Nasi in any form, is still Nasi

Malaysians are all big fans of the nasi lemak, and this is probably the most popular form of nasi (rice) that we all know and love. But take a drive to the East Coast of Malaysia and you will notice this nasi, taking on a different form.

The good news is that KL-lites do not have to go so far. If you venture into Solaris Dutamas, you will find the restaurant "Wau Penyu" , that does and awesome array of Malay rice dishes from Kelantan and Terengganu.

1. Nasi Tumpang

Nasi Tumpang is characterised by it's unique, conical shape and is normally packed in banana leaf along with other meats and curry gravies. So the story goes, that back in the day, the men used to work in the field and during lunch time, the women would pack them a Malay rice lunch and send it out to the fields for the men to have their meals, whilst they took their afternoon break. The shape of the Nasi Tumpang is such (compact and conical) to facilitate easy packing so that the women who rode out on their bikes to the fields, could bring as many as possible in their carrier to the men.

The flavours of the Nasi Tumpang are fantastic- fiery hot and in a sweet gravy. All the ingredients contain some element of spiciness such as the serunding daging (beef floss), gulai ikan (fish curry) or shrimp and bits of curry chicken sandwiched inside the banana leaf, fusing into the rice and adding flavour and heat to the dish. It really is a complete meal in one. The smooth starchy rice comes with my favourite side dishes such as egg/omelette, meat, cucumber and lots of curry sauce. The perfect balanced meal and the men of the fields know it too!

2. Laksam

Laksam is one of Terengganu's delicious, mouth-watering local delicacies. It's a different kind of laksa or noodles compared to Penang Assam Laksa, Laksa Sarawak or any other kind of laksa from other states in Malaysia. Laksam of Terengganu is a delightful yet simple dish, prepared using either wheat and rice flours. The mixture are thinly spread, rolled and sliced between 2 cm into the bowl. I still classify this under "rice" because the noodles are served as cubes of rice, rather than the conventionally long strings of noodles and it is mainly made out of rice flour. The gravy is made from fish meat which is boiled, pureed, and later mixed with coconut milk.  This rice dish served with white sauce made from fish, shrimp paste and coconut milk and garnish with raw vegetables like shredded cucumber, long beans, bean sprout and cabbage is fabulous as a light lunch.

3. Nasi Kerabu

Nasi Kerabu literally means 'rice salad'. Kelantan has a variety of Nasi Kerabu and it is evident in the color of the rice. Nasi kerabu biasa (normal) or nasi kerabu putih is white in color and normally comes with  sambal tumis (a special coconut milk based gravy with local herbs and spices, with a hint of chillies). There is also the more unusual  Nasi kerabu Hitam - black rice, allthough the actual color is blue. After the rice is soaked and cooked with a local flower, it gives this gorgeous characteristic blue- black color  although now a days, some people use artificial coloring equivalents. There is also a nasi kerabu kuning that is yellow in color and employs turmeric in the preparation of the rice.

The nasi kerabu normally comes with a watery chilly sauce, and salad that could be any vegetables or edible leaves though the more or less standard version will have taugeh (bean sprouts), long green beans, bunga kantan(torch ginger flower), cucumber and even the kadok and kesum leaf. Apart from that it can also be served with keropok (fish crackers), egg, solok lada (fish fillet and coconut-stuffed chillies), and pickled garlic (local gherkins). Extremely addictive and spicy. Be prepared to sweat buckets eating Malay food because it is cathartic!

4. Nasi Dagang

Last but not least , no lunch spread is complete without the Nasi Dagang. Nasi dagang is another fantastically tasty dish, consisting of rice steamed in coconut milk, fish curry and extra ingredients such as fried shaved coconut, solok lada, hard-boiled eggs and vegetable pickles. It is a well-known breakfast food in the states on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, such as Terengganu and Kelantan. The most famous Nasi dagang of Terengganu comes from a place called Kampung Ladang, an area within the Kuala Terengganu district. I have not tried the one from Kampung Ladang but my colleague who covers the East Coast says it's truly the best. The nasi Dagang at Wau Penyu was good, but perhaps a little overshadowed by the Nasi Kerabu and the Nasi Tumpang.

All that rice can be quite filling. You can have your meal with lime juice and it cuts way the grease or even the lovely pink coloured air bandung, which is essentially milk flavoured with rose cordial syrup to wash it all down with.

Wau Penyu,
No.1, Jalan Dutamas 1,
Solaris Dutamas
Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 603 6207 9177
The authors of this post are C&C and they also write for their website

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