JOHOR BARU, Oct 1 — Time for breakfast.
There is no end to food options here in Johor Jaya but we are hankering for some crispy roti canai today. All the famous roti canai spots seem to be congregated in the city centre, however.
We are far from the always-packed Bukit Chagar shop along Jalan Tengku Azizah and from Tahir Roti Canai on Jalan Lembing. We’re a good drive away from Onn Kitchen, a warong beneath a tree that serves my favourite roti canai in town.
Just when we are debating whether to settle for some fish ball noodles or make the trek into the more central Tebrau area, one of our Johorean friends alerts us to a place nearby where we could get our roti canai fix.
Only he calls it roti prata.
Names do matter. While Johoreans understand us when we ask for roti canai, they tend to call it roti prata as our neighbours across the Causeway do.
Without the influx of Singaporean daytrippers crossing over on the weekends, our local friends tell us things have been quiet. Businesses, including roti prata/canai shops, are hard hit.
Which is why, though the shadow of the pandemic looms heavily over everything still, many are thankful for the spending of domestic tourists. We all just have to be careful and follow the appropriate standard operating procedures (SOP); it’s the new way of life.
We also follow our friend’s directions to the shop gratefully. It’s easy enough to locate, once we navigate around a multitude of car workshops, motorcycle shops and tyre shops. (There’s never a good time to get a flat, but Johor Jaya might well be the best place for it. You’d get rescued immediately.)
The restaurant’s name in Chinese — 芙蓉 (fúróng) — means “confederate rose” though that’s a misnomer. The confederate rose is no true rose, but rather a species of hibiscus (Hibiscus mutabilis) favoured for its large, flamboyant blooms.
Names do matter. But Restoran Furong is far from showy, despite its flowery name.
Unusual for a roti canai shop, these griddle-cooked flatbreads are made by a Chinese mother-and-daughter team. It’s a down-to-earth, fuss-free operation: we observe the same sequence of patting down rounds of well-oiled dough, of kneading them into shape.
The one major difference is the restraint displayed. At many other roti canai stalls, a copious amount of oil or ghee is employed. Restoran Furong’s roti canai benefit from a light touch with the vegetable oil used.
The results are airy and crispy squares of roti — be it kosong (plain), bawang (onions) or telur (egg). There is no greasy aftertaste in your mouth. No guilt. A healthier flatbread, this.
We order our drinks and two pieces of roti each, one kosong and one telur. As always, we make sure to ask for them to be garing (extra crispy). The uncle who takes our order smiles at us, as if to say every piece of roti canai here is garing by default.
Does that even matter, you ask?
Absolutely. Even when the roti ends up getting slathered with your gravy of choice later, every bite tastes better when the bread is still a little flaky. The contrast of crunchy and soggy is heavenly.
Basic but satisfying, Restoran Furong’s meat-free gravies will suit everyone, even vegetarians. (If one eschews ordering roti telur, even vegans may join in.)
The indispensable trinity of dhal, curry and sambal — runs the entire gamut from not spicy to very spicy — means every piece of your roti canai will be well doused with lip-smacking gravy.
Isn’t it wonderful how they taste extraordinary together but are best kept apart in separate bowls, to dip in, one after the other, just before you are about to eat your roti canai?
This being a kopitiam, the beverage options are what you’d expect. Kopi or kopi O? Why not one of each? Some might argue only a well-pulled teh tarik would do but we find the extra shot of caffeine coffee offers keeps us awake for the journey ahead when we return to KL.
We finish what is a simple yet very fine breakfast, our bellies full but not straining. We will remain alert for the long drive home.
And if we tire, perhaps we will stop by another small town along the way. May we find more hidden gems, the way Restoran Furong proved to be for roti canai in Johor Jaya.
No. 17, Jalan Seroja 49, Johor Jaya, Johor Baru
Open daily 6:30am-12:30pm
Tel: 012-710 5315
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