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  • Writer's pictureRick

West Malaysia Day 2: A Food Haven in Kluang

I had intended to get up early for breakfast, but not before 6am. I was awaken by other guests leaving their rooms and talking in the corridor and making noises again when they returned an hour later. I did not know that it was Ramadan and Muslim guests would go out for their suhoor (first meal before sunrise). Even so, a little consideration would be much appreciated!

At 7:30am, Kluang town was all quiet with near-deserted streets. I made my way to Kluang Railway Station about 500 metres from Milano Hotel.

The station was still functioning as usual but a new station was being built just several hundred metres away. The new elevated railway track was already in used since my first day-trip to Kluang in September 2022. I was not here to catch a train but to have breakfast at the train station’s canteen.

Since 1938, the canteen had advanced with time, came to be known as “Kluang Rail Coffee” and expanded to having several cafe-style outlets in Kluang. Dubbed as the “Original Kluang Rail Coffee”, the little canteen was always packed and with long queues whenever I was at the station. It was a good opportunity for me to be staying in Kluang, getting up early and on a weekday to beat the queue — I thought I beat the queue but it was due to Ramadan that Muslim customers were not there to vie with me.

The canteen was near empty early in the morning and I picked a table in one corner with a great view of the surroundings. I already knew what I wanted to eat since I had been wanting to visit this canteen for months. I ordered laksa Johor, kopi-o kosong and added a bun bakar (grilled bun) with butter and kaya.

The laksa Johor was very different from the laksa I had tried before at Selera Johor, beside Larkin Sentral. The main similarity could be the use of spaghetti and I could not know the ingredients that were minced to created the gravy.

After breakfast, I took a walk to hunt down a coffee-theme mural that I spotted whenever I took buses to Kluang. I saw it again the day before from inside Johore Motor Bus 56. The mural was so near, yet so far for visitors as the spot was outside the town centre.

The mural was not alone — it was the first along an alley of more murals. I spent about 10 minutes here before heading back to town.

As the town was still asleep at around 9am, I went back to the hotel to rest until 10am. There was a shop that I wanted to visit and it opened at 10am. I made my way to the shop, which was located diagonally opposite Tong Huat Confectionery.

Lesser known as Restoran Chin Yoke Peng, the little shop served kuih krystal or crystal dumplings (水晶糕), glutinous rice balls and some noodle dishes. Due to lack of manpower, the crystal dumplings were unavailable until May, but other items were still available. Since I was already at the shop, I decided to try their glutinous rice balls in ginger soup (姜汁汤圆). The peanut filling was sweet and savoury and ginger soup was light and not too spicy. I liked it!

With nothing much to do, I made my way towards Kluang Coffee Powder Factory — hoping it would conduct some factory tours on weekdays. I spotted a huge mural along the way, walked towards it and discovered yet another alley of murals. “Kluang Street Arts” was not just a lane but referred to artworks that were dispersed in corners and alleys of Kluang.

There was no factory tour at Kluang Coffee Powder Factory and I would not want to buy any coffee beans or powder and carry them for the next 20+ days across West Malaysia. The only thing that I could do was to order a cup of affogato from The Kopi Factory cafe, sat at a table, enjoyed the cold coffee dessert and stayed away from the scorching sun as long as possible.

12:30pm, lunch time. I left the coffee factory and walked to a cafe that was located in a desolated corner along Jalan Sekolah Chong Hwa. No one would ever want to walk to the cafe under the hot sun — except probably me. And this was the second time I did it.

I was the only customer in Loveyog, or Cow Cow Yogurt, on a weekday noon. But I liked the quietness. Per the staff’s recommendations, I had Korean Jjajang Ramen (sweet & spicy) and taro yogurt. I finally got to try their yogurt which I missed nearly two years ago.

While having lunch, I did a search on Google Maps and found a toddy shop in Kluang — I wanted to visit a similar shop in JB the day before but it was not opened. The toddy shop was actually quite near to Kluang Railway Station. It would be quite a walk under the sun to get there.

After 1.6Km and 20 minutes later, I stood outside the toddy shop, which was opened. It did not have a name. They served toddy in a mug or 1.5L bottles. I enquired about the bottled wine and was told by the owner (I assumed) that it must be consumed within 2 days without a fridge or it would turn bad. I struck off the idea of getting a bottle and bought a big mug (RM6) to drink on the spot.

Toddy, or tuak as the shop assimilated it, was palm wine made from fermenting coconut tree’s palm sap naturally. It had a mild sourish-fermented aroma but tasted sweet-acidic, like a fizzy drink after losing its bubbles. It was my first time trying the natural alcohol and it seemed to me that the alcohol content was not very high — probably much lesser than 3%.

I downed more than half a mug and the friendly guys at the next table topped it up to full again. That effectively cut short the list of things that I could still do for the day. Day 2 gonna end here, I thought.

But I walked back to the hotel sober, showered, closed my eyes and knocked off until 5:40pm. The taste of toddy had lingered in my mouth and it was quite unpleasant — neither was beer, grape wine or any liquor. I washed up and hit the streets.

Not wanting to go for anything that was too heavy for dinner, I went searching for light food. I came to Ngepot Kabin, near the bus terminal, that sold only Halal food. While checking out the stalls, I sensed something unusual in the atmosphere — nobody was eating. Oh, it was at this point that I realised it was Ramadan and not yet sunset (defined as 7:15pm). I decided to try other places as I would feel guilty if I were the only one eating.

I came to Fendy’s Burger, a road-side stall opposite Ngepot Kabin, which I had tried once before. I bought a daging special burger with a beef patty and an egg. There were portable tables behind the stall, where I sat down to eat the tasty burger. I was the only person sitting and eating at the tables so I did not feel any sense of guilt.

I could still go for something light so I went to a Taiwanese dessert shop that had been on my must-try list ever since I first dined at Tangkak Beef, which served delightful beef noodles. The dessert shop was right beside it.

The dessert shop, called Four Beans (四夕豆花), offered Taiwanese-style soya beancurd desserts similar to Old Alley and Pre-Tea Q in Kluang but with some twists. I ordered their signature “tofu fa” (招牌豆花) and the dessert came with separate servings of syrup (for sweetness), soy milk and peanut powder (for enhancing the flavours). I could adjust the taste of the dessert to my liking. After trying the original taste of the “tofu fa”, I added the soy milk and peanut powder generously but used the syrup sparingly.

8:30pm, I was back at the hotel, showered again, blogged my day events and slept. This would be my routine for all nights on this trip.


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