Ho Jiak: Taking a unique approach to traditional Malaysian cuisine

Ho Jiak

Ho Jiak: Taking a unique approach to traditional Malaysian cuisine

Photo credit: Ho Jiak Facebook page

With three Sydney locations, each with a unique menu and atmosphere, Ho Jiak has been adding its own spin to traditional Malaysian cuisine for the last five years. Offering a diverse selection of in-house dining and take-away, and using only premium Australian produce, it comes as no surprise that Ho Jiak restaurants often see long queues out the door.

Inspired by his grandmother’s cooking, head chef Junda Khoo has had a love for food since a very young age. However, he hasn’t always worked in restaurants. After completing a university degree in finance and project management, he began his career in big banks.

After a year and a half in the finance sector, Junda decided to quit his job and pursue his dream of working in the food industry.

Junda Khoo

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After opening the first location in Strathfield – an intimate space which captures the atmosphere of open-air hawkers in Northern Penang – Junda spent months trying recipes in the kitchen and figuring out the restaurant’s identity.

It is this process of experimentation and deliberation which characterises Junda’s approach to his restaurants.

To set himself apart from the crowd, risk-taking has also been important. When he decided to pay homage to his grandmother in his Haymarket location by creating a menu of home-cooked dishes not commonly served in restaurants, people were not immediately on board.

“A lot of people said, ‘You’re crazy to want to serve home-cooked meals at a 110-seater restaurant. No one’s going to buy your food!’ But we believed in ourselves and we did it anyway,” Junda explained.

“Eight months after opening Haymarket we started winning food awards.”

Ho Jiak

After a successful two years at Haymarket, Ho Jiak opened their third location in Town Hall. Junda likes to call this spot his ‘playground’, as he is able to be more experimental with his cooking.

Junda likes to look at how other Malaysian restaurants do certain dishes, and then do something entirely different.

“Everyone’s doing prawn noodle soup in every major restaurant. But what we do is put the whole prawn noodle soup in a single dumpling. We call it the Har Mee Bomb,” Junda said.

For anyone wondering about Junda’s signature’s dish, it is without a doubt the Char Kuey Teow – a stir-fried noodle dish.

“That’s the dish that I’m known for. Even after cooking tens of thousands of plates, every time I cook a plate of Char Kuey Teow I really enjoy it.”

You can find Ho Jiak in Strathfield, Haymarket and Town Hall. To check out their menu(s) or to book a reservation, visit their website HERE.

Isabel Zakharova

Isabel Zakharova is a final-year student at UTS, studying Communications and International Studies. She loves reading, writing and exploring other cultures - through travel, film and cuisine. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]