Taman Sentosa also known as 大马花园 is one of Singaporeans favourite hangout at Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Singaporeans flock across the causeway to this famous hawker market for 3 main reasons – delicious seafood, finger licking good durians and cheap petrol. On our way back Singapore from Port Dickson, we decided to make a quick stopover to fill up both our stomaches and fuel tank before facing the horrendous jam at the checkpoints.
The picture above was taken after our dinner. We actually reached the hawker centre at around 5.30pm in the afternoon before it gets really crowded. With Zhi Char stalls and their huge fires lining both sides, the whole place was warm and stuffy.
Despite the stiff competition, the prices of the seafood here are not cheap. We have to give credit to Singaporeans who dined and exclaimed ‘It’s so cheap!’. Next time if something is cheap, just shut up and eat. Don’t sabo everybody.
In the end, we settled for the Zhi Char stall closer to the main entrance where it was significantly cooler. The stall spanned across 3 shop fronts and commanded quite a sizeable patronage. The ordering process was swift and the waitress had little patience with advising the appropriate serving portion for the dishes. We left everything in her good hands.
Similar to Chomp Chomp in Singapore, the drinks here come in crazy sizes so ask to see the mug size before you make your order. I went for lime juice with sour plum to help ease the incoming grease.
Our Old Cucumber Soup (老黄瓜汤) came in a jiffy. Brewed for long hours with matured (brown, wrinkled and hard skin) cucumbers, this soup is supposed to be good for the skin and helps prevent ageing. It’s a little bland for me but my friends love it. Well, taste is subjective.
The Stir Fried Pea Sprouts (豆苗) was refreshingly crunchy.
Salted Egg Yolk Prawns were average sized and unimpressive.
Our Grilled Stingray was coated with a sweet sauce instead of a spicy sambal concoction! Not the best that I have tasted but at least the meat was a lot juicier than the one we had in Port Dickson.
My favourite dish of the lot – Fish Head Curry. The curry was thick, flavourful and generously accompanied with vegetables and tau pok (a type of flattish and square bean curd. The serving of the fish head however was pathetic, I think we were only given half a head.
Our total bill for the dinner adds up to RM$114 for 4 pax. It was filling but not amazing. We casted our hopes on the durians for a satisfying ending to our trip.
There was a few mobile durian stalls parked just opposite the hawker centre entrance. We choose one with the largest fruits. There were a few variety of durians, we went for the popular Mao Shan Wang (猫山王) or Musang King.
You have a choice to either buy the fruit or the readily packed boxes. My friend’s recommendation is to go for the fruits to be assured of freshness. You never know how long these boxes have been lying around.
We got ourselves a 3kg Mao Shan Wang (猫山王) at RM$22 per kg to gorge on the spot. It looks good but the meat was a little too dry. It is rumoured that the best of these durians from Malaysia were sent to Singapore where they fetched the highest price.
But the taste was bitter sweet – just the way I like it and I love the strong aroma.
We decided to get a smaller 2kg Mao Shan Wang (猫山王) to pack home for our parents. Although we specified 2kg, the cunning uncle still got us a 3kg. But thankfully, the meat on this durian was less dry than the one we had. That’s him transferring the durian’s content into the boxes for easier transportation.
2 full boxes of yummy top quality durians to bring home for our parents. With our more favourable exchange rates now, it works out to be around S$16 per box.
I love Johor Bahru seafood but I preferred restaurants situated along the waterfront that faced Singapore. You get to enjoy the sea breeze and the prices are much lower. The prices of seafood at Taman Sentosa is no longer cheap and the quality has deteriorated over the years. Try to avoid this tourist trap if you can. But I will still come over for the durians. If you know how to pick up the good ones, the prices here are still a steal compared to Singapore.
You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations here.