It’s no secret that Malaysians love to eat. It was therefore not a surprise that food was a big part in this media familiarisation trip to Kuala Kangsar, organised by Tourism Malaysia and Destination Perak.
At Perak’s royal town, we had the opportunity to taste dishes synonymous with Kuala Kangsar, made the local way, as well as traditional kampung food.
We lunched at Teratak Warisan Kampung, a restaurant that serves traditional Malay kampung food. An array of dishes unique to the area was served, to be eaten with rice. Among them was the Gulai Ikan Masak Tempoyak (fish cooked in spicy fermented durian sauce), a yellowish curry-like gravy. If you’re a durian lover, you may like it. The dish doesn’t have much of the pungent smell and taste of fresh durians though.
Run by husband-and-wife team Saidi Othman and Zaliah Ibrahim, the restaurant also serves the Gulai Siput Sedut Campur Pucuk Paku, a dish of snails and edible ferns cooked in a spicy, creamy gravy. I admit I was hesitant to try this one!
If you are not so adventurous with food, fear not. There are also dishes like Rendang Ayam (chicken cooked in a thick, spicy paste), and Rendang Udang (prawns cooked in a thick, spicy paste) to suit more conservative palates.
As in most traditional kampung meals, ulam – a traditional salad of raw vegetables served with sambal belacan – was also provided.
Other dishes that the restaurant serves include: Pajeri Terung (brinjal/eggplant in a spicy sauce), Gulai Lemak Labu (pumpkin curry), Gulai Kemahang (a kind of leafy vegetable curry), Ikan Pari Bakar (grilled stingray), Gulai Ikan Pindang Daun Seniar (fish wrapped in a type of leaf and cooked in curry), Kebebe (a snack made of mashed plant parts, seasoning, and spices – usually eaten after meals), and Betik Muda Masak Air (young papaya in clear soup). They also have Nasi Lemuni (rice cooked with lemuni herbs).
Although it’s not uncommon for locals to eat with their hands (and many of the participants in our group did), I went with the less “adventurous” fork and spoon option. We washed the food down with refreshing concoctions of Sirap Limau (rose-lime drink), Sirap Selasih (rose-basil seed drink), calamansi or orange juice.
If you’re feeling peckish between meals, there’s also street food that you can try during tea time. We had the opportunity to sample local desserts like cendol and ais kacang, as well as Pasembur (rojak) and two different types of laksa at the food stalls near Jeti Dataran Sungei Perak Indah Kuala Kangsar and elsewhere in town. Laksa Pak Ngah, served from a food truck, is very different from the regular asam laksa or curry laksa. It consists of rice noodles cooked in a clear soup with lots of grated vegetables and red chillies. Laksa Pokok Limau, offered by a stall with a lime tree at the entrance, is similar to asam laksa but served with a crispy fried egg.
We also had the opportunity to sample Nasi Ganja, packed all the way from Ipoh. It is like Nasi Kandar, but known as Nasi Ganja to the locals, because they say that it’s addictive: once you’ve tried it, you’d want more.
At dinnertime, the locals proved that they really know how to feast! Elaborate local barbecue dishes such as Ikan Bakar (grilled fish) and Kambing Bakar (roast lamb) were prepared, as well as other local fare like Sup Ekor (ox-tail soup).
If you love to eat outdoors, you would enjoy a visit to Kampung Labu Kubong, which is less than 20km north of Kuala Kangsar.
Imagine sitting on a mat spread out on a grassy slope in front of a padi field, tucking into traditional kampung dishes. Eating under the sky or shady trees always seems to make food taste better. But what’s even more special is that we got to forage for some of the vegetables like the paku pakis (ferns), learn how to prepare the ingredients, and finally, cook the dishes.
In that outdoor setting, we savoured these dishes: Sayur Kemahang Masak Lemak (vegetables cooked in a creamy, spicy gravy), Gulai Patin Masak Tempoyak (patin fish cooked in spicy fermented durian sauce), Pucuk Paku Masak Rendang (edible fern cooked in dry spices), one of my favourites – Ikan Pekasam Goreng (freshwater fish fermented in salt, toasted rice grains, and asam keping, stir-fried with chillies and onions), and Sambal Kelapa (coconut cooked in dry spices).