Malay street food: Nasi dagang (Kelantan fish curry & rice breakfast)

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Nasi dagang, like nasi kerabu is a speciality rice dish from the North Eastern Muslim states of Kelantan & Terengganu & the southern states of Thailand.

The main components are rice, curried fish and loads of optional sides. The word Dagang translates as trade, making this dish ‘traders rice’ in English. Nasi dagang is a north-eastern breakfast equivalent to nasi lemak, a popular breakfast on the west coast and southern states.

nasi dagang in Kota Bharu
The rice is thick and creamy, a mixture of jasmine and glutinous rice steamed with coconut and various spices including fungreek and black peppercorns.
The fish, a meaty fish like tuna is mixed with a conventional spice mix, a paste of the usual suspects – ginger, garlic, shallot, galangal, chillies, palm sugar,  coconut milk & fish stock.

The fish and rice is served with pickled vegetables, sambal, boiled egg and fried shaved coconut.

Overall, It’s a really delicious breakfast which we sought out every day in Kota Bharu, the mixture of flavours are typically South East Asian, sour pickle from the veggies, spicy from the sambal and a slight sweetness in the rice that is prevelant in Kelantan, Terrenganu & southern Thai states.

We (repeatedly) enjoyed eating nasi dagang in Restoran Capital, on Jalan Post Office. It’s a very low key muslim place (dress respectfully) wonderful eats with a little coffee shop, too. order directly with the lady at the front who puts it all together in brown paper (no plates!) for a very reasonable price, little english spoken.

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Thai streetfood : Khai Jeow muu (thai style omelette with pork)

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A Thai omelette is a curious thing.

A mix of eggs, pork mince and a splash of soy sauce are poured into boiling hot oil, a ‘thai style’ omelette is different in appearance, ingredients and flavour.

Whereas a European omelette is a slow cooked even texture, the signs of a good Thai omelette are the variations in texture – Crispy dark edges with a light and fluffy middle, it can look more like a poppadum with blistered, glossy skin.

Khai Jeow muu

Khai Jeow muu

Khai jeow is served on top a mound of jasmine rice, with chilli sauce on the side, the thai condiment, sriracha – a tomato sauce, heavy with chilli and garlic – is perfect. If the flavours aren’t quite right for you, use the caddy of flavours on the restaurant table, called kreung prung. It’s not salty, or spicy enough a few spoons of prik nam pla (fish sauce with chilli) will round off the flavours. Aroy!

It’s the Thai comfort food, and although I like it for breakfast it works just as well any time of the day.

Phrases worth knowing

mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Mai sai prik/sriracha/muu Khap – no chilli/chilli sauce/pork please (khap is only for males, females use ‘khaa’
Sai tung – take away  (literally means put in bag)
Pai sed –  when ordering it means the large size, or special – the difference is often around 10 baht on a street cart.
Tow rai? – how much.
Arroy! – delicious  

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Thai street food : Khao tom muu (rice soup with pork)

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Our Asian breakfasts usually consist of noodle soup, but sometimes if I’m just not feeling It in Thailand, I hunt down some delicious khao tom. (pronounced a bit like cow-tum)

Khao tom is a rice soup, the grains are cooked out with stock until they are soft – it’s often served with pork (muu) or chicken (gai) The pork is my favourite because balls of mince are poached in the soup and it gives a really nice meaty taste to the rice stock.

kreung prung

kreung prung

The meal is topped with chopped spring onions, coriander and fried garlic and you can have the usual caddy of flavour enhancing condiments – crushed chillies, sugar, chillies in vinegar and fish sauce; I like to add a little crushed chilli to mine.  This tray is known as kreung prung.

One additional ingredient which turns this into a breakfast of champions is the addition of an egg (khai) into the soup.

The above pictures are sourced from Flickr via a creative commons license, thanks Yasuo Kida

A relative of khao tom is jok, which is cooked out to a porridge-like consistency also known as congee which is prevalent all over the region; for example in Vietnam it’s known as cháo, bubur in Indonesia and khào piak in Laos..

Useful words

Nueng – one
Sawng – two
Muu – pork
Gai – chicken
khai – egg
Tow rai?  – how much
Aroy – delicious  

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Malay street food : Loh mee (hokkien noodles in gravy)

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After grazing our way through some other areas of Malaysia we made our way up to Georgetown, Penang (or Pinang), lauded as the food capital of Asia, street food mecca, whatever. We had high hopes. 

Penang is world famous for having a cultural melting pot of Indian, Chinese and Malay population who all contributed to the culinary landscape.
Penang did not disappoint, in fact it was probably better than expected – One thing; if you’re planning on eating like it’s your last week alive don’t visit during the lunar new year festivities.

Loh mee sits comfortably in Penang – a dish of chinese origin in a town famed for its streetfood culture. To describe it simply, Loh mee is yellow egg noodles in a thickened gravy.

It’s commonly eaten for breakfast in kopitiams and hawker stall foodcourts.

Historically, it’s a dish of Hokkien, Chinese (Fujian) heritage, The noodles are thick and yellow, mixed with an emulsified gravy sauce which has been thickened (like a lot of chinese soups or gravy’s) with corn starch. The flavours are quite subtle and on the face of it you can be forgiven for wondering ‘what the heck have I ordered?’ when a bowl of snotty brown soup arrives with some noodles floating about it the gluey liquid.

 

Loh mee noodles

Loh mee noodles

Give it a try, I must admit it, having ticked it off my impressively long Penang streetfood wishlist I never got a chance to head back as I was drawn to the appeal of more attractive breakfast soups such as wantan mee and koay teow t’hng for their lighter flavours and lingering appeal on the tastebuds. I was more than happy to indulge in a slightly heavier, more robust noodle breakfast with hearty chunks of roast pork, flecks of egg and hints of spice and minced garlic in the sauce.

