Local Delicacy & Traditional Cuisine
Malaysia is always famous for its variety of foods. Although the whole country is like a huge dining place, there are still foods ‘belongs’ to certain places or places that stand out as representing some particular cooking or foods.
Due to the geographical location and history back ground, apart from cuisines which representing the three major races, Terengganu food has shown the influence of Thai culture and taste. Terengganu has abundance of rice based dishes such as nasi dagang, nasi kunyit, nasi kuning, nasi berlauk, nasi lemak and nasi kerabu. There is laksam, laksa Terengganu, otak-otak, sata, pulut lepa, ketupat sotong and kerepok lekor. Dining out is relatively inexpensive and there are always plenty of choices range from hotel food to hawker food.
The Malay cooking always have their homegrown ingredients such as coconut milk, lemon grass, lime leaves, screw pine leaves (pandan leave) and tumeric etc. to cook with meat or vegetables together with a traditional accompaniment of a hot and spicy sambal belacan which is made of prawn paste, ground chili and condiments. Indeed, no Malay meal is complete without the sambal ! Rice forms the main staple of the Malays, and this is often taken with a variety of dishes. Daily meals are based on white rice, and coconut milk is always one of the ingredient in the cooking.
Mak Ngah Nasi Dagang, opens 07:00 - 11:00 am. Best stall to go for nasi dagang is Mak Ngah Nasi Dagang, a little stall about 2km from Kuala Ibai bridge, by the road of Chendering. Early bird always catches its meal. Nasi dagang in Mak Ngah’s stall always sold out before 11:00am. Other alternative will be at any stalls in Kuala Terengganu which offer quite similar taste.
Nasi Minyak John at Jalan Petani, beside AEON building. Opens 09:00-10:30am. Nasi minyak or ghee rice is another typical food for this state. It is normally eaten with vegetable pickles and Chicken, egg or beef curry.
Meka at Jalan Sultan Omar, Mat Binjai at Jalan Sultan Sulaiman and Misya at Batu Buruk Hawker Centre. Opens 11:00-2:30pm: Offers large selection of Terengganu traditional kampung dishes such as fried ayam kampung (free range chicken), bovine lungs, grilled fish, grilled squid etc. Ulam or the Malay salad is a combination of raw vegetables such as ulam raja, cucumber, petai(stink beans), pegaga etc. Some are more unfamiliar, like daun kentut, daun kudu, cekur, daun larak and kucing seduduk etc. It is eaten with rice or just dip into sambal belacan, budu (fish sauce) or tempoyak (fermented durian paste). There is piping hot white rice to go with the dishes.
Kedai Nasi Kerabu, Opens 11:00-3:30pm. Located right across from the main entrance to Wisma Darul Iman (the Terengganu state government buildings). Nasi kerabu, a dish of rice tinted bright blue and eaten with ulam, fried salted fish, fish crackers and other garnishings. The blue which comes from the petals of bunga telang (clitoria) used in the cooking variety is the most common, but there are many versions depending on the colour of the rice. Prices are a bit more expensive here but they have good local specialties.
Central Market (08:00am-2:00pm) and Foods warong along Jalan Sultan Sulaiman (4:00pm-12:00pm) : Serves numerous good local Malay food. Try Laksam is quite similar to the western pasta except the wheat and rice flour mixing dough is steamed but not boiled. It is eat with boiled and pureed fish gravy which is mixed with coconut milk. Some warong serves good nasi lemak, Nasi lemak is another typical Malay food. The rice is cooked with coconut milk then eaten with ikan bilis, sambal, slices of cucumber, egg and peanut.
Besides the main menu, there are a numbers of Malay dessert or little eat in Terengganu traditional Malay menu.
