Getaways I Can Afford

Find this temple in Yong Peng and you've found the famous Gerai Mee Daging Itek Yong Peng, Malaysia.

Find this temple and you’ve found the famous Gerai Mee Daging Itek Yong Peng, Malaysia.

It took us nearly two hours from Johor Bahru to Yong Peng. I have no idea if that’s the normal duration for this route or that my friend was driving at snail’s pace but I was told I could have lunch in half an hour’s time after we crossed the Singapore – Malaysia customs! From hungry to tired to feeling nauseaus. I was suffering from gastric and indigestion from last night’s dinner… Definitely a sign of old age or wretched body!

Yong Peng Coffee Shop where Mr. Wong's stall is located.

Yong Peng Coffee Shop where Mr. Wong’s stall is located.

My friend from Kuala Lumpur had drove down to bring me into Johor Bahru to savour this exquisite dish called “半菜鸭面” or literally translated into English as “half vegetable duck noodles”. What in the world is that? According to Mr. Wong Ah Sing, the creator of this dish, 半菜鸭 is a breed of duck that used to be imported from China and Taiwan until the avian influenza hit our region badly (I’m guessing about 4 years ago maybe even earlier). Nowadays, he buys them locally (Malaysia) and claimed that the taste of the duck is not as good. This breed of duck differs from the type that is used for common roasting and specialty like peking ducks where there’s more fat (good for crisping the skin) and the meat more tender. 半菜鸭 cannot be used for roasting as the “thin” skin would char too easily, he explained. However, the “thin” skin and almost non existence of fatty tissues under it is good for braising as his herbal concoction would have no problem permeating quickly into the fowl. Although the duck meat is less tender, adjusting the cooking duration has allowed him to master a balanced texture that bordered stringy and soft. I do like it. As I sipped some of the gravy from the side dish of taukwa (firm tofu) and eggs, I couldn’t make up my mind if he’d used herbs. I thought out loud, he nodded yes and offered nothing more. Trade secret 😉

Wanton Mee - one of the original dishes Mr. Wong sells to date before the introduction of 半菜鸭面 Duck Noodles which became very popular with the locals and neighbouring states in Malaysia.

Wanton Mee MYR3 – one of the original dishes beside Laksa that Mr. Wong sells to date, before the introduction of 半菜鸭面 Duck Noodles which became very popular with the locals and neighbouring states in Malaysia.

半菜鸭面 - This is the dish my friend raved about and much preferred to the wanton mee pictured above.

半菜鸭面 MYR3- This is the dish my friend raved about and much preferred to the wanton mee pictured above.

Mr. Wong Ah Sing and I. He was gracious enough to sit down and have a conversation with me after I've had my meal.

Mr. Wong Ah Sing and I.
He was gracious enough to sit down and have a conversation with me after I’ve had my meal.

IMG_7167©BondingTool

Side dish of braised taukwa (firm tofu) and hard-boiled eggs. MYR5.

榕树下小贩中心 or Rong Shu Xia Hawker Centre is so named because there used to be a huge tree there. The trunk below the huge chopping block was the actual "榕树" tree that has since been lopped off when it threatened to collapse into the hawker centre many years ago. A search for 榕树 revealed that it's scientific name or genus is Ficus microcarpa, also known as Chinese Banyan, Malayan Banyan, Taiwan Banyan, Indian Laurel, Curtain fig, or Gajumaru (ガジュマル?), is a banyan native in the range from Sri Lanka to India, Taiwan, the Malay Archipelago, the Ryukyu Islands, Australia, and New Caledonia. Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes and hemiepiphytes in the family Moraceae. Collectively known as fig trees or figs, they are native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone. Info: Wikipedia

榕树下小贩中心 or Rong Shu Xia Hawker Centre is so named because there used to be a huge tree there. The trunk below the huge chopping block was the actual “榕树” tree that has since been lopped off when it threatened to collapse into the hawker centre many years ago.
A search for 榕树 revealed that it’s scientific name or genus is Ficus microcarpa, also known as Chinese Banyan, Malayan Banyan, Taiwan Banyan, Indian Laurel, Curtain fig, or Gajumaru (ガジュマル?), is a banyan native in the range from Sri Lanka to India, Taiwan, the Malay Archipelago, the Ryukyu Islands, Australia, and New Caledonia. Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes and hemiepiphytes in the family Moraceae. Collectively known as fig trees or figs, they are native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone. Info: Wikipedia

IMG_7169©BondingTool

It was about 3.30pm when I arrived in Yong Peng and only 3 stalls were operating. The first shop sold economical rice, and the stall next to Mr Wong’s sells rojak. To have some variety, we order it. I think it’s RM$4 (not very sure, sorry). This rojak is very similar to Singapore’s style except for one ingredient, a thin crispy crunchy wafer, which I cannot resist (and I am not a rojak fan).

