The best spots for delicious Malay cuisine on an East Coast road trip
A drive from Kuala Lumpur to the East Coast brings travellers to a land of unique local delicacies and the award- winning Tanjong Jara Resort.
Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast promises a quieter pace of life. It was here that Malay settlers, Arab sailors and Chinese migrants intermingled, thus creating some of Malaysia’s most diverse mix of cultures and an intriguing blend of their cuisines.
It is easy enough to travel to Terengganu, the east coast’s longest littoral state, from Kuala Lumpur using the East Coast Highway E8. Leaving Kuala Lumpur by 10am, a recommended lunch stop is at Temerloh, one of Pahang’s most sizeable settlements. The town, to the south of famous Taman Negara National Park, is the best place to try ikan patin masak tempoyak, the local silver catfish cooked in durian paste. Sauteed with ginger, lemongrass and tempoyak, this Pahang speciality uses the durian’s strong taste and spices to pack a punch.
One enters Terengganu proper after bypassing Kuantan and proceeding north along the E8 highway. The best initiation to zestier local flavours is at the small town of Chukai, which lies beside Kemaman River.
Restaurant Tong Juan is well- known for its crabs, the shells of which are stuffed with crabmeat topped with whisked egg whites and flash- fried to golden perfection. The succulent meat along with the crispy topping is best enjoyed with the restaurant’s homemade garlicflavoured chilli sauce.
THE BEAUTIFUL PROPERTY WAS DESIGNED IN THE STYLE OF A 17TH-CENTURY MALAY PALACE.
Also in Kemaman is Hai Peng Kopitiam, a spot for staples such as strong local coffee and roti benggali with kaya — a Malaysian tea- time treat composed of of freshly baked bread and jam made from coconut, eggs and caramel.
Drive farther north on the E8 for an hour past bucolic coastline to reach the seaside town of Dungun. About 15 minutes from the town is Tanjong Jara Resort. The beautiful property, a winner of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, was designed in the style of a 17th- century Malay palace and is set on a stretch of golden sandy beach that greets the South China Sea.
Before that, stop by the town’s bustling market for apom, a dessert made from flour, eggs, sugar, baking soda, coconut milk and water; goreng pisang ( banana fritters) and ikan celup goreng, Terengganu’s version of battered fried fish minus the chips.
For those wishing to further explore the market, one of Tanjong Jara Resort’s most animated personalities, chef Ann, takes guests on morning excursions, offering tips and tricks on selecting the freshest seafood.
One of the state’s most famous offerings, keropok lekor, accompanied with a sweet and spicy chilli sauce, is available at the market and at Teratai Terrace, one of the restaurants at Tanjong Jara Resort. This traditional fish cracker is made from sago flour and seasoned with salt and sugar.
For more information, please visit www. tanjongjararesort. com