Keropok is cracker made of fish which is ground to a paste then mixed with sago before it is steamed and later deep fried. It is the snack instead of a proper meal and sometimes is served as the snack before meal. It can be eaten either when it is steamed or deep fried, both give different taste. The long chewy ones are called keropok lekor while the thin crispy are called keping, means slice. Both the keropok is usually eaten with chili dip.Keropok is easily found elsewhere in Kuala Terengganu, from the stalls beside the road to restaurants or market. If you wish to bring home some, go to the Central Market for dried keropok or fresh in Losong who is famous with largest Museum in Malaysia and its keropok. Kak Yah's stall is the most popular at Losong, prof of that is Kak Yah magnificents house located next to her stall. Some say stall 007 near Floating Mosque is the best among this, well, find it out yourself.
Satar is another fish snack in Terengganu Malay cuisine. It is mixture of pounded fish, shallots and ginger wrapped in banana leaf, pierce of few by 1 single bamboo stick then barbecue over low fire. The best stall are by the road of Chendering, sold by an old couple in a Ford Vargon or Warung Che Wan at Kuala Kemaman if not, you can try your luck at Central Market.
Onde Onde, a very tangy and fluffy, Malay delicacy, with grated nuts as fillings and generously coated with a layer of coconut gratings.
Solok Lada, Chillies suffed with fish paste which has beed spiced with ginger and coconut milk.
Pulut Inti, a kind of dry rice pudding made from glutinous rice & coconut milk as the topping. It is cooked by steaming. The dessert rice is topped with fresh grated coconut sweetened with palm sugar. It is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves folded into a pyramid shape.
Roti Jala, 'net bread’ or crepes is a net or lacy type of crepe, which sometimes replaces the staple rice, made from a crepe-like batter. A special cup or mould with small holes is used to make the lacy crepe which is cooked over a hot griddle. Roti Jala is often served during special occasions and is an ideal accompaniment to dishes with lots of rich curries or gravies like Malaysian Chicken Curry, Chicken Kapitan, or Mutton Kurma.
Pulut Lepa made of glutinous rice and fish, this snack food is prepared over a barbecue. Boiled fish meat is mixed with sliced onions, and dried chilies and coconut. The mixture is cooked until it is dry. This is then used as a filling for the glutinous rice rolls. Wrappings of banana leaf cover the food before it is cooked over the fire.
Rendang, is the meat dish that is prepared with coconut milk, chilies, onions and other condiments. Eaten with rice, the tasty tender meat is a delectable dish. It is a must at most Malay functions.
Nekbat is a light dessert made of rice flour and eggs, prepared in a mould over a light fire. When it turns yellow and puffy it is to be eaten with syrup flavoured by pandan leaf.
Ketupat sotong is squid stuffed with glutinous rice bathed in a sea of cooked and thick coconut milk. The stuffing is soaked in coconut milk before it is put in the squids.
Lompat tikam is a sweet cold dessert made out of coconut milk and rice flour flavoured by pandan leaf.
Akak Cooked in a mould, eaten sweet or savoury. The sovoury version has a spiced beef filling and sweet version is pandan flavoured.
Buah Gomok is sweetmeat made out of glutinous rice flour, a filing of shredded coconut and a dark brown sugar derived from the coconut tree as well as powered fried green peas.
Bronok is sweetmeat made out of boiling sago, sugar, red coloring and coated with shredded coconut.
Most of these desserts can be found at the Central Market or stall beside the road or perhaps the famous ‘Kuih Corner’ at Jalan Panji Alam, behind the female hostel of a religion school, Sekolah Menengah Agama Khairiah. Stalls along Pantai Batu Buruk also serves good desserts. Or maybe it is a good idea to have a short visit to the night market (pasar malam), this is the place to hunt for food that you have never tried before.
Although you can find fresh fruit juice elsewhere in Malaysia, Kuala Terengganu offers you something special from the ordinary. In Sebarang Takir Gelas Besar you can get an extra ordinary huge glass of fresh fruit juice with only Rm2.50. Take minibuses to Seberang Takir from local bus station and ask for Gelas Besar restaurant. It is usually operates from afternoon on.