After our meal, my friend drove me to another famous place in this same town, this time a bakery that doesn’t use preservatives in their bread. The round discs did not look extraordinary but they do sell like hot cakes. The bakery is located next to the shop that sells it fresh daily as they do not keep well. We got several packs of them, mostly plain and wholemeal and one more that contained crushed peanuts in them.

IMG_7194©BondingTool

This morning’s bake off.

Wholemeal and Plain Buns in the background, Peanut filled buns in the foreground.

Wholemeal and Plain Buns in the background, Peanut filled buns in the foreground.

Other goodies I bagged - Premixed Spices for Bah Kut Teh and Preserved Salted Fish in Oil.

Other goodies I bagged – Premixed Spices for Bah Kut Teh and Preserved Salted Fish in Oil.

You all know that I’m a heavy coffee drinker by now so it’s time for that but not here. Next stop Kulai or more specifically J Maison in Indahpura. I had seen this 7 layers of decadence rainbow cake and coffee on Tony’s post (click here to view) and persuaded my friend to detour – we were supposedly heading to Desaru. We turned on the GPS and managed to locate the area where the shop was to be but we weary-go-round 4 times and could not find the shop. I said the GPS says we’re here. RJ hotel is here on our left but no shop. The place for my dessert seemed deserted. I returned to Tony’s post on my phone and read the location for the 3rd time and this time more carefully. Two lines below the map inserted by Tony, the operating hours clearly informed “Tuesdays off”. I wish I could laugh it off… But by now I was dead tired and agitated from caffeine withdrawal 😦 While we were rounding the area, we saw Tea Garden and since beggar’s can’t be choosers and tea shops may jolly well serve coffee too, we went in.

IMG_7212©BondingTool

Closed on Tuesdays.

IMG_7213©BondingTool

Tea Garden in Indahpura, Kulai, Malaysia.

IMG_7215©BondingTool

The decor gave me hope that coffee is served here!

Inside Tea Garden, the place seemed to be Peranakan (Straits Chinese) in style.

Inside Tea Garden, the place seemed to be Peranakan (Straits Chinese) in style.

The waitress kept saying sold out to the items I wanted and in the end I asked her to show me what's available. My friend placed an order for the Herbal Tea with Longan and...

The waitress kept saying sold out to the items I wanted and in the end I asked her to show me what’s available. My friend placed an order for the Herbal Tea with Longan and Rojak (mixed vegetables and/or fruits or a combo of sorts – theoretically a salad with peanut sauce).

Longans (Dragon's eye 龙眼) especially dried longans are considered to have medicinal properties in TCM.

Longans (Dragon’s eye 龙眼) especially dried longans are considered to have medicinal properties in TCM. The Chinese Sinseh (physicians) believe that glucose rich longan berries are good for nourishing the brain: counteracting brain fatique, anxiety, insomnia and weak memory. It is reportedly 15 times higher than spinach and 20 times higher than grapes in blood-enriching calcium content. Longans are a favourite among the Chinese ladies for its ability to maintain youth and vitality, benefiting the ladies’ skin, hair and eyes. All these were passed on to us by our ancestors so they are not scientifically verified. Please do not take my word for it. But longans, dried or fresh are a delight to munch on 🙂

Rojak from Kulai, Malaysia. The ingredients are boiled potato cubes, deep-fried taukwa, you char kway, flour dough balls that's similar to indian rojak, fish cakes, shredded cucumbers and raw onions. The gravy is very similar to mee rebus. Sprinkled generously with crushed peanuts. It's quite unique and pleasant.

Rojak from Kulai, Malaysia. The ingredients are boiled potato cubes, deep-fried taukwa, you char kway, flour dough balls that’s similar to indian rojak, fish cakes, shredded cucumbers and raw onions. The gravy is very similar to mee rebus. Sprinkled generously with crushed peanuts. It’s quite unique and pleasant.

My order was of course Kopi O brewed from the white coffee beans and Kaya & Butter Toasts.

My order was of course Kopi O brewed from the white coffee beans and Kaya & Butter Toasts.

It was getting late and we should be on our way to Johor for dinner. Wow! This snack was not even digested yet and we’re thinking of dinner! Stay tune for my upcoming post on where and what we had for dinner.

Happy exploring 🙂

Getaways for me means taking a short break from the routined work or daily affairs. It doesn’t have to be days (affordable time) and they don’t have to hurt my pocket (affordable budget). This day trip although tiring did me some good. I was getting a little bored and complacent in Singapore.

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