Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Exploring Bintan beyond 5-Star Resorts. Fascinating Tanjung Pinang

Tanjung-Pinang-Waterfriont

Like many people from Singapore, I have been to the luxurious Bintan Resorts along its north shores. But, I have never been anywhere else on Bintan Island (which is bigger than Singapore in size). So, I jumped at the first opportunity to visit Tanjung Pinang, the capital of Riau Province on Pulau Bintan.

 ⚠ Warning: Extra Too long post ahead.

de-Bintan-Villa-&-Resto

First things first, we did the obligatory calls on a few 5-Star resorts on Bintan Island.

de-Bintan-Villa-&-Resto

Set on a hillside with Gunung Bintan (the island's highest peak) as the backdrop, the picturesque de Bintan Villa & Resto is surrounded by durian trees. When told that guests are free to help themselves to the durians when it is in season, we joked that we can offset the entire cost of our villa stay just by eating durians 😄

The-Canopi-Bintan

Next stop, The Canopi is a trendy glamping resort - camping in tents with full facilities, service, and comforts of luxury hotels.

The-Canopi-Bintan

I was instantly smitten, the moment I saw the turquoise crystal clear placid waters of The Canopi's huge man-made seawater lagoon. Even infants and seniors can enjoy water play in this crystal lagoon which is Southeast Asia's first.

Bintan-Lagoon-Resort

We spent a night at Bintan Lagoon Resort. I was last here in 2015 - the resort remained very well kept and was full of energy and buzz on this weekend.

Back in 2015 after a pleasant stay at BLR, I made a wish to come back to Pulau Bintan to explore the island beyond the luxury resorts. I finally did, 3 years later in 2018.

Mutiara-Beach-Resort

We stayed a night at Mutiara Beach Resort. It's a series of 13 huts set in a private beach fronting coconut plantation.

Mutiara-Beach-Resort

It looked rather spartan inside the hut - no air conditioning but here I had the most restful and deepest sleep for a very long time. That mosquito net was very effective - I did not have a single insect bite during my sleep.

Mutiara-Beach-Resort-Aroma-River-Spa

Within Mutiara Beach Resort is Aroma River Spa. Actually, founder Marc Thalmann first started the spa and when guests wanted places to stay, he decided to build the huts, one at a time, one a year. This is the thirteenth year, so there are now 13 huts at Mutiara Beach Resort.

Mutiara-Beach-Resort

I was warned by Tony Tan that Mutiara Beach Resort has the best pizzas on the island.

Mutiara-Beach-Resort

Tony Tan is right - I enjoyed Mutiara's thin crust, well browned pizzas a lot.

Mutiara-Beach-Resort

For breakfast at Mutiara Beach Resort we had rice, noodles, toasts and crepe. Our favourite was this simple crepe which we wrapped with grated fresh coconut, banana, a squeeze of fresh lime and a dash of cinnamon. It's just layers of gentle natural sweetness with a bit of zest and aromatic spice. It's Marc favourite too.

Simple and very nice.

Tanjung-Pinang

After visiting the luxury resorts on the north and eastern shores of Pulau Bintan, we explored Tanjung Pinang, capital of Indonesia's Riau Province.

Tanjung Pinang (population 250,000) located on Pulau Bintan's western shore is the trading port of Riau Province, a role it played since the days of the Malay Johor-Riau-Lingga Empire in the Eighteenth Century i.e. 1700s.

Tanjung-Pinang

Tanjung Pinang is a maze of narrow busy streets and narrower back alleys. The easiest way to get around is by moped.

Tanjung-Pinang-Pasar-Baru-II

The largest morning market in Tanjung Pinang is at Pasar Baru Ⅱ. It's a buzzing hive of activity even before day break. Locals come here for the freshest fish, vegetables, poultry, meat and spices. I love visiting morning markets wherever I go as the people (buyers and sellers), sights, sounds, smells and feel (slimy wet puddles etc) all fascinate me.

Tanjung-Pinang-Pasar-Baru-II

The fishes here come fresh off the fishing boats at the adjacent jetty.

Tanjung-Pinang-Pasar-Baru-II

Mr. Tan has been a fishmonger for over 40 years. He fillets the fish, some of which are exported to Singapore. Traditionally, sharks have been part of the Teochew diet and every part is eaten right down to the gut like liver which is considered a delicacy.

Tanjung-Pinang-Pasar-Baru-II

Indonesian sambals are so good because the ingredients are farm fresh and are hand grounded.

