[MY] Kin Wah | 锦華 - Makanan Sedap!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

I will first like to give credit to 'Johor Kaki Blog' for their recommendations on their blog and more importantly the exact addresses of each eatery! As it was a day-trip made to JB, we had to choose our makan (eating in Malay)-targets carefully so as to make the trip calories-worthy! Makanan Sedap (which translates to good food in Malay), here we come!

After reading some raving reviews about Kin Wah Kedai Makan which also received a strong recommendation from 'Johor Kaki', we thought that this would definitely be our 'Die-Die-Must-Try' (DDMT) place!

The lunch crowd was starting to crawl in to this humble looking coffee shop and we were fortunate to grab ourselves an empty table and figure out where and how to start ordering. The overbearing afternoon heat coupled with the busy crowd left us pretty flustered and frustrated for I had no idea what was good other than Nasi Padang. Plagued with the classic 'decidophobia', we were pretty intimidated when faced with a wide variety of fresh home-cooked 'Halal' dishes to choose from for each of them looked equally tempting and delicious! The natural order sequence at Kin Wah would be to grab yourself a seat, place your drink orders with the waiters who would come to you to take orders, then head forth to the counter to pick your different sides and mains to make up your Nasi Padang which will be billed accordingly.

Before we continue and lose some of you, let me briefly explain what Nasi Padang is. With an Indonesian origin (since Padang is a city on the west coast of Sumatra), the dish consists of steamed white rice wide a variety of meat and vegetable choices ranging from spiced dishes such as curry chicken to vegetable soup. The dishes are typically shared like a mini buffet where one would expect to help himself by scooping onto his plate of rice. Now that I had, hopefully painted a clearer picture of what Nasi Padang is, it is makan time!

Nasi Padang

We particularly liked the fact that the dishes were served atop a woven rattan 'plate', contained by the brown paper. The image of the dish just looked so fitting and apt to us for some reason, in that classic old school coffee shop setting with the overhead ceiling fan and the occasional yelling in the background. 'Beautiful Kopitiam'.

We ordered two plates of rice dishes to share among the four of us and went for different mains and sides on each plate. The chicken curry for this was mesmerizing. The coconut flavoured chicken curry had just the right amount of heat in it, probably diffused by the addition of fresh coconut milk so it would suit the masses. The flavours packed a good punch owed to the spices and the flesh of the chicken remained surprisingly tender and moist.

Spoilt for choice, I decided to ask for recommendations from the lady boss who was at the end of the till collecting payments. She instantaneously pointed to the rendant ayam (chicken rendang) which she claimed was the best-seller dish and a constant sold-out! Culinary experts for some reason regard rendang as the 'caramelized curry' according to CNN International and apparently an online poll in 2011 by 35,000 people chose this dish as the No. 1 of their 'World's 50 Most Delicious Foods (Readers' Pick) list.

This particular ayam rendang served at Kin Wah certainly saw some hard work into the cooking process. Traditionally, this dish takes hours to cook (some claimed a minimum of 4 hours), where the chosen main meat (be it lamb, chicken or beef) would be cooked together with coconut milk and a mixed ground spices paste which includes ginger, galangal, turmeric leaves, lemon grass, shallot, garlic, chilis and other spices. As some of these key spices have antimicrobial properties, serving as natural organic preservatives, a well-cooked dry rendang can last up to a month! The meat pieces soaked in the coconut milk and spices have to be cooked at a precise temperature till the liquid evaporates, allowing the meat to absorb the condiments. The cooking process is then varied from boiling to frying as the liquid evaporates and this slow-cooking not only allows the flavours from the spices to be infused into the meat but also tenderizes the meat. The cooking process also involves constant stirring of the coconut milk and the meat so as to prevent over-burn of the beautiful protein.

Anyhow, let us return to this salivating dish. It was an instant winner for all four of us at the table. With a rich consistency in the unique blend of flavours, it was no wonder that even our fussy palates found the chicken rendang cooked beautifully and spot-on. The richness was there, coupled with a grainy texture of creaminess and viscosity. The heat of the spices was also cleverly neutralized with the coconut milk, leaving just enough to titillate one's appetite for a sumptuous meal.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Mee Rebus

I overheard other regular patrons ordering the mee rebus and it looked too good to resist. It proved too true and I highly recommend this simple looking dish which came at an affordable RM3. The colours of the dish were beautiful and enticing to begin with and the unique difference was that brown crispy batter toppings which gave a crunchy layer of texture to the soft yellow noodles. I tried to ask them what that batter was but the lady boss was rather reluctant to reveal and simply brushed off that it was a secret recipe by their chefs. Our preliminary tasting suggested that it was the batter used in deep-frying the chicken pieces for that was the pleasantly outstanding flavour. That strong chicken fragrance reeked of its own seasoning and it was coupled with deep fried shallots to enhance the taste and flavours.

