Kelantanese Cuisine, food of Malaysia

Published: 11th December 2006
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The Kelantanese cuisine, heavily influenced by Thai cuisine, is quite popular among Malaysians. In fact, many visitors come to Kelantan just to taste the special delicacies that cannot be found elsewhere. The use of sugar is a must in every Kelantanese kitchen, and thus most Kelantanese dishes are sweet.

Kelantanese food makes more use of coconut milk than anywhere else in the country. Curries are richer, creamier, and more influenced by the tastes of nearby Thailand.

[edit] Local specialties

Apart from delicacies imported from Thailand, there are delicacies which are invented by the Kelantanese themselves such as:

* Nasi Dagang

This is a mix of white rice and brown glutinous rice (special glutinous rice) which is cooked with coconut milk (santan), blended onions and garlic and some spices (such as fenugreek) (Malay: halba). Fish or chicken curry comes as an add-on to complete the dishes, so it's recommended to take only a small portion as it is extremely filling. The Nasi Dagang is one of the tastiest dishes in Kelantan and goes well with fish curry, sour salad, hard boiled eggs and curried chicken.

* Nasi Kerabu

Nasi Kerabu literally means "salad rice". Kelantan's Nasi Kerabu is a "white rice" and served with "tumis" gravy with local herbs, leaves and vegetables. This is considerably different from the version served in other parts of Malaysia, which is a dyed-blue rice without a "tumis" gravy. The colouring comes from a type of flower, although some sellers use artificial equivalents. Apart from that it is also served with fried fish, keropok, salted egg, "solok lada" (fish fillet and coconut-stuffed chillis), and pickled garlic.

* Nasi Tumpang

Rice packed in a cone-shaped banana leaf. A pack of Nasi Tumpang consists of an omelette, meat floss, chicken curry and sweet gravy. It is traditionally meant for travellers.

* Ayam Golek/Ayam Percik

Wood-fire broiled chicken dressed with sweet coconut gravy. Ayam Golek/Ayam Percik is eaten with white rice in major family dishes and can also be dipped into "cholek" (Thai chilli sauce).

* Nasi Berlauk

Most Kelantanese have Nasi Berlauk as their breakfast. Nasi Berlauk is rice served with fish or chicken and vegetables cooked with tumeric and galangal infused yellow gravy.

* Nasi Ulam

Ulam is the local term for raw vegetables - the meal consists of white rice served with a variety of raw vegetables, and is considered one of the healthiest dishes found in Malay cuisine.

* Kau-Jam

Also termed as chlorophyll rice, the Kau-Jam is a green rice cooked using up to seven types of herbs, and served with raw vegetables (such as bean sprouts, cucumber, and long beans), fish flakes and local Keropok. The meal is often accompanied by Budu and sometimes served with deep-fried fish.

* Keropok

These are Kelantanese fish crackers. Their texture and colour are noticeably rougher and darker than the usual variety found on the West Coast of Malaysia. Like the curries, the crackers are influenced by Thai cooking and produce a sharper, saltier taste.

* Keropok Gote

These are Kelantanese fish sausages. Made by combining fish flesh and sago, keropok gote is rolled into long firm sticks and then steamed or boiled. To enjoy it, one has to cut it into desired bite sized and deep fried. Different from Terengganu's keropok lekor, the Kelantan variety is thicker and longer in size and has to be fried to be eaten. Keropok Gote is probably the one snack which all Kelantanese children grow up with. It is a must at all school canteens.

* Kelantanese Laksa

The Laksa dish, white noodles served with curry and vegetables, is made differently in every state in Malaysia. The Kelantanese laksa employs the creamy white gravy which is richer and has full-bodied flavour. The main ingredients is fish flesh, although connoisseurs would certainly prefer the ones made of eels.

[edit] Thai-influenced dishes

Perhaps the most characteristic Kelantanese-Thai dish is 'kaeng matsaman'-a mouth-watering beef curry cooked with peanuts, potatoes and chopped red onions in a thick coconut milk sauce. Other Kelantanese-Thai specialities include: 'kaeng phanaeng kai'-savoury chicken and coconut curry. 'Kaeng som nom mai dong'-hot and sour fish ragout with pickled bamboo. 'Pla see siad haeng thawt'-deep fried semi-dried pla see fish. 'Khao yam pak tai'-an intriguing breakfast salad. The presentation is exquisite. A small pile of fragrant boiled rice, accompanied by finely chopped heaps of lemon grass, peanuts, bean sprouts, green beans, sour mango and chopped makrut or kaffir lime is served with spicy chilli pepper, fresh lime and a piquant sweet-sour sauce. It's unusual, elegant, and very typical of Kelantan. Kelantanese dishes, like central Thai, are usually accompanied by generous helpings of 'khao suay', or "beautiful rice"-the best of which, 'khao hawm mali', or jasmine-fragrance rice, is steamed until each grain is tender but separate. When something tastes this good, the Thais utter in full emotion:-"Pisek!"

[edit] Dipping

* Cholek

Cholek is the most popular dipping sauce in Kelantan. The cholek is different from other chilli sauces because cholek is very thin and rather sweet. This dipping sauce is used for any kind of chicken, but also goes well with shrimp, fish cake, spring roll, sausage, etc. The most popular brand is "Mae Pranom" from Thailand.

* Budu

Budu is a salted (fermented) anchovy sauce eaten with rice, grilled fish and vegetables. A bit of lemon juice, hot chillis and onions are added on for taste. Once so combined, the purple-brownish condiment has a blend of salty and sour taste. Nowadays, other types of fish are also used to create Budu.

* Tempoyak

Tempoyak is a fermented durian dip, used for example with Nasi Kerabu.

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