Tanjung-Pinang-Pasar-Baru-II

The quintessentially Indonesian tempeh wrapped with banana leaf. There are many stalls selling this (fermented soy bean) staple in the market.

Tanjung-Pinang-Nasi-Padang

Unsurprisingly, Nasi Padang shops are found in many places in Tanjung Pinang.

Tanjung-Pinang-Nasi-Padang

During our 5 day stay, we tried a few Nasi Padang shops.

The beef rendang were all fibrous and quite stiff. The spice flavours were robust but they were all very salty to my tastebuds.

Tanjung-Pinang-Nasi-Padang

Fried chicken thigh is one of the most popular Nasi Padang dishes here. They are fried till quite dry, crisp and a bit chewy. There was a bit of spice aroma but was also quite salty.

Tanjung-Pinang-Nasi-Padang

My favourite Nasi Padang dish was curry chicken as I enjoyed the mild spices and the tender juiciness of the chicken thigh. I could also taste a bit of fresh chicken sweetness.

Tanjung-Pinang-Nasi-Padang-Vegetarian

A new experience for me was vegetarian Nasi Padang, which was Nasi Padang dishes done without meat. Ms Sutiang ☎ 0812 706 3973 is the owner of Pondok Vigen at Jalan Bakar Batu No. 54.

Tanjung-Pinang-Nasi-Padang-Vegetarian

This vegetarian rendang made with blended mushrooms had all the same spice flavours and aromas as beef rendang, but the "meat" had more tender and juicy mouth feel.

Tanjung-Pinang-Curry-Rice

Curry rice stalls (like chap chai png 雜菜飯 stalls in Malaysia and Singapore) are also quite common in Tanjung Pinang.

Tanjung-Pinang-Curry-Rice

There's fried chicken, fried fish, braised pork, pork rolls, fried long beans, etc. It doesn't really what you heaped over your rice. As long as you have shrimp sambal, pork sambal and a generous splash of chicken curry, this messy looking pile will be irresistible.

Tanjung-Pinang-Bak-Kut-Teh

I saw at least five bak kut teh stalls in town. I tried only Heng Long at Jalan Potong Lembu No.28, so I can't really say which is the best or recommend anything. Heng Long is a popular shop but locals also pointed us to other shops. Shall have to try more shops, when I come back to Tanjung Pinang.

Tanjung-Pinang-Bak-Kut-Teh

Heng Long BKT owner, Mr Tan ☎ 0812 775 1595 who has been in the bak kut teh business for nearly 20 years, learnt his craft from his master who learnt his trade in Singapore.

Tanjung-Pinang-Bak-Kut-Teh

Despite what Mr Tan said, personally, I found Heng Long's bak kut teh more like those in Johor Bahru. The savoury sweet broth is light bodied but flavourful and slightly herbal in the JB way. Heng Long uses fresh pork that has never been chilled, so we can taste the pork's subtle natural sweetness. I enjoyed Heng Long's bak kut teh.

Tanjung-Pinang-Bak-Kut-Teh

I was surprised and delighted to find the familiar oolong blend Put Tee Hiong Tea 不知香 by Singapore's Pek Sin Choon at Heng Long's bak kut teh. We were told that folks in Tanjung Pinang have been drinking Put Tee Hiong Tea with their bak kut teh for over half a century.


A post shared by Tony Johor Kaki (@johorkaki) on

Mutiara Beach Resort founder Marc Thalmann is a fan of Heng Long's bak kut teh and Put Tee Hiong Tea by Pek Sin Choon.

Tanjung-Pinang-Bak-Kut-Teh

Another bak kut teh joint with Chinese tea along Jalan Potong Lembu. Shall try this next time.

Tanjung-Pinang-Beef-Noodles

I like this beef noodle soup from Lucky kopitiam at Jalan Bakar Batu No. 102. Boss Aseng ☎ 0853 5578 0108.

The broth is made with beef bones and beef pizzle 😆 The light bodied beefy broth is slightly herbal. The meat, tendon and tripe were tender and beefy. I enjoyed Aseng's beef noodle soup.

Tanjung-Pinang-Sanford-Mineral-Water

🎀 Tap water in Tanjung Pinang is not potable. We can only drink bottled water. One of the leading brands is Sanford Mineral Water which uses local natural spring water which are treated with 4 stage filtration, including ozone sterilisation to kill any living organism in the water.

Tanjung-Pinang-Yong-Tau-Fu

Most of the Chinese community in Tanjung Pinang are Teochews who arrived here in the 1700s, around the same time as Chinese settlements in Singapore and Johor to work on Gambier plantations and to trade.

