10 Things to Eat in Johor Bahru as Recommended by Locals

10 Things to Eat in Johor Bahru as Recommended by Locals

Here's to a foodie adventure in Johor!

Malaysia is a food haven most foodies adore. Be it cendol in Penang or Peranakan cuisine in Malacca, there are plenty of awesome culinary choices in the country. However, there is one particular city that remains an underrated food destination: Johor Bahru (or JB for short). Today, let’s take a look at the top ten things to eat when visiting Johor Bahru! 

Also read: Top 9 Shopping Malls in Johor Bahru For Your Retail Therapy

1. Johor Laksa

johor laksa johor things to eat

Image credit: Abel Brata via Canva Pro

Laksa is a popular dish, not only in Johor, but in Malaysia in general. But did you know that almost every state in Malaysia adds its own unique twist to this beloved dish? While most laksa dishes use either rice noodles or egg noodles, Johor laksa uses a more unique ingredient: spaghetti! 

Apart from the unique noodle choice, Johor laksa also comes with a slightly thicker and richer gravy. The dish is usually topped with shredded vegetables and meat, and a dash of freshly-squeezed lime to bring everything together. 

2. Nasi Ambeng

Nasi ambeng is a popular rice dish in Johor that’s often served during weddings and special occasions. Traditionally, nasi ambeng is served on a large platter lined with banana leaves, accompanied by a variety of scrumptious side dishes. These iclude fried noodles, chicken/beef rendang, coconut floss, stir-fried vegetables, spicy sambal, and more. The proper way to enjoy this wonderful communal dish is to sit around the platter and feast using your hands. 

Nowadays, you can find nasi ambeng in most Malay restaurants in Johor. The only catch is that instead of the platter, the dish is sometimes wrapped in banana leaves in the same way as nasi lemak. Though the experience of enjoying nasi ambeng might be a little different this way, rest assured that the flavour remains impeccable. 

Fun fact: While nasi ambeng is undoubtedly a popular dish in Johor, its roots can actually be traced back to the Javanese community that migrated to the state from as early as the 6th century! 

3. Nasi Briyani Gam

You might be thinking: Briyani isn’t all that special, I can probably find this anywhere in Malaysia. While you’re not wrong, Johor’s version of the dish, briyani gam, is a little different. 

For most biryani dishes, the rice is usually cooked separately from the other ingredients and assembled together before serving. However, to cook the perfect biryani gam, the fragrant basmati rice is cooked together with the other ingredients in the same pot. This allows the oils and fragrances of the other ingredients to seep into the rice, giving it an extra layer of aroma. It also keeps the rice moist and fluffy. 

4. Lontong Kering

Lontong kering is a breakfast favourite among the locals of Johor. The best way to explain this rustic dish would be to equate it to the Johorean equivalent of nasi lemak, except this dish is much more filling.

While there’s nothing special about the type of rice used to make lontong kering, the method of cooking and presentation is quite special. The rice is wrapped tightly in fragrant banana leaves and then steamed. This keeps the cooked rice tight and compact. The rice is then cut into several pieces and served with other side dishes like rendang, sambal, and vegetables.

5. Mee Rebus

mee rebus things to eat in Johor

Image credit: MizterSyahrul via Canva Pro

Mee rebus is another popular dish that’s widely available in Malaysia but just like all the other dishes on this list, Johoreans have found a way to add their own twist! And no, before you think it, they don’t replace the noodles here with spaghetti! 

Instead, the key to flavour lies in the broth, made using a combination of dried shrimp, soybeans, curry powder, and sweet potato. The slurpy broth has a bit of a sweet yet savoury taste, with a consistency that is closer to gravy than soup. In a typical dish, you’ll also get egg noodles, egg, bean sprouts, and green chilis. Occasionally, you’ll also receive crispy prawn fritters to top it all off! 

6. Asam Pedas

Asam pedas is a beloved dish that’s popular along the southern coast of Peninsula Malaysia. This dish often consists of fish that is cooked in a tangy, savoury broth that is full of spices. 

What makes the broth in Johor asam pedas so special is the inclusion of cili giling, a traditional paste made using dried chili. Adding the paste to a soup base along with torch ginger flower and lime leaves gives it an irresistible sour aftertaste that goes well with rice. 

7. Kacang Pool

Without mincing words, kacang pool is one of my favourite comfort foods in Johor. Another stellar example of Johor’s multicultural culinary scene, kacang pool is a savoury fava bean stew with minced meat that is topped with shredded onions, green chilis, and a sunny-side-up egg. The stew comes with thick buttered toast for dipping. Trust me, once it hits your mouth, you’re in for an explosion of flavours! 

Historically, this dish was introduced to Johor by Middle Eastern traders. Today, kacang pool is the breakfast of choice in JB, and I can’t help but agree! 

8. Roast duck

Singapore might have its famous chicken rice, but Johoreans can certainly take pride in their famous roast duck! While there is a multitude of different recipes, the conventional way is to marinate the bird in herbs and spices over a few days before baking it in an oven. 

The result is a perfect roast duck with crispy skin and tender, juicy meat that is simply irresistible! Often served with fragrant white rice accompanied by a sweet plum dipping sauce, roast duck is an indisputable lunchtime favourite in JB, and you’d do well to try it yourself when you’re in town! 

9. Coal fire-baked pastries from Salahuddin Bakery

Whether it’s the aroma of the bread, the rustic decor, or simply the nostalgia of walking into a traditional bakery, there’s no denying that there’s something about artisanal bakeries that make them stand out. 

Salahuddin Bakery on Jalan Dhoby has been ever-present in JB since 1937. That’s more than 80 years of history! Despite having been passed down from generation to generation, this family-owned bakery (the oldest in JB) still uses coal-fired ovens to bake their bread, ensuring that the quality and freshness from years long gone by continues to be a stellar hallmark of their products today. It’s so famous that the bakery regularly serves customers from all over Malaysia and even those who come from Singapore! 

10. Wood fire-baked banana cakes from Hiap Joo Bakery

From one legendary pastry shop to another, Hiap Joo Bakery is another family business that many locals claim sells the very best banana cake in JB! Their secret? Using traditional wood-fired ovens to bake their delectable treats. 

The result is a banana cake that is soft, moist, and spongy to touch. Not only are they amazing when eaten fresh out of the oven, but they also make incredible souvenirs. And since they only use the finest bananas, the cakes from Hiap Joo Bakery pack more natural flavour and are less sweet than most other banana cakes. 

Fun fact: Having been in business since 1919, Hiap Joo Bakery is now over 100 years old and still going strong! 

Time for a gastronomic adventure in the south of Malaysia!

And there you have it: The top ten things to eat in Johor Bahru for avid foodies! So the next time you’re in town, make sure to go on an epic food tour and taste the best that the southern state of Malaysia has to offer! 

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.