You might be familiar with the term “Food Nazi”. I used it for the first time in the blog in May 2007 in my post about an acrimonious old man selling Cheng Tng in Zion Road Food Centre. I first came across the term “Food Nazi” way back in 1998 when my Cell leader, Jason Wang brought me to eat at this particular restaurant in Johor Bahru. He had to warn us not to misbehave or else the Food Nazi might chase us out of the restaurant and refuse to sell us any food. The term “Food Nazi” was coined after the “Soup Nazi“, one of the more memorable episodes of Seinfeld which was first aired in 1995. In that episode, George had to line up for a long time for a bowl of soup but when he got to the front of the queue, he angered the Soup Nazi by not following protocol and was banned from the restaurant. Our protagonist today is similar in many ways.
The Food Nazi has occupied a special place in my heart ever since I first encountered him back in 1998. It was more than just the fantastic food that he served. Eating at the Food Nazi’s place is like eating Fugu (Japanese Puffer Fish), there is a sense of danger and excitement involved that makes the meal all the more memorable. My impression of the Food Nazi so impressed me that I even wrote him up as a case study in my marketing paper during my MBA course. The whole concept that “bad service” can be good marketing when cleverly implemented was something I thought was worth a couple of hours of discussion.
Now, a Food Nazi isn’t just a nasty piece of work. In fact, most Food Nazis that I have wrote about really aren’t nasty people per se. They are mostly eccentric people with a chip on their shoulder who happen to serve really good food. In the case of Mr Hong Hak Seng, the original Food Nazi of JB, he just has this thing about wasting perfectly good food. That is the chip on his shoulder. He cannot tolerate people who waste food. I didn’t realize this until my most recent visit to his place where I managed to sit down with him for a chat. (Actually he sat down with us – he does this to all his customers) Now I understand why he always tells people not to order too much food when he is taking orders and why he would come by the table to ask you why you haven’t finished your food which comes with a warning that you might be banned from his restaurant should you fail to clean up your plate.
Actually, I think the Food Nazi might have mellowed a bit now compared to when I first met him. It might be that he is getting older or that business is a little slower ever since he moved to his new location. Either that, or perhaps I wasn’t as scared of him now as I was when Jason first hyped him up to be some sort of “Ming the Merciless”. In fact, if you go there expecting that he will come by the table to tell you what you should eat and give you lectures about why you shouldn’t waste food, the whole experience is actually quite enjoyable. Just make sure you play along and give him the respect that any senior member of society deserves.
As is his custom, Mr Ng came by to ask us what we would like to eat. There is no menu here, so he will suggest a few dishes and it is ok to tell him whether you would like to have it or not. What is not ok is to change your mind after you have ordered the dish. Rockett girl tried to change our order for steamed fish to the fish head soup. Her comment was met with an uncomfortable moment of silence before being told to just stick to the original order since the fish has already been cut. We didn’t dare press the matter any further. I had spent many hours driving to get to his restaurant from Kuantan and the last thing we want is to be chased out of his restaurant!
The first dish that arrived was his minced meat Tofu dish. The minced meat sauce is exactly as I remembered it years ago. There is no secret that he adds salted fish to the minced meat sauce to give it that umami kick. The real secret is which salted fish. We have just driven from Kuantan where I had purchased some salted mackeral, so I asked him whether he used something similar. He simply scoffed and told me that I had bought the wrong stuff. We then had a very interesting conversation about the quality of soy sauce in Singapore and Malaysia and he really impressed me with his knowledge of various sauce makers from both sides of the border! I guess this is what makes his food taste so special. For those of us who simply buy the soy sauce which is on special at the supermarket, this type of knowledge really does differentiate the good from the great eateries. The minced meat sauce is superb and guaranteed to make you finish your rice. 4.5/5
The Crispy Fried Chicken is always on the menu and you would not go wrong to say yes when he suggests it to you. I would say this though, the breast part of the chicken is a tad dry. But the succulent lower quarter is as perfect as a Cantonese Style crispy fried chicken gets. Perhaps not something that is worth waiting at the customs and filling up those irritating white cards for, but certainly something worth ordering when you are there. 4.25/5
Being Teochew, you can trust Mr Ng to give you fresh fish. This is something that he takes a lot of pride in and he told me that he has several trusted suppliers who provides him the freshest fish in Malaysia. The Ikan Kurau (Threadfin) was excellent and again, there was that special something in his steaming sauce that elevates his dish above the many Teochew places that I have eaten in Singapore. I think it has to do with his selection of preserved veg that gave it that special zing which is the first thing I noticed when I tasted the sauce. 4.5/5
Some of us have reservations about going into JB for food and that is understandable. However, a trip to the Food Nazi is definitely something that might make you reconsider. It is an experience you will remember for a long time. Apart from the dishes shown here, we had a plate of veggies (we did not order this, it just appeared because he felt we needed to eat some veggies), drinks and also an excellent Orh Nee with pumpkin. The whole meal cost RM90 for four. There was no receipt, he just looked at me and told me to give him RM 100. He looked at me again and gave me RM10 change. I was too scared to ask him for a breakdown of how much the dishes cost.