Kluang, Johor: Food to eat, Things to do

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Ever thought of making a road trip to Kluang?  No?  Me neither.  But I was invited by a friend of mine to do a road trip over the long weekend and it actually turned out to be a very interesting and food-ful adventure! The town is big enough to have a variety of good eats that would fill your itinerary for two to three days and a few activities to help digest the meals in between.

Our local guide is a guy who had grew up in Kluang who happens to be a cross fit trainer as well as a foodie.  So, our itinerary was quite packed for the three days we were there.  This post is a list of all the eateries and places we visited over three days.

The most iconic eatery in Kluang has to be Kluang Rail Coffee which has been serving Hainanese style coffee and kaya toast at the same spot since 1938.  The kaya is the old style brown colour type which is not easy to find nowadays.  Our guide happened to be the grandson who still remembers how he and his cousins used to have to take turns stirring the pot of kaya!  This traditional kaya takes more time to make than the green version that is commonly available in Singapore.  The brown colour is the result of caramelized sugar which is added to the kaya to give that distinctive flavour.

Rail Coffee has many outlets around Kluang but it is only at this original location that you still get bread that is toasted over charcoal.  They also serve really old school packets of nasi lemak which have nothing but rice, a few peanuts and sambal.  Not the most delicious nasi lemak ever, but very very nostalgic!

The bad news is that the whole train station is slated for renovation in the 2nd half of 2018, so the future of this venerable Klang institution is uncertain.

Bottomline: A must try when in Kluang!

Kluang Rail Coffee: Map and Details

In case you have fallen in love with the kopi at Kluang Rail Coffee and want to buy some local kopi home,  you can visit the Kluang Coffee Powder Factor where you can also have a peek at the roasting process. The powder is also available at other places around town.  I bought the kopi powder for my staff who loves kopi O and she gave it two thumbs up!

Kluang Coffee Powder Factory: Map and Details

Husma Cafe is great for its fluffy canai which is served with dhal curry and sambal.  This is the type of roti that you can’t get in Singapore and it is worth the trip!  The fish curry that comes with the nasi dagang is absolutely delicious!  They also serve quite authentic nasi kerabu which is a dish from Kelantan.  It’s worth a try but not something I would order again.  We also tried the Johor laksa which is quite different from our local version.  Also worth a try if you haven’t had Johor laksa before.

Bottomline: Must visit just for the roti canai!

Husma Cafe: Map and Details

This is your classic Indian style cendol. The cendol itself is very fragrant and though the coconut milk is watery, it still packs enough of a punch but at the same time it’s not too lemak (heavy).  Yes, it all looks pretty sloppy but it’s the kind of old school cendol that really cools you down on a sweltering hot day. Worth a visit after visiting Kluang Street Art which is just round the corner!

Bottomline: Worth a visit if you are looking for cendol!

Cendol Kadir: Map and Details

It seems everyone is into street art nowadays. This back alley showcases some of the local artists with plenty of photo opportunities. Perhaps not as iconic as the street art in Penang, but a good excuse to walk off some calories before the next meal.

Bottomline:  Good for the kids and for a few Instagram photos.

Street Art: Map and Details

This beef “fen” is something I could go to Kluang for.  I especially like the unique “fen” which is like mee tai mak but much longer.  The texture is very unique. It’s tender yet resilient. The old lady has been selling it for decades and used to make her own noodles, which, I am told, were even smoother than what they are like now.  The sauce is robust, the beef (from local cows) is delicious.

Bottomline: Must try when in Kluang!

Lau Pa Sat Beef Hoon: Map and Details

It’s not secret that I love satay and our guide took us to several places to taste what Kluang has to offer. There is one Chinese style pork satay which I didn’t manage to try because they happened to be closed but my guide says it is very good, so it is on my itinerary for the next trip.  Of the three Malay style satays we tried, I would recommend the one at Kedai Makan Kak Esah.  The peanut sauce is thick, the satays are of a good size and each skewer has a piece of chicken skin between the meat for extra flavour and juiciness.  Satay Kita is not bad too, but the sauce is a little thin and they use breast meat without skin.   Satay Kluang Bahru is the cheapest at only 50 sen each. It’s the most convenient if you are visiting the market and eating at Kluang Bharu hawker centre. (It’s located outside of the hawker centre) The mutton is good but best not to order the chicken as it is dry.

Kedai Makan Kak Esah: Map and Details
Satay Kluang Bahru: Map and Details
Ah Fu Satay: Map and Details
Satay Kita: Map and Details

I have a weakness for Ramly Burgers and it’s the one thing I always look forward to eating whenever I am in Malaysia.  Fendy is the most famous joint in town.  They use only double yolk eggs to make their burgers.  My guide told me it’s the best in Johor, but I beg to differ.  I found the curry powder just a little too overpowering and I have had better Ramly Burgers elsewhere. However, I did go there after a full  dinner so, that might have blunted the enjoyment somewhat.

Bottomline: Can try if you are looking for Ramly burgers.

