The Kelantan Food and Travel Guide
When Malaysia Tourism Brunei approached me to tour Kelantan with them during the school holidays, I agreed and off we went. I must say when I mentioned to friends that I’m going to Kelantan, very few from Brunei had actually visited or even know much about Kelantan. Fortunately for me, I had a lot of blogger friends in Malaysia who had visited and given me a lot of ideas about Kelantan.
The Tourism Malaysia Media Trip: Rokiah, Lau, Wati, Liv, Azmie and the foodie ~~ For this post, you will expect some of the must visit tourist attractions in Kelantan as well as the best food in Kelantan or the must try food in Kelantan. Say hello to the best Kelantan Food and Travel Guide!
Let’s look at the places of interest when visiting Kelantan before we move on to the delicious food! I think it’s best to hire a tour guide when you visit Kelantan, so it’s less of a hassle trying to find all the places. Public transport is not convenient here so hiring a private tour guide and driver would make your life easier.
When visiting Kelantan, one must have a tour around the Tourism zone or History zone around Kelantan. It’s basically a good walking or you could hire a trishaw through a travel agent to ride around the route to see Museums, Riversides, Art Galleries. (We were toured using a van and visited the Petra Arch, Istana Jahar, Istana Balai Besar, Padang Beng, Menara Tinjau, Tambatan Diraja, War Museum, Islamic Museum & Masjid Muhammadi)
Pak Sapie’s Wau (kite) gallery is a tourist attraction where one could marvel at this labour intensive creations. There are various Wau designs and sizes and as you can see – a Wau can be bigger than even a fatso like me!
A National Treasure, Pak Sapie is a man whose intense passion in Wau crafting can be felt as come Waus would take up to three weeks by hand to make!
Galeri Wau Pak Sapie
Art Gallery, Kg Badang (Jalan PCB), Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah is one of the most photographed place in Kelantan for it’s variety of things up for sale especially the traditional Malay cakes!
We were there quite early so it’s not fully packed – one must go up to the top of the market to have a good shot of this. More on the food later!
A panoramic picture of Pasar Siti Khadijah from the top floor. Click for a bigger image.
For beautiful batik, one must visit Nordin Batik factory where they have a showroom for you to buy their simply high quality batik.
This is definitely a shopper’s paradise for those who want to custom make their own dresses with so much designs to choose from!
Lot 74, Kg Paloh, Jalan Pintu Geng, 15050 Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Contact Person: Mrs Azlinda Nordin (017-9672676)
Abd Rahman’s Wood Craft Gallery showcases expert craftsmanship for those who love to collect – proper for restaurant or house decorations.
A. Rahman Wood Craft Gallery, Binjai
No. 6, Kg Panjang, Banggu, 16150 Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Contact Person: Mr Abd Rahman (012-9545930 / 09-7651006)
Wakaf Che Yeh is a town just 7 kilometres from Kota Bahru – for those who enjoy night markets – this is the place to visit. Food, souvenirs and cheap clothing can be found here.
Make sure you try the special Ice Cream Ray Yan – Home made coconut ice cream, mixed with nuts, chocolate syrup, glutinous rice, bread and sprinkles. The ice cream has a slightly salted taste which enhances the coconut taste. Served in small cups, they are a must try at Wakaf Che Yeh!
Rantau Panjang Duty Free Zone is another market which you could browse. I suggest coming hear more towards 5pm as it is not airconditioned and could get pretty hot! This is a good place to buy cashews and cheap clothing as it’s located near the Thailand border. A lady making som tam (Thai Green Papaya salad) can be spotted here. (Picture of clothes from Ahbing.com). Unfortunately, you can’t buy duty free cigarettes and alcohol here.
The Famous Masjid Beijing – in which you could mistake it as a temple but it’s actually a mosque! A must stop while you’re on your way to Rantau Panjang Duty Free Zone.
Now – I must admit – the biggest reason for me to visit Kelantan is not the shopping and the scenic routes – it’s actually the amount of authentic Kelantan cuisine that can only be enjoyed in this particular state that I’m excited about! BRING ON THE FOOOOOD!
When you visited a restaurant and see that it’s so packed, despite it being such a big restaurant – you know you’re at the right place! Have you ever heard of Nasi Ulam?
Basically Nasi Ulam is hot steamy rice, served with various herbs, as well as fried chicken, Assam fish head and deep fried catfish!
I have to say – this is one of the most delicious fried fish I’ve tasted! They don’t look pretty, but they are extremely enjoyable to eat – using your hands! Finger licking goodness! It’s called Ikan Keli (catfish) to the locals – so make sure you order this!