There are some Hakkas, hence this popular fourth generation Hakka yong tau fu stall along Jalan Temiang currently run by Ah Xiong.

Tanjung-Pinang-Yong-Tau-Fu

The yong tau fu pieces were delicious as they use fresh tofu and packed them with fresh Yellowtail fish 番薯魚. The bone stock was tasty but they were quite liberal with seasoning use. The kway teow was nice especially after tossing it with the spicy chili sauce which has quite a sharp sting.

Tanjung-Pinang-Ota-Ota

Visited Acong Ota (otak otak) which is made with 100% fresh Mackerel fish, squid, coconut milk, eggs, hot spices, and finely julienned Pamelo leaf.

Tanjung-Pinang-Ota-Ota

Give Acong Ota a call ☎ 811 77 9922 or ☎ 852 6453 9922 and he will deliver your order to your location in Tanjung Pinang.

Tanjung-Pinang-Dessert

Stumbled upon this mobile push cart stall. The tiny cart which prowl Tanjung Pinang's narrow streets have pulut hitam, tau suan, green beans and groundnut soup. It is even complete with charcoal stoves inside the cart to keep the food warm 😮

Tanjung-Pinang-Fish-Porridge

Fresh seafood is abundant in Tanjung Pinang. This simple Teochew porridge with fresh fish was oh.. so... delicious. There are many Teochew fish soup and porridge stalls in town like the kind in Johor Bahru but I tried only one this round. Can't recommend any yet but my hunch is you can't go far wrong when you can see that the fish they use are very fresh.

Tanjung-Pinang-Teluck-Bakau-View

We had big blood cockles at Teluk Bakau Bay View which is a simple restaurant by the beach. It's a popular picnic spot with the locals.

The large cockles were tender but more chewy than the smaller Malaysian variety. It was also rather flavourless compared to the more briny Malaysian ones. But, I like the robust ginger and garlic sauce which these cockles were cooked in.

Tanjung-Pinang-Tapai

The Tapai Ubi (fermented tapioca in banana leaf) here is larger than the variety that I have encountered in Malaysia. Sourish sweet, wet and mushy soft, it's a nice traditional snack.

Tanjung-Pinang-Ayam-Cakra

Cakar Ayam or "chicken scratching" is a popular sweet snack made of thin strands (like wires) of sweet potato. The wiry bundle is fried and dunked in caramelised sugar (hence, it is brown in colour). It is hard and crisp, and tastes sweet. Price is Rp50,000 per pack like this.

Tanjung-Pinang-Kopitiam

Tow kay neo's Hainanese dad founded Kedai Kopi Jong Kie at Jalan Potong Lembu No. 12. Nanyang kopi in Tanjung Pinang tends to have a full body, a bitter taste that needs a lot of sugar or milk for balance but an addictive robust caffeine kick.

Tanjung-Pinang-Akau-Potong-Lembu

There are two dinner hotspots in Tanjung Pinang where locals go - the older one at Akau Potong Lembu (and the newer one at Rimba Jaya). I estimate that there are roughly about fifty (Halal and non Halal) food stalls around Akau Potong Lembu.

Tanjung-Pinang-Akau-Potong-Lembu

One of the most popular stalls at Akau Potong Lembu serves various fried shark meat items (Goreng-gorengan Ikan Hiu) - battered, nuggets, shark fish cakes, shark fish rolls, etc. Auntie was frying sua he pia 鯊魚餅, pieces of shark meat wrapped with thick batter.

Tanjung-Pinang-Akau-Potong-Lembu

The white shark meat was tender and moist as it was well shielded from the hot oil by the thick batter. The shark meat was very subtly sweet and most of the flavour came from the mildly savoury thick crispy batter. It was like eating a tasty flour cracker (keropok) with a warm tender moist filling inside. I enjoyed this Ikan Hiu goreng (Ikan Hiu is Indonesian for shark).

Tanjung-Pinang-Akau-Potong-Lembu

While you are at Akau Potong Lembu, check out Handry's cendol stall.

Tanjung-Pinang-Akau-Potong-Lembu

Handry still uses this ancient ice shaver which his grandfather used when he founded the stall half a century back.

Tanjung-Pinang-Akau-Potong-Lembu

Where there are Teochews, there will be braised food stalls.

Tanjung-Pinang-Akau-Potong-Lembu

We had an assortment of braised duck, pork intestines, and even wild boar. The flavour of the braising stock was less salty and less herbal than in Singapore and Malaysia. The braised wild boar meat was a lean cut and hence rather stiff.

