Imported – Makae Kelate

Note:Written on the 14th October 2006 at my previous blog. Thought it would be good to continue to “promote” kelantanese fare a little, so decided to import it here.

i have been having a craving for authentic kelantanese cuisine as i recall the delicious array of the food i had during my visit to Kota Bharu 3 years ago. so when the very same friend who brought me there the last time said she was going back, i didn’t hesitate in tagging along.

sadly, my cravings were not fully attended to as we didn’t realise how Ramadhan month affected the state. most malay restaurants were not opened until evening and even if they had opened, we were turned away because they only wanted to cater for the buka puasa (breaking fast) crowd. the variety of food we were anticipating in the ramadhan bazaars were also lacking, in comparison to the ones back here. still, i managed to sample some of the more well-known kelantanese dishes.

Nasi Kerabu/Ulam As soon as we touched down, we went straight to a ramadhan bazaar and got myself a pack of Nasi Kerabu, or also known as Nasi Ulam. The rice is tinted blue from the petals of flowers called bunga telang (clitoria). The blue rice is then served with a combination of fresh aromatic herbs ( mint, basil, lemongrass, kaffir lime/ turmeric leaves, bunga kantan (torch ginger flower buds) etc), raw vegetables (bean sprouts, long beans etc), salted egg, kerisik (grated coconut), tumis (pounded chilli paste) and a good serving of ground black pepper. Along with the other goodies we bought (such as murtabak, kueh cara berlauk, onde-onde), we sat down at the grounds of Kelantan Golf & Country Club to partake our late lunch. As good as this was, I wished the vendor gave me some fish crackers.

Nasi Dagang / Dagae My friend’s parents operate “Restaurant Kwang Ling” along Jalan Post Office Lama in Kota Bharu and their versions of Nasi Berlauk and Nasi Dagang has been featured in local food guides in magazines and even on telly! They do sell other hawker food such as fish ball noodles (where all fish balls / fish cake are homemade), curry noodles, prawn noodles etc. but its their Nasi Dagang that gets sold out quickly. I myself had to wait til my last day to get to taste it as it was sold out the previous day by the time I arrived at the coffeeshop. Nasi Dagang (or Nasi Dagae in Kelantanese), literally translated to mean “Trader’s Rice” is a special type of reddish brown rice mix cooked with coconut milk. It is served with ikan tongkol (fish curry) most frequently, together with half an hard boiled egg and some chilli paste. But as my friend wanted to give me the full deal, she gave me a bit of everything available such as the daging kerutuk (juicy, tender beef pieces), prawns and gulai ayae (chicken curry). The tastiest dish is definitely the beef, which I can’t get enough of.

Nasi Berlauk Nasi Berlauk is on the other hand, the staple Kelantanese breakfast. It is white rice with various dishes and I had it on my second day at my friend’s parents’ coffeeshop and opted for the daging kerutuk, with half an hard boiled egg, salted fish & chilli paste. Most of the fish / vegetable accompaniment dishes are cooked with tumeric and galangal infused yellow gravy. After the food is sold out by noon, we normally make our way to the Siti Khadijah Central market where my friend’s mother does her shopping. The wet market is vibrant and made up of mostly women vendors, who sit amongst their fresh produce and has become one of the most photographed markets in Malaysia due to the visual delight the explosion of colours provide. Most of the photos turn out with a yellowish tinge due to the yellow walls.

New & Old Wing Women Traders Amongst Fresh Produce

Ulam for Budu Budu
Lunch after my first visit to the central market involved another of Kelantan’s specialty – Budu, a fermented anchovy sauce that is added with chilli, onions & lemon juice and eaten with rice, fried fish and ulam (assortment of herbs) / blanched greens (okra, long beans, pucuk paku or fiddlehead fern). The greens & the fish are dipped into the brownish condiment, and eaten with rice. The salty and sourish taste can get very addictive as most people tend to add rice when eating this! And apparently, this ancient sauce is considered to be full of anti-oxidants and potential free radical fighters.

AkokMy friend’s mother also bought us Akok, a Kelantanese kuih (sweet cake) which made mainly of duck eggs, coconut milk and brown sugar. The taste and texture is akin to eating creme caramel, and was surprisingly delicious despite its humble appearance. When served hot, the quivery, custard-like texture seems to melt in one’s mouth. Mhmm.

And of course, we did go and “makan siam”, meaning eat Thai. We went to “Ban Kok” at Wakaf Baru and I was treated to true-taste Thai food. We had Kheng Som (Asam Pedas Fish) which was deliciously sour & spicy. I specially requested for yum woon sen (vermicelli salad) which was one of the best i have ever had. the lime juice and fish sauce combination hit all the right notes. We also had belut patpet (river eel) cooked in a spicy, turmeric base which I enjoyed. my friend had her kangkung belachan. there was the clear tom yam soup and also an oyster omelette. vaguely remembered an ex-collegue’s recommendation to have fried bees but no one else seemed interested so another time, perhaps.

on the second evening, after a visit to Wat Machimarram Varran where the largest sitting Buddha was, we went galivanting around Tumpat and discovered another small Ramadhan bazaar where I sampled some authentic Kelantanese fare such as Etok, kerabu beko and this purplish seaweed mixed with kerisik (grated coconut). Etok is a small, pebble-sized, freshwater corbicula clam which is cleaned throughly before being marinated with crushed shallot, garlic, salt etc being being lightly roasted and sold in newspaper cups. The trick to eating this is to place the clam between your teeth and pry it open. it took me a while to get the hang of it, but the juices that spurt into one’s mouth as soon as the shell is pried open is perhaps the reward for one’s patience.


The kerabu beko‘s main ingredient is of course the buah beko, a kind of fruit, similar to the Petai but is much wider, and grows tall. The outer skin is hard and has to be scrubbed clean by means of boiling or direct heat. Once it’s softened, it’s sliced thinly and combined with pounded shallots, grated coconut, mackeral fish flakes, lime/ calamansi juice, black pepper and coconut milk. Alas, I am rather clueless as to the name and ingredients of the purplish seaweed snack that I had as my friend’s mum had no clue either. it was a little chewy but was complimented well by the grated coconut and sauce.

Khau Jam my last meal in kota bharu is khau jam (“mixed rice” in thai), a spicy herbal rice salad. the rice is cooked in the juice of over 50 types of blended herbs & leaves, giving it a brownish-green colour and is served with the very same accompaniments as “Nasi Kerabu”, such as the herb mix & bean sprouts, budu sauce, grated coconut, chilli paste, fish flakes/crackers etc.

well it looks like I did have the majority of the kelantanese food i wanted eat save for Ayam Percik (grilled chicken flooded with a nutty sauce) and Sup tulang which was planned to have at Yati’s on my last night there but we were turned away. Perhaps next time I should try this recommendation for Ayam Percik.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for information.
    many interesting things

    epicuriousgirl says: glad it was of some help. 🙂

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