Chinese cuisine seems to have endless choices and various ways of preparing. Each of these is stem from the different parts of China from which the early immigrants originated.
Chinese food is sometimes categorised into hawker food and restaurant food. Hawker food is always precooked and simpler in the preparation whereas restaurant food always involves more complicated or ‘formal and traditional’ way of preparation and serving. Hawker food normally found in hawker center and coffee shops whereas for restaurant food, like the name implied is served in the restaurant.
What are the famous Chinese hawker food in Terengganu?
Roti paun (little bun) is the toasted small rectangle bread loaf that is make up from 4 little buns. This little toasted bun goes well with margarine, butter or kaya (home made coconut jam).
Hainan Chicken Rice, it is one of the most popular everyday meal served in food stalls and eateries all over Malaysia. This chicken and rice dish is garnished with cucumbers, scallions and cilantro, sometimes served with a side of soup from the broth. A dipping sauce of chili, garlic, ginger and lime juice is a must-have to complete this meal!
Clay Pot Rice where, rice is cooked in a clay pot with slices of a sweet Chinese sausage with chicken, dark soy sauce and scallions.
Curry Mee or curry noodles uses the yellow egg noodles and is served in a light curry gravy with cockles, prawns, cuttlefish, fried soy cakes, bean sprouts and a hot chili paste.
Char Kway Teow, fried flat noodles are stir fried in a little lard with shrimp, cockles, bean sprouts, egg, chives and made spicy hot to taste with chili paste.
Ewe Char Koay or the Chinese doughnut is long, usually twin pieces of dough are deep fried and eaten for breakfast. It is great for dunking in coffee as well as a tea-time snack. Other doughnut such as Ham Jim Bang (stuffed with red bean paste), Ma Kok (with sesame seeds) etc are normally sold together with Ewe Char Koay.
Ais Kacang, the shaved ice dessert is a favorite local dessert especially in a hot sunny afternoon. It is also called ABC. Sweet red beans, agar agar (seaweed jelly), barley pearls, sweet corn and fruits are covered with shaved ice, then laced with rose syrup, brown sugar syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Cool!
Loh Hon Ko is the cold drink which is boiled with dried mangosteen and served in either warm or cold is believed to have cooling effects to the body.
While knowing all these yummie food, where can you find them?
Most of the stall in the hawker center near China Town can ‘heal’ your empty stomach with these yummie food, Ah Siu serves good ABC, Stall 33A popolar with soy beans drinks, loh han ko and Ah Tong (A-32 B) famous for chinese herbal soups and deep fried tidbits. David stall near China Town arch served very good fresh fruits juice and fried keow teow.For the best taste and Roti paun try the Sin Ping Xiang in China Town.
If you prefer a proper few courses Chinese meal, perhaps you can go to Good Luck Restoran at Jalan Kota Lama, Restoran Ocean which is by the sea at Jalan Sultan Zainal Abdin and the neighbour Restoran Tian Kee who serves steamboat, Golden Dragon at China Town etc., and order something different besides your usual Chinese fried rice.
You can have pomfret, grouper or even cod fish either in steamed or sweet sour sauce or deep fried as you like. Pomfret is always best to serve in steamed which is always sprinkled with fresh ginger, light soy sauce and sesame oil. Grouper is popular to go with hot and spicy sauce after being coated with flour and deep fried.
Chinese Kale with Oyster Sauce usually blanched whole in hot boiling water till tender, it is quickly drained, topped with oyster sauce and garnished with fried garlic crisps and sesame oil. This popular vegetable dish also makes a great vegetarian dish when made with vegetarian oyster sauce.
To the outskirt of Kuala Terengganu, you can hunt for seafood.