Tanjung-Pinang-Akau-Potong-Lembu

I enjoyed this Es Koteng which was the most colourful and had the most sweet things which have I ever seen in a bowl of Cheng Thng 清湯.

Tanjung-Pinang-Rimba-Jaya

The other night time local hangout in Tanjung Pinang is Rimba Jaya. It was opened less than five years ago.

Tanjung-Pinang-Rimba-Jaya

Compared to Akau Potong Lembu, there are about the same number of stalls, but the environment is much cleaner. Rimba Jaya is growing in popularity but personally, RJ is a little sterile like Singapore pasar malam. Coming all the way here to Tanjung Pinang, I would rather go to a place that has a more pungent local flavour and greater contrast with home (though not for everyone) i.e. Akau Potong Lembu.

Tanjung-Pinang-Martabak

After one exhausting day and night of travelling, we patiently joined the queue at 1889 Martabak Bangka food stand along Jalan Raja Ali Haji. I was very tired and not really a fan of Indonesia martabak which is like apom balik or meen chiang kueh. Indonesian martabak is topped with cheese, chocolate chips, peanut, margarin, condensed milk etc. It's way too sweet for my liking.

Tanjung-Pinang-Martabak

I surprised myself that I liked this very much. We asked for just crushed peanuts sans the sugar and condensed milk. I like the tender spongy inside and firm crispiness outside. I had tried some Indonesian martabak before and this was the first one I enjoyed.

Tanjung-Pinang-The-Manabu

Okay ok, if you die die must eat at upmarket places, then check out newly opened The Manabu, Bintan Island. Perched on a hilltop above Monumen Raja Haji Fisabilillah and overlooking the sea, we have a choice of breezy outside seating or cool inside in air-con comfort. Address: Jalan Hang Tuah, No.17. ☎ +62 771 4502898.

Tanjung-Pinang-The-Manabu

Owner Chef Gaku from Japan made his mark in the resorts of Bintan including Nirwana Gardens. Chef Gaku brings luxury resort style dining and service to Tanjung Pinang, serving local and international cuisine (like steaks, pizzas, spaghetti, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Korean and Japanese etc).

Tanjung-Pinang-The-Manabu

You could try Chef Gaku's rendition of the iconic Gong Gong, probably the most famous dish from Bintan (and Batam). The fresh tender, yet chewy shellfish meat was sauteed with soy sauce, garlic and chili enveloping it with savoury, mildly spicy flavours (price Rp55,000++).

Tanjung-Pinang-The-Manabu

The Manabu's thin crust crispy pizzas are excellent like those at Mutiara Beach Resort. We had the Quattro Formagi - yeasted flat bread topped with Mozzarella, Bocconcini, Italian Grana Padano, and Italian Blue Gorgonzola cheeses (price Rp55,000++).

Tanjung-Pinang-Joss-Factory

We visited a few more places including a brief stop at a joss stick making factory near Tanjung Pinang. There are still a lot of things I hope to see in Pulau Bintan and I will definitely be back.

If you come from the cocoon of luxurious Bintan Resorts to explore Tanjung Pinang, keep an open mind and adopt a mindset of curiosity. Be prepared to discover as you go off the beaten track.

This post is just a summary of my 5 day visit to Tanjung Pinang. More detailed posts will follow.

Tanjung-Pinang-Majestic-Fast-Ferry

We travelled to Tanjung Pinang by Majestic Fast Ferry. It takes nearly 2 hours between Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and Tanjung Pinang. The Majestic boats are equipped with air conditioning, airplane quality seats, toilets and drinking water.

The easiest way to book your ferry tickets is through PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) and STB (Singapore Tourism Board) endorsed WOWgetaways 👈 click

Tanjung-Pinang-Ferry-Terminal

🎀 Note that when leaving Tanjung Pinang, there is a Rp55,000 seaport fee and Rp20,000 admin fee for issuing of tickets. It is best to confirm your return ticket at the port, immediately upon arrival at Tanjung Pinang.

Dates visited: 23 - 27 Mar 2018

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.

4 comments:

  1. Delicious adventure! Those "gong gong" shell fish, can't get them in North America!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent post! More knowledgeable than most locals!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Lawrence for your kind compliment. I am only seeing the tip of the iceberg and had a lot of help from locals during my visit. I shall be back many more times as there are so much more to see, do, eat, buy and be inspired in Tanjung Pinang.

      Delete
  3. wow didnt knw tanjung pinang got so much food will like to go there scare nothing

    ReplyDelete

I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

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