15 Johorean Dishes You Should Try Before You Die

Spices abound in the local food scene down south.

Cover image via mawardiyunus / Instagram @chombahar

1. Laksa Johor

Unlike other laksa types, Laksa Johor uses spaghetti instead of noodles or bihun. The curry-like gravy is thick, almost resembling a paste, and is made of ground fish (ikan parang or ikan tenggiri), coconut milk, dried shrimps, asam gelugur as well as a blend of herbs and spices including kerisik, lemongrass, and galangal.

The dish is garnished with slices of onion, beansprouts, mint leaves, daun kesum (Vietnamese coriander), and julienned cucumber and white radish. Sambal belacan is usually placed on the side, with lime juice squeezed over it before eating.

2. Cathay laksa

Not to be confused with curry laksa, Johor's Cathay laksa consists of a broth based on stock made by boiling anchovies and soy bean, which is then cooked with chilli paste (made from Indian curry spices) and coconut milk.

The broth is poured over rice vermicelli (bihun) and served with tofu, fried tofu skin, beansprouts, fish balls, and cockles.

3. Lontong or Lodeh

Lontong actually refers to compressed rice cake wrapped in a banana leaf cylinder, which are then cut into small pieces. It texture resembles that of ketupat or nasi himpit.

The rice cakes are usually served with coconut milk-based soupd such as soto alongside some boiled egg and chilli paste.

4. Mee rebus

Johor's mee rebus heavily relies on its brownish gravy, which can make or break the dish. Thick and heavy (yet not starchy), it is savoury with a nutty nuance as well as slightly sweet and spicy from the curry spices. It is typically served over yellow noodles, with a dash of soy sauce and vinegar.

You will also find the tulang version in Johor, which is unique to the state. It comes with a lamb shank bone, which one can suck savoury bone marrow from with a drinking straw!

Tulang version of Johorean mee rebus.

Image via Instagram @sofiyawmn

5. Pontian wantan mee

Unlike any other wantan mee you know, the sauce that comes with Pontian wantan mee is a blend of chilli sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, shallot oil, and tomato ketchup. The sauce is tossed with egg noodles, which takes on an orange-y hue after. The noodles are usually accompanied by wantan soup, which may have some fish balls in it.

6. Kway teow kia

Image via Instagram @mtwq

Kway teow kia actually refers to the flat kway teow rice noodles which are served in an herbal soup cooked with braised pork innards. The dish is often served together with braised pork belly, innards, as well as various parts of the pig such as skin, ears, blood curd, and tongue. You can also add braised duck, chicken feet, braised tofu, and braised eggs to your meal.

7. "San lou" fried bee hoon

Also known as chao da bee hoon (burnt rice vermicelli), san lou fried bee hoon is said to have been invented in Johor Bahru. It is often fried with shrimps, lean pork, eggs, and green vegetables and then presented flattened on a plate, with an outer caramelised and charred layer. While it may look dry at first glance, bee hoon within the charred layer is actually quite moist from the seafood broth is it fried in.

8. Mee bandung

Originating from Muar, mee bandung consists of yellow noodles served with a thick, flavourful broth made of chilli, onion, spices, shrimp paste, and dried shrimp. The dish is also accompanied with slices of meat, prawns, fish cakes, squid, and hard-boiled egg.

9. Asam pedas

Asam pedas is a sour stew - made of tamarind, chilli, daun kesum, and tomatoes - which is usually cooked with fish (mackerel) and okra.

10. Otak-otak

Although otak-otak can be found in other parts of Malaysia, the Muar version is highly sought after by foodies. Solidly-packed with fresh mackerel pieces, chilli, curry, spices, and coconut milk, otak-otak Muar is typically wrapped in banana leaves.

Other versions of otak-otak in Johor are otak-otak gelang patah and otak-otak kempas.

11. Telur pindang

Image via Blogspot

Due to its complicated cooking process (eggs are boiled for several days in an herbal broth until the eggshells turn dark brown), telur pindang is usually served only in wedding feasts instead of being eaten as an everyday dish.

FACT: The eggs can last up to 2 weeks!

12. Pisang goreng (banana fritters) with sambal kicap dip

Image via mawardiyunus

Banana fritters with a spicy dip? Sounds odd, but Johoreans swear by sweet and spicy combo! Find out how to make your own sambal kicap here.

13. Kacang pool

Influenced by Arabian cuisine, kacang pool is a dish consisting of minced meat cooked with foul medames beans. The dish is topped off with onion slices, green bird-eye chillies, a squeeze of lime juice, and a sunny side up egg. It is usually eaten with slices of toasted bread.

14. Kluang toasted buns

A Kluang specialty, Kluang buns are actually grilled on charcoal before they are stuffed with real butter (not margerine) and homemade kaya.

15. Murtabak cheese

Murtabak Cheese Jumbo @ Masjid Murtabak Special No. 1.

Image via Instagram @mamerul2

Murtabak cheese, a.k.a. chicken or beef murtabak stuffed with cheese, is a recent development in the Johor food scene. Significantly larger than your typical murtabak, these cheese variations can be found in food stalls in Johor Bahru, Larkin, Kluang, and Pontian.

What is your favourite Johorean dish and where is your favourite place to have it? Let us know in the comments below!

Previously, we highlighted some of the best local dishes you should try when you visit East Malaysia: