Something fishy.

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: Just watch the explosions in the sky.


Many people have asked me which is the most interesting place I have been to around Malaysia, and to their surprise – and my own – I have said it was Terengganu. I like it that the state is untouched by rapid modernisation. I like it that it is still holding on strong to the heritage heirlooms that has been passed down by their forefathers. And, being one of the few states straddling the Malaysian coastlines, I like it that their food will always have the freshest seafood on their menu.

I guess part of the reason why I had fun during the trip was because we had a heck of a tour guide bringing us around. He knows Terengganu from back to front, and he even brought us to the core of all things that made Terengganu the way it is. We did not visit retails selling songket and wau, but we went to the makers’ homes while they were still weaving the songket, and carving out the wau designs. We did not simply visit any restaurants serving their staple food, but we went to the breadwinners of the industries.

We stopped by this fishing village in Seberang Takir, where about four families were there managing the processing of Keropok Lekor: one going out to sea to catch the fish, another waiting at the dock for the day’s catch, another to grind the fish to bits, and another to put them together as crackers. I swear that the final packed product does not look as gross as it does in the picture above, this is merely at the last stage of the processing.

Keropok Lekor is a kind of fish crackers originated from Terengganu, and it is a must-buy staple food. It is made up majorly of fish, and because of that, it is high in protein. The crackers are sold in two kinds: one in thin slices, and another in sausage-form slices. The more recommended type is the latter, and it is usually eaten dipped in chilli sauce. However, I like eating it the way it is to taste out the overwhelming aroma of the fish.

Drive down any streets in Terengganu and you are sure to run into at least one stall selling Keropok Lekor. I suppose as long as the produce is straight from the sea, one would not miss out on the genuinity of the crackers. As Kek Lapis Sarawak is the food from Sarawak to bring home , Keropok Lekor is the unique souvenir from Terengganu to bring home.

We also visited this family in Rhu Tapai bulk-selling Otak-Otak and Sata. In the morning hours still too early for me, they were already up mashing fish bits to paste and stuffing them into folded banana leaves to grill over the fire, before their clients come buy from them to sell at their stalls.

Otak-Otak is fish mousse grilled in banana leaf, and it is already quite a known dish around Malaysia. This one I taste was blended with chilli and it tasted awesome. Unlike most Otak-Otak you can find in KL, which is overwhelmed with the smell of grated coconut, you could still taste the freshness of the fish as if not too long ago, they were still swimming their merry way in the great big ocean, not knowing they would be breakfast soon.

My favourite dish from Terengganu would have to be Sata, another kind of Malaysian fish cake. Like Otak-Otak, it is mashed to paste form, stuffed in a cone-size banana leaf and grilled over the fire. I just cannot get enough of them. What got me hooked was of course the freshness of the fish, without any false pretenses of grated coconut. And they are so cute in those cone pockets. You just cannot help eating one after the other.

For dessert, one can go for something sweet and traditional from Terengganu. Kuih Akok is another popular traditional pastry, especially in Kelantan and Terengganu. It is an oven-baked pastry that tastes kind of sweet with a sticky texture. It is not usually kept overnight, so you are guaranteed a fresh batch every day.

Our tour guide brought us to the home of a Kuih Akok maker still making her pastries the traditional way, when everyone around her has moved on to a modernised oven. She would wake up at the wee hours of the morning and start making the bater to be baked in a makeshift oven of coconut shells. Then, she would sell them to her clients to be sold at restaurants and retails.

Her Kuih Akok tasted really sweet, and they were so oily that you could print out your fingers on the tracing paper. Nonetheless, it tasted good, and the amount of grated coconut was just right. However, as you know me as one who could not stomach too much sweetness, I could only eat as much as two or three pieces.


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One Response to “Something fishy.”

  1. MisSmall Says:

    Oooo….the Kuih Akok sure looked oily huh? But hey, almost everything that taste good is bad for us, so what the heck. 😛

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