"Budu, cili padi, lime and tempoyak- phworr!"
The Terengganuphile club meets weekly at Meka- a famous artist, a Langkasuka enthusiast and a social ecologist. They work their way through the meal, crisply fried ayam kampung, a mountain of sotong goreng, masak lemak with rambai skin (because that’s in season at the moment) and of course budu- the appetite whetter of the East coast. As they eat, they talk about the changes to Pulau Kambing, the finer points of taking a wooden house apart and putting it back together and where the best laksam is.
I was just happy to be part of the conversation. A Terengganu enthusiast myself, Meka has always been a must-stop for enjoying Terengganu cooking at it’s best. The owner himself goes to Pulau Kambing (where fishermen dock with their daily catch) every morning to grab fresh fish. By 7am the cooking and sizzling will start.
This is where you can feast on wonderful local fish from catfish and tongkol to kerisi and kembung. Also on offer are stunningly fat fish roes, laying like fat sausages on the plate- a melange of chewy and crispy richness. Gravies here don’t overpower mostly hanging out at the gulai spectrum of gravy chain and the sambal belacan is mellow with ulams like daun jambu golok (cashew nut leaves), daum salam and jering. The owner, Haji Awang comes often, talking to his customers, pouring them drinks and bringing more food to the table. It’s a laidback affair, help yourself from the counter, grab a chair and tuck in.
A server brings a new batch of ayam kampung still sizzling from their oil bath. You can’t just eat one or two thighs here, at least four will travel down your gullet before you know it. The seafood in Terengganu is forever fresh, the fried squid is cut into rings, just lightly seasoned before fried or grilled. You don’t need much embellishment with seafood this fresh.
"The fried rice is so good!"
“You have to try the fried rice here, that is one of the reasons I come back time and time again. It’s soooooo good!” my colleague urged as I asked for her recommendations. So fried rice it was. We decided to order two types, the Thai fried rice with petai and the sambal belacan fried rice with beef. To go along with our two rice dishes we also got the spicy fried chicken, otak otak, and spicy long beans.
The ambience at Aunty Nat exudes effortless comfort. The contrast of wooden furniture, marble top tables, and modern photo frames adorning the walls with black and white pictures of seniors and children give the place a certain charm. One that invites you to sit and linger over your meal as the swanky jazz tunes are piped in overhead.
While waiting for the food to arrive I sipped on a cold refreshing kedondong with assam boi. The raw grassiness of the kendondong goes well with the sweet sour of the assam boi, making it a delicious drink to indulge in on a hot day.
The first to arrive was the otak otak, and I immediately see that it is darker than most I’ve had and more firm in texture. I can feel the spiciness touch my tongue upon the first bite. It is very strong in flavour and has prawns within it adding a chewy texture within the smooth custard.
"The vegetarians won me over!"
Let it be known that I love vegetables but I AM NOT a vegetarian. Not a fan of mock meats or gluten, nor do I enjoy nibbling on rabbit food or cardboard flavoured with copious amounts of artificial seasoning. As for vegetarian restaurants, rarely have I patronized a vegetarian establishment more than once because I usually end up hungry AND thirsty after 2 hours. Even my husband avoids it by choice, especially when we have been carnivores all our lives. What can I say, old habits die hard.
Chef Low Organic Kitchen changed my mindset altogether. Its delicious vegetarian/organic dishes scored high on taste and nutrition, with lip smacking dishes which kept us full and satiated. As it is so tasty, we even willingly embraced its meat-free mantra with gusto, even if it’s just for that visit. The portions here are pretty huge so you can share. Another note of advice, come during the week as it is packed to the brim during weekends and it takes a while for your order to arrive. In the meantime, the boss is in the midst of expanding his business to the next shoplot to accommodate his growing clientele.
First and foremost, their signature Fruit Tea is a must. It comes in a pot filled with fresh apples, pears and orange slices swimming in a warm tea+juice combo, along with 2 small shot glasses. One sip and your tummy feels all warm and fuzzy with that fruity goodness. Feel free to eat the fruit slices for extra fibre.