Onions and shredded green mangoes, chilies and tempoyak (fermented salted durian – OH YES)
Our guide Saiful added this black liquid called BUDU – which is actually an extremely fermented fish sauce – very pungent and an acquired taste – initially I didn’t take it well but I was soon dipping the catfish on this sauce and durian to mix with the steamy rice. I really enjoyed my first Nasi Ulam experience – give the BUDU dip a few tries and you might get hooked like me! Be brave!
Wash all that down with a nice rose syrup and basil seed drink ~ one of their thirst quenching signatures.
Restaurant Nasi Ulam Kg Kraftangan (Alternatively, you can check out Nasi Ulam Guru)
Kampung Kraftangan, Jln Hilir Kota,
15300 Kota Bharu, Kelantan. (It’s actually located next to Malaysia Tourism)
Contact Person: Mr Muhamad bin Hussin (019-940 6066)
*Laksam ordered at the airport – notice the Ulam which is the special rice noodles are sliced into rings and then served with herbs, chili and the laksam gravy! I specially requested an egg*
Laksam is an iconic must try dish in Kelantan and can be found easily in food stalls around town. The rich and relatively thick white gravy made primarily with fish - first steamed, deboned and then pulsed into a paste, the fish gravy is then made creamy by adding in the coconut milk and some spices.
The laksam noodle is made with a mixture of rice flour and wheat flour, making it Slightly thicker than the usual kway teow. The Laksam noodle is usually rolled up and then cut into rings for that delicious texture which soaks up the rich creamy gravy.
Some stalls will have their own special version of different Laksam gravies – and they are usually served with freshly chopped herbs and chilies to ensure a flavour party in your tastebuds!
While I was walking around town on foot, it was raining heavily so I took shelter at this spot – Nasi Lemak Salwa – when I realized a lot of cars actually stopped and ordered food from this owner. It must be really good if people were willing to drive her during the rain just to take away food, so I simply must try it.
There are quite unique dishes such as ox brain and ox lung – interesting!
I went for the fried chicken and beef rendang nasi lemak – which is pretty good! Nom nom!
Authentic home style Kelantan Nasi Lemak by this Uncle is a must try ~~
Nasi Lemak Salwa
Jalan Sultanah Zainab (near White House Kopitiam)
Just right next to Pantai Cahaya Bulan, where there’s a good view from the beach and rocks, you will find Adam’s Corner – where you can have Celok as well as Crab Maggi!
We didn’t order the Maggi Ketam here but it’s recommended by my friends who’ve tried it here before. We’re here for Celok!
It’s basically chopped up battered seafood – served with a sweet and spicy sauce, topped with peanuts.
There’s crab sticks, local fish sausages, prawns and squid (sometimes stuffed with eggs!)
The seafood is pretty fresh at Adam’s Corner but do note that there will be lot’s of beach house flies around – especially after a rainy day and there’s nothing you can do to stop them, we just happily munch on these snack’s quickly with the yummy sauce while fanning away the flies! Delicious though – wished they could do something like lighting a candle to drive away the flies ~
Adam’s Corner – directly next to the rocks at Pantai Cahaya Bulan.
For one of the most authentic kampung experience, some actually booked a night’s stay at Min House Camp – but I must highlight they serve one of the best Nasi Kerabu!
The soul of nasi kerabu is the wide range of shredded local aromatic herbs to mix with the blue rice, made from the natural dye of the blue flower (some called them the clitorial bush due to it’s shape!)
The other star of course is the special kerisik blend they use here, a mixture of pan fried caramelized shredded coconut mixed with shredded fish and sugar! They really give the rice a flavour kick!
A typical Nasi Kerabu table set up – you are supposed to mix the rice with the herbs, kerisik and a splash of budu (fermented fish sauce) and spicy sambal, then crush some fish crackers to add some crunch to the rice. Usually served with fried fish, grilled chicken and salted duck eggs!
An iconic dish that is better eaten using your hands. Nasi Kerabu Kelantan, which uses a natural blue flower to get its blue colored rice, to mix with shredded local herbs, ginger flower and a special blend of fish coconut kerisik and a good drizzle of Budu (fermented fish sauce) and chili sambal. The grilled chicken and fried fish complements the rice very well. Finger licking good
Min House Camp
Lot 440, Kampung Pulau, 16150 Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia
Next on our food list is one of the best place for breakfast! Kopitiam Kita. You can basically try almost most of the famous Kelantan food under one roof here!
You know a kopi tiam is good when lots of celebrities and political figures namely singer Siti Norhalizah and former Malaysia Prime Minister Badawi has eaten here!
