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JOHOR is famous as the home of some of the most delicious dishes in Malaysia.
Speak to any Malaysian about dishes nasi beriani gam, mee bandung and ikan asam pedas, and they would most likely agree that Johor is the place to go to enjoy them.
Indeed, there are people willing to travel from as far as Kuala Lumpur and even Penang just to eat these delectable dishes in Johor.
I was told by the manager of a restaurant selling nasi beriani gam that he had folk coming from Perak and Kelantan just to savour the dish.
But have you ever wondered how the dish got its name? How does the “gam” (gum in English) figure in the dish?
According to a culinary show I I watched on TV, the dish took its name from the Indian cooking method known as dum pukht.
Meat and rice are cooked in a sealed pot over a slow fire, which is how nasi beriani gam is cooked. The method allows the meat to cook in its own juice while flavouring the rice at the same time.
The name dum pukht briyani was adopted by the locals for the dish, which, over the years, somehow become nasi beriani gam, which has stuck. And, no, gum is not in used in the dish, if you are still wondering.
What about another dish that is synonymous with Johor, particularly in Muar and to a lesser extent, Batu Pahat?
I am speaking about mee bandung, of course.
As we all know, Bandung is the name of a city in Indonesia, located to the east of Jakarta on the island of Java.
However, I am pretty certain that if you were to order the dish in a restaurant in Bandung, you would either receive a blank stare from the waiter or served a noodle dish that is in no way similar to the one served in Muar.
So, what is the connection between the dish and Bandung? It would be interesting if somebody could explain the origin of the dish and how it got its name.
Speaking of dishes with interesting names, if you visit Batu Pahat, you will likely be offered a taste a dish which name would make your toes curl — mee racun (poison noodle).
Despite its deadly-sounding name, the dish, which, as far as I can tell, can only be found in Batu Pahat, is merely noodles in a spicy, tomato-based gravy.
The dish has been in existence for as long as I can remember and it is a favourite not only with the locals but also visitors from out of town.
It would seem that having a name that is supposed to turn people turn has, in fact, had the opposite effect.