It goes without saying that if you’re in Malaysia’s east coast state of Kelantan, you just have to try its food & delicacies. While Kelantan might not have the variety in terms of ethnic food offering like Penang does, it still has plenty of choices to suit every bud’s tastes, even when it comes to rice dishes. You might not even have the time to try them all if you’re just in town for a few days, but try them you must. And that’s what my friends and I did during our recent trip to Kota Bharu, the state capital of Kelantan. We not only explored the heritage and culture of Kelantan through Perdana Trail walking tour, we also ate like there’s no tomorrow.
When it comes to food, Kelantanese seem to love rice a lot, and they appear to have no problem having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every single day. Us outsiders might ask, don’t they ever get bored with rice? Probably not. Not especially when they have many delicious options to choose from, like what you can see from the following list:
1. Nasi Dagang
[ Photo above ]
Nasi Dagang, literally “Trader’s Rice”, is one of the more popular breakfast meals in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, particularly in Kelantan and Terengganu. The dish consists of part normal white rice and part glutinous rice (both steamed and cooked together in coconut milk), fish curry (usually tuna) and other ingredients such as fried shaved coconut, sliced hard boiled eggs and acar (vegetable pickles, Malaysian style).
Although the rice is cooked and steamed in coconut milk like nasi lemak, the more popular rice dish that some call Malaysia's national dish, it is important to note that the flavour and texture of nasi dagang is totally different from nasi lemak. Hailing from Terengganu, I also noted there’s a slight difference between Terengganu’s nasi dagang and Kelantan’s nasi dagang, with the former being less glutinous and the curry slightly spicier. Both variants however are delicious. And the nasi dagang served in Hotel Perdana in Kota Bharu? It’s probably the best Kelantan’s nasi dagang, something that not only I feel but it was also attested by the hard core foodies and food bloggers in the group.
While nasi dagang might be a popular breakfast meal, it can also be eaten for lunch and dinner.
2. Nasi Kerabu
This is another popular rice dish in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, although it has come to be more synonymous with Kelantan. Kerabu is a Malay-style salad, a mixture of vegetables, fruit cuts and herbs. Served together with blue-(naturally) coloured rice, kerisik sambal ikan (fish floss mixed with grated & sautéed coconut), boiled salted egg, budu (fermented fish sauce/condiment, a Kelantan specialty on its own) and a choice of either fried and lightly battered fish or grilled beef along with some fish crackers and sometimes a stuffed chili, you might just be surprised at how all these ingredients, when they are all mixed together, can serve a beautiful taste and flavour. Indeed some of foreign visitors who have tried nasi kerabu would say that this is the best rice dish they have had in Malaysia, even better than nasi lemak.
3. Nasi Tumpang
Unlike the earlier two rice dishes, nasi tumpang is exclusively a Kelantan rice dish. Traditionally packed in a cone-shaped banana leaf for family members who’re either travelling or going to work, nasi tumpang literally has different layers to it, usually consisting of shrimp or fish curry, some sambal gravy, beef or fish floss and sometimes an omelette.
4. Nasi Minyak
Elsewhere in Malaysia, nasi minyak (literally oil rice :)) is synonymous with special occasions, especially Malay weddings, so much so people usually ask, “Bila lagi nak makan nasi minyak?” (“So when are we having nasi minyak?”) to indirectly ask how long more one has to wait before one gets married. Well, luckily in Kelantan you don’t have to wait until there is a Malay wedding reception to try it out. Why? Because nasi minyak is one of their breakfast meals.
Served with either spicy chicken curry or beef curry, you don’t really have to worry about the “oil” part because it comes from ghee. Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly a 110% healthy diet but then again, you only live once, right? ;-)
5. Pulut Nyiur
Pulut nyiur is probably the simplest breakfast meal on this list. It’s simply sticky rice (pulut) served with grated coconut (nyiur - normally slightly salted with some salt and slightly sweetened with a dash of sugar). It can be eaten on its own or with dried and salted fish, depending on one’s preference.