Partly due to the strategic location which near the port, outskirt places like Kemaman and Dungun is ideal place to go for seafood, especially crab. Apart from the national petroleum producer, Petronas oil production activities, Kemaman is also famous with stuffed crab. It is the stuffed crab shell with chunk crab meat filling before being deep fried. One of the famous restaurants with this Chinese cuisine is Tong Juan at Jalan Sulaiman of Chukai Kemaman.
Though Indian is the minority in Terengganu, there are still places to hunt for good Indian food. Local Indian cuisine can be either representing the Northern Indian, Southern Indian. In Malaysia, there is a proliferation of Indian restaurants and Indian food stalls, famously known as Mamak stalls. Mamak means Uncle in Tamil. Cooking, Spices are always the heart and soul of Indian by the way.
Nasi Biryani is a main course rice with dish served, especially on special occasions like weddings, where this saffron flavored steamed rice is made aromatic with Indian spices. It is always layered with spiced chicken, lamb or mutton. It is sometime served with Pappadums, a kind of flat, thin breads that are made from lentil flour and are sometimes flavored with whole cumin seeds.
Mutton Kurma or mutton curry is a mild but flavorful curry with lamb or mutton cooked in a medley of spices - coriander, cumin, aniseed, peppercorns, turmeric, cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, nutmegs and cardamoms. Besides rice or bread, this dish also goes great with Roti Jala.
Tandoori Chicken is an all-time favorite, where whole young chickens or chicken quarters are marinated for a long time in yoghurt and spices. It is then roasted in a special clay oven called a tandoor. The succulent pieces of chicken are usually served with a spicy mint sauce and plain or garlic Naan bread.
Fish Head Curry from grouper, cod and other big fish, is cooked in a medley of spices, chilies, tamarind and coconut milk. An acquired taste, this dish has, over the years, gained popularity, especially with fish aficionados, who know that the sweetest fish meat, is from the head and cheeks !
Indian Mee Goreng is fresh yellow noodles are stir fried with mutton or lamb, vegetables, tomato ketchup and spices, giving this fried noodle dish a distinctly unique Indian flavor! The Mamak is always known as a good Indian fried noodle server.
There are several types of different bread (‘Roti’ in Malay language) in Indian cuisine and is normally the typical food for breakfast or supper. Roti Canai also known as Roti Prata, is a kind of pancake prepared with wheat flour, eggs, ghee, or butter. It is eaten with meat or chicken curry. Best eaten hot, it is a perennial favourite served at most roadside stalls. Sometimes this roti is also stuff with other thing and named after the filling, Roti Telur (egg and onion), Roti Sardine (sardine) whereas Roti Pisang is (banana); Naan is the whole wheat bread. The dough is rolled out and then slapped on the inside of the tandoor or clay oven, near the top where it cooks very quickly in the fierce heat. It can be plain or sprinkled with chopped garlic, garlic Naan; Chapati, whole-wheat flat bread that has a delightful flavor and chewy texture. It is a popular bread to eat with curries especially rich meat curries; Murtabak is the stuffed pastry pancake filled with eggs, onions, fresh sliced chilies, with the addition of minced lamb or mutton. It is served with a side of curry gravy; Thosai or Dosai is the flat sour bread made from black grams & rice flour. It is served with sambal or savory gravies and coconut chutney. Thosai can also be stuffed with spiced potatoes and stewed vegetables and is called Masala Thosai or Masala Dosai; Idli which is steamed fluffy bread, shaped like a flying saucer, that is soft, dense & spongy. It is excellent for soaking up sambal usually served with it.
MD Curry House at Jalan Kampung Dalam, not far from Istana Maziah, who is well known for roti canai and banana leaf rice dishes, whereas Kari Asha at Jalan Air Jernih serves good range of Indian curries and Sri Shunmugam restaurant is famous for nasi beraini (served on friday) and banana leaf rice with mutton kurma. Do not pass up the chance to savour their teh tarik (pull tea), which is good.
Take you time a try it out yourself. Perhaps some of them will give you a gastronomic memory when you are sitting in your comfortable living room at home.