Food is served best with a generous helping of family members. This was clearly proven so when, together with a five-car convoy of my paternal relatives, I travelled across the border to the Malaysian state of Johor during the recent Aidiladha weekend to visit a group of extended family members. As the saying goes; the more, the merrier.
Our first stop after numerous twists and turns past real estate somewhere in Pulai – located in central Johor Bahru – lead us to an open-air eatery that seemed to have popped out of nowhere. The sun seemed to be at its brightest, and rightfully so with my wristwatch reflecting half past ten in the morning. Once we settled on one of the many wobbly plastic tables lined with synthetic vinyl tablecloths, I placed an order of 2 pieces of roti canai; the local rendition of an Indian flatbread. Fellow table mates – my mum, uncle and cousin – followed suit.
We knew what to expect from past experiences of having this fluffy and light, yet crispy disc of dough; and we were certainly not disappointed. Paired with a gutsy curry, it was a fantastic way to start the day. Not long after, my cousin proceeded to order a plate of nasi lemak (steamed coconut rice; a staple breakfast offering usually found in Malaysia and Singapore).
Served with a piece of beautifully seasoned and spiced fried chicken, the obligatory deep fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and groundnut duo and, a fiery sambal (a chili-based condiment; usually found alongside Malaysian and Indonesian dishes), it was pure bliss. As I managed to get a little bit of everything went onto the spoon, the flavours and textures harmonized flawlessly within the confines of my oral orifice.
We sang never-ending praises of our delectable fare, but we also knew there was much more was to come as we continued our journey towards the southwestern Johor city of Pontian.