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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Malaysian street food : Nasi kerabu (ketalanese blue rice)

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In North Eastern Malaysia, the states of Kelantan and Terengganu are staunch Muslim areas, with far fewer Indian and Chinese citizens than other, more touristy areas, like Penang. It’s a fairly interesting area that few travellers take time to explore, often only overnighting on the way across the Thai border or on their way back from the Perehentian Islands.

Being a predominantly Muslim area the food culture is quite a lot different from  the typical Malaysian tourist destinations, obviously there’s no pork  (aside from the tiny Chinese enclave – which coincidently is the only place you’ll find a beer, too.) and plenty of locally treasures, one of which is Nasi Kerabu.

kelantan nasi kerabu kota bharu

Rice is such a staple of the region, and nasi kerabu is a great showcase of Kelantanese cuisine, visually it’s unusual as the rice is a bright blue colour, having been dyed using the leaves of a peaflower (although, I’m sure many shortcuts are taken and  food colouring is more than likely used in its place)  The rice is then a centrepiece of a sort of salad – including salted egg, coconut, beansprouts, ground fish, sambal, fresh herbs and Keropok (a type of prawn cracker).  Additionally,  a bit of grilled chicken, or another local specialty, Ayam Percik can be added with chillies stuffed with ground fish and coconut.

Kota Bharu's famous central market showcasing Kelantan produce.

Kota Bharu’s famous central market showcasing Kelantan produce.

The flavours balance between spicy, sour and sweet – the Ketalanese are known for having a sweet palate. It’s one of my absolute favourite rice dishes, and the area of Kelantan has some other dishes well worth seeking out – Ayam percik & nasi dagang.

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