
What makes their version of the onde-onde special is that it’s made fresh daily! The yummy dessert consists of a chewy glutinous rice ball (which are green in color from the pandan), coated with shredded coconut and filled with gooey melted palm sugar on each bite!
If you visit their factory near the cafe, you might catch their staff preparing the onde-onde on sight!
What else we loved: Rempah Udang (Glutinous Rice with Spicy Dried Shrimp), Tai Bak (ice cendol), and apam balik durian (durian pancake).
Baba Charlie Nyonya Cafe
631, Jalan Siantan Sek 2
Tel: +606 332 3488
4. OTAK-OTAK or OTAH-OTAH (Fish custard wrapped in banana leaves)
Otak-otak is a popular Malaysian snack filled with steamed and moist fish custard wrapped in banana leaves then grilled over a charcoal fire. The steamed little package is usually a blend of either small chunks of white fish or shrimp flavored with various aromatic herbs, spices, onions and infused with the sweet fragrance of rich coconut milk.
It was complexly delicious, a great snack that I couldn’t stop munching on.
K&Y Frozen Food Enterprise (俊隆乌达)
55-17, Jln Bentayan, Taman Sri Emas,
84000 Muar, Johor, Malaysia
Telephone: +606 954 5517
5. INDIAN FISH HEAD CURRY
Fish head curry is immensely popular in Malaysia. With its Indian origins, it uses the head of a red snapper, semi-stewed in a Kerala-style curry using a combination of various spices and ingredients plus assorted vegetables such as okra and eggplants.
The massive cauldrons of orange-red curry were gorgeous. I loved the rich spices of South India and the tangy flavor of tamarind and the creamy goodness of coconut milk with deliciously tender fish head.
It was so good I ate two large orders! Best paired with steamed rice!
What else we loved: Gobi Manchurian, Chili Squid Fry, Prawn Chili Fry and Madrasi Mutton Masala.
Restaurant Spice Villa
232-250, Jalan Dato Sulaiman
Taman Abad 80250 Johor Bahru
Johor Darul Takzim
6. NASI AMBANG
Experience the unique local culture in the form of traditional food and performance of the “kampung lifestyle” at the Homestay Parit Bugis.
For dinner, prepare to get your hands dirty and dig into the nasi ambeng—a traditional homemade meal popular among Javanese-Malay communities. Our version featured a huge pile of steamed white rice topped with sambal goreng with fried tempeh, chicken stewed in soy sauce and urap. One tray of Nasi Ambang is shared between 4 individuals, so take this opportunity to bond with your fellow guests.
Isn’t this very similar to our version of the boodle fight?
Be charmed by the host’s warm hospitality and cap off the night with a unique Barongan dance, which tells a Javanese-Malay mythical tale of two warriors battling it out to win the princess’ heart.
Homestay Parit Bugis
No.171. Parit No 4 Jalan Yusof
83600 Samerah Batu Pahat
Johor Darul Takzim
Telephone: +601 3774 4244
7. SEASONAL FRUITS
Fruit lovers rejoice!
Take on an agro educational tour of the farm along with guides on site as they share their expertise on each fruit species. Visitors can enjoy a buffet spread of fresh fruits directly sourced from the plant/tree. The spread includes seasonal fruits as well as pickled mangoes for those wanting something sour.
Tip: Look up which month to visit if you want to try seasonal fruits specially durian.
The resto here also serves up fruit-infused dishes from their ala carte menu (* recommended):
Coconut Juice Seafood Tom Yam*
Shredded Papaya Salad*
Chicken Chop With Passion Fruit Sauce
Fried Calamari dipped in Dragon Fruit Sauce*
Assorted tropical fruit prawns
Assam Pedas Stingray with Passion Fruit
Yong Jack Fruit Masak Lemak
and many more.
Desaru Fruit Farm
81900 Kota Tinggi, Johor
8. PERANAKAN CUISINE
Melaka is a historical city filled with a vast variety of centuries-old cultures. One of the most prominent cultures in Malacca is the Peranakan, also called Baba Nyonya. Nyonya food is a marriage between Chinese cooking techniques and Malay flavors and spices. So expect a kick of spices and flavors in your typical Chinese dishes.
The location of the restaurant is near Jonker Street and the decor is beautiful. You’ll also be happy to know, they are the only restaurant that serves pork!
Make sure to try their Butterfly Pea flower tea. Besides the gorgeous hue of blue and subtle earthy taste, the drink also boasts of plenty of antioxidants and other health benefits.
The taste actually reminds me of sago gulaman that we have at home.
What to Order: Kangkung balacan, Masak Lemak Nenaas Prawn, Pongteh Chicken and Pork, Ngo Hiang, Cendol
No. 63 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Keong
Telephone: +606 288 2885
9. OYSTERS of Muar River
One of Muar’s best-kept secrets is found in an ecological oyster culture zone and oyster research center where you can enjoy delicious wild oysters.
Just a 15-minute ferry ride away from Jeti Tanjung Emas, visitors can learn more about oysters and how they are traditionally caught while sampling the delicacy for $12 a plate with a stunning sunset view by the pier.
We liked the oysters prepared raw with chili vinegar sauce and raw with lemon slices. You can also opt to have it raw with cheese or deep fried.
Tip: Best to reserve the boat and resto in advance.
Oyster Bay Muar
Kampung Parit Setingkat
8400 Muar, Johor
Resto Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday- 6pm to 11pm
10. SEAFOOD IN DESARU
Desaru is a coastal resort area in Southeastern Johor popular for its weekend escape for tourists from Singapore and other states who come to enjoy the weekend, attracted by the 25 km stretch of beach, golf courses and Adventure Waterpark.
As a coastal area, Desaru is renowned for its affordable freshly caught seafood. We had dinner at Nelayan Seafood, roughly translated as Fisherman, by the coast that catches the freshest sea harvests from the local stores. Here, we enjoyed the breeze, the view of Desaru coast and the 1-minute walk to reach the shore.
This restaurant offers dishes from freshly caught snappers, groupers, crabs, prawns, lobsters and many others.
Nalayan Seafood Restaurant By The Coast
Tunamaya Beach Resort & Spa
Lot 20 & 21, Sarang Burung, Kg. Mukut,
26800 Pulau Tioman, Pahang, Malaysia
Telephone: +607 766 8888
Live an Awesome Life,
ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: We were media guests of Tourism Malaysia. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.