In a recent interview with Fienuts of Travel Chameleon, I was asked about the best place to find awesome street food in Malaysia. Penang was the (obvious) pick but I also slipped in Kelantan as another destination worth looking into.
While Penang’s food is conceived from legendary back lane pushcarts complete with fiery woks and sweaty cooks, Kelantanese dishes attain prominence through wholesome home-cooked meals fit for a large family.
Over the course of three days, I went on a massive food hunt of Kelantan’s finest foods centered around the state capital Kota Bharu and stretched all the way to the towns of Pasir Mas and Rantau Panjang. Here are 10 uniquely Kelantan dishes for you to digest.
1. Fish Head Soup with Iced Honey Tea – Warung Pak Mat Pulau Pisang
Kelantanese cuisine has a reputation for being too sweet but the Fish Head Soup at Warung Pak Mat’s is anything but. The fresh and juicy barramundi is bathed together with pieces of Gearbox (colloquial slang for cattle bones and marrow) in a rich and hearty broth made spicy with some chili. Then, wash that all off with a tall glass of their famous Iced Honey Tea stirred to fine frothiness.
We begin our Kelantan food journey with this fresh and hearty Fish Head & Gearbox Soup [RM84.50] from Pak Mat's riverside restaurant. Don't forget to wash it off with a glass of Honey Iced Tea [RM4.20]! . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #seafood #kotabharu #kelantan #malaysia #myMYexperience #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
Warung Pak Mat Pulau Pisang
7:30 am – 4:30 am, Daily except Tuesday
Medan Ikan Bakar Kedai Buloh, Jalan Kuala Besar, Kota Bharu
2. Coconut Ice-Cream – Restoran Sapuroh
The evening east coast heat can be unrelenting at times and the best way to cool down is to gulp down the refreshing coconut water. Restoran Sapuroh has taken this it up a notch and introduced their version of the Coconut Ice-Cream: the three scoops of ice-cream jive well with the pandan glutinous rice and the peanuts gives a nice crunch to the dessert. Don’t forget to finish all the coconut flesh after you’re done!
Beat the unbearable east coast heat with this Coconut Ice-Cream [RM6.50] – a huge coconut stuffed with three scoops of coconut ice-cream, pandan sticky rice and sprinkle of peanuts . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #dessert #kotabharu #kelantan #malaysia #myMYexperience #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
12:00 pm – 12:00 am, Daily
Jalan Bayam (in front of Wisma Persekutuan), Kota Bharu
3. Nasi Kerabu with Ayam Percik & Daging Bakar – Yati Ayam Percik
I know, I know. Nasi Kerabu is already common among city folks but I can’t say the same for its accompanying meats. Yati’s famous Ayam Percik is chicken slathered in the percik sauce consisting of lemongrass, coconut milk and tamarind before being chargrilled on a skewer and served with a healthy pouring of the same sauce. You can also opt for Daging Bakar, sinewy pieces of beef also grilled and chopped into little cubes of joy.
Kelantan is best known for Nasi Kerabu, a colorful rice mixed with jungle herbs and fish sauce called "budu." It's best eaten with Ayam Percik [RM9.50], grilled chicken slathered in a lemongrass, coconut milk and tamarind sauce or Daging Bakar [RM9.40], grilled beef cooked well-done and chopped into sinewy perfection . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #kotabharu #kelantan #malaysia #myMYexperience #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
Yati Ayam Percik
12:00 pm – 11:30 pm, Daily
No 847, Jalan Long Yunus, Kota Bharu
4. Nasi Tumpang – Kopitiam Kita
Like a simplified version of Indonesia’s Nasi Tumpeng, Nasi Tumpang is a conically-shaped breakfast snack that brings a sense of bewilderment upon unwrapping it for the first time. The rice, called nasi himpit, is a dense version of the glutinous rice and its packed together with fish stew and beef floss. It’s not the tastiest morning meal in the world but it does give you all the energy and protein you need for a long and hard day at work.
One of the rare rice breakfast meals outside of Kelantan, Nasi Tumpang [RM3.00] is a conically-shaped packed glutinous rice eaten with Gulai Ikan (fish stew) and Serunding (beef floss). It looks small but it'll fill your tummy up pretty fast . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #breakfast #kelantan #malaysia #myMYexperience #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
7:00 am – 1:30 pm, Daily
4357-A, Taman Desa Jaya, Jalan Pengkalan Chepa, Kota Bharu
5. Roti Titab – Kopitiam Kita
This is Kota Bharu’s iconic breakfast set that does not contain a single grain of rice. Kopitiam Kita’s signature Roti Titab is the perfect marriage between sweet and silky – the kaya, a coconut and pandan jam, mixes well with a half-boiled egg on top of slab of thick toast. Malaysians tend to order one or the other but the perfect chemistry of these two contrasting ingredients bodes a long and lasting relationship for this coffee shop delight.