There's also a good diverse multicultural crowd here for breakfast, enjoying tons of choices of rice from Nasi Dagang, Nasi kerabu, Nasi Lauk to Nasi Tumpang.
Baskets of different types of packaged rice for you to choose ~~ sooo much choice!
Nasi Dagang is one of the key dishes in Kelantan, One thing I love about Nasi Dagang is their rice, which is a mixture of wild rice and plain rice, adding stickiness and fragrance! The curry chicken is more on the creamier sweeter side but I'm lovin it!
Nasi Tumpang, is a type of starchy rice dish shaped into cones, and filled with meat and gravy is another feature dish of Kelantan too.
Some other interesting looking dishes that I didn’t try ~~ cute cakes for breakfast?
They have a pretty good nasi lemak here too!
As a foodie, it really warms my heart when I see such a traditional way of making tea. Sniff sniff. Things only a foodie can feel.
The Roti Titab, soft bread, pan toasted till crisp outside and topped with kaya, butter and perfect poached eggs!
Oh my egg porn! What a way to start your day!
The friendly boss who was very welcoming ~~
The wife was a bit shy – good to see a local family run business kopitiam in Kelantan!
Dusun Raja, Jalan Pengkalan Chepa (Jalan Pengkalan Chepa), 15000 Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Kedai Kopi White House is another good place for coffee and bread – the cool part? They actually open for breakfast as well as SUPPER!
It was already 11pm when we stopped by for supper
It was a new experience for me as I don’t think I ever got the opportunity to enjoy kopitiam style bread for supper before~~ note that the boss doesn’t like pictures being taken but I quietly took it ~ LOL
The bread is slightly different from Kopitiam Kita and has it’s own charm and taste. I personally love the kaya and the old school coffee in this place.
Dip your buttered up bread with kaya, then dip on the egg mixture ~~~ Eggcelent supper! You can also buy their kaya and bring home. Rm9 for a 400ml tub.
KEDAI KOPI WHITE HOUSE
1329-L, Jalan Sultanah Zainab,
Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Business hours : 8am – 1.30pm, 9pm – 1am
Pasar Siti Khadijah mentioned earlier has plenty of delicious Kelantan style cakes – the two notable famous ones are the Kuih Akok, and Tahi Itik (translate to duck shit! LOL)
Kuih Akok, which they say – the more wrinkled it is – the better it taste! The best ones are the ones made from duck eggs. It’s like eating a custard – sweet and rich eggy taste! A must try!
The Tahi Itik, given the name because it resembles duck poop, is actually slow cooked eggwhites and sugar, rolled into ball shaped cakes or into lumps like these. They resemble glutinous rice but they smoother and softer to taste. Unique texture and taste!
Chicken intestine satays drizzled with creamy sauce or some fish sausages to bring home – spotted at Pasar Siti Khadijah ~~
Was very surprised to see turtle eggs for sale here too – heard they are farmed ones – but I’m not too sure. Didn’t try any of them as I support protection of turtles.
Pasar Siti Khadijah
Jalan Pintu Pong, 15000 Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia
Fancy some Sumatera Rice? Check out Pohon Nako Restaurant just opposite Pak Cu Roni Goldsmith Maker along Jalan Che Su. (Tours tend to visit Pak Cu Roni Goldsmith where they are famous for silver and gold crafting)
Famous dishes here include their Nasi Sumatera – served with fried catfish (keli)
If you’re in a mood for non-halal Chinese food – Restaurant Hock Guan Hiong is just next to Pak Roni.
As you can see – they have quite a selection of Chinese cuisine here.
I had the Hakka Mee which was quite delicious – good noodle texture and good charsiew – who says you cannot find non halal food in the Muslim state of Kelantan?
Another good place for Chinese food in Kelantan is Lim Siong Kee Beef Noodles, which actually opened a successful branch in Puchong, Kuala Lumpur.
It’s a small kopi tiam, and is usually difficult to find a seat while you would expect to wait a while for your food.
A highly recommended place that is situated along Jalan Hamzah, and opposite Tune Hotels Kota Bahru.
You can go for their delicious beef noodles soup which is more on the sweeter side
Or order Kolomee with your beef spare parts in a separate bowl of soup – which works well for me.
Their curry mee is also pretty good while their tau fu fah is very smooth – softer than the ones we had in Brunei so I highly recommend it!
Lim Siong Kee Kopitiam
Jalan Hamzah, Kota Bharu, Kelantan (shop lots opposite Tune Hotel Kota Bahru – behind KB MALL)
I had tried lots of Ayam Percik in my life but to come to the home of ayam percik in Kelantan, one must visit Yati Ayam Percik!
