Last Updated: February 13, 2018
I’m a big fan of seafood — crabs in particular. When I was let in on a secret menu that featured what was described to me as a seafood overload in Johor Bahru, I was hooked and knew I had to check it out.
The famous Sri Tebrau Hawker Centre in Johor Bahru was where this hidden gem laid at Xin Xin 958 Seafood. They were amongst some tough competition in the hawker centre with each stall having their own ‘promoter’ reeling in customers as soon as you come anywhere close.
We settled amongst the rowdy crowd, who were busy shooing away tissue peddlers that wormed their way throughout the seating area.
The waiter showed me to my seat and quickly gave us his recommendations. All I knew was that I wanted the crab that’s cooked with a sauce infused with clam juice known as 蒜香 (Suan Xiang), and he told us to pair it with the Singapore-Style Fried Bee Hoon and Hor Fun.
The Singapore-Style Fried Bee Hoon (RM6.50, approx. S$2.20) was bouncy and we inhaled the dish quickly; the fragrant wok hei made that feat very easy. It consists of a generous heap of shrimp, chunky pieces of char siew and a combination of bean sprouts and egg.
The combination of the four ingredients made it a bountiful bite every time. The taste was very light, which really was a great start to our dinner.
My second recommendation was the Hor Fun (RM7 – small, approx. S$2.37). The kway teow was thin and had a nice mouthfeel, it did not get too starchy mid-way.
The small portion was good enough to feed two hungry men, and I liked that it came with a generous portion of seafood, meat and vegetables, but the flavours were nothing to write home about and the gravy was too watery for our liking.
The highlight of the day was the Suan Xiang Crab (RM60, approx. S$20.22). Make sure you insist on the sauce that is cooked with the lala juice.
I quickly dipped my spoon into the sauce to find out if this was worth the hype it was getting. And boy, was I not expecting it to be this good! What I immediately tasted was the tinge of heat followed by a faint scent of the lala.
I picked around the plate to find out what made this thick, gooey, seafood explosion of a sauce, and found pieces of dried shrimp that explained part of it. The saltiness of the thick sauce layered with the spiciness from the chillis did a good job of whetting my appetite.
Lifting the shell of the crab, the insides were coated with the lala-infused butter sauce. The plumpy flesh was cradled in a layer of the sauce making every bite an umami bomb. Even though the flavours were strong, I never once experienced any jelak-ness.
The claws came pre-cracked and were easy to de-shell, a nice added touch that made the whole dining ordeal a little smoother and enjoyable.
My preferred way to finish of a crab meal is mixing the crab mustard found underneath the head of the crab and pairing it with the carbs I ordered.
I scooped a big spoonful of the bee hoon and the sauce to mix it all together, that mouthful was undoubtedly the highlight of my time there.
Johor Bahru is undoubtedly home to some really great food and it may even fit some of your palettes better than the sweeter variant that Singapore offers.
Xin Xin 958 Seafood is merely one of the many other stalls in Sri Tebrau offering a slew of seafood specialities at a remarkable price point. If you’re chomping at the bit to fulfil your seafood cravings, prepare your passports and consider making a trip to this roadside eatery across the border.
Expected Damage: RM80 (approx. S$26.95)