I don’t suppose many of you have been to Muar. However, I’m certain you have heard of Muar Otah at least.
Muar is apparently the second biggest district in the state of Johor, Malaysia. Within Muar, there are sub-districts on the outskirts, such as Pagoh, Grisek, Parit Jawa, etc. Therefore, depending which part you are in, usually, the locals will describe their area as its sub-district instead of referring to the term “Muar”. However, all are easily accessible to “Muar Town”. Transport is often by motorcycle and car.
Over the weekend, I headed up to Grisek, Muar. A kampong area about 30min from Muar Town. There, the locals grow their own vegetables for self-sustenance and other agriculture. The local community sometimes hold markets “pasar” where they can sell local catch and produce. The place is generally pretty run down except for clusters of colourful industrial buildings. Sad to say, because of such plans, the area is seemingly losing its charm. Nevertheless, it is still a place to go for food, especially Otah and Durians (availability subjected to season). In the day, things are pretty slow, the locals usually hang around their homes with the occasional trips to work (because they usually have their own businesses) and to the farms. Everyone knows everyone, so it’s easy to head to the nearest kopitiam to find a friend without having to SMS or call ahead of time.
Communities there used to be safer and close knit. However, with recent influx of foreign workers, there have been increased crime rates. The local community had to even organise petrol teams to take turns at night and watch over the kampong. Therefore, people are a little less trusting of the new faces in their town and gradually drift apart. So, if you ever head over there, it is good to develop a little OCD and be careful with wallets and handbags.
On to a little more happy things, the food! I discovered a newly open dimsum place in the area of Bukit Gambir, just 5 min from Grisek, called Yun2 Lai2 (“Cloud Coming” Literally translated) selling a very, very familiar Tau Sa Pau, that has been popular here in Singapore. They of course tasted exactly the same and naturally, at a friendlier price. Dim sum is served just outside the shop and customers are encouraged to make their own selection, afterwhich, will be reheated and served to your table. There is a good selection of Paus, lotus paste, red bean paste, chicken meat and of course charsiew. All the paus are served piping hot with generous fillings. More importantly, the pau itself is pillow soft and every bite is so comforting and warm. Definitely, unlike the paus here that tend to be a little tougher and sometimes slightly more chewy. It’s hard to stop at just one! However, I can’t give you the address because I don’t know! roads are little confusing, but I hope the name of the shop and area will help! Opening hours 0630-1500hrs. Prices from 1.30RM for paus and 2.00RM for dimsum and above.
I was also lucky to have enjoyed a fantastic Bak Kut Teh, served with a choice of white rice or yam rice (my pick!). It is also in the Bukit Gambir area and located next to the Shell station. It is open from 0700 to 1400hrs, except of wednesday or thursday, can’t recall. The herbal broth is great to start the day. It is served in a claypot with golden mushrooms, beancurd skin (my favourite!), lettuce, canned mushrooms, meat balls, pork ribs(of course) and pig innards (optional). Per person is approx 10RM and above. The owner is quite a dashing and well built man in his 40s. I had the additional joy of enjoying the bak kut teh with home grown oyster and king shitake mushrooms grown by my husband’s family in Grisek. Yes, you can bring your own mushrooms and the owner will be more than happy to add them in for you.
Oh yes, there are also many little shops selling old fashion biscuits in all shapes, sizes and colour (sometimes). Roti Prata, or Roti Canai (as referred to in Malaysia), is of course a common find. Muar is also quite famous for its wanton mee. Each stall does it differently and is usually sold in very small plates (like the size of a coffee saucer), for approx 3.50RM. A trip into Muar town with a desperate mission to find a clean toilet, I discovered a wanton mee stall. The noodles are slightly similar to those found at Fei Fei wanton mee (Joo Chiat). They usually use a dark sauce for the wanton mee there and the noodles have a mild alkaline taste to it. You may or may not like it, depending. However, it’s worth a try! Muar Town is usually quiet in the day and comes to light at night with food stalls lining up along the road, similar to Lau Pa Sat, with locals selling Otah, ice kachang, wanton mee, char kway teow etc. Muar Otah tastes different with every stall, so you should just go around trying to decide which you like. I’ve yet to discover my favourite! The usual Otah is made of fish, however there are new creations such as prawns, crab, cockles, clams and squid. There is a night food market that is near the bus station which I believe opens from 6pm onwards. It is brightly lit with a pretty wide selection of food.
I was only there over a weekend and didn’t have enough time or knowledge to explore more. However, it is only 1 1/2 hrs to 2 hrs away from Singapore, so if you’re bored in Singapore, I think it would be nice to stop over Muar just for some food and otah shopping. It is not far from the bustling Melaka (Approx 45min).
Kill 2 birds with one stone! Why not!