Ah Seng Seafood, Johor Baru, Malaysia
It has become a bit of a family tradition whenever I travel to Singapore for a holiday, that we cross the border to Malaysia and spend half a day eating in Johor Baru. We set off early, on an empty stomach, and our first stop is usually for a breakfast of roti canai and teh tarik. Then we head for the shops! Here is where I replenish my stockpile of pastes, rempahs and powders, before refueling with lunch and a cool drink in the heat.
This year, my parents had a new place to bring me to- Ah Seng Seafood, which is an open-air eatery and famous for their reasonably priced variety of dishes. Though it’s called a seafood restaurant, and their speciality is fish (there are 7 different kinds of fish dishes), the other cooked dishes like bittergourd cooked with salted duck eggs and bak kut teh are local favourites. They also draw a crowd in the morning for their breakfasts, where they serve pretty much the same dishes and congee.
Another thing I love about little Asian eateries like this is that there are always homemade drinks like barley or iced lemon tea, but my parents and I settle for a cooling luo han guo, and it definitely did its job to refresh us in the sweltering temperature.
Before the food arrived, I went to have a sticky beak in the massive open-air kitchen and peered into the fridge and bubbling pots.
If I was hungry before, I was ravenous and salivating after I saw this pot of braised tau kee, which are bean curd sheets. I loved this since I was a child, and was very happy when my mum confirmed that she had ordered this for us. I actually didn’t have much time to wander around the kitchen because another thing that Ah Seng prides itself on is how quickly their food is served, and they didn’t disappoint! I spied all our dishes on the table and quickly rejoined my parents.
We had one of Ah Seng’s signature dishes- fried fish with sweet chilli and japanese mayo. During our lunch, I overheard what other diners were ordering, and everyone had at least one fish dish, plus others. And it’s no wonder, because the fish was crisp on the outside with the lightest hint of a batter and on the inside, the white meaty flesh was soft and tender and melt-in-your-mouth. Something like sweet chilli and mayo is so simple, but so tasty when done well.
Braised pumpkin is a comforting, home-y dish for me. It’s savoury, with just the right amount of sauce, and the tiny ikan bilis adds a crunch. This is another dish that I’ve grown up eating.
And finally, the braised bean curd sheets (tau kee) that I spied earlier on. What I didn’t notice was that it’s cooked with chicken feet. I sorely missed Soy at this point, as she would have absolutely just loved it. No one in my family is really a fan, and my dad went so far to try and avoid the dish because he didn’t want the chicken feet! Well, I spooned out the bean curd for him, and pointed out that chicken feet aren’t that small that you can accidentally eat them!
We also had the last of the yam rice (yay!)- another childhood favourite of mine! This was such a satisfying meal and so reasonably priced- RM$46 (A$15) for food and drink for the three of us. As you can tell, the meal was made up of some of my all-time favourite dishes that aren’t as easily accessible in Australia, and they evoked really warm, comforting feelings of home.
What are some of your favourite dishes from childhood?
Ah Seng Seafood
Ph: 012 775 0511
100 Jalan Keris
Johor Baru, Malaysia
Open 7am-3pm (Closed on Mondays)