Next time Penang, I promise to give you another try.

Phrases worth knowing  

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you (people will often respond with ‘sama sama’ which means’ you’re welcome)
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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Malay street food : Roti Canai (flaky Indian flatbread)

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We’re going mad for breakfasts lately, or maybe it’s just that Malaysian breakfasts are so good!

Recently, I wrote about nasi lemak and how it’s probably the best breakfast around but when you cant find good nasi lemak what do you do? Answer – you have roti instead.

Roti canai, or chanai is a more than adequate substitute, a real Mamak dish and something I love eating.

The word roti literally means bread in Hindi and it’s also available and popular in Singapore but known as roti prata.

Roti canai can also be known as flying bread partly because of the theatrical way it is made. A roti begins its life as a little doughy ball, which is stretched out on an oiled surface and thinned out by kneading and folding. once this is done and it looks a bit like a flattened parcel it’s put on a hotplate and flipped over. The whole process is great to watch and the chef’s possess skill and often flair not unlike a cocktail barman.

roti chanai

roti canai

The ideal roti is hot and fluffy with buttery texture and a crispy flaky outside.

Roti is served in many ways, but the most common savoury variation is with assorted curry sauce, or gravy including a daal, you just rip it apart, dip in your sauce, eat, make appreciative noises and repeat.

Roti canai will cost you no more than a couple of ringgits in most Mamak stall and makes a great way to start the day washed down with a delicious cup of teh tarik!

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Malay street food : Nasi Lemak (coconut rice breakfast)

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I’ve said it before, when I wrote about kaya toast – Breakfast in Asia is awesome and nasi lemak is probably my favourite breakfast, ever.

A bold statement, indeed.

I mean, who doesn’t want to eat the most delicious mix of crispy fried chicken known as ayam goreng, fluffy coconut enriched rice served with skin on peanuts, crisp, salty little anchovy fillets known as ikan bilis, boiled egg, sliced cucumber and the heavenly chilli flavours of Belecan shrimp paste sambal?

OK, so maybe not everyone wants to eat that for breakfast, but I do. Everyday!

Is this the most delicious breakfast on the planet? I think so...

Is this the most delicious breakfast on the planet? I think so…

Nasi lemak is a well known Mamak staple and considered a national dish in Malaysia.

The name literally translates as ‘fat rice’ which is due to the rice being soaked in coconut and steamed which thickens, enriches and generally makes it awesome.

As a meal, it’s something that can be found all over Malaysia and also Singaporean food courts. In Malaysia it’s often sold at roadside hawker stalls, kopi (coffee) stands as well as in Mamak restaurants. At the stalls and kopi stands they tend to wrap it into newpaper and leave them out in a tray for customers to pick up ‘to go’. Often you won’t get all the previously mentioned ingredients, but whatever they have available – In this instance it was rice, fried fish and sambal only. For around two ringgits i’m not complaining.

During our stay in Kota Kinabalu we were also pleased to find an alternative cooking style. The chicken has a delicate spice crust and wrapped in banana leaves, which helped to keep it really moist when it was fried – the girl who worked at the restaurant said it was a traditional way to serve it. I’m not sure if she was just referring to the banana leaf element, in Kota Kinabalu or in general but it was a nice variation nonetheless and the only time we’ve seen it prepared this way.

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Singaporean street food : Kaya toast & C coffee

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Breakfast, for me is one of the best meals of the day and Asia doesn’t usually disappoint with great meals like nasi lemak, roti chanai, fried rice and congees. Cornflakes are boring, anyway.

Add another breakfast champion to the list, kaya toast!

Kaya, in Malay means rich, which is  very accurate as the spread put onto the toast is a thick, off green colour of coconut, sugar and pandan which is thickened and emulsified with egg. The resulting jam is thick, creamy and has a custardy consistency.

The jam is made into sandwiches with griddled, smokey bread and generous lumps of proper butter. Healthy stuff.

A regular and popular addition with the Singaporeans is ‘soft boiled egg’s which, to a European like myself would imply a soft boiled egg, or dippy eggs but they are served with the albumen half turning white, in a semi-translucent soupy mess. The eggs are mixed in with sweet soy before eating with the toast.

Kaya toast

Kaya toast, including soft boiled eggs (left) Original Kaya toast (top right) Coffee C (bottom Right) and french toast with kaya spread (centre)

Due to having our camera stolen in Indonesia, I don’t have any original images from our eating adventures. Images here are used under a creative commons license via Flickr. These image has not been altered and you can view the originals at the following link – Thanks, Hajime NAKANO

Coffee C is the perfect accompaniment, thick, dark coffee which is brewed the old-fashioned way and poured from a jug that looks disturbingly similar to a watering can.  The ‘C’ is for condensed milk, which is added to sweeten and lighten the treacle like coffee.

Kaya toast is another famous heritage dish of Singaporean food culture, it has been around for a while and like a lot of Singapores staples has arrived with the Chinese population many generations ago.

Ya Kun, a recently franchised chain in Singapore is an old favourite. The story goes, that Loi An Koon, set sail from Hainan to Singapore in 1926 and began working for a coffee stall, his entrepreneurial spirit drove him and two other Chinese immigrants to open their own stall. Three then became one, but he married and his new wife was the creator of their famous kaya spread. He roasted his own coffee and carried on for decades being very popular as a street vendor until in the late 1990’s one of his children franchised the brand and now they have outlets all over the city.

It might be excellent marketing, it might be a nice story of triumph, but either way they still make very good, popular coffee and deliciously moreish toast.

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