This is one of my favourite breakfast meals even back in my hometown in Terengganu.
Okay, so this is not exactly a rice dish but a variant of laksa. Laksam is made with very thick rolled up flat white rice flour noodles and served in a rich and thick white gravy of boiled fish & coconut milk with some greens and a little bit of red sambal & belacan (shrimp paste) for that extra oomph! It is usually served during breakfast or afternoon tea hours.
7. Nasi Ulam
Nasi ulam is essentially a steamed white rice dish mixed with various herbs, vegetables, spices, and accompanied with various side dishes. Whilst it may be found throughout the country, it is more commonly found in Kelantan. One of the more popular spots in Kota Bharu for nasi ulam is Restoran Cikgu Nasi Ulam, which has a branch at Kota Bharu’s Kampung Kraftangan (map) in the city centre. Not only their nasi ulam is delicious, their set meals provide value for money. For example, the above serving, which is suitable for 5-6 persons, and consist of 2 huge catfish, 2 huge pieces of fried chicken, a bowl of Patin Asam Pedas, grilled fish, sayur lemak, ulam, budu & sambal + unlimited supply of white rice, water and syrup drink, cost just RM56 (~USD15 at time of writing)!
8. Nasi Bungkus
Nasi bungkus literally means packed rice, and that’s what it really is. White rice packed with some dishes like fish or chicken curry for breakfast. So you might ask, “Is that it? What’s so special about nasi bungkus then? Can’t you find the same thing somewhere else in Malaysia?” Considering that some companies in Kelantan have started “exporting” their nasi bungkus to Kuala Lumpur on daily basis via air cargo, you might want to reserve the question and try it out first.
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With the exception of nasi tumpang, these are the rice dishes that I had managed to try during my recent short weekend stay in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. There’s also nasi kapit, rice cubes served with kerisik sambal ikan (fish floss mixed with grated & sautéed coconut), of which I forgot to take a photo, heh! Admittedly I was lucky not to have to travel far from Hotel Perdana, the hotel I was staying at for these rice dishes because, apart from nasi ulam (which you can find at the aforementioned restaurant), they serve all these in Cerana Coffee House, one of their popular restaurants. So most of the time, it’s just a short trip downstairs for me. Can you imagine how much weight I gained from the trip? *shudders*
Have you tried any of these rice dishes? Which one(s) do you prefer? And if you have a favourite or two, could you recommend where else we can find the best of these dishes?
My appreciation and thanks go to Hotel Perdana Kota Bharu and Destination Malaysia for sponsoring the trip and stay in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Opinions stated in the post are of my own.
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Going to Kota Bharu, Kelantan? Do check out Hotel Perdana Kota Bharu for your accommodation requirements there.
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pulut nyiur paling susah nak jumpa but very sedap.ReplyDelete
My favourite breakfast meal tu. Siapa2 pandai buat boleh jadi calon isteri #eh hahaha!Delete
I want Nasi Ulam, now!ReplyDelete
*Hentak-hentak kai, Guling-guling kat lantai*
*Bagi ulam tanpa nasi dan lauk2 lain*Delete
same goes here. pulut gaul nyior always my fav. bila balik batu buruk. huhuh...either dgn ikan goreng or ikan panggang or ikan kering..or even dgn keropok keping..jalan jerrr..huhuReplyDelete
I usually have plain pulut nyiur without anything else. Took me quite some time to adapt to eating it with ikan kering & ikan panggang, haha! Eh Batu Buruk kat sebelah mana?Delete
Nasi kerabu now n forever kegemaran kalo pegi kb ni.ReplyDelete
Tried nasi ulam..agak teruja sbb jumpa ulam yg x pnah nmpk pun selama ni.
Haa! Saya kalau kat KL ni, tiap2 minggu kot makan nasi kerabu, haha! Semuanya pasal susah nak cari nasi dagang Trg, haha! T_TDelete
Mostly everyone is updating about food this week. I'm so stressed out thinking about the Nasi Ulam. LOLReplyDelete
Btw thank you for the info, some of the things I didn't even know.
You mean info like nasi dagang Terengganu is the best? :pDelete
I haven't made it to Malaysia yet but am planning a trip this year or the beginning of next year. I LOVE Malaysian food but alas, I obviously have so much more to learn. I've only had Nasi Lemak. I can't wait to have all these colorful rice dishes, especially pulit nyuir, Nasi Ulam and Nasi Kerabu (how do they color the rice blue?) thanks for the tips!ReplyDelete
Dec-Jan usually is not a good time to visit Kelantan, or the East Coast of the Peninsular Malaysia because of monsoon season. The islands off the coast are also closed. The rest of Malaysia should be good however.Delete
The blue in nasi kerabu comes from butterfly-pea flowers. The petals are used when cooking the rice. :)
What interesting dishes! I am so curious about the blue rice. What makes it blue? I love travel food and trying new things. My kids would be really interesting in having rice for breakfast as here in the states it is not a breakfast food!ReplyDelete
Natalie, The Educational Tourist
The blue in nasi kerabu comes from butterfly-pea flowers. The petals are used when cooking the rice :) Most Malaysians don't really have rice for breakfast either, except for maybe nasi lemak and another rice dish from time to time. In Kelantan however, it's totally a different story :) With the exception of perhaps nasi ulam, all of the above rice dishes can be had for breakfast.Delete
Very educational! Unfortunately, I wanted to finally find out about laksa and you only had a variant. But I think my fave would be nasi ulam! Thanks.ReplyDelete
Ah-ha! I should probably do a post on laksa too, I guess! I _think_ each state in Malaysia have their own special laksa, some of which are totally different from the rest. So there could be like 13 varieties of laksa dishes, at least, that you can try in Malaysia :)Delete
Love the colours in Nasi Kerabu!ReplyDelete
I'm a bit indifferent about the colours of the rice but some folks, Malaysians included, think it's kind of weird eating rice that is so blue.Delete
Oh my I love Asian food and this made me miss it more.ReplyDelete
Time to head down to the nearest Asian restaurant, maybe? Though I don't think you can easily find any of the above dishes elsewhere apart from perhaps during some Malaysian food festivals in cities like London & New York.Delete
Ok!!! Now I´m hungry!!ReplyDelete
That was your intention, wasn't it?!
I have been in Langkawi, Malaysia, and loved the food.
Definitely I need to visit the country again! :-)
Langkawi is not bad, although I haven't been there for years. Malaysia is quite diverse when it comes to culture and food (unless if you say rice is rice, or laksa is laksa no matter which one ;) ) So yes, you definitely have to come and visit again.Delete
Looks amazing, just one more reason to visit Malaysia.ReplyDelete
Yup, food, especially street food, is definitely one of the reasons for some.Delete
Everything looks so delicious, especially the nasi kerabu! I've never had blue rice before but would love to try this dish one day.ReplyDelete
You totally should try nasi kerabu. Most of friends who come from outside of Malaysia say that they prefer nasi kerabu than nasi lemak. It is quite hard to find a good one in KL though, unlike nasi lemak.Delete
Wow, nice food photography! This couldn't have come at a better time, as I'm currently in Malaysia! I'll have to keep an eye out for some of these tasty delights.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Heather. That's great! Where about in Malaysia are you now? Do give me a buzz if you're in KL!Delete
Never been to Kelantan. Pity me but your photog skills did the justice to the food pictures. Indeed, those look pretty enticing... Phew!ReplyDelete
Kota Bharu is quite interesting actually with plenty of things to see, all within walking distance. You should go, especially when flight tickets can be dirt cheapDelete
Such a wide variety of Nasi to choose from! That's really appetising.ReplyDelete
Indeed there are quite a variety of nasi in Kelantan. I wish I could have stayed there longer, to try them again and again, haha!Delete