The secret to their delicious chicken is their special coconut cream and blended spices thick sauce which is ladled on the chicken during grilling, again and again till the chicken caramelizes as well as the sauce forming a good ‘skin’ on the chicken. Noticed they have grilled chicken innards too!
The charcoal fired grill adds not only caramelization – but also adds a distinct smokiness to the chicken ~ ooooh yesssh!
The Ayam Percik is best served with their own version of Nasi Kerabu (without the blue dye)
They love to ladle the coconut spiced sauce on everything but I don’t mind – the gravy is delicious!
These green chili stuffed with fish paste is one of their signatures, too much mayo for my taste though but a good accompaniment to the rice. They also have durian served with sticky rice as dessert!
You can also order other side dishes such as their gulai beef which is very tender beef packed with flavour from the spice pastes.
YATI AYAM PERCIK
847, Jalan Long Yunus,
Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Business hours : 12pm – 11pm daily, except on Fridays – 3pm – 11pm.
The Bahulu Cottage located along Pasir Hor is another place to shop for food goodies to bring home. Bahulu is like a type of Malay style cupcake baked in charcoal ovens. They also sell Akok here but I prefer the ones at Pasar Siti Khadijah.
Gotta love the look of those old school ovens!
Watching them flick the fresh out of the oven bahulu from the cast iron molds to the pan is quite entertaining- they must had made about a thousand of these at least daily! Besides Bahulus, there are quite a lot of other tid bits to buy here – I would say this is one of the good places to buy souvenirs.
Jalan Pasir Hor, Kota Bharu, Kelantan (ask the tour guide to drop by here on the way to Rantau Panjang Duty Free Zone)
On the way to Rantau Duty Free Zone, you will pass by this special house where they sell Serunding and Dodol.
Their house is like a tourist attraction already! Here’s the small stall where they sell their goodies.
Dodol is a sweet toffee-like confection made with coconut milk, jaggery, and rice flour, sticky and sweet – the green ones are infused with durian! Serunding is a type of dried meat floss with spices. The beef serunding can usually be found in stalls in night markets but buying direct from them is cheaper.
Serunding & Dodol Cottage Industry, Pasir Mas
952 Kuala Lemal, Jalan Pasir Mas- Rantau Panjang, 17000 Pasir Mas Kelantan
Contact Person: Mr Sazwira (019-9126125 / 019-9873199)
Last but not least – is the famous Maggi Ketam – which is basically crabs cooked in the famous instant noodle – Maggi.
I must say the crabs are enormous with big strong biceps .. I mean pincers … these crabs would be the gym junkies of the crabs.
Notice how big the crabs are – proportionate to Olivia’s face.
The best part? For such a huge crab and two gorgeous plump prawns – it’s only RM25! That’s only about 10 Brunei dollars! OH MY GOD! SOOOOO CHEAPPPP!!!
Be ready to use your hands to eat the crabs and the hammers to help pound the crabs! Their shells are pretty tough – so guys can be heroes here and help crack the biceps (I mean pincers) of the crabs for the ladies.
The Three Flavour Sauced Crabs are very delicious too! A very good sauce that would go so so well with rice but unfortunately – they don’t serve rice here!
This has got to be the most ATAS (high end) instant noodles experience. The noodles are just the al dente texture – you are advised to enjoy the noodles before eating the crabs as they will turn soggy but mine seemed pretty fine even after I finished attacking the crabs.
Indra Tom Yam Restaurant
Pasir Pekan, Tumpat
Contact Person: 017-887 4702
One of my big regrets of this trip is missing Pokok Ceri Restaurant (given the name because it’s under a big cherry tree!), which is famous for their Nasi Lauk and Nasi Dagang, comes highly recommended by Yien, a Kuching foodie. They were closed when I visited so be sure to check them out if you do visit Kelantan. Yien claims they have the most delicious Nasi Dagang and Nasi Lauk! *photo from yienyien.com*
Kedai Makan Pokok Ceri/Kekuk,
Jalan Yaakobiah, Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Business Hours: 8am – 430pm daily
This is the end of my post and I must give high recommendations to Perdana Hotel in Kelantan. My room was very comfortable and the service was very thoughtful. This will be my hotel of choice if I were to visit Kelantan again. For a more budget choice, you can choose Tune Hotel Kota Bahru.
I think they are the only hotel I’ve visited that offers a separate body soap and face soap. The oatmeal soup gave my body a good scrub with a good hint of citrus flavour and the face soap is not harsh for the facial skin.
A big thank you to Tourism Malaysia Brunei branch for selecting me as part of the media team to visit Kelantan, as well as Malaysia Airlines for flying us over to Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan.