After almost a year of planning and countless postponements, it has finally been realized – I have walked the streets of Muar to hunt for her delicacies and plundered I did. A seaside town close to Melaka, Muar has often been overlooked by its more illustrious neighbor when it comes to bringing in tourism dollars but this is actually a blessing in disguise as Muar retains its friendly small town charm to the unassuming visitor. As far as its food goes, the tastiness and variety speaks for itself. It’s a place where mom-and-pop shops still rule the roost and any form of culinary quirkiness is greeted with a shrug of “So what? It’s still good food.”
1. Asam Pedas Ikan Merah – Gerai Asam Pedas Mak Pon
Literally meaning “sour spiced,” asam pedas is a stew concocted by mixing tamarind, chili and other spices before throwing in the catch of the day into a cauldron of fiery delight. The fishing village of Parit Jawa, about 15 minutes south of Muar, is asam pedas central where all the shacks serve their own concoction. The fish is assuredly fresh evidenced by the fishing boats lining the river right in front of these stalls. We went with the red snapper since experience tells us that the hot stew blends in perfectly well with the sweetness of the fish and boy it was heaven. Everything was rich from the thick asam pedas stew to the juicy flesh of the fish that makes you want to lick the whole bowl clean.
Asam Pedas Mak Pon
8:30 – 4:30 pm (or until finish), Daily except Fridays
Gerai No 6, Medan Asam Pedas Parit Jawa, Parit Jawa
2. “Kampung” Coffee & Steamed Kaya Bun – Sai Kee 434 Kopi Muar
The best part about traveling to these ancient towns (ancient as in 100 years old) is partaking in the timeless tradition of sipping a cup of kopi ‘o’ (black coffee) at a kopitiam. However, the mainstay Sai Kee 434 Kopi Muar has reinvented themselves into a modern look with fully air-conditioned shop, fancy variations of coffee and some tacky paraphernalia. The good thing is they still hold true to their kopitiam roots when it comes to serving a mean kopi ‘o’ and scrumptious steamed kaya bun. The strength of the coffee is considered mild based on “kampung” coffee standards so one does need to add too much sugar or milk to neutralize the bitterness of the coffee.
Sai Kee 434 Kopi Muar
8:00 am – 5:30 pm, Daily
No 121, Jalan Maharani (opposite Bentayan Bus Terminal)
3. Murtabak Singapore – Restoran Murtabak JD
One of our foods us Malaysians would love to claim to be the best is murtabak, or stuffed flat bread, but unfortunately our southern neighbor Singapore is the rightful owner of that title. I had the opportunity to sample an authentic Murtabak Singapore at Restoran Zam Zam so the benchmark has been set. I can safely say Restoran Murtabak JD’s spin-off is not too far off from the original. It is loaded with ground beef rather eggs (“cheap” murtabak have more eggs than meat) and the roti dough is not too tough once the murtabak cools down. I do have a bone to pick with them for only providing the chili cucumber dip without the accompanying curry but as far as the murtabak goes, it’s an “A” for me.
Restoran Murtabak JD
11:00 am – 12:00 am, Daily
1-4, Jalan Kesang, Tanjung Agas (besides Petronas)
4. Breakfast Satay – R&H Sate Maharani
If there’s a list of “Things Only Muarians Do That Other Malaysians Don’t,” having satay for breakfast would top the list. It’s an interesting sight to see in the morning where smoke billows from the street, signaling that the grills are all fired up and ready to serve those juicy sticks of meat. The one we went to is a popular spot among locals and tourists evidenced by the restaurant being packed with families of eight during peak breakfast time. The satay wasn’t the best I had except the sate perut (beef intestines) which was grilled to squishy perfection. We did however unearthed a hidden gem – tauhu lentok – which is fried tofu over sweet soy sauce topped with peanuts and sliced cucumbers. If you ever decide to go to R&H Sate Maharani, skip the satay and go for the tofu.
R&H Sate Maharani
7:30 am – 12:30 pm, Daily except Fridays
130, Jalan Maharani, Muar (in front of Bentayan Bus Terminal)
5. Mee Bandung – Mee Bandung Abu Bakar Hanipah
Mee Bandung is practically the staple of all Muarians. Totally unrelated to the city of Bandung, Indonesia, the origin comes from an old Malay word which means “mixed” or in modern terms, a “mash-up.” Noodles are mixed with a fried egg soaked in a sauce that consists of shrimp paste, shrimp broth, chili, onion and other spices. On top of that, other condiments like tofu, meat and chicken are thrown into it. This one I had in a kopitiam has all of the above and the mash-up culminated into the most fulfilling bowl of noodles I’ve ever tasted.
Mee Bandung Abu Bakar Hanipah
6:30 am – 5:00 pm, Daily
Wah San Kopitiam, 69-A, Jalan Abdullah, Muar
That’s the best of Muar in five meals. It has been a unique experience to venture into oft-forgotten towns and to find culinary treasures within such a small area while the warmth of the locals in striking a conversation and invited us to share a table in a packed restaurant shows small town hospitality is still alive.
Think I missed on any must-go food joints in Muar? Sound off in the comments below.