Malay travelers and Malay local food are inseparable, or, as a Malay say states, ‘like a song and its rhythm’. I honestly believe that visiting a place without trying its local authentic cuisine is like time wasted. For this reason, during my short stay in this amazing town, I decided to try Kota Bahru hearty choice of food. I actually went as far as eating as many local delicacies as possible, some known, some less-known or totally unknown by Malay and international travelers.
It was thanks to the help from My Place Guest House owner Mr. Deen and from my friends from Kelantan, Ah Wen, Annuar, Zain and Daus help that I managed to get closer to an amazing range of local food that I’m pretty sure you would find yummy, especially if you are an Asian food lover.
Breakfast on day 1 was a meal at famous Kopitiam Kita. Apparently, this eatery is often visited by several famous local artists and politicians thanks to the delicious taste of their food; proof of this lies in the photos displayed on the premises’ walls. I had traditional Nasi Lemak, Roti Bakar and Teh Tarik; not the cheapest I must say, budget travelers beware, but the taste was special. Other popular food choice include local delicacies such as Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Dagang and a good range of cakes.
For lunch, Ah Wen took me to one of the popular Boat Noodles mainly run by Thai people who populate the Tumpat area of town. I highly recommend this choice of food as noodles are fresh and with the perfect texture, the meat is tender and easy to chew, the soups have great flavours and there is a good range of Sambal Chili to go with your meal, though this only if you are a hot and spicy food lover.
The best Boat Noodles shops seem to be those near the roadside, next to a bicycle shop not far from Sitting Buddha Temple and opposite Wat Prachumthat Canaram temple. Bear in mind that this food is for non-muslim only. Muslims can enjoy halal Boat Noodles in town at a place called Mee Celup, where the food quality is definitely high.
For tea, I wanted to try Kelantan local cakes so my friend Annuar took me to his favourite place, a simple stall located next to Wakaf railway station where lots of authentic food is offered, including Kuih Pulut Kaya and Kuih Pelita famous cakes. And between a chat and a morsel, dinner time approached so I took advantage and I ordered a take-away of Nasi Dagang, a local dish consisting of black rice and fish.
On my second day in Kota Bahru, I finally got to taste Nasi Kerabu, Kelantan state signature dish. Nasi Kerabu is a blue-dyed rice, though it can also be found in green or yellow. Whatever the colour, those cooking this rice follow a special procedure, adding special roots, local spices such as ginger, grated coconut, white pepper, chili, coconut milk, lemongrass, mackerel, cucumber and even long beans, making the dish a heathy choice, one that is also known as ‘herbal rice’. According to locals, the blue color is achieved by using a powdered extract from the Bunga Telang flower. Nasi Kerabu is usually eaten together with Ayam Percik chicken.
Continuing on to my third and last day in Kota Bahru, it was at the Handicraft Village where I got the chance to taste Nasi Ulam Cikgu. This dish is also a famous one in Kelantan since it is considered a traditional culinary delicacy that has been passed on from generation to generation. The dish is named after the chef, called Cikgu Hamid, who also happens to be a school teacher.
I was quite happy at my friends Ah Wen and Nuar choice, as I loved the spiciness of the dish and the side salad dish I was served. Having side dishes like cucumber and vegetable salads is customary of local Kelantan people. I tried a menu that also comprised Budu, Sambal, fried catfish and a drink, and was fully satisfied.
Don’t be put off by the fact that you first chose the food you want from the containers, the staff places it on the dish and you get the know the final price later. I can assure you this eatery is more than affordable. As a food lover, I can advise you not to miss this place located on Kota Sultan Ismail Petra Gateway.
Google it and you will find it. Make sure you book in a table if you plan to eat there between 12.00 and 2.00 p.m., as the place is usually packed at those times.
I found my friends’ choice of food to be very interesting indeed, and I am sure there is still plenty of food that I did not have the chance to try due to the limited amount of time in my hands. If you happen to visit Kelantan, Kota Bahru hearty choice of food should not be missed.