At a stall in Penyabong, Johor, deep-fried seafood and snacks help Nur Zarina Othman overcome her disappointment over a fishing expedition
JUST few hours ago, the sky had shown no sign of rain. The clear cloudless sky fooled us on how the day would turn out. Under clear blue skies, we set out for the town of Mersing to buy a fishing rod on my maiden fishing expedition.
But shy of an hour at Batu Ayam in Penyabong, tiny drops of water start falling, the sounds of thunder get more frequent and dark clouds gather.
I feel raindrops on my face but I choose to ignore them. Then, when lightning lights up the sky, we know that's our cue to run. Quickly making our way over the rocks, we seek shelter at Gerai Makanan & Minuman Zakiah.
ALL SET FOR THE DAY
The stall, which faces Penyabong jetty, sells the best deep-fried seafood in Penyabong, plus Johor's best tea time snack – goreng pisang (banana fritters) with sambal kicap.
Better known as Warung Tok Nan among the people of Penyabong, it is the spot to be at. Its simple lightly coated deep-fried fresh seafood makes me forget the disappointment caused by the rain.
Perhaps, there’s no better time for freshly fried fish, crab and prawn than when it’s pouring. Tok Nan’s fish fried in special batter is available daily. However, if you have other seafood in mind, do drop by a day earlier and check with owner Adnan Muda if any are in season.
Army retiree Tok Nan, 56, is all warmth despite his fearsome look. I make a joke to get him to smile for the camera. He only gives a tiny twitch of his left cheek and replies, “Senyum dah ni (I'm smiling). When we’re in the army, we're trained to put on a straight face and now I don't know how to smile.”
I’m set to enjoy the rest of the day like the locals - sitting at a coffee shop to enjoy teh tarik, banana fritters and fried seafood with friends.
“Is this selayang (round scad)?”
“It is selayang,” Tok Nan says, “although kembung (Indian mackerel) is more popular, selayang has a sweeter, softer, buttery texture and is better deep-fried.”
The seafood is served with homemade sauce. This makes us reach for the second fish in no time!
His wife, Zakiah prepares the sauce daily.
“Today it’s a bit runny,” adds Zakiah, a lady of few words. But she’s a whizz at cooking.
The stall opens daily from 2pm to 7pm, and only serves lunch on weekends. This is a place you want to make a stop at for the food, drinks and company. And if Tok Nan is around, do ask him for the story of Penyabong and enjoy the scenic sunset overlooking Batu Ayam.