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Food around Muar, Johor and getting there in a Suzuki Swift

By Rigval on 09 Feb 2011

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Peninsular Malaysia is a great place to travel and do some motoring. Some would do motoring for sightseeing, some would do it to reach their holiday destination, some for the thrill of driving and some for food hunting. I know of some friends who would hit the Causeway or the Second Link in Tuas early in the morning for some fishball noodles at Yong Peng or for some Biryani Gam Rice in Batu Pahat. Both towns are located in the neighbouring Malaysian state of Johor. One other Johor delicacy that is worth mentioning is Asam Pedas.

Asam Pedas is a spicy fish stew-like dish made with tamarind (asam) fruit juice. Now without sounding too much like Gordon Ramsay the cooking process involves soaking the pulp of the fruit until it is soft and then squeezing out the juice for cooking the fish. Various vegetables such as brinjals, lady fingers and tomatoes are added. Fish (such as mackerel or red snapper) is added to make a spicy and tart fish stew. It is important that the fish remain intact for serving so generally the fish is added last. Note that there are various styles of preparation, the Johor Malay version, the Johor version by the local Chinese and the Baba Nyonya (or Melaka) version. I won't go into detail as this isn't Now enough with the cooking lesson and on with the article.

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The thing with asam pedas is that it usually is difficult to find properly tasting ones like those you find in traditional Malaysian households of the races mentioned above. One nice place to try asam pedas and soak in some rustic rural Malaysian environment is in Parit Jawa in Muar. Muar is a town that is located on the North-Western Tip of Johor and close to Malacca. It should be about two hours away from the Causeways and you can take the Pagoh or the Yong Peng North exit and make your way towards Muar. Parit Jawa is located on the Muar-Batu Pahat trunk road and is one of the older settlements in the state of Johor. You can even find pre-war shophouses (photo above) lining its small town center.

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So once you reach Parit Jawa you will see signboards pointing the way to 'Medan Asam Pedas Parit Jawa'. The local council has basically seen the demand for freshly cooked asam pedas and has actually built a food court specially catering for asam pedas. And what makes Parit Jawa a pretty good place to have asam pedas is the fact that it is a traditional Malaysian fishing village. This means that the fish is extremely fresh. The asam pedas food court is located right beside a fishing village complete with a water lock (for irrigation in the nearby crop plantations), fishing boats all lined up and an authentic Malaysian village (kampung) environment for you to soak in while eating some fish stew.

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I was there on a Johor state public holiday and only some of the stalls in the food court were open. I'd recommend the 'warung' or stall under the name' Mak Pon' for pretty authentic Malay style asam pedas. I am sorry I didn't take any pictures of the actual dish as I was pretty captivated with the fishing boats and all. I was thinking about being in a scene of the Deadliest Catch (albeit a very tame and localized version without the rough seas and all) as I was more enthralled about the boats and water lock. It must be the kid in me being more interested in machinery and engineering stuff and all.

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So what did I drive throughout this trip then? A Suzuki Swift 1.5automatic with about 55,000km on the clock. It felt beautifully taut on all the roads it encountered. On a couple of occasions I let it stray to beyond 160km/h and it felt solid at those higher than average speeds. On the B-roads around Muar, namely the Tangkak to Muar road its suspension deftly handled the bumps and undulations. Its 185/60/15 tires may not have the grip of the slightly wider 195/50/16 tires of the Swift Sport (it understeers earlier and isn't as snappy like the Sport) but if you learn to drive within its limitations it is a pretty great hatchback for B roads. The beam axle at the rear felts nicely tied down and the sideways movement that you often feel in cars with this sort of rear suspension is very limited. It must be the fact that the car's overall weight is only slightly above 1,000kg so there is a lack of inertia compared to larger beam axle equipped cars like, say the Latio hatchback or the Pug 308.

Bombing down the sweeping corners and twisties that are also full of undulations in a very well made little hatchback shows that it isn't necessary to have an extremely powerful or fast car to enjoy motoring. Of course it'll help if you do, but if you cannot afford all the power and speed, then there is always a small Suzuki to fall back onto. Let's hope that the next generation Swift drives as well as this one.

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Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.

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