For starters, we tried their Crystal Jade Roll which looked like delectable sushi rolls in a light batter. It’s actually beancurd skin stuffed with vege goodies, wrapped in seaweed and deep-fried to a nice crisp. The accompanying sweet lemon/orange sauce really complements the flavor of the roll. Perfect for popping into the mouth, we polished it in no time.
The Thai Fried vermicelli arrived as one mountain of a plate! Fresh julienned vegetables were piled on top of the noodles so it took us a while to come to grips with the portion. It tasted nothing like the pad thai I had in mind, but it had a really nice twist to it. Surprisingly, the fried noodles did not taste oily at all and it was nicely flavoured with a good balance of sweet, sour and salty. The fresh vegetables added a nice crunchy texture, so mix it well with the noodles.
The Herbal Mushrooms are a must have. It came wonderfully presented in a tear shaped bowl with plenty of fat shitake mushrooms swimming in a thick aromatic herbal broth. Having absorbed the herbal essence, the mushrooms oozes with flavor. I love the sweet wolfberries in the broth. It’s piping hot though so be careful not to burn your tongue!
I am the first to admit that it's easier for me to reach for a salmon when shopping for dinner. Mainly because I know exactly how to grill it. Only problem is the ridiculous prices it commands. Looking at the rows of other fishes on offer at a fraction of the cost, it bothered me that I had no idea how to prepare them. Yes, I love my gulai tempoyak… More »
"Good food and cosy ambience"
Not much has changed at Quan since the last time I had my lengthy conversation sessions, the walls are still plastered with old movie posters and cigarette ads, coca cola paraphernalia peppers the room, bathed in warm lighting, it has a very mom and pop café feel. Servers pick up dishes through a small sliding door, when it opens, a myriad of aromas waft from the kitchen to the dining area.
As an appetizer, we ordered the cornflakes chicken, chicken tenders coated in cornflakes with a thin layer of glaze on top. It tasted like crispy candied chicken nuggets. Sweet and savoury, it’s a wonderful start to our meal.
I ordered my usual, a plate of Singapore fried glass noodles, it’s listed as Singapore fried beehoon in the menu but I always ask them to use glass noodles instead, the texture of the glass noodles gives it more bite and just elevates the dish to a different level. Tasty with flavours of garlics and onions, the addition of bean sprouts and sawi adds crunch and freshness to the dish.
My dining companions ordered Butter Chicken with Rice (listed as one of the top 3 dishes in the menu), Black Pepper Lo Shu Fan and Fried Mee Sua. The menu is a mind-boggling list of choices ranging from braised rice to western dishes, even the drinks list is extensive, with pages for different types of coffee, tea and juices.
As I enter the spa I am immediately greeted with a wafting scent of aromatherapy oils and soothing music piped throughout the area. A cup of tea is served as I relax in the waiting area and let my mind drift away from the stress of daily life. Everything seems to slow down around me and already I feel at ease.
The Herbal Healing package… More »
"The taste is superb!"
I dropped by recently after handing in a paper to reward myself with a curry fix. I grabbed a seat at one of the outer tables in chilly after-morning-rain weather and placed my usual order: two roti canai (garing, of course) and a glass of iced Milo. One of my favourite things about Melur is that they serve roti canai throughout the day, instead of just mornings and evenings like many mamak restaurants do.
Glistening, my rotis arrived. The healthy crunch I heard when I tore into it is addictive. It's like dried leaves on your driveway; you just cannot resist stepping on them to hear the sound. The taste is superb. I can honestly eat just their roti canai without gravy and it's still good, like a stretchy flaky pie crust. I dipped it into the curry nonetheless and sighed a little. Life cannot get better than this. That is, until I dipped some into the dhal. Now, there are precious few things I don't particularly enjoy. Dhal is one of them (it's a texture thing). But the dhal here is thick and almost creamy, with a not-too-subtle hint of spice. I lapped it up hungrily. In no time, only crumbs are left on my tray, which I continue picking at.