Welcome to Kelantan!
Kelantan is positioned in the north-east of Peninsular Malaysia. It is bordered by Narathiwat Province of Thailand to the north, Terengganu to the south-east, Perak to the west, and Pahang to the south. To the north-east of Kelantan is the South China Sea.
Kelantan is located in the north-eastern corner of the peninsula, Kelantan, which is said to translate as the “Land of Lightning” (see alternate theories below), is an agrarian state with lush paddy fields, rustic fishing villages and casuarina-lined beaches. Kelantan is home to some of the most ancient archaeological discoveries in Malaysia, including several prehistoric aboriginal settlements.
Due to Kelantan’s relative isolation and largely rural lifestyle, Kelantanese culture differs somewhat from Malay culture in the rest of the peninsula; this is reflected in the cuisine, arts, and the peculiar Kelantanese Malay dialect, which is unintelligible even for some speakers of standard Malay.
Apart from consumable items imported from Thailand, there are dishes which have developed through the rich culture of the Kelantanese themselves, such as:
|Nasi dagang||This is a mix of white rice and brown glutinous rice which is cooked with coconut milk, blended onions, garlic and some spices (such as fenugreek) (halba). Fish or chicken curry is usually a complementary dish, together with a mild brown sugared sambal (chili paste).|
|Nasi kerabu||Nasi Kerabu literally means “rice salad”. Kelantan has a variety of nasi kerabu. Nasi kerabu biasa (“normal”), putih (“white”), hitam (“black”, though the actual color is blue after the flower used as colouring in the recipe) and kuning (“yellow”), for the turmeric used in the cooking process). Each kerabu is usually served with a matching, traditional sambal. Thekerabu (salad) itself can be any combination of vegetables or edible leaves. It is also served with fried breaded fish, keropok keping (see below), salted egg, solok lada (chillies stuffed with minced fish and grated coconut), and pickled garlic. Importantly, a sauce called budu must be included for the dish to qualify.|
|Nasi tumpang||Rice packed in a cone-shaped banana leaf. A pack of nasi tumpang consists of an omelette, meat floss, chicken and/or shrimp curry and sweet gravy. It is traditionally meant for travellers.|
|Ayam percik||Wood-fire broiled chicken dressed with sweet coconut gravy. Ayam golek/ayam percik is eaten with white rice in major family dishes and is served during feasts.|
|Nasi berlauk||A popular breakfast food for the Kelantanese. Nasi berlauk is rice served with fish or chicken and vegetables cooked with turmeric and galangal infused yellow gravy.|
|Nasi ulam||Ulam is the local term for raw vegetables – the meal consists of white rice served with a variety of raw vegetables, and is one of the healthier dishes found in Malay cuisine.|
|Keropok||These are Kelantanese crackers and can be made from fish, prawns or squid. The way they are made is similar to keropok gote, but after they are steamed or boiled and thinly sliced and dried for storage or further cooking.|
|Keropok lekor||These are Kelantanese fish sausages. Made by combining fish flesh and sago or tapioca flour, keropok lekor is rolled into long firm sticks and then steamed or boiled. To enjoy it, one has to cut it into desired bite sized and deep fried. It is a popular schoolchildren’s snack food.|
|Laksa Kelantan||The laksa dish, white noodles served with gravy (curry or otherwise) and vegetables, is made differently in every state in Malaysia. The laksa in Kelantan is richer and has a more full-bodied flavour. The main ingredient is fish flesh. Laksam is another version, with a thicker noodle (similar to kuey teow). Laksa or laksam is served with ulam similar to that in nasi kerabu, with a pinch of salt and belacan, a fermented shrimp paste.|
Somtam is a green papaya salad with a salty, spicy, and sour taste. The main items in it are young, unripe papaya, soy sauce, groundnuts, fish sauce, lime juice, and chilies. These items are combined in a mortar, pounded with a pestle for few seconds and served. The salty and lime juicy taste is very popular. This light dish is widely available in regions with large numbers of ethnic Thais, such as Tumpat and Siamese wats.
- Contrary to popular belief, Colek is not just a dipping sauce, but can also refer to a snack eaten with the sauce. Colek comes in various forms, including meaty cholek, colek ayam (chicken), colek perut (cow tripe), colek pelepong (cow or lamb lung; usually fried plain), and also a variety of colek buah(fruits; usually unmatured, thus crunchy and taste sour) such as colek pauh (mango). The sauce or “the colek” comes in various forms. • Colek manis (with brown sugar). • A sweet, sour and very mildly hot version. This colek is different from other chili sauces because colek is very thin and rather sweet. This dipping sauce is used for chicken, and also goes well with shrimp, fish cake, spring roll, sausage, etc.
- Budu is a salted (fermented) anchovy sauce eaten mainly as flavouring with rice, grilled fish and vegetables/salads (ulam). A bit of lime juice, hot chilis and shallots are added on for taste. Also, tempoyak (fermented durian) or fresh durian is added for good measure. Once so combined, the purple-brownish condiment has a blend of salty and sour taste. Sometimes, budu is used in cookings as part of the ingredient. Nowadays, other types of fish are also used to create Budu. Famous budu maker villages are Kg. Tawang, Bachok and Kg. Penambang near Kota Bharu. Similar sauces are found in the Philippines and Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia).
- Tempoyak is a fermented durian dip, used with normal white rice. Most unforgettable is eating the ‘tempoyak+budu+ulam’. Those with high blood pressure should beware of the high salt content of this condiment, however.
- Phat phet
- Another famous Thai dish is ‘phat phet belut’. The main ingredient of this cooking is eel. Many Thai restaurants around Tumpat and Wakaf Bharu make this dish their main attraction. Some customers prefer it spicy, and some prefer it less spicy. This dish is not easy to cook; it needs some experience in handling the heat, natural ingredients, salt, and the eel itself. This dish is also influenced by Chinese cuisine, for whom there is a belief that eating this exotic food is more healthy.
Kelantan is known as the cradle of Malay culture based on the diverse cultural activities practised by Kelantanese. Among the popular cultural practices are Dikir Barat, Wayang Kulit Kelantan,Wayang Kulit Melayu, Mak Yong, Menora, Main Puteri, Wau Bulan (kite-flying), Gasing (top-spinning), Silat, bird-singing competition and handicrafts.