It’s been a few years since I last came back for my cousin’s investiture, but here’s what I got up to. Actually, it’s mostly what I ate
Anytime I go back to my hometown of Kota Bharu, there are two things I look forward to: food and family.
Every November, the Sultan of Kelantan celebrates his Hari Keputeraan (quite like a birthday). This year, DYMM’s investiture was held on November 12, so I made a short trip back home to attend.
For those unaware, Kelantan is a state in northern Malaysia and its capital city is Kota Bharu. Life there is laid back and very different from KL even though it is one of Malaysia’s largest and busiest cities.
Traditionally, the event is held at Istana Balai Besar, known in English as The Grand Palace.
The event itself only lasted half a day, and this year saw an increase in Datukships handed out (this year was 15 or 20 up while last year was five and the year prior was three).
So what did I do the rest of my trip? Eat, of course!
Here’s one of my most favourite Kelantanese breakfast dishes – roti titab! And the best one is at Kopitiam Kita (aka Wong’s). Roti titab is basically a thick slice of toast served with a soft boiled egg and dollops of homemade kaya on all four corners. I’ve tried this same this at other kopitiams but it’s not quite the same. What makes all the difference is the bread, and Wong’s has the fluffiest of them all.
There are a lot of rice dishes to choose from – such as nasi kapit, nasi berlauk, nasi kerabu, nasi dagang and so on – and they come from various parts of the state, but I’ll save all of that for another list.
For now, here’s how I like to enjoy my roti titab.
Step 1: If you’re not keen on mixing sweet with savoury, you can order it without kaya.
Step 2: Pour a tiny bit of kicap (soy sauce) and pepper to taste just over the soft boiled egg.
Step 3: Mash it all up and enjoy!
When it comes to goodies to bring back to KL or wherever, then Pasaraya Pantai Timur (a large building just opposite Pantai Timur Shopping Centre) is my go-to! That’s where I shop for foodstuff like keopok lekor and ketupat manis which I can bring back as gifts since they can last for months in the freezer.
Just remember these things when you’d like to prepare them: rebus (boil) the keropok lekor first before cutting it up to fry. As for the ketupat, just kukus (steam) it till soft and hot.
Most people wouldn’t expect this, but the second floor of Pasaraya Pantai Timur is like a treasure trove of textiles. It’s heaps cheaper than buying fabric in KL (about a third to half of the cost for the same thing), so that’s where I buy all of my fabric.
I know I said I’d save the rice dishes for another list, but this banana leaf deserves a shoutout. It’s quite easily the best banana leaf I’ve ever had! Meena Curry House is a family-run business in Kota Bharu, and they even opened up a branch in Subang, unfortunately it didn’t last long.
If you ever chance upon this place, have the house special – the chicken. It’s a northern Malay twist on a classic Southern Indian dish called chicken varuval. Probably not a total win if you’re a banana leaf purist, but I love it.
Another dish to try if ever you’re in Kelantan is Maggi Ketam. It originated in Bachok, about 45 minutes away from Kota Bharu, so it’s too far to get to unless you insist on the original.
My brothers reckon that the Maggi Ketam at D’Syaz Cafe in Pantai Cahaya Bulan (PCB) comes pretty darn close. So I’ll take their word for it. I’ve also tried a few other Maggi Ketams at other cafes and restaurants and I agree that this is the best in Kota Bharu itself.
Also keep in mind that Maggi Ketam is a night dish (usually served from 10pm onwards) and enjoyed for supper or a late dinner. So don’t expect to be able to find this during the day.
Since you’re already in the PCB area, an evening stroll on the beach can help kill time at night. Truth be told, there isn’t much else to do if you don’t have family or friends to spend time with or visit, so I suggest dessert along the busy PCB stretch.
Well, that’s it for now. I’ll revisit my favourite rice haunts the next time I make a trip back home to Kelantan.