Who would've thought that mixing kaya and half-boiled egg on thick toast would end up to be Kopitiam Kita's best-seller? The signature Roti Titab [RM5.00] is a must for you kopitiam junkies . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #breakfast #kotabharu #kelantan #malaysia #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
7:00 am – 1:30 pm, Daily
4357-A, Taman Desa Jaya, Jalan Pengkalan Chepa, Kota Bharu
6. Baba Ice-Cream – Rantau Panjang
Rantau Panjang is a border town right by Thailand’s Sungai Golok so it’s no surprise that some of its desserts would end up on the Malaysian side of the border. One of them is Baba Ice-Cream and it truly is a behemoth. A large one consists of 10 scoops of pandan and coconut ice-cream covered in a full array of condiments such as sticky rice, corn, red jelly, cincau, bread, green jelly, chocolate sauce, peanuts and rainbow sprinkles. Now, that’s a mouthful!
If you're at the border town of Rantau Panjang, the Baba Ice-Cream [RM5.00] is a must. This 10-scoop colossus consists of pandan and coconut ice-cream packed with glutinous rice, corn, red jelly, cincau, bread, green jelly, chocolate sauce, peanuts and rainbow sprinkles. Phew! . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #dessert #icecream #kelantan #malaysia #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Daily
In front of Mydin Wholesale Emporium, Rantau Panjang
7. Gulai Serati – Kedai Makan Kak Za
This is my personal favorite – Gulai Serati is basically duck stew eaten with rice, slices of cucumbers and a dash of sambal. The sweet and thick stew complements the strong taste and texture of the duck meat, bringing out the best in each other. The rich stew can be overpowering to some people so wisely utilize the spicy sambal and crunchy cucumbers as a palate cleanser.
This is a true Kelantanese breakfast. Gulai Serati [RM6.00] is duck stew simply eaten with rice, cucumbers and sambal. The sweet stew and the rich taste of duck meat bring out the best in each other! . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #breakfast #duck #kelantan #malaysia #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
Kedai Makan Kak Za
7:00 am – 4:00 pm, Daily except Saturdays
Kampung Tendong, Jalan Pasir Mas – Wakaf Bharu, Pasir Mas
8. Laksam – Restoran By-T Laksam
Laksa is one of Malaysia’s most widely interpreted dish and Kelantan’s version, called Laksam, is one of the most intriguing yet. Like Penang’s Assam Laksa, Laksam uses a fish-based broth but instead of adding lime and tamarind, coconut milk is used. Thick rice flour noodles is added to the creamy concoction followed by a medley of toppings – Kerabu (jungle herbs), Serunding (beef floss), quail eggs and customary sambal.
Kelantan's take on laksa is Laksam [RM4.00], oodles of rice flour noodles in a creamy fish broth mixed with Kerabu (jungle herbs), Serunding (beef floss), a couple of quail eggs and a dash of sambal. You'll sip it to the last drop . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #noodles #laksam #kelantan #malaysia #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
Restoran By-T Laksam
3:00 pm – 10:30 pm, Daily except Saturdays
Lot 1335 Kampung Panji, Jalan Raja Perempuan Zainab II, Kota Bharu
9. Nasi Kak Wok – Nasi Kak Wook Original Recipe
The mixed rice that’s been making waves in Kuala Lumpur – Nasi Kak Wok’s simplicity overshadows its complexity in flavor. The chicken is chopped into pieces and fried in a secret seasoning while the aromatic chicken stew has all the spices you need. The reason many imitators tried and failed to replicate the original is they could never figure out the right amount of spices and seasonings used to make this classic.
Kota Bharu's famous Nasi Kak Wok [RM5.00] is simply rice eaten with an aromatic chicken stew, diced chicken fried in secret seasoning and some greens. There are two spin-offs to the original and this one is run by the founder's grandchildren . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #breakfast #kotabharu #kelantan #malaysia #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
Nasi Kak Wook Original Recipe
8:00 am – 3:00 pm, Daily except Saturdays
299, Jalan Tengku Mohd Maasum (behind SK Zainab I), Kota Bharu
10. Kuih-Muih – Pasar Siti Khadijah
Kota Bharu’s central market is bee-hive of activities and its interior facade is as colorful as their kuih-muih, or sweet treats. They range from sprightly round ones like Lompang to the oddly-named Tahi Itik (duck poop?). I didn’t have enough time to ask about the ingredients and method of making them from the seller but it’s great to learn that so much local food is still out there yet to be explored by us.
Wrapping up my food tour of Kelantan is a round up of their sweet morning delicacies known as kueh-mueh. A roll-call from bottom right (clockwise): kuih peria, kuih koci, tepung manis ubi kayu, tahi itik, akok, lompang and in the center kuih koci hitam . . . #travel #travelgram #food #foodie #foodporn #kuehmueh #kotabharu #kelantan #malaysia #DOTRkelantan #DOTRmakan
Pasar Siti Khadijah
7:00 am – 6:00 pm, Daily
Jalan Buluh Kubu, Kota Bharu
Did my 3-day Kelantan food adventure really encapsulate real Kelantanese cuisine? Is there any other places that you would like to recommend me to try? Fire away in the comments section below.