Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kedai Bak Kut Teh Hin Hock - Heartwarmingly Delicious in Johor Bahru

Sometimes, it takes a trip out of Singapore to realise the things that we are missing in our homeland. And I not just talking about food.

It's the little things, that when combined together, make up a greater whole that is sorely lacking in Singapore today. And that's why, it was such a great pleasure to be eating at this humble looking place in Kedai, Johor.

Kedai BKT is run by a family, the lead patriarch being the extremely friendly Hin Hock himself.

Ably aided by his wife and 2 sons and a few workers, they start early in the morning and will finish by mid-afternoon.

Frying the Garlic in Hot Oil

It is simple fare here, nothing fancy and nothing over the top. Food that is as homecooked as it gets and no fuss, no frills. But it is such food that appeals to me most these days. 

Every member pulls their weight with equal aplomb and enthusiasm, happy to be feeding their diners that come here mainly for their steamed fish and bkt, which is of the herbal variety.

Fresh Pontian Fish

Diners can actually go up and personally choose their fish and have it cooked in boiling water on the spot. The eatery itself is simply laid out but it feels especially spacious and comforting. It can't get any better for me, to be honest.

Red Snapper

What stood out was not just the beautiful plating that rivalled any top class Chinese restaurant, but it was the fabulous garlic and soya sauce that Johor Kaki pointed out, that had me at hello.

The garlic needed be perfectly fried, too raw and it would leave a strong garlic aftertaste and too burnt it will get bitter, and it certainly was perfect. Topped with a generous amount of spring onion, the sauce created a harmony and balance of flavors on the plate that had elements of savory and sweetness. Yes, it beats what Zai Shun does with more expensive fish.

As I repeated on numerous occasion, it's not what ingredients that make a dish, its the cooking that makes it great. And here, the cooking was exemplary for a humble establishment like this.

Braised Pork Knuckles

The braised pork knuckles here was definitely a cut above most variants found in Singapore, and for good reason too. The meat was just about right, and the sauce was neither too salty nor too sweet. If anything, the portion served up was more than generous, which kinda reflected the owners themselves.

Tofu with Minced Pork

My wife would have enjoyed this dish. The tofu had that great texture which retained a comforting graininess, but surrendered to our bite without much resistance. The minced sauce was delectable and fulfilling and was the perfect companion to its tofu buddy.

Herbal BKT

The herbal BKT is not something you find often in most BKT in Singapore, but it was neither too herbal tasting to put Teochew BKT lovers off either. Whilst it could have done with a little more pork flavors in the broth, frankly on a cold rainy day, it was a hearty bowl to soothe any weary soul.

Sweet Potato Leaves

For greens, this sweet potato leaves dish was exeptional. Well fried with minced pork and chilli and what tasted like salted fish, this had homecooked written all over. Just looking at it was enough to know that this plate packed a bag full of flavors that was all natural and incredible tasting.

The Wife Prepping for the Next Day

But you know what? As good as the food was, it was the entire experience that had so much to linger on beyond how tasty every dish was.

At times, I think that we Singaporeans fret over the smallest of details when it comes to eating. Often I read on Facebook posts how this dish lacks this or how this restaurant is not as good as it was. We forget that food is not just about nitpicking.

Kedai BKT is not perfect, but perfection is not what I remembered when I had homecooked food when I was young. It was the notion that food eaten at home was cooked by loved ones whose only concern was to feed us so that we would not go hungry.

And yes, it was this same feeling I got when we came here. Initially we only wanted to say hello, but we ended up having a feast. Hin Hock and his family were just like my family, eager to feed us and see us enjoy our food.

And their infectious attitude can only bode well for every diner that passes through here. And what I notice as a regular pattern in JB is that the children are more than enthusiastic to take over the family business.

It is more than that I suspect. It is family pride and tradition that I think is fueling the desire to continue the family legacy. And that is reflected in every aspect of this eatery.

Come here not because you want to find the best BKT or steamed fish in Singapore or JB. Come here not because you want to boast of a discovery you cannot get elsewhere.

Come here simply to enjoy the warm hospitality of a JB family that is just happy to cook for you. A heartwarming and delicious meal that is really just sincere cooking from the heart.

Kedai Bak Kut Teh Hin Hock
72 Lorong 2 Tampoi 81200
Johor Bahru


  1. Ian, you captured the feelings at this place so well :)

  2. thanks tony :) i oredi miss the food and the ppl even as i was typing it ... and we really had a wonderful time there