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Saturday November 24, 2012

Hua Mui standing tall even after 40 years

Popular haunt: Restaurant Hua Mui is a favourite place for families to celebrate special occasions. Popular haunt: Restaurant Hua Mui is a favourite place for families to celebrate special occasions.

WAFTS of freshly made toast, rich smelling coffee and the chatter of people talking greets customers as they walk into Hua Mui, a popular coffeeshop located in the heart of Johor Baru.

The traditional deco and simplistic design gives customers a peek into the times where people sat for hours just to mingle with friends and share the latest gossip while sipping a cup of tea at the kopitiam.

Waitress Mariam Ibrahim, 59, who has been working in Hua Mui for more than 40 years says that is the main reason why people keep coming back to the outlet located at the junction of Jalan Trus and Jalan Dhobby.

“I remember walking past the shop when I was schooling a long time ago and even then Hua Mui was famous for its delicious toast and coffee and tea.

“Another dish that is synonymous with Hua Mui is the special Hainanese Chicken Chop which is accompanied with crispy potato wedges, green peas and a special mushroom sauce,” she said while greeting several customers by name.

The chirpy Mariam later said that the shop had a steady flow of regular customers and sometimes even welcomed customers that returned to relieve childhood experiences after many years away.

“I have been approached numerous times by customers who still recognise me from years ago.

“They often tell me that they came as a child with their parents and were so excited to return with their own children or grandchildren to enjoy the food here,” she said, adding that it was heartwarming to learn how special the little coffeeshop had become.

Hua Mui kopitiam was initially set up in 1946 and started off as a popular eatery, which was frequented by British officials who used to reside at the Bukit Timbalan building located nearby.

The outlet was also a popular place for families to celebrate special occasions and Mariam said that she has lost count of how many birthday parties, anniversary celebrations and other events that the kopitiam has hosted.

“Over the years, not much has changed in terms of deco for the kopitiam and in fact most of the flooring, crockery, window panes and even a traditional pulley system has been retained to keep the authentic feeling for the outlet.

The good ol’ days:
Breads are being
toasted using a
traditional charcoal
oven. The good ol’ days: Breads are being toasted using a traditional charcoal oven.

“Another signature feature of the kopitiam is the traditional staircase banister which feels so smooth from the thousands of hands that have held it while walking to the second floor of the outlet,” she said.

Businessman Othman Hitam, 55, said that he spends at least an hour a day chatting with friends and enjoying the food at Hua Mui.

“Hua Mui is like my second home. It is nice that I will always find a familiar face whenever I drop by and the ambience is the main reason why I always keep coming back,” he said, adding that the table located at the corner of the entrance was the best place to relax and just watch as the city transformed throughout the years.

Long time customer, Najmuddin Sockin, 54, said that he has been frequenting the shop since he was a little boy.

“My favourite is the chicken chop and I always crave for the delicious dish whenever I am close by the area,” he said, adding that although there were many new kopitiams around, Hua Mui would always be on the top of his list.

First-time Singaporean visitor Vivienne Soon, 19, said that her first experience at the simple kopitiam was definitely a memorable one.

“We have similar establishments in Singapore but nothing compares to the authentic feel of this charming place,” she said, adding that the flavourful food and friendly staff were some of the plus points of the traditional outlet.

Other than the signature kopitiam dishes Hua Mui is also famous for several local food including the Hua Mui Mee Mamak, Nasi Goreng, and their Roti Bakar which is still toasted using charcoal fire.

The quaint kopitiam also serves up some unusual dishes including Mongolian Chicken Rice and Butter Cream Chicken Rice, which is an equally popular dish among customers.

Hua Mui is open from 9am to 7pm daily. For details, call 07-224 7364.

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