[JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia] Whenever I cross the causeway, Ban Heong Seng Restaurant 万香城餐馆 is one food gem which I would try to make a conscious effort to visit.
Not a new name as they used to operate as a home kitchen more than a decade ago back at Danga Bay area.
That has won them its share of fandom and raves over its Traditional Beggar’s Chicken.
Fast forward many years, they have since relocated to Skudai area in JB, but things seemed to be quieter nowadays.
I went on a Friday lunch time and was greeted with an empty zi char restaurant; my group were the only patrons during that session.
Understandably, this neighbourhood is rather off-track from our usual favourite hangout places like Taman Sentosa and Austin Heights.
It is slightly further northwest from iconic places like Paradigm Mall and Sutera mall.
Sounds far, but it can still be conveniently reached with a 20 mins car ride from immigration checkpoint.
Ban Heong Seng is known for their Beggar’s Chicken – an iconic Chinese dish featuring a whole chicken stuffed with ingredients and seasoning marinate.
The bird is further encased in clay exterior before burying it in charcoal to cook over time in high heat.
While modern interpretation of this dish could be done using flour dough encasing and heating done using convection oven, Ban Heong Seng prides themselves in adhering to the traditional way of preparation.
That means, each chicken will arduously require a slow cooking process of at least 6 hours.
The owner showed me to their back kitchen to retrieve the clay-packages which are buried in a bed of hot charcoal.
After which they will break the clay-packages by hammering open the shell and removal of multiple baking paper layers.
The crowned jewel without a doubt, goes to their Beggar’s Chicken (RM60, SGD17.40).
Upon breaking open, I could immediately detect a whiff of aromatic savoury-sweetness from its sauce marinade.
Using kampung chicken, I was expecting the meat texture to be leaner and chewier due to the lesser fat content.
Surprisingly, the chicken meat was slow-cooked till tender soft and thoroughly infused with flavours from paring ingredients such as goji berries, angelica roots and red dates.
The flavour of Chinese yellow wine was also fragrant and distinctive, with an uncloyingly sweet finish.
The boss then humbly shared that he brewed his own huangjiu, in order to achieve the ideal concoction and flavour intensity which brings out essence of the dish.
#Respect for that level of dedication.
If chicken is not your thing, there is also the Beggar’s Duck (RM78, SGD22.60).
While the marinade was probably similar, the duck variant had a stronger herbal alcoholic infusion.
Probably to mask the natural gamier flavour of duck meat, but it actually elevated the whole dish with its rich and intense flavour profile.
Other dishes which adopted this cooking methodology are such as Oyster Rice (RM32, SGD9.30) and Pork Ribs/Trotter/Belly (RM45, SGD13.10).
Another less commonly seen dish on the menu is probably Country Fish (Seasonal Price).
First, the fish meat and bone have to be carefully removed without breaking the skin, mince the meat into paste, and stuff the fillings back to the skin.
While some may argue that its just ordinary mackerel fish cake, I think it deserves credit by the sheer amount of labour effort that went into this dish.
Common zi char dishes such as Cereal Prawn (RM48, SGD13.90), Sweet & Sour Pork (RM18, SGD5.20) and Fried Tofu (RM16, SGD4.60) are also available.
As their speciality dishes require long cooking process, you NEED TO make an advance order for those dishes or it will be a wasted trip.
Whatsapp +60 16-757 1887 at least one day in advance to secure your order.
Ban Heong Seng Restaurant 万香城餐馆
113, Jalan Impian Emas 22, Taman Impian Emas, 81300 Skudai, Johor, Malaysia
Tel: +60 16-757 1887 (Whatsapp to advance order)
Opening Hours: 12pm – 2pm, 5pm – 9pm (Fri – Wed), Closed Thurs
Google Maps – Ban Heong Seng
Other Related Entries
Restoran Ya Wang (Jln Segget, Johor Bahru)
Restoran Kota Zheng Zong Bak Kut Teh (Johor Bahru)
Chi-Gui Mala Hot Pot 赤鬼麻辣火锅 (Mid Valley, Johor Bahru)
Restoran Gim Cheng 锦成茶楼 (Johor Bahru)
* Written by Lewis Tan @juicyfingers, a self-proclaimed coffee addict. DFD paid for food reviewed unless otherwise stated.