When my friend told his friends that he was going to Johor, a fishing enthusiast told him we must stop by Kota Tinggi to eat the famous BKT (Bak Kut Teh). We had no idea how famous this place was until we witnessed the continous turnover of local (Malaysians) and Singaporean patrons that morning!
Kiang Kee Bak Kut Tea Restaurant 强记早市肉骨茶 is located along the main road from Kota Tinggi town to Mersing. It took us about 45minutes to an hour to reach here from Singapore. For this ocassion, the owl (me) turned into lark
We nearly missed the “restaurant” when I casually highlighted to Kev that “there’s a BKT to your right” and he smoothly manouevered his car to a stop. He checked his iPhone text message and informed me that this was our destination. Obscured by trees and cars, we could have easily missed this place without a second look had I not been on the lookout.
We were the only Singaporean car that morning but I noticed quite a few from Johor Bahru (from their number plates). As this was our first visit, we had a little trouble with the ordering procedure. Luckily, the friendly lady told us we should proceed to the counter to place our orders.
We a took a corner seat for about 10 minutes before the food started to stream in piping hot! A strong whiff of Chinese herbs scented the air as the server laid the BKT on our table. Later as I was snapping away, Kev took a sip of the herbal broth and exclaimed he has never had it so good! So what’s the big deal I asked before tasting the broth… I think I felt the earth shook!
Firstly, the meat was cooked traditional style. The ribs had just right amount of tenderness with enough texture for me to chew on. The herbal fragrance was strong but not bitter. We had an extra order of crispy deep-fried beanskin (fu chok) for this dish. Kev asked if I have had this kind of soup before and if they were comparable. I told him I had herbal BKT (Singapore’s BKT is clear broth with lots of pepper and very little herb, if any) in Kuala Lumpur and this was comparable to those in Pasang or Klang’s BKT. In fact, on retrospect as I write this post, I think I like this a teeny weeny bit better.
I’m regarded as an unhealthy eater; I like organ meats, fatty stuff, all the high calorie foods you can think of. To me, fat is flavour. I am learning to eat in moderation so I may live longer in order to enjoy more goodies. Our next dish the pig’s tripe (stomach) soup was not too peppery (unlike the Singapore version) but the soft yet chewy texture was something I could die for. One could treat this as facial exercise and look a few years younger without any cosmetic refreshment.
The youtiao was nothing to shout about yet not one to loathe at. They were not crispy like those served for breakfast with kopi-O but firm enough to serve its purpose. These are dunking “donuts” to be dunk into the soup before popping into your mouth. We almost finish everything in this bowl too but I had to restrain myself from too much carbohydrate consumption.
Kev asked what’s the brown cube in the salted vegetables. I scrutinised it from afar and told him nonchalantly, pork fat. He had to ask why… because it’s flavoursome that’s why.
Chucking a big piece of the spicy otak into my mouth, the heat of the spice stung me at first. As the sensation on my tongue recovered, I could taste a rich aroma of the spices and smooth coconut egg custard with meaty pieces of fish. Definitely one of the best otak I have eaten, enhanced with a slight springy texture. I have to get the contact of this supplier, Otak Otak Ah Boon! Where are you?
The Chinese tea we had was not the finest crafted tea leaves but they did a good job “washing” away the fatty meal (Chinese believes that drinking tea helps metabolise fats in diet and hence the popular craze of green tea [long jing – dragon well] sold as slimming tea especially in USA).
To say that Singaporeans eat to live is an understatement. Singaporeans are one of the most passionate when it comes to food. The proof is in the driving!
Was the long and winding drive from Singapore to Kota Tinggi to eat at this attap dwelling (wooden houses with nypa fruticans or nipa palm known as attap [Singapore], nipa [Philippines], buah atap [Indonesia] and buah nioa [Malaysia] with early 1900s kampong architecture) worth it? Kev gave a resounding YES!
Happy day tripping