Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Chronicling A Budget Airline Holiday - Part 3

It is now time for me to get on with the next chronicle of the Kota Bharu trip, by mentioning of the pleasures of food that is the highlight of this trip. KB is a food paradise if you do not have any pre-disposition about what you eat as the food here is quite different from the west coast or even the more southern east coast states in fact, so much so that even if the item is familiar the way it is served may be different. This was the case with the first meal that Iskandar brought me to try on the first day of the visit when we wanted to discuss the trip itinerary, which is to the famous popiah stall in the city stadium. There I found out that the spring rolls are actually served as part of two types of rojak or mixed salad, cut up and mixed in with the salad. Even though I did not try it this way that time and ate it the normal way by dipping the rolls into the chilli dip, I did try the popiah later in the Kelantanese way from another stall near the hotel, and must say it did make the meal more substantial this way as the spring roll was generously filled with meat that added to the salad.

For dinner we tried Middle Eastern fare at the A.M. Tarbush restaurant, and it was so good that we returned there for dinner on the third night. On the first night I had the mutton kofta set while the rest of the family had their briyani rice with honey glazed barbecue chicken as we played it safe in ordering familiar dishes, and these dishes were done so well that the younger actually asked for the briyani again for the second outing. We were informed by Iskandar that the proprietor was an Egyptian man who married a local lass, so I guess that the dishes had their authenticity enhanced by catering to local tastes, as per their tagline 'Arabic food Malaysian taste'. Anyway on the second night we had the Arabic pita bread to eat with the meat dishes of chicken kofta and lamb shish kebab that came in the form of lamb chops, as Iskandar had mentioned that the bread was to die for. We totally agreed with him as this was no ordinary pita bread, tasty and soft in its own right and great to eat with the meats. And I forgot to mention that the rice or bread can be ordered separately from the meats, so you can actually mix and match all the food here if you come in a big group.

Anyway our local culinary adventure began when Iskandar took us to the famous Nasi Ulam Cikgu at the arts and craft museum, but we were unfortunate that we arrived there a bit late after a morning of sight seeing and shopping and in a heavy shower, resulting in a large crowd at the restaurant even though it was already 3 p.m. and the ulam itself that remains are the balance of other people’s picking. Nonetheless I must commend the fact that their kitchen kept churning out hot replenishment to the food line to satiate the demands of hungry customers, and it was quite satisfying to eat a hot meal in the driving rain. No photos as we were too hungry to wait in devouring the hot dishes of flour coated whole catfish, fried chicken, asam pedas patin and ulam with the budu tempoyak dip on the side in the blinding rain. A very satisfying meal indeed. This was followed up with breakfast the next day at Warong Nasi Berlauk Khekuk under the cherry tree (khekuk) as we swore off having breakfast at the hotel and thought it best to spend our money on local delicacies instead. Though they are famous for their gargantuan portions of nasi khawen or mixed white rice and nasi dagang that Iskandar and my wife had, I satisfied myself with their nasi dagang and gulai darat that was excellent. Again sorry no photos as we concentrated on eating as there were people waiting, and I counted two packed executive cars leaving the place after waiting awhile in vain for an empty table.

However we have photos of the famous Mee Kuah Kampung Pek which is a type of mee rebus that if you take the special becomes another version of my favourite prawn noodles, and it was a satisfying meal as I now know where the style of mee rebus that my mom makes comes from as she must have learned the method when our family was based here for a while a long time ago. But I must say that you should insist for your noodles to be served in individual portions, as otherwise they would serve the ordered portions in one big bowl like the one shown here with additional prawns and the quantity of the noodles seems to be reduced this way although the gravy and its trimmings was generous. I do pity the wife who asked for the mee hailam as a precaution in case the kids would not like the mee kuah, but they actually loved it so much so that I had to share the mee hailam and left the rest of the mee kuah for the kids. Well the next time we are there this is one noodle store ripe for a re-visit, in addition to a mee celup restaurant near Tesco that we did not have time to visit that Iskandar assures me was great as it is prepared using charcoal fire.

Anyway that afternoon Iskandar invited us for hi-tea at his house where he had made a special order of Murtabak Diraja from a famous caterer called Seri Mas Diraja. This was a take away only joint that serves famous Kelantanese sweetmeats like Jala Mas, Tahi Itik, Buah Tanjong, Akok and such while the Murtabak has to be pre-ordered before collection. I must say that the sweetmeats here are excellent without any compromise on its ingredients, as I must say that I had bought some of the sweetmeats from the vendors at the Siti Khadijah Central Market and they definitely cannot compare with delicateness of taste and texture, the just right sweetness and overall quality of the food here. Too bad that food here is either take-away only or pre-order basis as I understand they make a great roast duck suitable for a picnic basket, and we surely will make an order the next time we are in KB.

On the way to Iskandar’s house, we also stopped at Yati’s Ayam Percik Restaurant because my wife was asking where she could get a good Ayam Percik she had in her last week to KB during the schooldays at a night market called Wakaf Kubu. Iskandar informed us that the proprietor has since set up a restaurant chain and we are visiting of the branches, but we were forewarned that the taste may now be different from last time. At the restaurant we were surprised at the variety of percik roasted meats available, in addition to Gulai Kawah meat gravy dishes and the sweetmeats on offer. It does make your eyes loll in wonderment but since we were already heavy with food for the hi-tea, my family only purchased some ayam percik, pulut berinti and satar to top-up for the hi-tea and snacks for later. Nonetheless later at the hotel my wife commented that although the ayam percik is good but was not as good as she remembered it, so she resolved to also make a special order at Seri Mas Diraja on the next visit as Iskandar also informed that they do take orders for ayam percik. Another thing to look forward to for our next visit.

On the last day we were in KB, we decided to take breakfast at one of the Kopitiams that we understand is now a mushrooming culture there although most of them are of the home-grown variety. As we no longer had any transport on that day, we went to the nearest one called KB Kopitiam and sat down to kopitiam with an east coast twist as similarly to the Kopitiam at Kemaman they serve local delicacies in packs like nasi dagang, nasi daging kerutub etc while serving delicious kopitiam fare like tuna toast that called for an extra order, kaya and butter toast though my wife said their French toast was a bit too oily. I had the nasi daging kerutub that was ultra delicious that made my daughter asked to be tapaued back to the hotel while the black pepper beef curry puffs there can give any beef pies a run for the money as they were solidly filled with hundred percent beef. It may surprise you that these are actually fried frozen curry puffs but unfortunately I forget the brand or I would be looking up for them in the frozen section of the supermarkets. Since we had a heavy brunch and since check-out time was extended to 6 p.m., we lounged in the hotel room afterwards until around two as it was raining the whole morning that our original to laze at the swimming pool was thwarted. Anyway I braved the rain to check-out the Malay food stalls nearby that Iskandar also mentioned served good food and one of the them was where I bought the spring rolls that I personally feel was actually better than the one at the stadium (sorry Iskandar) and nasi kukus or individually steamed rice paired with fried kampong chicken with two extra pieces of chicken. All these were packed back to be eaten at the hotel room and I must say the steaming rice with organic check tasted out of this world. Man KB is a real food heaven that it was so sad that on the way home that evening, dinner was plain old KFC chicken as we had to go to the airport early and that was the only food store at the airport, as we were informed that it would be jam-packed with people welcoming home the people returning from the Haj, and it was really packed so it was touching that Iskandar and family actually made a trip to the airport to send us off that night.

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