Through researching for recipes to try out for Malaysian Food Fest Terengganu Month, I came across quite a number of dishes which I didn’t even know existed. I guess that’s one of the highlights of this monthly event, i.e. to push us to extend our culinary repertoire and explore previously unfamiliar and even unheard of terrain. Kuih Akok is a name that appeared frequently through the numerous google searches for authentic Terengganuan kuihs. But that is also the source of confusion.
Kuih Akok is a very popular snack along the eastern coast of the Malay peninsula. From Cherating in Pahang across Terengganu to Kelantan up north, Kuih Akok is well-liked and enjoyed by the locals, hence explaining their presence in both pasar pagis all the way to pasar malams. An all-day snack literally. Despite the common name, the texture for Kuih akok defers in Kelantan and Terengganu, due to the differing ratios of wet and dry ingredients used. Truth be told, I’d never tried Kuih Akok. But when Wendy of WendyinkKK reiterated her gastrorgasmic experience of plunging her teeth into one when she was in Kelantan, I knew I must make it to “relive” her experience. Alas the texture of Kuih Akok in Terengganus is supposedly firmer and less custardy, lesser desirable than the one in Kelantan which is more fluid and as Wendy puts it, almost like eating firm “kaya” ! Very very syok (shiok)! Then as we were researching more on this Terengganuan snack, she came across Kuih Menganang, a variant of Kuih Akok, which used mung bean powder “tepung kacang hijau”. Interesting! Since she was busy preparing for the Nutriplus Pastry Competition, the responsibility of testing out the recipe lies on my shoulder!
Nasi Dagang, i.e. Trader’s Rice is a very common breakfast fanfare enjoyed by the masses along the eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula, especially in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu. It uses a mixture of white rice (beras wangi) which is first soaked and subsequently steamed with glutinous rice (pulut) with coconut milk added for its wonderful aroma and flavour. This likens another popular breakfast dish, Nasi Lemak over here in Singapore. However, instead of pandan leaves, sliced shallots (bawang merah) and fenugreek (halba) are added. This concoction seems to be the preferred combination for many dishes, as we’d seen in Pulut Lepa and Ketupat Sotong. As we have seen in several dishes from Terengganu, fish is a staple amongst the folks from this region, and Nasi Dagang is no exception. It is eaten with Gulai Ikan Tongkol, a spicy fish red curry cooked with tuna and a hoard of spices as well as buah belimbing, one of my favorite ingredients I love to use in Straits cooking. And this month’s Malaysian Food Fest seem like a timely affair to visit and pay tribute to this time-honoured dish.
Due to its geographical advantage, the culinary speciality in Terengganu seems to revolve much around seafood. From Pulut Lepa, Laksam to Ketam Sumbat and Gulai Ikan Tongkol accompanying Nasi Dagang, not forgetting the ever-popular pasar malam fanfare of Ikan Bakar and Keropok Ikan Lekor, a lot of Terengganuan dishes, together with those from the eastern coast of the Peninsula tap heavily on the abundant resources of the vast South China Sea, some of which are almost exclusively found only in this region. Ketupat Sotong versi Terengganu is one such intriguing dish where squid is filled with glutinous rice before being cooked in a rich coconut milk gravy doused heavily with local spices.
Pulut Lepa aka Pulut Panggang versi Terengganu is a delicious savory snack made from glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk and an “inti serunding ikan kembong“, i.e. spiced mackerel fish floss filling, wrapped with banana leaves and finally grilled for the extra oomph of wonderful smoky flavours. This is a simple “kuih” enjoyed freshly “panggang” i.e. grilled over a charcoal flame for breakfast or tea. Being very affordable, it is a common “walk and eat along” treat for many Terengganuans, especially amongst folks on their way to work and children to school, grabbing one or two as they pass by their favorite stall in the pasar pagi, i.e. morning bazaar.
October brings us to the 3rd month of the Malaysian Food Fest and this month, we visit Terengganu! I’d never been the the eastern coast of Peninsula Malaysia, i.e. Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan but I do know that the eastern coastal line is famous for its white sandy beaches with swaying coconut trees against the clear blue skies and idyllic sea. Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian are famous snorkelling and scuba-diving spots comparable to Manado and the aussie reefs! Where there’s sea, there’ll be lots of seafood and Terengganu cuisine is characterised by the liberal use of it! Laksam Terengganu is a recipe which had me very curious for quite some time already when I started reading up on the signature dishes of the various Malaysian states for MFF. It is intriguing in many respects, firstly the use of a homemade rice-based noodle which reminded me much of the cantonese chee cheong fun and a gravy thickened with fish meat! I knew instinctively that this has to be on my no. 1 to-try list for Terengganu. So here I go!