There are the places which prepare meals that feed the nostalgic...the people craving a taste of home searching for a specific dish. Kak som feeds the Kelantanese soul and is the spot to go to for some authentic bites.
Kak Som, along Jalan Raja Muda Musa
(near the original Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa, opposite a big stall selling slippers)
The kind of Kelantanese food that Kelantanese folk approve of
Hygiene of the premises is suspect
You know the defining moment in Ratatouille? When Anton Ego the food critic takes one bite out of Remy's offering, and is immediately transported back to his childhood? An upset little boy, coming home to his maman and being served a large comforting bowl of ratatouille that immediately takes his sorrows away. Well, the first time I ate at Kak Som, I wished nothing more that I grew up in a Kelantanese family so I could have that moment to flash back to. It felt like discovery and nostalgia all at once. And every bad thing that happened that day – heck, that week – disappeared into thin air.
The wonder-dish that made me feel this way: their nasi kerabu. Dense yet fluffy rice cooked with bunga telang, with assorted minced ulam scattered on top, complete with dashes of sambal and budu. Fantastic on its own, but there were various accompanying dishes served along with it. Fried fish is traditional, but this time I picked the daging bakar, solok lada (stuffed chillies) and salted egg. It was so good that my Kelantanese friends who have eaten here also tell me they experience the Ratatouille moment – this time flashing back to actual memories.
Other dishes they serve here are the equally excellent nasi dagang and laksam. The former is served with the customary gulai ikan tongkol (tuna curry) with chicken and beef alternatives. The gulai daging is lovely, with succulent chunks of fatty beef that go perfectly with the nasi dagang. Their laksam gravy is a titch too watery, but the flavour is all there, with tender laksam noodles that have just the right amount of bite. If you're not in the mood for any of these, they also have a spread of lauk that you can have with regular white rice.
The place is famous with the after-work crowd. You can see many people coming over after evening prayers at the nearby mosque to pack food to go. Most of them seem to be Kelantanese themselves, as they can be heard conversing in the dialect with the ladies behind the counter. This, by the way, is an excellent way to tell if a restaurant serving non-local food is good: the people that come by are those who miss the taste of home. In this case, Kelantanese who miss their mok's cooking.
The hygiene of the facilities however is a little dubious. I've never used the loo on the premises but friends who have tell me it's medieval (hole in the ground anyone?), so try and go before you head over here. There are a variety of animals that wander about the area too, but if that has taught me anything, it's an indicator of good food, not bad! And as always in Kampung Baru, parking is terrible, so try park along Jalan Raja Alang and take a stroll. It'll be one down memory lane back to your childhood.