We also enjoyed the balance in flavours owed from the acidity of the fresh lime pairing harmoniously with the fresh cut chilis. The slight disappointment was that the yellow egg noodles spent a tad too much time in the hot water, resulting in it being slightly overcooked, tasting limp and flat. The spicy yet slightly sweet curry-like gravy made from potatoes, curry powder, water, salted soybeans, dried shrimps and peanuts was a pleasant savoury touch to the dish and it was surprisingly addictive!

Verdict: 8.0/10 

Nasi Lemak

This was a simple no frills Nasi Lemak, which some consider to be the national dish of Malaysia. It is essentially a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It looked awfully bare and unappetizing when we first unwrapped the brown paper, but the rice was cooked to perfection. One could hardly ask for more with a price tag of RM1.50 to its name, which was about S$0.60. The rice grains were easily separated individually and cooked al dente. It was soaked in coconut cream and the mixture steamed to create the fragrant rice. The fresh aroma of the coconut rice just kept me scouring for another serving after the last. The crunchy peanuts were crisp and that accompanying sambal chili made it complete. Sedap!

Verdict: 8.5/10

There were two Chinese lady bosses in the coffee shop. One was a younger looking lady tending the Nasi Padang stall while the latter attended to drinks and toast orders. The second Chinese lady boss was very friendly and approachable and did not mind taking some time to chat with us. Kin Wah is apparently a family-run business for the past 51 years and she had only returned in recent years to help out. She previously ran a canteen stall at Hwa Chong Institution and with her great hospitality, it was no surprise that past students actually visit her at Kin Wah to reminisce old times!

Kaya Toasts

We felt that the kaya toasts were okay but admittedly it was not particularly impressive nor memorable. The toast was made to order, so it was served crisp and warm. The butter was a sliced wedge but a little too thin for our liking to give a good oomph. Personally, I prefer the kaya in my toast to be oozing out in plentifulness on the sides with each bite for that sinful indulgence. The kaya standalone though was one of the better ones tried, with a good balance in sweetness and pandan flavour.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Half-Boiled Eggs

Now, the simple half-boiled eggs was definitely an epic dish. The rest of the dining companions could not help but marvel at the gorgeous orange-coloured egg yolk which was barely contained by the thin membrane. The large eggs used were fresh and bursting with richness and it was within moments that I slurped it all up, leaving nothing to spare. 

I was actually going to order this when I first sat down but the lady boss held back my order for she wanted me to try it warm, fresh and on the spot upon serving. She patiently waited for me to finish my nasi padang before returning to check if I still wanted the order. This is what I meant by top-class customer service and you certainly do not only receive it at high-class restaurants.

Verdict: 9.0/10


There was no better way to end off a good lunch meal with a cup of freshly brewed kopi-o-kosong (black coffee without sugar). The acidity was spot-on, and preference for caffeine is very subjective as I generally like mine to be from dark-roasted beans and low acidity so this suited me perfectly.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Braided Biscuits (麻花/辫子酥)

Definitely a DDMT! We noticed that some people were coming to the coffee shops and buying by the dozens and decided to ask the lady boss about it while chatting. We decided to buy a packet to try on the spot and indeed it was as good as she claimed it to be! The oil used in deep-frying the dough was clean, fresh and did not have that unpleasant stale and appalling smell. It was firm and crispy and not overly sweet. Well, I guess the best testament was that we bought 5 more packets for takeaway!

Verdict: 9.0/10

I noticed a rojak stall in the coffee shop too but we were too full by then to order any more food. Kin Wah is surely a place that I look forward to revisit when I next drop by JB for my makan-trail! Good quality food, affordable prices and good service, Malaysia Boleh Lah!

Kin Wah Kedai Makan (锦華餐室)
8 Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Bahru

P.S: Do visit early as Kin Wah serves the breakfast and lunch crowd primarily so they are opened till the food is sold out. On this particular visit, we came at around 12pm and business was really brisk!

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