What is Mok Mok?

Intrigued by the name of a corner café in Taman Pelangi, this is the million dollar question I must ask when I meet the chef-owner.

Facade of Mok Mok Brunch & Bistro at Taman Pelangi
It happens that Aidah and I are in search of some food before going to an event later that evening. So I drive to Taman Pelangi and we spot a vacant parking lot right across the road from Mok Mok Brunch & Bistro.

Aidah turns to look at the café façade and reads that its menu is free from pork, lard and alcohol. And in a totally unplanned way, we decide to dine here.

The clear glass walls of the corner café is shaded by natural greenery – a canopy of lines made out of real leaves – which we later learn, were planted months ahead while the building renovation was in progress.

Shaded by a canopy of real leaves!
The greenery continues indoors with potted plants – some real and some artificial – hung from beams and artfully placed around wooden furniture in tasteful clusters.

I’m just taking in the décor when a young man approaches me from within the café, smiling and with his hand out-stretched for a handshake.

I’m pleasantly surprised to meet Chef Teo Wang Jieh again and graciously accept his hand to shake it heartily

I first met him at his former restaurant with his partner, Xue Nie, and here they are again, working together in a different dining concept!

Culinary trained in Melbourne, this young pair used to cater European menus for private events before starting on their own café ventures.

Teo ushered Aidah and I to a table and guided us through the menu, explaining that they had only recently started the All-Day Brunch menu.

Mok Mok coined another intriguing
word: Mokments?
In the menu, I spot the familiar logo for, For Our Loved Ones, FOLO Farm and I begin to understand their dining concept in a partnership where the menu features items, freshly harvested from the farm to serve literally, from farm to table.

I’m familiar with what FOLO Farm is doing and then Teo explains that Xue Nie’s family is related to the FOLO group of families.

I read on and like their commitment to sourcing for the freshest local produce and turning them into healthy and tasty meals.

I’m glad we are there, off the peak dining hour because we invite Teo to sit with us for a chat. I have so much to ask him – top of the list is, why the name Mok Mok?

It’s not his family name but I guess it must have some special significance. So I ask him my million dollar question.

At first, Teo seems a little bashful but soon warms-up as he shares with me, his special bond with his grandmother.

Pouring hot milk into the Vietnamese
cup strainer filled with masala and tea
leaves to let it drain into a cup below
He grew up in her care and in those formative years, he was a curious youngster who would ask a lot of questions.

He explains that in Mandarin, the phrase for “What is this?” or “What is that?” is simply, “Sem-mok?”

He would badger his grandmother with curious questions so often that she fondly gave him a nickname: Mok Mok!

This is something deeply personal but to honour his grandmother, Teo decided to name this café, Mok Mok Brunch & Bistro after his own nickname.

Yes, his grandmother is still around. He tells us that she has dined in the café but admits with a laugh, that the fusion menu here does not quite match with her tastes!

But let’s see if it matches with ours.

Based on his recommendation, Aidah decides on having a hot milk tea, Masala Chai Latte, and a Soft Shell Crab Burger, which we will split between us.

Teo suggests the Lamb choice from the Signature Bowl list, made with Mok Mok signature rice, topped with strips of succulent leg of lamb marinated in masala spices and a Japanese onsen egg.

Soft Shell Crab Burger with a side of fried onions
and Sriracha Mayo sauce
Then Teo politely excuses himself from the table and heads into the kitchen to personally whip up the dishes for us.

Meanwhile, Aidah is admiring the décor, saying how much she likes the ambience and walks around to snap photos.

When the food is served, the deep-fried Soft Shell Crab is sandwiched in a handmade brioche bun, flavoured with basil lime aioli with a generous side of crispy fried onions.

We notice a tiny dish of pale pink sauce next to the burger and ask Teo what it is. He replies with a smile, “Sriracha Mayo,” but assures us that its heat is so mild that it’s really quite harmless.

Mok Mok signature rice bowl with lamb
The bowl of rice – just as I expected – reminds me of Korean bibimbap but is already full of flavour from the marinated lamb. And I like how it’s served in a wooden bowl.

The rice comes with a side dish of salad of mixed lettuce, bits of avocado and pineapple, cherry tomatoes and crunchy chips of cereal and seeds, drizzled in their house special yoghurt dressing.

Teo demonstrates how the hot milk should be poured into the Vietnamese-style strainer, filled with toasted masala (spices) and tea leaves and allowed to infuse and drain into the cup below.

He pointed out that the fresh ingredients in the salad that comes with the rice dish, are mainly sourced from FOLO Farm. In fact, the café is also a collecting point for FOLO Farm members who can collect their regular supply here.

Clean, cosy and green indoors!
While these members are keen to enjoy their farm-fresh vegetables, they sometimes do not have time to prepare their meals. So Mok Mok also offers a dine-in service where members have the café prepare meals for them from their stock of fresh items.

In addition, Mok Mok is also a popular destination for small receptions and private parties for wedding registrations, engagements, birthdays, corporate and other special events, where menus are specially tailored to the occasion.

There’s a whole lot much more Aidah and I wish to taste and ask, but our time is short and we have to go to our evening event. So it has to wait until the next time.

Stay in touch with Mok Mok Brunch & Bistro through its Facebook page to check if they happen to be closed (to the public!) to host a private event.

Mok Mok Brunch & Bistro is at No. 78 Jalan Pingai, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Baru, Johor. Open daily from 11.30am to 11.30pm.