Fendy Burger: Map and Details

One good way of working off all those extra calories is to make a trek to the top of Gunung Lambak.  The whole trek will take about 1.5-2 hrs to complete.  We made it to halfway which took us 45mins.  It’s a relatively easy trek and we saw many kids walking it. There are two different treks up to halfway point. One is a gentle slope but a longer trek while the other is shorter but involves more steps.  We went up the difficult way and down the easy path. The 2nd half up to the top is a little more challenging as it will get steeper and will require holding onto ropes to pull yourself up.  Do the trek in the morning as it does get quite hot in the afternoons.

Bottomline: Highly recommended to burn off some calories!

Gunung Lambak: Map and Details

The best place for sio bak is this stall at the wet market where whole pigs are de-boned and roasted.  Not for the faint-hearted as the stall is located right next to the butchery where whole carcasses are hauled off  the trucks and dismembered. NEA will never allow this in Singapore due to the possibility of cross contamination.  But the stall as been there for decades and there doesn’t seem to be any problems.  We certainly didn’t fall sick, but eat at your own discretion!  The skin is really thin and crisp, the meat tender and the fats absolutely melting.  It is a tad on the salty side.  We bought one big packet of sio bak for $5!  You can also try the charsiu which is nice but not exceptional.  They are opened at night till 4am!

Pasar Kluang Bahru Sio Bak: Map and Details

There are several bak kut teh place around Kluang.   We were brought to this particular one because they serve a dry version of bak kut teh.   The dry version is alright, but I found their soup a little on the sweet side and not herbal enough.

Bottomline: I would try another stall next time.  One reader suggested Restoran Teoh Heng which is just a few rows away.

Cin Fu: Map and Details

There are lots of zi chars around but we only got to try this one which is quite near the sio bak place.  Their signature dish is steamed fish on a bed of kway teow, beehoon and laksa noodles.  The soup is very good.  Their crispy pork trotters are also very good!  They serve a wild boar stew which is good for those who like game. The rest of the dishes are competent but nothing to rave about.

Bottomline:  Can try for the signature dish.  Many other zi chars to explore around Klang!

Restoran Hiong Hong: Map and Details

Barney’s is a great place for your kids if they are after chicken chop and pizzas.  Prices are very attractive and the food is good.  (Around RM 30 for pizza) Barney, the owner, also has his private kitchen upstairs where you can do an omakase course for RM 120-150.  For that amount, you get a hotchpotch menu of beef, lamb, sashimi and other ingredients cooked in a variety of styles from Mexican to Japanese.  There really is no real theme except that it is what Barney likes to eat and what he can get his hands on that week.  More like visiting someone’s home kitchen than a fine dining restaurant, but for the price you really do get a lot to eat!  Barney also happens to run Kluang Rail Coffee and the Rail Hotel.

Barney’s: Map and Details

At Ninso, everything is RM2.

Need I say more?

It is located right next to Rail Hotel where we stayed.  The rooms are clean and the toilets are newly renovated with rain showers.  Our double rooms are around RM130 per night.

Rail Hotel and Ninso: Map and Details

The tau sar piah at Tong Huat are really old school, right down to the pink medicinal paper used to wrap the biscuits!  They are very good.  The skin is crisp and not oily and the salty sweet bean filling is just right.

Tong Huat Confectionary: Map and Details

The most famous curry mee in Kluang is Botak Curry Mee.  But our local guide brought us to another lesser known stall which he felt is also quite good.  By this time we had already eaten quite a bit, so we ordered only yong tau foo without the noodles. That is why the photo of our curry mee has no mee!   They make their own fishballs and fish paste here.  Quite good but I didn’t get to try Botak Curry Mee, so I can’t really compare.

Bottomline:  Good, but you can find shioker ones in Singapore like the laksa yong tau foo at Cantonese Delights.

Anthony Fishball: Map and Details

If you want to try Botak Curry Mee, you need to head to the Menkibol River Hawker Centre.  Here you will find some really old food stalls like this tang yuan stall which my guide has been eating at since he was knee high.  The ginger soup packs quite a punch and they make their tang yuan on the spot. The skin could be a bit chewier, I felt.  We went there after dinner as they open till quite late into the night.

Tang Yuan at Mengkibol River Hawker Centre: Map and Details

This very popular baryani sic stall was originally from Batu pahat.  The curries are good, albeit a little on the sweet side. Their lontong is nice and lemak.  The rice is nice, fluffy and buttery but could do with a little more spice.

Bottomline: You can find better biryani in Singapore, but worth a try if you are looking for a comfortable place for Malay and Indian food.

Baryani Hj Dollah: Map and Details

Our guide, Jit Pang grew up stirring the kaya at Kluang Rail Coffee.  He basically knows the town inside out.  He used to work as a youth pastor but now runs his own NGO and is a part time cross-fit trainer.  If you are planning a trip to Kluang for a small group (He has a van that can take 12), he can act as your tour guide (for a fee of course).  You can contact his wife Li Poh at +60 123262000 to arrange your itinerary.

Aside from driving to Kluang, another good way to get there is to get there by train!  It takes 3 hours from Woodlands Train Checkpoint and you don’t have to worry about the possibility of getting stuck at Tuas or JB checkpoints for hours!

Conclusion
It’s my first time in Kluang and I was amazed at how many eateries there are just waiting to be discovered!  Nice town to visit for a weekend getaway!

Thanks for reading the article. Share if you enjoyed!

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