My friend, Peter, the boss of Payung, dropped by my house that day to pass me the nasi kerabu that he cooked himself. He did call me earlier to let me know but I said I could go and get it myself, no need to trouble him to come all the way but the nice guy insisted.
He said that he ate it somewhere but he was not impressed so he went asking around the people at the market and one knew of a Kelantan lady who was willing to share with Peter the tips on how to cook that Kelantan culinary delight.
To be honest, I did not get my hopes up too high as except for one place here, all the rest that I tried failed to make the mark. I looked at what Peter gave me…
…and I liked how the rice was very lightly tainted blue. Some of those that I had had the displeasure of eating before were so horrendously blue and because what came out over the next few days was that same colour, I was pretty sure it was all artificial colouring. I really wonder why they cannot use the flower – if they do not have any, they can come to my house and pluck – all along my back fence!
There was an assortment of vegetables including kangkong and cabbage , herbs like mint and flowers such as the very fragrant bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) and they were all cut so very thinly, till real fine. What I always thought was kerisik (toasted grated coconut), a must-have with nasi kerabu was, according to Peter, a combination of kerisik AND serunding ikan (fish floss). Gee!!! I didn’t know that before.
Other than those, there were the fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and the salted egg. I did not see any air budu (salted/fermented fish sauce) nor sambal chili, just one type of sambal. My guess was he mixed them altogether, all-in-one, so to speak and Peter gave me quite a lot of it.
Usually, when we eat this at the shops, we would have something by the side to go with it – we love ayam percik but it could just be fried chicken or ayam berempah…or a fried fish but there wasn’t any in Peter’s nasi kerabu. What I didn’t know at the time was Peter’s nasi kerabu did not need any of those…unlike the nasi lemak at so many places that needs the curry or the rendang or whatever to camouflage the lack of lemak-ness in the rice and how plain and ordinary it is.
I had that for dinner that evening and like what one must do when eating this, I mixed everything together thoroughly and ate. Boy!!! It sure swept me off my feet – I never expected it to be so so so good and I really enjoyed it! I sent word to Peter right away that he must make this their weekend special and rest assured, without fail, I would be the first in line!!!
Thank you so much, Peter! Bravo! Bravo! I must say that you did a really good job!
PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.