Nasi Dagang is a very authentic Malay dish. Even if you are in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, it does not guarantee you to get the best Nasi Dagang. In order to get the true authentic taste, you have to head up north to the east coast of Malaysian Peninsular – Terengganu.
Terengganu is a place where it is blessed by the natural resources of the long coastal line. The sea makes the people grow and develop their culture accordingly. Before the modern days, people in this area will make end meets by making full use of the sea. It is common for people to work as fisherman and usually the next generation will follow.
Breakfast for Champion
As working out in the open sea requires lots of energy, it reflects this hard working culture in their diet. It is common to see the culture of rich and heavy meal in this part of Malaysia. People will eat rice with lots of fish and other dishes that will keep their stomach full for a long period. For example, this very famous, Nasi Dagang.
Nasi Dagang is basically a mix of normal and glutinous rice steamed and cooked together with ginger sliced with special herb and then soaked with coconut milk. The rice will be accompanied by a fish dish, the one that makes it special. Usually, ‘Ikan Tongkol’ or ‘Ikan Aye’ (what locals call it – Ikan is fish in Malay) will be cooked in a spicy coconut broth with special spices that gives them the distinct taste. It is not Curry, but it resembles the look of it. The locals call it ‘Gulai’, which is a lighter version of curry, or you might just as well imagine it to be the local version of fish curry, but I warn you the taste is very different.
The garnishes of this dish are usually pickled cucumber, carrots, and some shallots. Some people like to have the hard-boiled egg together with this dish too. But for me, I just love to have extra fresh chilies just to spice up the taste and add in more heat to it.
It is common to have this dish during the breakfast time; you can get this at almost any stalls or at the morning market. However, if you are in Terengganu, I would suggest you find simple and humble ‘warung’ (warung means small food place in the rural area or village) by the beach, and enjoy the very breakfast of your life!
Last but not least, although nowadays, the majority of young people in Terengganu no longer become fishermen, plus with the economic boon in the area due to Oil and Gas industry, the food culture still remains the same. People all over Malaysia will still come to Terengganu for its food and notably for Nasi Dagang.
For you, travelers that are looking to eat like a local when you are in Malaysia, or just planning to pay a visit soon, I just gave you another reason to go out of your way and travel to Terengganu, Malaysia, and it is just to have a plate of Nasi Dagang (by the beach)!